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Types of DJ Software - Which Is Best?

Noah Feasey-Kemp

Noah Feasey-Kemp

Embarking on a musical journey as a DJ involves more than just spinning tracks; it's about selecting the right software to amplify your creative prowess.

Finding the perfect DJ software can be a daunting task, particularly with so many options available. Fear not, as you've come to the perfect place to learn which is the best DJ software for your needs, based on your style and preferences.

In this guide, you'll explore the primary DJ software options on the market and discover how you can combine the right types to create the ultimate DJ workflow.

TL;DR - DJ Software Types#

  • There are various types of DJ software available.

  • One of the most popular categories is live software.

  • Another emerging option is studio DJ software, designed to maximize the benefits of non-live DJing.

  • One notable example is DJ Studio, a fantastic piece of studio software that serves as the perfect accompaniment to your live setup.

What is DJ Software?#

what is dj software

DJ software is a computer application designed for various tasks associated with DJing.

Typically, these applications emulate the gear and workflow of physical DJ hardware and controllers. For instance, most software provides two digital 'decks' that function as audio sources, allowing users to play multiple tracks simultaneously. This setup is complemented by a virtual mixer equipped with controls for blending between tracks, such as volume, EQ, filters, and effects.

Depending on the type of DJ software employed, the application can often be connected to physical devices, like DJ controllers, enabling users to control the software using hands-on hardware.

As you'll discover in the next section, DJ mixing software comes in various forms, each tailored to different situations and user preferences.

Main Types of DJ Software#

In this section, we'll delve into the different categories of DJ software and highlight some of the most popular brands in each.

Firstly, it's crucial to recognize two overarching categories, each with its own sub-sections: Live and Studio DJ software applications. Most DJ software falls into the live category, designed to facilitate real-time DJ performances.

However, studio software is gaining popularity rapidly, serving as a valuable tool to enhance a DJ's workflow, as you'll soon discover.

Live DJ Software Overview#

rekordbox

Live DJ software is the most common type and comes in a wide range of variations. Many software offerings on the market fall into multiple combinations of these subcategories.

Before delving into specifics, it's useful to understand the basic live mixing workflow for easy comparison with the studio method outlined later.

A Live Mixing Workflow typically follows these steps:

  1. Curate a Music Selection - Start by compiling the music you wish to mix. Purchase and download the desired songs, then copy them to the appropriate location on your hard drive or a USB stick.

  2. Start Up Your Live System - Launch your live system, which could be a controller connected to your laptop or a standalone deck setup. Import the music you've selected into your system.

  3. Pick the First Track and Play It - Select the initial track from your playlist and begin playing it.

  4. Beat match the Second Track and Mix It In - Beat match the second track with the playing track, ensuring a seamless transition, and gradually mix it in with the first

  5. Keep Mixing In New Tracks - Continue the flow of your mix by introducing new tracks for as long as you desire.

If you want to record your DJ mix, you have two options: utilize your software's built-in recording feature (if available) or connect your setup to an audio interface or standalone recorder.

Live DJ software typically encompasses several of the following features:

Music Library Management

The ability to manage and organize a large music library. Letting you create playlists, sort your music, and make it easy to navigate to the right file.

Live Mixing and Performance

As a minimum, live DJ software needs to give you at least two virtual decks, and two independent volume and speed controls. These are essential, but you'll also want things like equalizers, filters, effects, and looping for more expressive DJ sets.

Hot Cues

This feature lets you flag part of a song for instant recall. For example, you might want to put a hot cue at the start of a song's chorus, so you can instantly jump to that part when needed. This feature is found in most live DJ software.

Hardware Integration

Using some kind of hardware controller is basically essential for mixing with live software, you can't get away with just using a keyboard and mouse in this situation (at least not for a pro-sounding mix).

Types of Live DJ Software

Here are some of the main types and subcategories of live DJ software.

Controller DJ Software
dj controller software

Arguably the most commonly used, controller DJ software is specifically designed for use with a DJ controller during live performances. This setup empowers DJs to seamlessly mix their digital music library and leverage the advanced features offered by digital technology.

