Red Dog Music | Oct 9, 2018 | 0
Laptop DJ equipment: beyond ‘just’ playing records
You’ve ditched the vinyl and even the CDJs, and your laptop is racking up the miles being carried from booth to booth. You’re fed up with people telling you that “Traktor isn’t real DJing” and want to take advantage of the technology to be a bit more creative with the songs you play. Where does the laptop DJ start?
Regardless of the DJ software you use, one of the key things will always be how you control it. Even at a purely visual level, sliding faders and twisting knobs just looks better than using a trackpad or keyboard. This is where laptop DJ equipment comes in: if you’re using Traktor, the Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol X1 is a great addition to your rig, particularly if you mix externally. The Novation Nocturn is a great controller (and cheap!), including a cross-fader and a number of knobs and buttons you can map to the functions you need most, such as EQ. If you need a more fully-featured controller, then take a look at the Novation Twitch which features innovative touchstrips for navigating through your tracks and slicing up beats.
If you’re interested in using features such as the remix decks in Traktor, or adding additional sounds and samples using software such as Ableton Live, then the Traktor F1 or a grid-controller such as the Novation Launchpad might be what you need. If no single product ticks all the boxes, then there’s nothing to stop you assembling your ideal setup using multiple MIDI controllers and getting set up with your software’s MIDI learn functions.
In full effect
Once you’re happy with your control, getting more hands-on with your effects is an easy way to add some more interest to your sets. Map the knobs on those controllers to your effects in software -reverbs, delays, filters and beat-repeat/beatmasher-type effects are always good- and create some builds and drops on the fly in response to the crowd. You could always add a hardware effects box to your setup; a Korg Kaoss pad on the main outs of your mixer gives you instant hands-on sound-mangling power.
Loop the loop
Playing about with your software’s looping functions is another great way to start ‘remixing on the fly’, particularly if you spend some time getting cue-points organised in advance. Take sections of the track that are working well, loop them, extend them, break them down with some filters, build them back up again with some big reverbs and delays, then cut to a big drop and watch the hands go up.
Samples and sounds
Adding additional sounds and samples can go beyond just your DJ software and Ableton Live. Why not run Maschine and get some kits set up to add some additional percussion, noise hits and cymbals, or keep it old-school and load some hits into a hardware sampler like the Roland SP404SX?
Once you get to know your way around your set-up, you can take things as far as you want to: who says the sound that makes it to the speakers has to be anything like the tracks you’re playing?