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Thread: DJ-ing with digital files as well as vinyl

  1. #1
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    Default DJ-ing with digital files as well as vinyl

    I need some help on the above. Something that is very easy for the majority of you I'm sure but is almost completely new to me so bear with me if I'm slow.
    Basically the issue is that when I (in fact we) DJ we have always just used vinyl. Really the most simple set up of two turntables plugged into a mixer. But in Portugal it's quite hard to find the records we want and the post is so unreliable that ordering them is a bit of a lottery. And of course, just buying the file is cheaper as well as easier. Anyway, the upshot is that my girlfriend in particular has an increasing number of files that she likes to play alongside the records and we really don't know what we're doing with them that well. Normally she will put them on a USB and we stick 'em in a CDJ (which the clubs here pretty much always have - in fact they rarely have turntables for vinyl) and kinda hamfistedly manage to make it play... often it's a bit fiddly cos there are only two channels and you have to change one channel from phono to line or something and it's much louder or quieter or something. And really I've never mixed with digital files so it tends to be that there are... disruptive moments let's say.
    Anyway, so I (we) would like to practise combining digital files with a set that is mainly vinyl (though I guess if we do get competent at doing it the ratio may start to change) and I want advice to on the best way to do this at home. One thing is that when I've been at friend's house and messed around on their CDJs or controllers it doesn't seem that they respond in the same way as physical turntables - is that just me being useless or will I actually have to learn to mix again?
    Anyway the obvious options seem to be
    1. Get some software on my laptop that changes speed on digital files and use this for messing around at home. The problem here is that it will only give an idea of what we want to do and will mean we still gotta figure out the CDJs in the club. But it will be cheap I suppose.
    2. Buy a CDJ and just plug that in to my mixer at home and just learn to use it. I guess this is probably the right thing to do but how much will one cost? Is it possible to just buy one instead of two?
    3. Buy a controller and use this at home. If I do this will it come with software so I can use it with any digital files? Also, if I do this, does it mean that in a club I would have to put a laptop into the controller and then the controller into a channel in the mixer so I kinda have a two tier system of mixing? How will this compare in terms of cost with the CDJ option? One advantage of this would be that I can just sit in bed with the laptop and controller and practise - and I like to spend as much time in bed as possible so this is actually quite a big thing.
    As you can see, I really don't know anything about this so please give me any advice that seems relevant cos it will be useful to me. Thanks very much in advance.
    Last edited by IdleRich; 19-02-2020 at 11:39 PM.

  2. #2
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    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    I thought - great, Droid has replied! And I do appreciate the wish for good fortune... but....

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    I'm actually thinking the decisive factor might end up being the way we would be able to uae a controller in bed.

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  6. #5
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    I'm no expert (I could ask one if you like) but I'd suggest either get yourself a CDJ and learn to mix on it (I've heard they are much easier to mix with than records, which is why vinyl djs look on cdj djs with contempt), or get yourself Serato/Final Scratch and bring your laptop to the clubs. Depends how much money you have and how accomodating these clubs are.

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    Tbh though it sounds like your mates have got CDJs/controllers so why not ask them? Or learn on theirs?

  8. #7
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    if they are pioneer 450s and above you can switch them to vinyl mode so they function more like turntables.
    Quote Originally Posted by vimothy View Post
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  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdleRich View Post
    I thought - great, Droid has replied! And I do appreciate the wish for good fortune... but....
    It was late. Will reply again.

  10. #9
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    I've always used Virtual DJ with a Hercules controller, which is fine for strictly amateur stuff. If you've only got a normal laptop then you're faced with the problem of only having one phono output, so WYHIWYG (i.e. there's no monitor channel for headphones, in fact you don't use headphones at all).

    You might be able to get around this with a special phono dongle with two separate outputs, assuming you also have software that enables this, but this might require a specialist soundcard so you could be talking big bucks plus a steep learning curve.

    OTOH, Virtual DJ (or Serato or Traktor or whatever) will always do the beat-matching for you, so as long as the SW is indicating that the tracks are beat-matched, it's not like you're in danger of cueing in a track and finding out the hard way that it's out of sync with the one already playing.
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 20-02-2020 at 03:10 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by woops
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  11. #10
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    Tbh though it sounds like your mates have got CDJs/controllers so why not ask them? Or learn on theirs?
    Well, the guy I'm thinking of specifically lives in Russia. And in fact he's now in rehab - which in his case at least means that he was seized and forcibly sectioned and is pretty much incommunicado for the next year or so. Either way it's gonna be hard to nip round for a bit of mixing prractice.
    Looks like one of my mates here does the Hercules thing... he may even have one to sell if I'm reading him properly. Maybe I could even get one CDJ and a cheap controller - best of all possible worlds.
    Is it just me though? When I have messed around on my friends' bits and bobs (ooh er) it seems that the way the sound responds to touching the pad thing is difficult to how it works with a record? I know it's easier cos you have a visual aid (amongst other reasons) but it would be nicest if the skill was trasnferable...
    Anyway, cheers for the tips above.