These software options often include performance features such as pad triggering, effects manipulation, and real-time remixing capabilities.

Several popular brands in this category include:

For those looking to get started with this software, we recommend trying out something like the free version of rekordbox. This widely used DJ software provides all the essential features for creating a professional DJ mix and stands out as one of the best free DJ software options available.

Digital Vinyl System (DVS)
DVS Setup

DVS software allows DJs to control digital music files using traditional vinyl turntables, used with a special time-coded vinyl disc. This essentially gives DJs the feel of vinyl, but the flexibility of a digital DJing setup.

Designed to emulate the experience of vinyl turntables, these types of DJ software often include features like scratching, pitch control, and realistic vinyl manipulation.

This type of setup is often favored by scratch DJs, who rely on the physical handling of vinyl to express their DJ skills.

In terms of brands, Serato is widely regarded as being the best choice when it comes to DVS integration, although Traktor, Algoriddim, and Pioneer all have their own offerings.

Open-Source DJ Software

This software is developed based on open-source principles, fostering community-driven development and customization.

These tools are frequently free to use and place a significant emphasis on flexibility.

While free DJ software may sometimes exhibit lower quality and compatibility compared to paid alternatives, the appeal lies in the flexibility it offers to users who seek a customized approach to music mixing.

Mixxx stands out as the most notable example of open-source DJ software.

Video DJ Software:

Tailored for DJs who incorporate visuals into their performances, video DJ software enables the synchronization of music and video elements, offering a multimedia experience. This is a more niche feature that isn't broadly offered.

You can find video DJing features in:

  • Serato Video

  • Virtual DJ

Web-Based DJ Software:

With technological advancements, some DJ software now operates directly from web browsers.

DJs can mix and perform using cloud-based solutions without the need for extensive downloads.

This type of DJ app is often somewhat limited and may not be suitable for professional or club DJs. However, for impromptu parties, these can be fun to use, and some even offer compatibility with DJ controllers.

Some good examples of web-based DJ software include:

  • YouDJ

  • TransitionsDJ

Mobile DJ Apps:

Specifically designed for mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, these apps offer a simplified DJing experience for on-the-go use, often featuring touch-friendly interfaces.

Mobile DJ software has advanced significantly in recent years and is now utilized by many professional DJs. While they may not offer the same level of functionality as PC software, they remain a viable option.

Moreover, many of these apps have integrated connections with streaming services, allowing users to mix music from platforms like Soundcloud, Beatport, and other sites.

Some of the best mobile DJ software include:

  • Edjing Mix

  • DJay

  • WeDJ

Types of Studio DJ Software#

studio dj software

'Studio' DJ software offers an alternative approach to mix creation. Instead of focusing on live performance and hardware controllers, Studio software empowers users to craft mixes at their desks using only a mouse and keyboard.

While it doesn't directly enable live DJing, Studio software provides several advantages over live performance software and can be used as an accompanying tool.

The workflow is entirely different, so we'll delve into the process below.

The main advantages of using studio DJ software include:

  • More Time Efficient - The studio DJing method is often more time-efficient than live performance, allowing users to fine-tune their mixes with precision.

  • Easier for Experimentation - Studio software provides a conducive environment for experimentation, enabling DJs to explore creative ideas without the pressure of a live audience.

  • No Need to Rehearse and Record - Unlike live DJing, there's no need for extensive rehearsal and recording sessions. DJs can refine their mixes at their own pace.

  • Craft Mixes in More Detail - Studio DJ software allows for a more detailed approach to mix crafting, offering greater control over individual elements.

Because studio DJing is a newer method, there are fewer applications on offer and only a couple that are specifically designed for DJs.

Traditional Music Production DAWs

Ableton live

Traditional music production DAWs (digital audio workstations) like Ableton Live, Logic, Reaper, Pro Tools, and Bitwig can be used by DJs to prepare and create DJ mixes.

Rather than mixing live, DJs can use the editing timeline to lay out their mixes track by track, then use the automation lanes to create transitions and fades.

