DJs nowadays have access to more options when it comes to gear, software, and music.
In the old days, people are stuck to only one option, which is using vinyl, and sampling tracks off your favorite records.
You did not have a lot of choices when it comes to DJ gear as well back in the day.
If you have your Technics and a mixer, you are good to go.
I'm not saying it is a bad thing, that there are so many choices these days.
In fact, it is a good thing that more people have access to equipment.
These days, you can stay at home and order everything you need online, and in a couple of days, you can start practicing to become a DJ.
It is also great that more people can become DJs.
You can talk with a community of people, aspiring and professional DJs alike.
But enough about gear.
This article will talk about DJ software, particularly what software DJs use.
There are so many options to choose from, and with that being said, you might find it difficult to choose.
This article will answer the questions:
- What software do DJs use?
- What is the best DJ software for beginners?
- What to look for in DJ software?
However, before we dive into the list, l will give you a quick recap about DJ software.
What is DJ Software?
This section is for people entirely new to the DJ world.
For those of you who do not know what DJ software is, keep reading this section to get a better understanding of what it really is.
DJ software did not exist until recently, and old-school DJs did not use any software to create samples, load songs, use effects, and auto-sync their records.
DJs would have to manually do all of these things using really expensive hardware.
With that being said, DJ software replicates everything you can do on a traditional DJ setup.
It is a digital platform that allows modern DJs to perform live and do everything a DJ needs to do such as load up songs, add FX, queue playlists, mix 2-4 tracks, and a lot more.
Not to mention, you can do everything a manual DJ can do quickly using your computer and powerful drag and drop features.
DJ software is designed to use with DJ controllers to make mixing a lot easier using its knobs, faders, pads, platters, and more.
On your computer, the interface will look like a traditional DJ setup consisting of two decks and the main mixer.
Underlying the two decks are playlists where you can drag and drop digital tracks to queue your next songs.
You can also add FX and mix easily with a click of a mouse or by using your DJ controller.
Some of the newly added features on DJ software are loops, FX, and beat-matching.
DJ software is now a common staple for most modern DJs, with the exception of DJs that stick to vinyl for several reasons.
DJ software is the best of both worlds.
You can upgrade your DJ controller to get the same feel as vinyl, mixed with helpful new digital features.
Some DJs that transitioned from the old-school setup stuck with vinyl records, and still enjoy the benefits of DJ software such as the effortless track changes, virtual effects, loops, sample triggering to enhance their live performances.
With everything that DJ software has to offer, it truly did open an endless array of opportunities for both modern and old-school DJs.
DJ software is a revolutionary creation that made a significant impact in the professional audio and DJ industry.
Most of all, it has opened its doors for more beginner DJs like you and me to learn how to DJ and gave us a chance to become a professional.
Mac vs PC
Now that you know what DJ software is and what it does for modern and traditional DJs, let's talk about your computer.
What operating system is the best for DJing?
Well, DJ software can be intense on your computer processor and RAM, so it is good to know upfront that you are going to need a computer that can handle the job.
A minimum of 8GBs of ram and at least a dual-core processor should do the trick.
You are also going to need a good SSD with enough memory to store thousands of songs.
There are a lot of good laptops for DJing nowadays, and most DJ software, especially the ones on this list work with both Mac and PC.
Both operating systems are good for DJing, the factors you need to consider are the specs.
When choosing a computer for DJing, consider these things:
- RAM size (at least 8GB)
- RAM type (DDR4 or higher)
- SSD- A solid-state drive can load files faster which is ideal for DJing
- Dual-Core or Higher
- USB ports (2.0 or 3.0, preferably thunderbolt ports) -This option is important especially if you will be loading up songs, fx, and sounds off an external SSD.
For DJing graphics is not important.
You only need to focus on the processors and components that make the computer perform better.
Graphics might be a big factor in gaming and video editing, but not for DJing and music production.
In terms of audio, you wouldn’t be really using the laptop's internal soundcard, so you shouldn't worry about that either.
A good rule of thumb is, a great laptop for video editing, programming, and music production is a great laptop for DJing as well.
For Apple users, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch would make a great laptop for DJing.
The base model is alright, but make sure you get the higher end models of this laptop.
For Microsoft users, the Microsoft Surface Pro or Huawei Matebook Pro really caught my attention.