  12. #11
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    OTOH, Virtual DJ (or Serato or Traktor or whatever) will always do the beat-matching for you, so as long as the SW is indicating that the tracks are beat-matched, it's not like you're in danger of cueing in a track and finding out the hard way that it's out of sync with the one already playing.
    But wouldn't I have to pay extra for the above software? Seems like something to avoid if possible.

    I've always used Virtual DJ with a Hercules controller, which is fine for strictly amateur stuff. If you've only got a normal laptop then you're faced with the problem of only having one photo output, so WYHIWYG (i.e. there's no monitor channel for headphones, in fact you don't use headphones at all).
    Ah maybe that's not what I want cos it seems a totally different thing to what I already do... hmmmm, so maybe don't want the Hercules thing at all.

  13. #12
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    There's a free version of Virtual DJ which doesn't require any hardware beyond a normal laptop, although you only have the laptop trackpad (or a mouse) and the keyboard with which to control the SW, so it's pretty fiddly. OK for making a mix at home if it hasn't got to be perfect.

    I'm pretty sure any HW controller you buy will come bundled with software.

    I'm not quite sure what you mean by a "CDJ" - I thought these were specialised CD players that were sort of equivalent to a turntable? In which case surely you're talking about burning mp3's (or wav's or whatever) onto CDs and taking them with you? Which sounds like a massive faff...

    Also I think trying to do a set that's *mixed* half-vinyl and half-digital sounds like a recipe for trouble. You might be better off doing a set that's all-vinyl then switching over to the laptop, or vice-versa. When I've done nights with Joe and Sim this has worked fairly well (Joe of course is strictly vinyl-only, I've got Virtual DJ and Sim is doing something similar with Traktor). With the laptop set you're just plugged into the mixing desk and set at a suitable overall level, then crossfading, equalizer and so on is done entirely in the DJ software. As I say, there's no monitor channel, but you know it's beatmatched correctly anyway so that's much less important than with vinyl.
    Quote Originally Posted by woops
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  14. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    There's a free version of Virtual DJ which doesn't require any hardware beyond a normal laptop, although you only have the laptop trackpad (or a mouse) and the keyboard with which to control the SW, so it's pretty fiddly. OK for making a mix at home if it hasn't got to be perfect.

    I'm pretty sure any HW controller you buy will come bundled with software.

    I'm not quite sure what you mean by a "CDJ" - I thought these were specialised CD players that were sort of equivalent to a turntable? In which case surely you're talking about burning mp3's (or wav's or whatever) onto CDs and taking them with you? Which sounds like a massive faff...

    Also I think trying to do a set that's *mixed* half-vinyl and half-digital sounds like a recipe for trouble. You might be better off doing a set that's all-vinyl then switching over to the laptop, or vice-versa. When I've done nights with Joe and Sim this has worked fairly well (Joe of course is strictly vinyl-only, I've got Virtual DJ and Sim is doing something similar with Traktor). With the laptop set you're just plugged into the mixing desk and set at a suitable overall level, then crossfading, equalizer and so on is done entirely in the DJ software. As I say, there's no monitor channel, but you know it's beatmatched correctly anyway so that's much less important than with vinyl.
    You put the digital files on a usb and then the cdj can scroll between them and you can use the pad and pitch control to manipulate the files as vinyl - so if you have three channels it's not a faff at all, even with two it will work as long as you can change that channel - but that's not ideal. But the whole point of what I wanna play when I want to rather than the order be dictated by the fomat.

  15. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Tea View Post
    There's a free version of Virtual DJ which doesn't require any hardware beyond a normal laptop, although you only have the laptop trackpad (or a mouse) and the keyboard with which to control the SW, so it's pretty fiddly. OK for making a mix at home if it hasn't got to be perfect.

    I'm pretty sure any HW controller you buy will come bundled with software.

    I'm not quite sure what you mean by a "CDJ" - I thought these were specialised CD players that were sort of equivalent to a turntable? In which case surely you're talking about burning mp3's (or wav's or whatever) onto CDs and taking them with you? Which sounds like a massive faff...

    Also I think trying to do a set that's *mixed* half-vinyl and half-digital sounds like a recipe for trouble. You might be better off doing a set that's all-vinyl then switching over to the laptop, or vice-versa. When I've done nights with Joe and Sim this has worked fairly well (Joe of course is strictly vinyl-only, I've got Virtual DJ and Sim is doing something similar with Traktor). With the laptop set you're just plugged into the mixing desk and set at a suitable overall level, then crossfading, equalizer and so on is done entirely in the DJ software. As I say, there's no monitor channel, but you know it's beatmatched correctly anyway so that's much less important than with vinyl.
    You put the digital files on a usb and then the cdj can scroll between them and you can use the pad and pitch control to manipulate the files as vinyl - so if you have three channels it's not a faff at all, even with two it will work as long as you can change that channel - but that's not ideal. But the whole point of what I'm asking is to not divide the set, I wanna play when I want to rather than the order be dictated by the fomat.

  16. #15
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    Pretty boring thread this rich.

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