Because these apps are designed for music production, rather than DJing, they are often not an ideal solution for this task. They tend to lack many useful features for DJs and also have an unnecessarily high learning curve for a DJ.

That said, this is still a viable method for creating DJ sets on a timeline, however, it's not the smoothest or easiest option.

DJ DAWs

The best solution for studio mixing is to utilize a 'DJ DAW'. This type of audio workstation, similar to music production DAWs, is specifically crafted for DJs rather than music producers.

A DJ DAW provides a robust workflow similar to traditional audio editing software but is enhanced with features tailored for DJ use.

While there are only two known DJ DAWs, it's worth noting that one of them, MixMeister, has been deprecated and no longer receives updates.

The other available option is our app – DJ.Studio!

About DJ.Studio
dj studio carousel

DJ.Studio is a unique piece of DJ software that employs the 'Studio DJing' methodology while also being closely integrated with most live DJ software. This integration allows you to harness the best of both worlds, maximizing your workflow and creative potential as a DJ.

To understand how this software works, it's a good idea to have a look through the basic process:

  1. Open the app - Install it on your machine or run it directly in the browser.

  2. Import music - Fill your music library from various locations. An interesting feature is the ability to connect it with your live DJing software, sharing the music library with DJ.Studio.

  3. Create a playlist -When preparing a mix, start by selecting all the tracks you want to use. DJ.Studio makes it easy to compile a playlist from a range of your music libraries.

  4. Automix (optional) - DJ.Studio incorporates a powerful AI automix algorithm. This doesn't replace DJs but serves as a co-pilot. It suggests a cohesive order for your playlist based on the key and tempo of your tracks. The algorithm takes care of complex harmonic mixing, ensuring smooth transitions and flow from track to track.

  5. Edit and refine - After finalizing the track order, move to the editor timeline to refine your mix. Perform all the editing and automation needed to create a professional mix. DJ.Studio provides effects, loops, sample layers, and a transition editor for quick and efficient mixing. For those in a hurry, transition presets offer a quick mix. For a more in-depth approach, use the manual editor to sculpt your mix in as much detail as desired.

  6. Export - Once you're satisfied with your mix, it's time to export it DJ.Studio gives you a wide range of options for exporting your mixes. You can:

    1. Create a single, high-quality audio file in WAV or MP3 format. This file can be used for listening, uploading, or sharing.

    2. Create a DJ set file - For live DJs, DJ.Studio facilitates the creation of an M3u8 playlist file containing all the tracks and their ordering. Import this file into your live DJ software to seamlessly integrate your harmonically mixed playlist into your live performances.

    3. Ableton Live Project - If you want to master your mix and work with VSTs, export your set as a multitrack Ableton Live project. This includes all your music, edits, automation, and transition data.

    4. YouTube Video - DJ.Studio offers a unique feature to create audio-reactive videos animated to your mix. With access to over 30,000 animations from Shadertoy, you can customize your videos with track information, album artwork, and text. Upload these videos to YouTube to enhance your reach and exposure. Additionally, you can export a text file containing the tracklist and timestamp information, which can be added to the YouTube video description to automatically create chapters.

dj studio export screen

As you can see, the studio DJ software workflow is significantly different from live mixing. It isn't designed to replace live DJ software; rather, it serves as the missing piece of the puzzle. It incorporates a variety of features and functions that enhance a DJ's workflow, providing valuable tools to refine and perfect mixes in a studio setting.

Some of the other handy features include:

YouTube Mixing Mode

DJ.Studio has a uniquely powerful feature that allows you to use music from YouTube as an audio source. This provides access to an endless library of music for mixing using just your internet connection. You can create full, seamless mixes of any track on YouTube and share them with DJ.Studio's community mix player site.

Music Discovery:

DJ.Studio serves as more than just a creation tool; it's a powerful platform for music discovery. Through integration with Beatport and 1001 Tracklists, you can quickly find new music for your sets. For instance, you can use 1001Tracklists to discover DJ sets mixed by your favorite artists, containing links to any identified songs. Import these into your set and create your own mix.

