DJ equitment for live sets?
October 3, 2010 7:56 PM   Subscribe

What kind of equipment should a beginner DJ buy for live sets?

This is pretty much a follow up question to my last one focused more on producing music. Basic vibe was to stick to the midi keyboard and learn a bunch of programs. But, how about live sets?

My major goal with one of my friends is to DJ at our schools dances senior year and not suck. (Both of us are 17) I'm looking at the kind of stuff main stream DJs use, its pretty insane how much it all costs. So that doesn't help much. From what I have read, the basic thing you need is a mixer and a laptop to do live sets. Can anyone follow up on that? My price point for a mixer is something like $200ish. But if there's good reason to go above that, I would definitely consider it. It would be nice to not outgrow it in a few years. I would plan to use Ableton live for sets since it seems like a popular option. I don't know if that will effect anything. But who knows.

So yea, any other things I should keep in mind? I'm all ears.

Thanks :D
posted by NotSoSiniSter to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
As far as mixers go, unless you want built-in whooshy effects processors (trust me, you don't), your budget is perfectly adequate. All you need is something that can crossfade. Any place that sells used musical instruments will have a bunch in stock.

However! If all your music is coming from a single laptop, you might as well do all your mixing right on the laptop. No hardware mixer necessary.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:10 PM on October 3, 2010

I was in your position not long ago. I chose to buy the BCD3000. It's pretty light and plasticky, but it gets the job done, and there are some awesome presets online for use with Traktor (which I highly highly advise over Ableton, unless you're playing your own music). I got it for about $150 off eBay. I thought it was pretty good.

Basically with Traktor, I go through all of my songs, set up beat grids so that Traktor knows the BPM of all the songs I plan on playing. Usually I'll also set some hot cue points in the places I figure out it would be a good place to mix. (Usually these are in places like 8 or 16 bars ahead of the "drop" of the song, so when I see the song I am currently playing is close to ending, I can drop it the next one so it hits as the current song ends, or similar) The best part about setting up beat grids in Traktor is that the effects you use stay in time with the music, so that when you're twisting knobs for effects that are time based (echo, LFO filtering, etc) the effect lets you stay in time with the song.

Figure out what kind of buttons you're going to need live (whether you'll need effects knobs, feedback LEDs, etc) and then find a mixer that provides you everything I need.

To serve as a datapoint, I currently use my Macbook with Traktor Pro Scratch, my BCD3000, an Akai MPD24 (which I use to trigger hot cues, 8 for each song), and a Roland SP-555 for effects (on top of Traktor's effects) as well as sampling & random jamming when I feel like it.

It's a little above your budget (and mine at the time) but I saw the Vestax Spin DJ in the Apple store and it looked awesome.
posted by ejfox at 8:34 PM on October 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

You don't really need a mixer. I've used Traktor and an X-Session Pro on my laptop pretty successfully - it's only $100, draws power from USB which is nice. You don't mention what kind of audio interface you have - if you're using your laptop's audio, this is priority #1 for both DJing and live production.

I personally find DJing with Ableton to be pretty boring unless you bring in your own loops and samples and mess around with them, but DJing at a school dance, I don't see that being all that well received.
posted by AlsoMike at 8:52 PM on October 3, 2010

I use a Vestax VCI-100, Traktor Pro, and the M-Audio Torq Conectiv sound card.

A friend of mine uses the Hercules RMX DJ Console, which has a built-in sound card. I think he paid about $250 for his. They have them at Guitar Center.

My mixes are linked from my profile, if you're interested.

Of course, if you're already using Ableton Live, you might be able to DJ with something like the Akai APC20 or APC40, which will be useful in your music production as well.

For a beginner DJ, though, I'd recommend Traktor, a decent sound card, and a good MIDI controller that feels like you're DJing. You can DJ with any MIDI controller if you have the right software, of course, but then you have equipment that feels like you're playing the piano, instead of DJing.

Good luck!
posted by phoebus at 11:55 PM on October 3, 2010

It depends what you mean by a "live set" - if you're actually going to be playing elements of your music live (this is the commonly accepted difference between a live set and a DJ set), you need hardware - instruments, synths, effects, sample triggering, etc. to jam over your pre-programmed beats. You don't need a mixer as long as you have a sound card that can interface with the rig but you really do want a MIDI controller to work with Ableton.
posted by turkeyphant at 4:09 AM on October 4, 2010

From what me and my friend have been working on, it seems like we want to mix everything together. Do some of our own beats and mix song samples.
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 2:52 PM on October 9, 2010

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