Saturday, March 1, 2014

DJ'ing for Beginners, #2 of 4 Parts

Welcome to the second part of my "DJ'ing for Beginners" tutorial series!

Before I get into the good information further down this page, here are links to the other blog posts in this series, and also to the associated videos. By the way, you don't have to watch this series in any particular order:

Part 1's Blog Post                                   Part 1's Video on YouTube
You Are Here Now                                   Part 2's Video on YouTube
Part 3's Blog Post                                   Part 3's Video on YouTube
Part 4's Blog Post                                   Part 4's Video on YouTube
No post for Extras                                     Extras Video on YouTube

What I've done is to record the tutorial in four parts, since each part is fairly long. I also had to add an "extras" section after everything else was online, to cover some things that I noticed I had missed. Overall, the series is close to five hours in length, so each individual video in the series is slightly over an hour long. The information that I covered in this part (#2) includes an overview of lots of different pieces of equipment that DJ's will encounter, plus some thoughts on what I think are bad ways to save money.

DJ'ing for Beginners, Part 2 of 4:

In this video I talk about licensing, purchasing music legitimately, getting professional noise-attenuating hearing protectors, and most importantly, go over the purpose of a large number of pieces of equipment that DJ's will regularly encounter: mixers, headphones, pitch-controlled CD players, turntables, effects units, MIDI controllers, amps, speakers, subwoofers, monitors, compressors, graphic EQ's, crossovers, dance floor lighting, smoke & fog machines, microphones, cords & cabling, types of plugs, flight cases, and much more.

Here's the outline that I used when putting together this second part of the series:

Reviewing Equipment
- When to buy budget gear, and when to go for quality. "Buy cheap, buy twice."
- Mixers. Differences between DJ-specific and general audio/studio consoles. Different types of DJ mixers, ie. scratch mixers. Brands include Pioneer, Allen & Heath, Rane, Behringer, Denon, Numark, and Vestax. How many channels do you need?
- Headphones. Lots of variety here. You can choose between traditional cans (noise-cancelling padding surrounding ears) vs in-ear buds. In-ear buds are probably not good for playing at shows, because they don't have the noise-cancelling feature, but I use them at home a lot in quieter environments.
- Turntables. The Technics 1200 was the standard for decades. Technics, Stanton, Vestax, Gemini, Numark, KAM, Denon. Get direct drive, not belt-driven. Straight tone-arms are generally not as good as curved tone arms (in practice) even though they should be better for scratch DJ's. Lots to learn here, ie. needles and stylus and balancing tone-arm and anti-skating.
- Pitch Control CD Players. Pioneer are the standard, but there are also Denon, Tascam, Marantz, Numark, Stanton, Vestax, and American DJ. It's nice to get one with a waveform display.
- Laptops, tablets, phones, and MP3 players: long-term DJ's will look down upon DJ's working from purely digital equipment, but the truth is that these items are a cost-effective way to get started as a beginning DJ. More importantly, for a majority of DJ's, they actually have some significant advantages compared to old-school equipment like turntables. There are things like the iDJ2 for iPod. Make sure your laptop is set for performance, wifi is off, no unnecessary windows open. Talk about the benefits of having a sound card that lets you cue.
- Effects Machines. Examples are Korg's Kaos Pad or Kaossilator, the Pioneer RMX 1000 and EFX 1000, the Alesis Air, and the Behringer Tweakalizer.
- Controllers. Talk about the general point of having MIDI controllers of various types.
- Amps/amplifiers: You need these to get sound out of your speakers. An audio signal by itself is not enough, it needs to be boosted very significantly through a speaker. What is a receiver: an amp with a radio tuner in it.
- Speakers & Subs & Monitors. Speaker = top = main. Sub = subwoofer = bass bin. Monitors are just a type of speaker, used primarily for the benefit of the performer rather than the audience.
- Compressors. These are tricky to understand and to use properly, but they can help you manage the dynamic range and output volume from your system.
- Graphic EQ's (equalizers). Used to adjust narrow frequency bands within the overall spectrum. - Crossovers. Used to split an audio signal into different frequency bands (ie. low/high or low/medium/high) to route the proper part of the audio frequency spectrum to the correct speaker in systems with several types of speakers.
- Dance floor lighting. What's out there? Lasers, gobos, and more. Mention LED lighting being much cooler than the old halogen lights.
- Smoke & fog machines. I don't usually use these because of the risk of setting off a fire suppression system in some venues.
- Microphones. You need a dynamic microphone, not a condenser microphone. Condenser mics are designed for studio use, and need a special power supply called "phantom power" which is not normally found in a DJ setup.
- Understand cords and cabling and different types of plugs. For starters: TS, TRS, XLR, SPDIF, USB, Speakon, RCA/Phono, 5pin DIN, Low-Z vs High-Z, 1/8” male, 1/4” male.
- Buy flight cases to protect your gear. They're worth it if you ever expect to move your gear around!

Bad Ways to Try to Save Money
- Getting a license, and staying legal.
- Buying music legitimately, instead of pirating it: legitimacy, plus usually better quality.
- Playing remixes that you've done yourself - this is a grey area, and rules vary from country to country.
- Many DJ's cannot or do not make a living through DJ'ing. However, it is possible.
- Buy a set of professional noise-attenuating hearing protectors. You need your hearing to last for the rest of your life.

Here are all the other videos that were mentioned in Part 2 of the "DJ'ing For Beginners" series:

A detailed examination of the Mobile DJ industry:

Guide to Understanding Audio & DJ Mixers:

Setting Up Turntables:

Learning about MIDI Controllers for DJ'ing or Audio Production:

Understanding Decibel Systems:

Understanding Compression (start at 21 minute mark):

Finally, if you'd like to download or listen to an audio transcript of this video, as an mp3 from Soundcloud, here's the link:

If you like the sound of any of the tracks played during the breaks between sections, I've got all of them available as free downloads. Go to SoundCloud and do a search for: "dj bolivia global underground"

Finally, if you're looking for more basic information about turntables, check out this link:

I have quite a few videos online now relating to DJ'ing, music production, audio recording, learning various traditional instruments, and all kinds of other music-related topics. Hopefully you'll find many of them to be interesting. To see a complete organized list, you should visit and bookmark this page:

Again, thanks for your interest in this series, and thanks for sharing this post or links to any of the videos.

Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Main Site:
        Music Blog:


If you appreciate the content that I've shared in my blog posts and youtube videos, I'd really appreciate in kind if you could show some support by donating a few dollars to help sponsor tree planting, in order to help fight climate change. I'm very involved in this type of work at my own reforestation company, which builds community forests and forest reserve areas to help the environment. Find out more at this link: