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Imagine with me for a second, getting two Pioneer CDJ 2000-Nexus, with a Pioneer DJM 900-Nexus plus additional functionality specially designed to work with Serato, all for the price of one CDJ 2000-Nexus

This is the situation we have with the newly announced Pioneer DDJ-SZ. First of all, I want to point out that I’m pretty anti-controller. I like my CDJs and have never really been interested in using a controller. That should speak volumes about just how excited I am about this new controller. To give you a feel for what the DDJ-SZ offers, I’ll look at the positives as well as the few drawbacks of this controller.

Professional Grade Setup for a Reasonable Price

The big advantage of this controller is that it gives you the same functionality that you would get with a DJM 900-NEXUS and two CDJ 2000-NEXUS. This is an industry standard gear set up, and buying all of this equipment would cost about triple what the DDJ-SZ costs.

There are lots of awesome features on this controller that I’m going to omit talking about because they already exist on the DJM-900/CDJ-2000 setup, and they’re replicated in a similar fashion on this controller. These features are things like colour effects, brake control on either deck, sync, excellent looping controls, etc. With this controller you basically get all of the things that make an industry standard Pioneer setup what it is, at a fraction of the cost. So rather than going over all the excellent capabilities of a top of the line Pioneer setup, I’ll talk about the additional benefits this controller gives you.

Serato Optimization

The first major benefit of this controller is the Serato optimization. This is the only controller on the market that works so fluidly with Serato. This works via a nicely laid out software effects section. The downside is that this replaces the normal DJM 900-NEXUS effects section, although Serato DJ has a new updated effects engine that’s far superior to the old one. Furthermore, with the DDJ-SZ, you can apply two FX to any channel or to the master, making this superior to the DJM 900-NEXUS effects section in the long run.

The controller also has play heads on the actual deck that count down to your next cue point (there’s a similar effect in the software but this is the first time it’s been applied to a controller). This makes dealing with upcoming cue points easier and allows you to use cue points as markers for when to start a loop or FX rather than just points to jump to in a track.

There are also jog wheels which allow you to search through your library or create instant doubles. The library search feature is excellent as it gives you another way to keep your hands off your laptop. Even better is having some on-deck instant double controls, which will be a welcome function for turntablists.

Finally, there’s also a pads section. Both decks have an excellent set of large and useable pads that can be mapped and colour coded so you can map specific colours to certain drops. These pads have functions for looping, cueing and sampling. They really go above and beyond the capabilities of a normal CDJ 2000-NEXUS. Their smooth integration with Serato gives you a lot of room to play around and try new stuff, making them a powerful feature of this controller.

Two DJs at Once

This is a really well done feature on the DDJ-SZ. First of all, you can connect two Serato DJ laptops at once. This makes switching over at the club dead easy. Second, using the two deck control on either side, two DJs can easily go back to back in the club if they want to. Using the deck switch button on the side of the controller makes this incredibly easy as it allows you to treat the individual decks on each side as two decks for each DJ. The fader layout in the middle is designed to make it easy for two DJs to share the controller, and if you take the controller’s size into account, it makes sense for two DJs to be able to work at it fairly easily. Finally, if for whatever reason one DJ’s laptop gets unplugged, the controller will automatically switch to the other laptop, making laptop failure with two DJs easier to deal with if it ever happens.

The Drawbacks

So what’s wrong with the DDJ-SZ then? Well, the main issue is that it doesn’t take CDs or Flash Drives. This means that the DDJ-SZ won’t be a viable permanent installation for a nightclub because many DJs prefer to use a flashdrive rather than a laptop. This also means that if your laptop fails and you’re the only DJ, you’re not going to be able to just jam your flashdrive into the controller and get a quicksave like you would with any newer Pioneer CDJs

That being said, this shouldn’t discourage anyone from considering the DDJ-SZ. If you’re already a controller fanatic, there’s no question that this is a great piece of gear. If you’re still into two decks and a mixer, you should consider this an upgrade as well. Even for Serato users with two CDJ 2000-NEXUS setups, this still has a lot more functionality to offer you.



