Whether you’re hoping to improve your DJ skills, get more gigs, sell mixtapes, or make a DJ podcast, learning to record your mixes in an essential skill any DJ should master. In order to master this skill, it’s important to understand how to record DJ mixes in a way that’s easy to set up, simple to operate, and yields clean recordings as the end result. Depending on the equipment you use, there are several options for how to record DJ mixes; we’ve broken down your main options into three categories here, and also provided some basic instructions on how to get your recordings set up and sounding great.
Recording Your Mixes with DJ Software
The simplest option when it comes to how to record DJ mixes is to simply use your DJ software to record your mix. This only works, however, if all your audio passes through your laptop when you’re mixing. While not all DJ software gives you the option to record, most newer programs have some sort of internal recording capability. If your software gives you this option, make sure you adjust the recording level to make sure you’re recording clean audio (i.e. not clipping the meters by pushing the audio above 0db) before you hit record. In a digital situation, it’s always a good idea to leave lots of headroom (i.e. make sure your mix peaks well below 0db on your meters), rather than trying to record as loud as possible, as it’s easy to add more volume to a digital recording later on if you need to.
The advantage of recording everything through your DJ software is that you don’t have to set up any cables to start recording. The disadvantage is that recording on the same software you mix through can be taxing on your CPU, which could lead to interruptions in the audio when you’re mixing. This could be especially problematic if you plan to record your live sets. For that reason, many DJs, even those who are primarily using digital systems, prefer to record their mixes to an external hardware recording device.
Hardware Recording Options
There are a variety of hardware recording devices that allow you to record your DJ mixes, the most popular among DJs being the Zoom H4N. While using a hardware recorder involves setting up a few cables, in most cases, the routing is simple to figure out up. Most mixers or computer sound cards will have at least two mix outputs available. This allows you to use the main output to send your mix through your speakers for live playback, while sending the signal from your second output to the audio recorder. The cables required will vary depending on your system, but in most cases a stereo male RCA to stereo 3.5mm cable will do the trick.
The advantage of this setup is that the portable recorder allows you to easily record live sets without having to sacrifice too much space in your setup. Plus, once you’ve got the signal flow sorted out, it’s also a simple one touch operation to start recording. The disadvantage is that you don’t have much ability to monitor the recording as it’s happening, so it can be harder to get the levels right.
Using a Computer as an External Recording Device
If you use a mixer as the last stop for audio in your setup, using a computer as a recording device is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to get started when learning how to record DJ mixes. In order to record audio onto your computer, however, you’ll first need some sort of digital audio workstation (DAW). There are a variety of options available when it comes to DAWs, from free programs like Audacity to more advanced programs like Ableton and Logic (which can also be beneficial if you want to get into the production side of EDM). Typically, setting up the routing from your mixer to your computer is fairly simple, as most digital mixers have USB capability. Using the USB port on your mixer allows you to run a USB cable from your mixer directly to your computer. If this option isn’t available on your mixer, you can also use the secondary output from your mixer just like you would when recording to a hardware device, and use the appropriate cables to connect from that mix output to the input on a computer sound card or USB audio interface.
Using a computer to record your mixes is ideal if you can run a USB connection, as this allows you to record without having to convert the audio signal from analog to digital; when recording from your mix output to your computer, the signal is being converted from analog to digital, which can lead to some degradation in the audio quality. That being said, recording to a computer through an analog output from your mixer can still lead to great sounding recordings, especially because using a DAW to record your mix means you can monitor the levels visually as you’re recording.
No matter which method you use, learning how to record DJ mixes is a smart career move for any DJ. First off, recording and listening back to your own mixes is the best way to make sure you’re applying the skills you learn through online DJ school courses like the ones offered at Spin Academy. You can also use your recorded mixes to promote yourself and get more gigs, or even put together a mixtape or DJ podcast to help you earn some extra cash. At the very least, even if you don’t play any gigs or make any mixtapes, at least now you’ll have something to show for the hours and hours of practicing you’ve been putting in on the road to becoming a better DJ.
Last time we talked about how to DJ downtempo sets on the blog, we explored some of the different subgenres that make up the downtempo movement, and also talked about the general philosophy behind downtempo music. Now that you understand the basics of what downtempo music is all about, we can get into some of the nitty gritty of how to DJ downtempo sets. As we’ll see, however, being a downtempo DJ is just as much about artistry as it is about mastering the technical side of things. But first, to start off, let’s take a look at some of the basic techniques all downtempo DJs need to master.
Although downtempo music places less emphasis on beats than other EDM genres, that doesn’t mean the beats don’t matter. In order to create smooth transitions, you’ll want to make sure that your songs are beatmatched. Want a primer on how to beatmatch? Check out our beatmatching video tutorial series, which is included in every Spin Academy membership.
Mixing in Key
Even more important than beatmatching when it comes to how to DJ downtempo music is the technique of mixing in key. Since beats are often secondary elements in this genre, that means melodic elements like vocal lines or instrumental samples will dominate the sound. So in order to get your transitions right, you’ll want to make sure that you’re always mixing in key. After all, this genre is all about creating a vibe, and there’s nothing that ruins a good vibe quite like an off-key mix. For more on how mixing in key works, check out our advanced tutorial on the Mixed in Key software.
Developing Your Taste
Any DJ who wants to become proficient in any genre needs to understand the two fundamental techniques mentioned above, and if you want to DJ downtempo sets, these two basic techniques are really all you need to get started. Except there’s still one crucial piece missing – good taste. That’s because downtempo, at its core, is not about fancy mixing tricks; it’s about creating a unique atmosphere that puts people in just the right mood. And the way to create a unique atmosphere is by developing your taste and knowing exactly what to play at what time during your set.
A good downtempo DJ will have to learn how to strike a balance between spontaneity and organization; you’ll want to have a good idea of what you’ll be playing during your set, but you’ll also want to be able to break from your setlist if you feel that you want to change up the mood. Want to know more about preparing your sets? We’ve got a video tutorial on that as well.
While the basic concept of how to DJ downtempo is simple, many downtempo DJs spend their whole careers perfecting their craft. Because the techniques involved are fairly easy to grasp, this leaves a lot of room for experimentation, and this is what sets great downtempo DJs apart from the rest – those who are able to experiment and come up with unique sounds are the ones who will develop a following and a good reputation, while those who simply follow the rules will be the ones left behind.