How To Become A DJ Using A Laptop

In today’s day and age, DJing has never been easier. It’s completely transformed from the days where you needed expensive decks, a killer PA system and boxes upon boxes of CDs and vinyls. 

Since then, the arrival of DJing software and technology has completely transformed the art, and you can become a master mixer with the help of your laptop. However, there’s now so many different options and setups out there, it can be confusing to work out where to start. 

Let’s explore some of the things you need to get yourself started…

How To Become A DJ Using A Laptop

DJ Software 

There are two different DJ software that dominate the market: Traktor and Serato. Although the two have a different look and style, there are a lot of similarities in terms of what they can do.

You can use both software to organize and prepare your music, slice and loop track sections, manipulate effects and mix with up to four decks. 

With Traktor and Serator you can analyse your tracks, which will tell you the tempo each song is, so you can curate the perfect playlist. They also have the ability to automatically sync any song that matches the track you’re playing – which makes it a lot easier to mix. 

What sets the two softwares apart, however, is that Traktor has a Stems deck. If you’re unfamiliar with Stems, it’s a music format which has been developed by Native Instruments.

It allows users to purchase music that can be played in four individual parts – vocals, bass, drums and melody. 

Both Traktor and Serato are similarly priced, and cost (on average) around $99. However, Serato does offer a free version of their software called Serato DJ Lite. It has a rather limited feature set, but it does still have everything you need to get started on basics.

You can also download Traktor for free, but it is a demo mode which means you can only use it for thirty minute segments at a time. 

If the price of Traktor and Serato is putting you off, there are numerous other options available on the market. Mixxx is a free, open source software that can run off Linux operating systems as well as Windows and Mac. Also Cross DJ is a great option, costing around $50. 

With most DJ softwares offering free versions, you can definitely shop around before you buy. 

DJ Controllers

Although you don’t need any extra equipment besides your laptop and a decent DJ software, there is an extra bit of equipment you might want to invest in if you want to play beyond your bedroom. 

At the very least, you’re going to need an audio interface. This means you’ll have to invest in a decent sound system if you want to play at house parties.

Also, you’ll need a good set of headphones to allow you to cue upcoming tracks, but you’ll need an interface with a separate output. 

This is where controllers come in. Although most softwares can be controlled via keyboard and mouse (and at the beginning it can be helpful to learn how to use it this way), it doesn’t give you the full DJ experience.

Also, it can be pretty tricky to smoothly mix between tracks and time your effects right when using just your laptop. 

You can pick up a DJ controller for a pretty low price, and they come in all shapes and sizes. So, if you want your controller to be portable, you’ll be able to find a small model.

Some of the best portable controllers come from Pioneer’s RZ line, which are also great if you’re on the hunt for a pro-level DJ kit which comes in one handy piece of hardware. 

Most controllers also include audio interfaces, so you don’t need to purchase one separately. Controllers also have a wide variety of mixer controls which allows you to change speed, mix between tracks and jump to cue points.

You can also assign different sound effects to the pads, which makes your performance more seamless. 

It’s also worth noting that a lot of controllers already come with a DJ software subscription, so you don’t have to purchase it separately.

If you do, however, want to learn the basics before investing in a controller, take a look at the software that comes with the controller you want – as this will be the software most suited to it.

You can try out the free version of the software, before you spring into buying a controller. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Where Do I Download Music From?

All major DJ software applications have the ability to play music in MP3, WAV, AIFF and FLAC formats, so you should be able to use your existing collection of music. 

You do need to consider the quality of your music, however, as a lot of music downloaded from iTunes, Amazon or from CDs normally come in MP3 formats. When a music file is in MP3, it has been compressed to reduce the size of the file.

If your music is downloaded from iTunes or Amazon they should sound okay through your headphones or a home stereo system, but they may sound a bit flat on a powerful PA system. 

If you’re digitally DJing, the best format to use is WAV or FLAC. If you can’t purchase audio files in that format, make sure any MP3s you download have a quality setting of 320kbps. 

There are also several DJ download stores which provide high quality audio files. The most popular is definitely Beatport, but others such as Juno Download and Traxsource are just as good.

The best part about these sites is that they list information which is very useful for DJs, such as genre, musical key and BPM. 

Is My Laptop Good For DJing? 

Firstly, you need to check how good your laptop is, by making sure you have enough Ram and processing power to run the DJ software you want to use. 

If you’re looking to play weddings or parties, a cheap laptop or iPad will suffice, as it’s more about getting the crowd going with classic tunes.

However, if you’re looking to make your own mixes, and really great to grips with the DJing software, you may have to invest in a laptop with a much higher processing power. 

A lot of professional DJs seem to have high end Macbooks. Although Mac is pretty good for DJing, it’s not a necessity. Windows laptops are just as good.

Regardless of your laptop choice, it is recommended you have around 16GB Ram on your laptop so that you can run the software properly.