How can you start making house music of the future
Best DJ set for beginners: 21 tips from professional DJs
I think diversity is great. But too many options can be confusing. Especially as a DJ beginner, the variety of possible DJ sets can overwhelm you. I became aware of this at the Musikmesse when I was able to admire a wide variety of equipment.
So I thought to myself, I would look a little beyond my horizon and ask other DJ colleagues which technology they can recommend for beginners: CDs or vinyl or DJ controllers?
The result was a very knowledgeable group of 21 professional DJs and DJ bloggers, all of whom have slightly different views. I have compiled these opinions here as a panel of experts.
So that you are now even more overwhelmed, the best thing to do is to pick the opinion that you like best. The links to the websites and social media offers can be found under the name.
Incidentally, the order in which I have arranged the posts does not reflect my rating or opinion. With 21 fellow DJs, I just had to put the lyrics in order.
Oliver regularly gives DJ workshops for beginners in Frankfurt.
My opinion on the subject of entry-level equipment is now relatively clear. After seven years of offering workshops for children, teenagers and young adults, however, it has changed a lot due to developments in the hardware and software area.
At the beginning of my workshops in 2009 I was still working exclusively with vinyl and the timecode system. And this also met the expectations of the participants. It was the only conceivable medium.
That I already had an iPod DJ console at this point was pretty absurd for everyone. But even then I saw the opportunities that arise when you work digitally.
It is now the case that the participants come to the workshops and hardly want to learn how to play vinyl anymore. They find it relatively difficult to learn and expensive at the same time.
You are most interested in DJing with 2-deck controllers or with new types of controllers such as the Kontrol F1 from Native Instruments, which enable completely new types of DJing.
Of course, most of them are also interested in DJing with CD players, as they know that these are the club and festival standard these days. Most of the time, however, they are outside the priceless possible.
And I think it makes sense to opt for a small, inexpensive controller at the beginning for a variety of reasons:
- On the one hand, it is sometimes only a brief interest in a new hobby that (unfortunately) disappears in individual cases. Most young DJs come to my workshops between the ages of 15 and 18.
- At this age, as we all know from experience, you usually don't have enough money for professional equipment.
- Some DJs from my workshops started with controllers worth 50 € and slowly increased over the years to more expensive controllers or CD players.
The advantage of the controllers is that they feel similar to CD players. Switching to professional equipment at a later date is therefore relatively easy.
With the controllers you should only make sure that you can do what you want with them.
- Do you want jog wheels?
- Do you want to work with cue points a lot?
- Are the effects important to you?
You should consider and check all of this before buying, because not every controller offers all functions in perfection. The majority of the controllers are tailored to the software for which they were developed, such as Traktor or Serato.
I can particularly recommend the devices from Native Instruments (S2 or S4). They are optimally tailored to work with a tractor. They offer all the important functions and a good workflow.
I have sometimes noticed a higher latency (delay) with controllers from other manufacturers. That has greatly reduced the workflow.
In conclusion, I can say that you can start DJing with just a few hundred euros (a laptop / PC is required). Many of my workshop DJs also got their first gigs with controllers in Frankfurt. The prejudice that you can only get gigs with CD players does not apply.
If the interest in DJing persists, you can and should improve your equipment over time. After a certain period of practice, you then know in which direction you are developing musically and which equipment is most suitable for it.
Marc is a presenter at Radio Gong Nürnberg and hangs up at many Funkhaus Nürnberg events.
I recommend a small DJ controller for beginners. For example Pioneer DDJ SB2 with “Serato Intro” software. Inexpensive about 250 € and easy to use.
Without a lot of frills that distract from the essentials while learning the basic technique. I play with Technics 1210 (vinyl) or Pioneer DDJ-SZ (laptop).
DJ Storm, Cihan Ataman
Cihan aka DJ Storm has been a DJ for over 16 years and founded the DJ Academy Berlin in 2010.
I started with vinyl at that time, then with the time change I switched to the CD player and finally to the digital vinyl system (DVS).
To my recommendation:
- Decide for yourself in advance where you want to go (club or festival DJ, mobile DJ, turntablist, etc.) Depending on the situation, I would recommend devices to them.
- Then explain, coach and test devices in DJ stores or in a DJ school. If there are no stores or schools nearby, you can also borrow technology from the event technician if necessary.
But I would generally decide whether it will be a cheap or a little more expensive hobby, or whether you mean it more seriously and want to invest in higher quality equipment.
But if you choose the professional way, I would definitely use the following technique:
- 4 channel mixer of the brand "Pioneer" or "Allen & Heath"
- Record player of the brand "Technics" or Reloop RP7000 / RP8000
- "Pioneer" brand CD player
- built for the club: housing construction in an even heavier version with additional stiffening through the use of metal, ...
- fine-tuning of the motor control: further reduction of wow and flutter as well as adjustable starting torque (2.8 - 4.5 kg / cm)
Why these brands?
They are represented worldwide and you can find these brands very often in many clubs and events. The equipment has proven itself through its quality, operation, sound and stability!
I use the following technique:
- Turntables Technics MK2 and Reloop RP 7000 or RP8000
- Needles: Ortofon Q-Bert
- Headphones: Sennheiser HD25
- CD player if no turntable is available: Pioneer CDJ 2000, new or older versions
- Clubmixer: Pioneer everything about the DJM 800 model
Private: Ecler Hak 360 and other battlemixers
Andreas writes for Einfachauflegen.de, a news portal for DJs with product tests and videos.
www.einfachauflegen.de, Facebook, Twitter
I play with Traktor Pro and a Traktor Kontrol S4 Mk2 from Native Instruments myself.
I recommend every beginner to first choose a DJ software that is suitable for him. In front of a controller!
You will use the hardware for a few years, the software probably a lot longer. And changing the DJ software is very costly because over time you put so much work into preparing your tracks that you cannot simply transfer to another software.
The best thing to do is to download the test versions of the various DJ programs that are suitable for you and try them out for a while.
In the second step, get a suitable controller - depending on how you hang up, you will also have different preferences here.
- Scratch DJs, for example, value great jog wheels and high-quality crossfaders,
- Long tempo faders and a good EQ / filter section are more important for mix DJs,
- Controllerists like lots of high-quality performance pads.
So you can see that I do not recommend any specific software or a controller - it depends on your needs and preferences, with which you can cope best yourself.
Controllers plus laptops have the advantage that they are cheaper than CD or record players, and they are also easier to transport and easier to set up than two record or CD players and a mixer. And the DJ software on your computer offers you so much more creative options than classic vinyl or CD / media players.
You probably already have a computer at home - that's enough to start with. Downloaded music is also much cheaper and easier to transport than CDs or even records.
DJ Mike Hoffmann
Event DJ for weddings, birthdays, company events. Together with Mike I founded the Wedding DJ Academy. We regularly talk about marketing tips for DJs on our podcast.
www.djmikehoffmann.de, Facebook, Twitter
I can clearly advise beginners and beginners to have a controller with DJ software on their laptop. It's compact, portable and can be used anywhere, whether it's a club or a mobile gig such as a wedding, birthday, etc.
I myself have been playing CDs for ten years and this baggage lugging was always very intense. Especially since it got more and more over time.
In 2014 I buy a Pioneer XDJ-R1 controller, laptop and virtual DJ. Since then, the music has been stored compactly and even if there are more and more songs, the laptop does not get heavier.
Virtual DJ also offers every kind of function for the controller here. Very easy to use and operate, so that even beginners can learn quickly.
Sebastian is regional representative of the professional association Discjockey e.V., owner of the company media & event technology and specialist in event technology. He has been working as a DJ since 1995.
The question of the “right” entry-level equipment cannot be answered across the board. Rather, the future colleague must first find out what he or she wants to do later. It also depends on the budget available.
In general, however, I would recommend the following:
- For budding club DJs, it would be advisable to procure equipment that can also be found in the clubs.
- For beginners who later want to work as a mobile DJ, I recommend equipment that is reliable. Nothing would be worse than if the event were damaged due to a device failure at the DJ. Redundancy and flexibility are very important in this area.
- For future radio DJs or prospective colleagues who plan to be heard via a web stream, a computer-based setup is recommended that can be easily integrated into the production afterwards.