They are great for music production, which is why I am assuming (and I am sure) that they would work great for DJing as well.
I personally use an old MacBook Pro for both DJing and producing music.
If you are a beginner and not planning to perform live anytime soon, any laptop would do for now.
You will notice the upgrades you need as you go.
I did not start with a high-end laptop when I first started dipping into the realm of music production and DJing.
I started using my work laptop which is just good enough for web browsing and word processing, and it worked just as good, or so I thought.
Factors to Consider when Choosing DJ Software
Now that you know what computer you need to start DJing, let’s find out what you should look for when selecting the best DJ software.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro, you can benefit from having user-friendly software.
Because modern DJs rely on software for their performances, it is better to know the ins and outs of your software to maximize its use, and ultimately, maximize your performance.
Not only does it need to be easy to use, but it is also ideal for DJ software to be easy to look at since you will be spending hours looking at it when rehearsing or when actually playing live gigs.
The layout of the DJ software should be less cluttered.
It should also have a darker background because I find that UIs with darker backgrounds are a lot easier to visualize.
You could see the waveforms clearly for matching volume, which is important for making seamless transitions.
The flexibility of the user interface is another thing you should consider.
You should be able to hide functions you do not need and set everything up the way you want them to improve workflow.
Integrations with third-party software are also important.
If you store your music on platforms like Apple Music, a good DJ software should integrate with them to make sure you can access your music through the app instead of browsing for the files one by one.
This way, you can create playlists with your Apple Music app, instead of making two separate playlists or folders with your computer's file browser.
You should also consider DJ software with tagging tools so that you can tag your music files with extra notes and use smart cues.
Smart cues allow you to index your files and start at a certain point without having to look for a cue point every time.
Being able to alter ID3 tags is essential, and it can save you a lot of time when preparing for your live shows.
Having a few extra features that would help ease things would be great.
Most DJ software allows you to analyze your music and render the waveform and breakdowns.
It marks up and down beats so you can easily match two different songs based on the grid lines, without having to listen to them one by one.
This feature also allows you to capture clean samples and loops.
Although this feature is frowned upon by most professional and “purist” DJs, auto-sync is a great tool you can use as a beginner.
It automatically syncs and analyzes tracks with the same key, tempo, and with a simple slide of a crossfader, you can smoothly transition to your next track.
You can use it as a guide when trying to learn your own transitions.
You can use it for DJing in front of your friends, but I would not recommend using this feature every time.
Most DJ software allows you to control two decks, which is a good thing.
However, having a feature that allows you to control and mix four decks at once can be a really good feature to have, especially if you are starting to get good and want to explore different possibilities.
Make sure that the DJ software you choose supports different formats.
While most of them support a wide variety of different music formats, there are a few others that do not support ACC or Apple Lossless files.
Having a wide selection of effects, sound effects, modulation effects is also important in enhancing your performance.
It gives you a ton more possibilities.
You want to have a selection of delays, echos, reverbs, distortion, bit crushers, filter, and gate effects.
These will make your DJ transitions and performances more fun.
Even if you are at home rehearsing, these FXs are really enjoyable to play around with, and it adds an extra layer of expression to your performances.
Compatibility with Hardware
Lastly, make sure that the DJ software you choose works well with your DJ controller.
If you cannot map out the controls manually, make sure that they automatically sync with software so you can control everything with your controller, and do not rely on the mouse and keyboard too much.
Having a completely integrated controller is the key to better workflow and eventually, better live performances.
Top 3 Software That DJs Use
Here are the 3 most common software applications for DJs in the industry:
#1 Native Instruments Traktor Pro 3
This DJ software is fantastic.
It is one of the best DJ software in the market, and a lot of pro DJs prefer this one over the others.
Native Instruments is known for engineering some of the best VST plugins and FX for music production and beat making, and they have been in the DJ game for quite some time now.
It offers a clean interface that is completely customizable, so you can leave the features you do use and hide the stuff you don’t need for a better workflow.
The waveforms are easy to visualize as they are displayed in different colors that you can choose.
Library management is fantastic with Traktor Pro 3.
It offers full editing of ID3 tags and integration with your Apple Music (formerly known as iTunes) playlists.
It is a smart software with enhanced music analysis and algorithms.
The software can analyze the tempo and key so you know what song to play next every time.
Aside from its great performance, it offers extensive looping options and a ton of FX.
