The Basics of DJ Software and Mixing Apps

Making music in the digital age

In its simplest form, a DJ software program (or app) allows you to combine individual music tracks to create a new (remixed) track on a computer or smartphone. This type of music-making software emulates the traditional way in which DJs remixed tracks with a physical DJ mixing deck and vinyl records.

Can I Use My Digital Music Library to Create Remixes?

Yes, you can. If you're just starting out with remixing, a major benefit is being able to use the songs in your collection. DJ software can open up a new world without you having to buy music or sound packs to get started.

Most DJ software has direct support for loading songs from a digital music collection, such as an iTunes music library. As long as the songs are in an audio format that the DJ software application can handle, however, you'll be able to use them regardless of what media software you use.

You can create your own remixes or whole playlists for free.

What Features Does a Typical DJ App Have?

The interface of a typical DJ program contains all the controls necessary for mixing multiple tracks and inputs, just like a real DJ mixing desk. The specifics vary from one app to the next, but core features usually include:

  • Virtual turntables: You can move these forward and backward just like actual records to add scratching effects and other noises.
  • Controls for EQ and gain: This helps you shape sound by tweaking settings such as bass, mid frequencies, and highs. The gain feature is for balancing the audio output among each of the decks and, sometimes, external hardware.
  • Crossfaders: These essential sliding controls allow mixing among sources.
  • Transport controls: These are functions such as start, stop, cue, pitch, bpm, and keylock.
  • Real-time effects: You can layer a range of real-time effects on top of the playing music to create unique and atmospheric mixes.

These examples only scratch the surface of what a typical DJ software app might have, but they make up the core features that are essential for great mixes.

Do I Need Any Hardware for Digital DJing?

You don't need any special hardware to use virtual DJ software; you can simply tap your finger on a phone screen or use a keyboard and mouse on a computer. However, a DJ hardware controller works better, especially if you want to take your remixing to the next level.

These special external hardware devices look like DJ turntables. Professional DJs typically prefer them because of the familiar (and useful) interface. Under the hood, though, they are entirely digital. MIDI control is used to communicate with the DJ software. Some hardware also supports Vinyl Control, which enables you to interact with digital audio as though it were physically on a vinyl record.

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