- Newcomers who prefer to work in the area of producing or live remixing should first adhere to the "industry standards" and only invest later in special equipment, which will then ensure the unmistakable sound of the individual.
The desired genre of music may also provide information about the necessary equipment:
- DJs who are more at home in electronic music are more likely to choose something computer-based
- Hip-Hop fans prefer the classic turntables, because that's the best way to learn to scratch.
I admit, it is very difficult nowadays as a beginner, as the unbelievable amount of hardware / software offered can hardly be comprehensively surveyed by the experts. Or do you know someone who can spontaneously list all the features of every software and mixer?
There used to be only one thing: two turntables and a mixer.
Later, if necessary, CD player and mixer.
Nowadays: endless possibilities and the agony of choice more than ever before.
I think you should decide on what interests you most or what appeals to you most, because you like to deal with it intensively and over the long term. This is the most important thing when starting out.
Incidentally, one or the other book can also be included in the initial equipment!
If you then often stay where there is loud music, think about professional (adapted) hearing protection, ideally with changeable filters, at an early stage. If you learn to hang up with the plugs right away, you won't find it so difficult to begin with afterwards.
Your ears are your most important tool, so protect them appropriately. The 150 to 200 euros are definitely well invested and even if the DJing does not work afterwards, you can always use the plugs, be it for a private club, concert or festival visit or just to have some peace on the train 😉
You will not believe what a world of difference there is between simple / cheap and professional hearing protection!
Have fun DJing and good luck getting started with DJing!
DJ Twix, Marko Holtwick
Marko wrote two books about DJing, teaches as a teacher and DJ coach and regularly spins in Düsseldorf.
I tend to keep the technique as simple as possible.
In the evening I put on with BPM Studio. It is permanently installed. Easy to handle.
I recommend beginners to focus on the music first instead of the technology. Because it makes the crowd dance. Not the software or the controller.
Since I'm pretty old school, I still play CDs a lot. But also use Serato and my Technics MK2 to teach newcomers how to mix.
Luna lives and works in Ibiza, where she runs her radio station Ibiza Live Radio and produces music. Luna is also internationally active as a DJ.
www.missluna.com, Facebook, Twitter
My favorite set-up are CDJs - and then a well-prepared USB stick is enough for me.
But: If there is an opportunity to start with vinyl, it should definitely be done. This is how you get a feel for mixing. A bit of theory should also be learned.
Knowledge of musical keys and phases in mixing would be number one. You keep hearing digital DJs who do not mix in the phase or play "weird" harmonies in one another. That then makes the difference between the “ok” mix and the professional mix.
In his daily DJ tips, Jörg reports what he has learned as a mobile DJ over the decades.
In 1991 I played with simple hi-fi CD players. There were no special DJ CD players back then. When Numark launched the CDN-22, I bought it straight away. It was one of the first DJ double CD players.
I hung up with this player for years. I loved working with the CDs. Over the years, however, ten cases with CDs have accumulated that had to be transported with each performance.
When the Cortex brought out the HDC-1000 USB controller, I decided on it.
Hard drives, DVD drives, USB sticks and keyboards can be connected to the HDC-1000. It is possible to call up the desired title within a few seconds. For me as a mobile disc jockey, the HDC-1000 is a real relief. I still use the HDC-1000 today. He is my main player. I also experimented with controllers. Unfortunately, controllers don't suit my way of working.
Nevertheless, I would recommend newcomers to buy a good computer + controller.
It doesn't necessarily have to be the very latest Macbook & the Pioneer DDJ-SX2. You can also do a lot with Sony Vaios (only available second-hand) and a Denon MC6000 controller.
The tractor S2 MKII is also a great controller.
However, there are still numerous controllers on the market that you can get for a "pocket money price" and which are sufficient to get started. Later you can always get a higher quality controller with more functions.
Advantages of laptop & controller:
- There are inexpensive beginner sets that even beginners can afford
- Good transportation option
- Little space required in a narrow DJ booth
- Fast track access
Ole aka Barrio Katz
Ole has been writing the DJ blog Salection.de about deejaying, producing, technology and culture since 2006. As a DJ and mashup artist, he works under the alias Barrio Katz.
