Tech Time: How to be a DJ

At every FAME Road Party, I see the FAME DJ’s on the 1’s and 2’s blazin’ it up … and think to myself, I can do that!

Being a professional DJ takes a significant investment and talent. Wired Magazine posted a great article by US based DJ Ron Swift that spells it out perfectly. On the investment side, turntablists spend a lot on equipment. Speakers, headphones, needles, records, software, a mixer and yes turntables are all necessary to make partygoers dance. Professional DJ’s then master the arts of mixing, scratching and juggling. And this takes talent.

For us laymen, such an investment in gear and time may be too much, but we can still pretend to be DJ’s at home with great software and a PC.

Available software differs greatly in price and features. Popular software options include: Sertao Scratch Live, Tracktor Scratch, Virtual DJ and MixMeister. The first thing to consider when purchasing DJ software is price. Non-professional options can cost as much as US$300, but cheaper options are available.

Next up, let’s look at features such as input/output, performance and support. Great DJ software can read a variety of file formats, not just MP3; it can also output in a number of ways, like making a mix CD for your favourite girl or church party. Advanced software can also import a variety of music files, process and improve the quality of the tracks. The only scratch on a track should be intentional.

Speaking of scratches, dropouts, freezing, kinks and any kind of pause can upset your flow and ruin your set. So use a programme that has superior performance and is well suited for your PC processing power to ensure seamless transitions for tracks.

Many software programmes offer online support, or even real life technical support, but I have found the best support is other users. Using a popular option means that you can probably find a friend to turn to for guidance, verses using an obscure programme. Start by downloading some free to try software and test your talent.

Home DJ’s can forgo the expensive turntables, mixers and other equipment that the professionals use, by mixing and scratching on screen. You can step it up with semi-professional equipment as your skills improve. When you are ready, perhaps pit your skills against others in competitions like the Heineken Green Synergy. Rise to the top and maybe one day, you too can play at a FAME Road Party event.

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