Digital DJing

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Digital DJing, since the emergence of high-performance laptops, has become extremely popular because of its accessibility and affordability to both old and new adopters of DJing. DJs that still have their equipment from the 80s and 90s can now integrate it with computers with the use of a Digital Vinyl System for mp3 usage, as opposed to crates of vinyl records. New adopters of DJing no longer have to fumble with large/heavy equipment which is both expensive to buy and to maintain. There are now more affordable, all-inclusive USB DJ controllers that only require the user to populate its included software with mp3s.
Digital DJing has become increasingly popular

History of DJing

In 1973, DJ Kool Herc became the first true 'DJ' in the modern sense of the term. He is credited with being the first person to seamlessly blend tracks together in an effort to avoid awkward breaks in between songs. About a year later, Technics released the legendary Sl-1200s, which are the industry standards even to this today. Later in 2003, Stanton and Native Instruments released FinalScratch, which is the first commercially available Digital Vinyl System.

Vinyl versus Digital

Vinyl records are widely considered to have better sound quality than current digital music formats. It is easier to fine-tune the sound from vinyl, and many describe the sound as more "organic."[1] Furthermore, some older records are inexpensive. On the other hand, the equipment necessary to play vinyl records can be very expensive, is less portable, and requires regular maintenance. [1]

One of the biggest advantages of digital music is portability. Digital music can be stored on very small devices and can also be cheaper per song than vinyl. It is much easier to carry a large collection of music in a digital format than as vinyl. For DJs, this is all advantageous for ease of use. Some cons of digital music include a fixed audio quality and no resale value. [2]

Traditional DJ Setups

Without a Computer

2 Vinyl Turntables (needle/cartridge/slipmat) + Mixer + vinyl collection 2 CD Turntables + Mixer + CD collection

With a Computer

DVS (Digital Vinyl System) w/ old equipment USB Controller iTunes/other software

Popular DJ Software

1. Ableton Live
2. Serato
3. Traktor
4. Deckadance
5. Torq


Some popular computer DJ software includes

  • Ableton Live
  • Final Scratch
  • DJ Mixer Software
  • MegaSeg
  • Mixmeister
  • Torq

Digital DJing with Controllers

In the age of digital DJing, USB MIDI Controllers have become one of the most popular options. With the all-in-one solution, it gives new DJ's a simple and easy solution to start DJing without breaking the bank.

Native Instruments

Native Instruments has become a leading company in both the digital and analog worlds of DJing. In terms of software, it offers Traktor Pro and Traktor Scratch. Traktor Pro is geared towards DJ's who use controllers while Traktor Scratch focuses on the DJ who uses a DVS system.

Traktor Scratch Pro


Currently, the software is in the 2.0 build. The software makes it possible for users to do a stripped down set of mixing one track to the next or by implementing loops, samples and a bank of FX that creates endless possibilities. As convenient as this software sounds, several "traditional" vinyl DJ's find it to be a gimmick that has spawned a large following of trivial, lacking DJ's. The main reason being that the software offers a feature called "SYNC," which allows the user to line up songs in near perfect beat making their job easier than using the traditional style of beatmatching songs by ear.


Traktor S4 Controller


The S4 is looked upon as a standard in the controllerism world. The unit boasts control over 4-decks, cue point triggers, loop recorders, a 4-channel mixer along with a built-in sound card. The drawback to a number of controllers is that they do not have a built-in sound card forcing DJ's to purchase yet another piece of equipment yet this is not the case with the S4. It comes with a hefty price tag but gives users a "bang for their buck" package allowing a plug-and-play experience directly out of the box.


Traktor VCI-100 Controller

Another well-known controller in the digital world is the Vestax VCI-100. The controller was discontinued by the company a few years ago but recently has been offered through the website DJ Tech Tools. Since the website began offering the product, they renamed it the VCI-100 SE with each unit being hand built by people affiliated with the website. In comparison to the S4, it does not have as many bells and whistles but can be learned and tweaked through the custom mappings around the internet that give owners of the product endless freedom and possibilities. It allows for 2-deck control with the option to switch to the other two decks, loop control as well as recording and a creative option know as Fader FX mode. This mode allows users to group up to three different effects and manipulate them through the use of the volume fader for that deck, the corresponding jog wheel and volume levels for the FX bank used.

Ethics of Digital DJing

Given the ability to "mash-up" thousands of songs readily available from one's music library on the computer, copyright laws and permission to modulate a track usually aren't a top priority for DJs, especially for those who haven't made a name for themselves yet. Despite the illegality of remixing copyrighted tracks, many music sites rely upon hosting user created content, such as PodOmatic and SoundCloud - which are popular with upcoming DJs and those interested in the mixing scene.

Copyright Issues

To counter the negative implications of possibly infringing upon copyrighted material by having it played publicly to popularize new and upcoming DJs, some artists such as Armin van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Tiesto host weekly radio shows that feature a DJ's mix without negative repercussions due to deals with record labels. Online radio hosting such as DI Radio also provides many "genres" of electronic music produced by DJs, both well known and unknown to play, free of charge.

A frequent misunderstanding is that it takes very little effort to DJ digitally, and that anyone can do it without practice.


Being that digital DJing takes place primarily on a laptop, DJs are able to prepare their entire set before whatever event they are about to play. In situations where someone has paid a DJ to perform at a wedding or some other celebration, there is a disconnect between the DJ and his/her audience because they would be unable to make requests if it were the case that the DJ prepared their set in advance. Among older generations, there is a common conception of what a DJ is and does, and if someone who does digital DJing advertises themselves as a DJ in the same way a traditional DJ would, people may become wary of hiring DJs or may undermine the complexity and effort that it takes to practice digital DJing.

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 [1]
  2. [2]


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