Salection.de, Facebook, Twitter
Personally, I have been relying on a digital vinyl system for years. At home I have two Technics 1210s and an Ecler Nuo4 mixer. The software I use is Serato DJ (Rane SL3) on an older Macbook Pro, plus a small controller for loops, cue points and effects, the Pioneer DDJ-SP1.
I take the DDJ-SP1, the laptop and my Rane SL3 interface with me to the club and use the Technics turntables and (mostly) Pioneer mixers there. Since I don't scratch, I'm easy to care for in the relationship.
But I've been playing for many years now, coming from vinyl. If I were to start DJing today, I would rely on a controller.It should have as many functions as possible, but still be intuitive. And of course reasonably affordable.
First I would look at the different DJ programs:
- Virtual DJ
- Serato DJ
- Record box
- Mix vibes
What do I get along well with, which features do I need, which hardware is supported and how, are there unique selling points, such as
- Number of decks,
- Pulselocker / Spotify flat rate,
- Flip or loop recording,
- Playlist view or autoplay a la BPM-Studio
In the next step I would test the hardware - i.e. the controller. The devices that were developed closely with the software have an advantage here. At Traktor, for example, the controllers from Native Instruments.
Another bonus is a device that is not only a controller, but also a media player, which can also be used without a computer. And where I can connect external sources and mix them, for example the new Denon MCX 8000.
Pioneer is currently expanding a system around the Rekordbox software. Once prepared, tracks and playlists can be played with their CDJ players or with DDJ / XDJ controllers, via a computer or without a computer, not least with vinyl control. You can find Pioneer everywhere. A frightening omnipresence, but a lot has changed in terms of quality since the days of the DJM-500 mixer.
In short: I would probably start today with a relatively inexpensive Rekordbox controller such as the Pioneer DDJ-RR. I would try to cope with that as well as possible and if the functions were no longer sufficient, I would move up to the next league.
In general, I am an advocate of "seize the opportunities". It cannot be repeated enough, although obviously, that DJing is about music. A good DJ with cassettes wins against every wannabe who has 6,000 Euro platinum cutlery from Pioneer, but no musical fund.
Markus works as a wedding DJ, is hired in clubs and for company celebrations. He also writes a blog about all areas of the wedding DJ business.
I myself sometimes use the Pioneer DDJ-SX2 and for some jobs the Pioneer DDJ-SZ - it's honestly a question of the available space and my desire to carry around a lot in the evening.
I would recommend beginners to start with cheap (but not too cheap) equipment. The basic models such as the Pioneer DDJ-SB or SR also offer the relevant basic features.
If after three to six months you realize that DJing is fun or that you are already making some money with it, you can always switch to the next larger model with more features.
Professional disc jockey, moderator as well as event service and sound reinforcement for Northern Germany. You will also know Gunnar as the creator of the DJ forum djs.com.de (now switched off, as of March 6, 2021).
www.gunnarhampel.de, Facebook, Twitter
I have been traveling as a disc jockey in Northern Germany since 1988 and have already made music with various media.
Currently, I play with timecode systems (including Serato), classic with Technics 1210 MK2 and Allen & Heath Xone mixer or with timecode CD players Technics DZ-1210, depending on customer requirements and the type of event.
In most cases, however, I play with my Denon MC-6000 at weddings or smaller events. As a computer I use a MacBook Pro 15 ″ (I7, 16 GB Ram with 1TB Hybrid HDD) and VirtualDJ Pro.
If I were a beginner today, I would probably “arm myself” with a DJ console of my choice and get used to it in such a way that I could operate this “musical instrument” in my sleep. Since it is always a question of price for beginners, I would choose a model that fits my budget and take my first steps with it.
Which technique would I recommend to a beginner?
This question is very controversial, especially among disc jockeys, as every single DJ thinks that only the system that is operated and used by himself is the only real thing.
As a beginner, I would try myself and find the right hardware and software solution for me.
For many reasons, I first chose BPM-Studio (due to the lack of alternatives) and then VirtualDJ. I stayed with it, because I don't miss anything there and have "adjusted" to it.
When it comes to something “show”, I use Serato with timecode vinyl or CD. This software is established and state of the art in the relevant areas.