If you want to learn more about DJ’ing and gear we highly recommend you check out our online DJ School Spin Academy.

In this post I want to focus on what music to use when you’re DJing for a prime time spot. I also want to talk about moving on from an opener, and how the mood should change from one DJ to the next.

Playing peak time involves a lot more than just playing all the latest and greatest hits. First of all, you want to make your set memorable; just because you’re playing a packed room doesn’t mean you can just play anything you want – you still want to make your tracks count.

Taking Over from the Opener

The transition from opener to prime time DJ is important as it dictates the mood of the evening.

Normally a good opener will build the energy in the room and get people dancing while still leaving a lot of space for the headliner to build upon. Once the opener is done, it’s your job to play something that pushes the vibe up a notch. Take for example a song like this:

This song can be mixed in at the break, and it gives you that heavy rolling bass on the drop that can really kick on the energy. This is the kind of thing you want to do ­– play something that ups the energy in the room but at the same time gives you something to build off of.

When choosing music for peak time its important to be prepared. Sometimes an opener will take the energy to a super high level and not leave you any room to build up. You need to have some music prepared for when this happens so you can take the energy down a notch and reset the mood to where you should be starting out. Don’t try to one-up an opener who has already brought the room to a peak.

What to Play and How to Keep Your Set Memorable

It seems like a lot of DJs go into peak time thinking it’s easy business, and that all they need to do is fire out all the current hits and call it a day. But the reality is way more complicated than this. Current hits should make up a good portion of your set, but this is just one element of what you should be doing to pull off a successful peak slot.

The second element you want is classic tracks. For house this might be something like Show Me Love; for dubstep you might go with some old Skream or Rusko – some track with a really memorable element that people know. You can do this in two ways, either by dropping the original or playing a remix of the song. For example, you could play something like this:


The final element you want is a few cool or interesting b-sides in your set – tracks that not many people have heard yet either because they’re either brand new or fairly obscure.

It’s these last two elements ­­– classic tracks and obscure sets – that will make your set memorable. It doesn’t hurt to play some hits but people will remember your set for the things they didn’t expect you to play.

Final Words

Remember when preparing your sets to add different elements and create a story arc. You want your set to have a climax and a cool down period; even though you’re playing peak hours, you’ll still want a little time to wind down at the end of your set.


If you want to learn more about DJ’ing and gear we highly recommend you check out our online DJ School Spin Academy.

How To DJ Like Tiesto

By now you may have heard of DJ Tiesto. This Dutch-born DJ rose to popularity in the early 2000s, and in 2012 was declared the highest-earning DJ in the world by Forbes Magazine with a yearly income of $22 million.

Before making it big, however, Tiesto a.k.a. Tijs Michiel Verwest had been DJing in his hometown of Breda for many years before making his big break overseas. In the early days of his career, Tiesto gained notoriety for playing six-hour long sets on weekends at a small club in his hometown.

In the mid 1990s, Tiesto was discovered by a Dutch record executive and signed to the Rotterdam-based label Basic Beat Recordings. Through Basic Beat he began to gain popularity throughout the Netherlands, releasing a series of mixtapes and touring relentlessly. In 1999, Tiesto became a resident DJ at the Gatecrasher, one of the largest clubs in England. He also kept releasing his own music, and soon obtained a record deal with the U.S. label Nettwerk. Following this came collaborations with big-name artists like Moby, David Bowie, Busta Rhymes, and Sarah McLaghlan. From there, Tiesto’s career had nowhere to go but up, and now, thanks to his continued work ethic (which led him to put on over 100 shows last year) he now earns upwards of $250,000 a night.

Did Tiesto get to where he is today simply by sitting around and waiting for a record deal? No way! He went out and worked hard every day and look where it got him.

If you want to kickstart your DJ career, start today by working hard to improve your skills, just like Tiesto did before he made it big. Check out this introductory lesson on Using Effects and learn some of the tricks that pros like Tiesto use every day. Let today be the first day in your DJ career. Get out there and start learning!



About Spin Academy

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