Experimentation:

DJ.Studio facilitates the experimentation and planning of DJ sets more efficiently and quickly. Without the need to cue and set up decks every time, you can easily pick songs, test different orders, and scan through, making it a powerful tool for DJs to experiment with any track (for free) before deciding to use it in a mix.

No Need to Rehearse and Re-record:

For those producing mixes to share, DJ.Studio eliminates the need for live recording and rehearsing. If a mistake is made, there's no need for extensive editing or re-recording. Simply design your mix and export the 'recording' with a click of a button.

This makes it ideal as a piece of playlist software for radio stations.

There is clearly a huge advantage to be gained from using studio software. However, the optimal DJ workflow involves mastering both live and studio software.

Live + Studio Software = The Hybrid DJ Method#

dj studio hybrid workflow

Professional DJs will harness both Live and Studio DJ software to get the best of both worlds for their workflow.

The so-called 'Hybrid Method' of DJing combines the perfomance ability of live DJ software, with the experimentation and planning aspects of studio software.

There are several ways in which these two types of DJ software can be combined. Here are some examples of the types of workflows you can use.

Planning Live Performances#

An exceptionally powerful approach to using both types of software is to employ studio apps for planning your live mixes. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Connect Live Software Library - In DJ.Studio, connect your live software library through the options. This allows you to mix with any of the tracks in your DJ library.

  2. Experiment with Playlist Orders - Utilize DJ.Studio to plan out the perfect playlist. Take advantage of the harmonic mixing powers of the automixer and experiment with the start and end positions of your transitions. This provides a robust way to plan and experiment with the arrangement of your set.

  3. Export the Finished Playlist back into Performance Software - Easily export a DJ set file from DJ.Studio to send your mix back to your live software.

  4. Mix Your Killer Playlist Live - Open up the playlist and mix track to track in your live software. If you're using rekordbox, your tracks will be given hot cues indicating the start and end times for your transition boundaries.

Check out this video demonstration to see what this workflow looks like:

This method is highly beneficial for DJs who enjoy crafting fresh mixes for each show. With the ability to test and plan your mix using studio apps, even when you're away from a physical DJ setup (such as while traveling on a plane), you can efficiently prepare and be ready to deliver an engaging live show.

This approach offers flexibility and convenience for DJs who value experimentation and precise arrangement in their performances.

Quickly Creating Promo Mixes#

Having a substantial collection of online mixes can significantly enhance your profile as a DJ. Manual recording with decks can be time-consuming, requiring extensive preparation, rehearsal, and setup.

The use of studio DJ software like DJ.Studio can speed up the mix production process, allowing you to create mixes much more quickly than with manual recording. By efficiently generating high-quality mixes, you can easily broaden your online presence by sharing more promotional mixes.

This is particularly valuable for platforms like YouTube and Mixcloud and can also be advantageous for radio show features and podcasts.

The streamlined workflow offered by studio DJ software can contribute to increased productivity and a more prolific output for DJs.

Finally...#

dj studio timeline

As you can see, there is a wide range of DJ software to choose from. Finding the best fit for you is a matter of trial and error, coupled with a bit of experimentation. Most live software operates in a relatively identical manner, with the main differences lying in the interface appearance and compatibility with different hardware.

When it comes to studio software, DJ.Studio stands out as a serious option. This unique product can accelerate the mix creation process and open new doors for DJs. By using this software, you can increase your production speed, gaining an advantage over other DJs in terms of exposure and visibility.

For an optimal setup, for both new and experienced DJs, a combination of both Live and Studio software is recommended. Using something like rekordbox paired with DJ.Studio provides the highest creative potential. This way, you can leverage the benefits of both types of DJ software, adopting a more holistic and flexible approach to creating mixes and performing live.

You can try DJ.Studio today, with the free 14-day trial! No credit card info is required.

FAQs About DJ Software Types

Ultimately it depends on the DJ and the situation. For live performances, rekordbox is widely regarded as the industry standard, although Traktor, Serato, and Virtual DJ are also big names. In terms of studio mixing, and creating mixes rapidly just using your laptop, DJ.Studio is the most common choice.

What software do you need for a DJ controller?
Which DJ software is used in clubs?

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