Basically, I find the entry as a disc jockey with halfway professional equipment really cheap compared to the 1990s. Back then, a single CD player was more expensive than two DJ controllers, not to mention the price of the music.
I still have a tip for beginners among DJ colleagues: Buy the more valuable product and, if in doubt, wait a few days or weeks with the purchase if the money is not quite enough. Sooner or later you will want to switch to the better device and if in doubt you will have wasted a lot of money.
DJ VA, Julian Vasel
Julian teaches as a DJ coach at the DJ & Production School in Nuremberg. In addition, he is on the road as a club DJ and plays at weddings and company parties.
Before I go into the question of "where to start", I would like to briefly describe my career as a DJ. I got into DJing through the Schlegl dance studio and the dance teacher Martin U who worked there. In 2007, he showed me how to use vinyl (house) and turntables and infected me with DJ fever, so to speak.
After purchasing my own equipment, I signed up for housegenetic.de as a sole trader in 2010.
At the beginning of my professional career I only worked with vinyl, but it didn't take long before I took the step towards the digital vinyl system (DVS). First with Reloop Spin 1, then I bought Serato Scratch Live 3.
All sorts of digital helpers have been added over the years, for example Dicer from Novation, DDJSP1 from Pioneer.
I now work and teach with DJ controllers, which is for very pragmatic reasons.
- On the one hand, the assembly and dismantling is very quick,
- on the other hand, there are no signal problems with subwoofers that are too close (timecode signal from turntables is disturbed by the bass or its vibrations),
- you have to drag less equipment from the trunk to the DJ booth
- And with regard to pure vinyl DJs, as an MP3 juggler you have a much larger and cheaper choice of music and can pursue spontaneous inspirations better and more creatively in the course of the event.
Back to the real question of "how to start". There are probably many forums on this topic with endless discussions and countless opinions.
Here are two tips that will save you money, which for me (I'm studying business administration) is a crucial criterion, especially at the beginning.
- Try out your favorite technology before investing a lot of money. Ask friends who own DJ equipment or arrange a trial lesson in a DJ school you trust (this is usually free) so that you can try out "expensive" or professional equipment without having to buy it yourself beforehand.
- Inexpensive vs. expensive You can invest a lot of money in technology (turntables, CD players, controllers). From my experience so far, I can say that the saying "who buys cheap, buys twice" is unfortunately true here.
But: What you have to find is a good middle ground between “can do nothing” and “can do everything / too much”.
Here I personally rate a 2-channel controller with reasonable jog wheels and comfortable cue pads as completely sufficient to learn DJing (for example Pioneer DDJ SR).
Whether you use Serato DJ, Traktor or Rekordbox as software is again a matter of taste or depends on the hardware used, i.e. the controller.
I am very satisfied with Serato DJ and can recommend it with a clear conscience. The programs differ primarily in the layout of the user interface. At least that's the biggest visible difference for me.
A PC is enough to practice at home - if you want to go mobile, a laptop for less than € 1,000. Here again the ghosts argue, whether Windows laptop or MacBook. I've been using a 15 ″ MacBook Pro since 2011 and I'm very happy with it.
But it's like with craftsmen, whoever picks up an impact wrench or a food processor three to four times a week for professional reasons must expect a certain quality and stability.
Jens Torberg, DJ99
Jens works full-time as a DJ for parties and weddings as well as a club DJ and presenter. He is also the regional representative of the Discjockey Association for North Rhine-Westphalia. In 1999 he began his career on two Technics SL 1210 MK II turntables.
I use the Pioneer DDJ SX2 in connection with the Infinity version of VDJ8 (Virtual DJ).
The advantage for beginners lies in the simple structuring of the program and the clarity. Even absolute newcomers can find their way around quickly and are not overwhelmed by unnecessary features.
Benjamin aka DJ D-Tale has been DJing since 1999 and currently plays with Serato DJ on Technics 1210s or Pioneers CDJs. He has toured the world and writes for DJCity magazine.
www.djcity.com, Facebook, Twitter
I have to honestly say that I think a #RealDJing discussion is out of date.
The important thing is that nowadays you have the opportunity to be introduced to DJing for little money. You have to develop skills and respect today, just as it was then.
The best way to try is on all devices: controllers, turntables and CDJs.
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