This software offers tons of ways to manipulate tracks and the only limit is your imagination.
You can separate tracks, bass, vocals, melody, and create mashups.
You can layer acapellas, and it is very easy to do thanks to its great visualization of waveforms.
The Traktor Pro 3 also integrates with a good range of DJ controllers and hardware to maximize its use.
- Tons of effects
- Clean interface
- Great for modern DJs
- Endless possibilities
- There is a bit of a learning curve to truly maximize its utility
Overall, Native Instruments Traktor Pro 3 is a very powerful DJ software that most modern DJs and music producers would have the pleasure of using.
It has innovative features and quality integrations that many pro DJs fell in love with.
#2 Pioneer Rekordbox DJ
This option is the best option for beginners and Pioneer DJ controller users.
It is one of the newest DJ software, and it is made by one of the pioneering companies that had a lot of contributions to the DJ scene.
Rekordbox DJ started as a music management software that you can use to manage playlists for your next shows.
Now, it evolved into a full-blown DJ software that is easy to use and filled with features that you will surely appreciate, especially if you are a beginner.
It offers a clean interface, four-channel mixing, customizable views, and colored waveforms.
It is a solid DJ software with a neat and clean interface that is completely customizable.
It has an extensive range of effects and the option to purchase more.
The sound quality is top-notch, and it works with most Pioneer DJ controllers such as the DDJ-200, DDJ-400, DDJ-800, and more.
- Easy to use
- Customizable interface
- 4-channel mixer
- Limited features
Overall, because there are some limitations, it may not be suitable for professional DJs.
However, if you are a beginner looking for software where you can learn all the basics and core skills of a DJ, Rekordbox DJ is the perfect choice for you.
#3 Serato DJ Pro
I was saving the best for last in this list, and Serato DJ Pro is the best DJ software on the list.
It may not have the extensive features of Traktor Pro 3, but in terms of DJing for any club, event, party, or wedding, Serato Pro DJ is the best.
It is one of the most widely used DJ software, and there is no denying its popularity amongst pro and beginner DJs.
It features a clean and neat interface that offers customization and more depth in personalizing your workspace.
It has both vertical and horizontal waveforms where you can see the bass, mids, and treble, allowing you to mix and equalize your mixes so both tracks can be heard simultaneously without clashing frequencies.
It is jam-packed with the most useful features any DJ could ask for.
You can also use it to create DJ mixtapes without using third-party software.
- Clean interface
- EQ display
- Tagging files
- Recording mode
- Full looping functions
- Tons of effects
- Good music analysis
- It has a bit of a learning curve
Whether you are a beginner or pro, Serato DJ Pro is a fantastic software choice for you. Many DJs, including traditional vinyl DJs, use Serato and it has become their gateway into integrating their vinyl experience in the digital world of DJing.
Top 3 Mobile DJ Software
If you want to DJ using your phone or tablet, here are your best choices:
- Algoriddim DJay
- WeDJ by Pioneer DJ
Vinyl or DJ Controller?
There are a couple of pros and cons when trying to decide whether to go vinyl or go digital.
Using vinyl is the purest form of DJing.
However, it is expensive, it requires a lot of work, and it takes more time to master and perfect.
Building your music library alone by collecting records is a really hard, but very satisfying process.
You can use a hybrid vinyl controller and use it with software, but it is completely up to you.
As opposed to DJing with a laptop and controller, it is more accessible to anyone.
You can start learning the art immediately, and they are much cheaper.
If you learn with a controller first and you get extra money to build a vinyl DJ rig or a traditional setup, it would be a lot easier for you to learn.
What is the best laptop for DJing?
A lot of people have different preferences when it comes to choosing the right laptop.
I have been a “Mac” guy ever since. I did try using a Windows computer for mixing and they are not bad.
It all comes down to preference.
I personally love the new 2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch with a 2.0 Quad-Core processor.
It gives me enough power and speed for music production as well as DJing.
You can open multiple windows at once without affecting its overall performance.
To sum things up, what software do DJs use?
DJs use different software and the ones listed above are the most common, whether you are a pro or a beginner.
These DJ software can help you maximize your creativity, make you more efficient, and they are really fun to use.
I hope I helped you decide which software is the best for you.
Have fun on your DJ journey.
I hope to see you around playing the biggest festivals soon!