One of the great things about DJing is that you don’t need to be able to play a musical instrument in order to play great music (in fact, some might argue that a DJ controller is a musical instrument in itself). At the same time, there are certain advantages to understanding some basic music theory, especially when it comes to something like a DJ MIDI keyboard controller. Here are a few essential keyboarding skills that any DJ should learn.
The most basic way to add a DJ MIDI keyboard into your setup is to use the keyboard in the same way you would use a DJ controller. With some basic MIDI mapping, you can set up a MIDI keyboard to control functions such as your transport controls, cue points, pitch/tempo controls, effects controls and so on.
The advantage of using a DJ MIDI keyboard rather than a DJ controller is that it can allow you to control multiple parameters at once. For example, you could control both your pitch and tempo parameters at once by pressing down multiple keys at the same time. This frees up your other hand to control a filter knob, for example, or find a new cue point.
In addition, if you’re used to playing keyboards outside of DJing, just having the feel of keys at your fingertips rather than a bunch of buttons could make the whole DJing process more tactile and enjoyable for you.
While all EDM genres are fundamentally based around rhythmic structures, most will involve some harmonic elements as well. This is where learning some basic piano chords can really help you. Whether you’re producing tracks or simply seeking to understand the music in your DJs sets on a deeper level, developing some basic knowledge about harmony and chord structures can go a long way. This can also help you out when it comes to other aspects of DJing like mixing in key.
On top of learning some basic chords, learning to play some basic basslines and melodies can also go a long way in helping you understand any type of EDM. These skills are also essential if you have any interest in production. Plus, learning some of these basic keyboarding skills can also help you get into other production tools like synths, arpeggiators, and all sorts of other keyboard-based instruments.
The Advantages of DJ MIDI Keyboards
Even if you’re not playing your own basslines or other musical elements using a DJ MIDI keyboard, having a MIDI keyboard in your setup can still present some advantages. For starters, most MIDI keyboards will integrate easily with any DJ software, which means that you can hop between Ableton and Traktor and still use the same MIDI triggers without too much difficulty. Re-mapping controls on a MIDI keyboard is usually a fairly simple task as well, so if you only want to invest in one piece of hardware but want to be able to use it for multiple functions, for example as a DJ controller and as a music production tool, a MIDI keyboard can be a good option.
For more on DJ MIDI keyboards, check in on the blog in the coming weeks for a run-down of the best MIDI keyboards for DJs to buy. And for more tips on how to become a great DJ, check out Spin Academy’s online DJ school, where you can learn everything from how to set up your DJ gear to how to perform DJ tricks like looping and live remixing, all for only $19.95/month.