What Software Do DJs use? – A Beginners Guide

Choosing the right and best DJ software for you can be a challenging process especially for a beginner DJ choosing a DJ controller and not being quite aware of what software will be best.

Within this guide, we aim to explain what digital DJ software is, the benefits of DJ software and what software DJs use.

Lets dive in!


What Is The Best DJ Software?

Like most industries there are many products available, this is no different when it comes to DJ software and can sometimes be overwhelming. We have narrowed it down to the most reputable and well respected DJ software used in the music industry by some of the most popular, world-renowned DJs.

1. Serato DJ

Starting with Serato DJ, founded and developed in New Zealand by Steve West and AJ Berstensaw. Serato is a leading brand in the market that is used and respected by multiple world-renowned DJs across the globe.

Serato manufactures Software for digital and DJ mixing and permits its software to be used with leading hardware brands such as Pioneer, Numark, Denon, Roland and more (Always remember to check what software the controller you are buying is compatible with). Serato does not make any DJ hardware such as controllers or CDJs.

You can buy the full version of the software – Serato DJ or the entry-level version of the software – Serato DJ Lite. We recommend the Pro version as the features and capabilities within the software are far superior to Serato DJ Lite.

Serato supports DVS which is an abbreviation for Digital Vinyl System, this allows old school DJs to still use turntables on digital software. Another software that offers this Native Instruments Traktor, a fierce competitor of Serato.

Serato DJ offers an intuitive and easy to use layout, the platters are displayed at the top of the screen in white against a dark background whilst waveforms and track information display in the middle of the screen. The arrangement of the waveforms are customisable and can be changed to suit your needs, this means the size can be changed if you prefer a large or a small display along with the waveforms running sideways or upright.

Organising your library within Serato is again easy and intuitive, creating or adding playlists or ‘crates’ as they are called in Serato is achieved by clicking the image of the crate. Serato also has an extra feature called smart crates which allows you to apply rules to the crate such as the Artist, Album, BPM, Key and many more, this adds to the ease of using Serato in the mix.

We then have the controls and FX, using these features and functions such as setting Hot Cues, using the sync or quantize controls and applying FX within the software is as user friendly as can be.

Final Thoughts

Serato is great software and offers great performance, which can unlock your creative potential and is a super reliable piece of software which is why it is used by countless DJs across the world. Their DVS set-up is, along with Traktor the best in the world, which will be mouth-watering to Vinyl Enthusiasts.

There are also multiple DJ controllers that are compatible and come bundled with Serato.


2. Native Instruments Traktor Pro

Traktor 3 was developed in 2005 by the software developers Native Instruments and like Serato is a leading brand in the industry and their software is used by some of the best DJs on the planet.

The software is very similar to Serato DJ in many ways and offers an excellent DVS system that allows Vinyl enthusiasts to use turntables through the use of a timecoded Vinyl.

Traktor is compatible with multiple hardware brands such as Pioneer, Denon, Reloop, whilst offering a manual MIDI integration that allows you to find pre-configured mappings that allow almost any DJ Controller to work with Traktor.

Traktor has a range of their own hardware which of course works seamlessly with their software as it is all tightly integrated, these are called Traktor ready controllers and to get the most out of the software we recommend buying one of these controllers.

Like Serato, Traktor offers an intuitive easy to use layout, the top consists of the decks which display coloured waveforms and plenty of track information on a clear and easy to see dark background with light writing.

To the left of the screen, you can see the browser, this is where you can create playlists, search and find songs. Traktor offers the ability to sync with Itunes, and smart lists allow you to create new playlists whilst adding filters of your choosing.

Traktor also has a clever algorithm that detects the BPM of your songs and organises them accordingly, this is an excellent feature and is, like most algorithms extremely accurate.

Stems is an excellent feature that splits the tracks into four musical components: drums, vocals, bass and melody. You can then mix them independently of each other, edit and remix creating entirely new tracks from original tracks.

Traktor also has a great list of FX that you can apply to any one of your four decks, these can be Reverbs, Echos, Delays and modulators that can unleash your creativity.

Final Thoughts

Traktor software is rightly one of the best in the world and in tight competition with Serato DJ, it offers great performance and reliability with solid controls and FX options. It supports and/or is compatible with most hardware including the DVS set-up.

3. Pioneers Rekordbox

Rekordbox is a DJ software platform created by Pioneer DJ. Pioneer DJ has dominated the hardware industry for many years with its products being industry standard across the world.

Rekordbox is relatively new within the DJ software industry but has quickly become a dominant and well-respected name, rivalling that of Serato and Traktor.

The software is designed to and works seamlessly with Pioneer DJ controllers, Rekordbox is a music management system with creative performance capabilities.

The software is also a cloud storage device, this means you can upload tracks and playlists from your library to the cloud and access them on multiple devices.

The layout of the software is simple and easy to navigate, the dark background with light writing and the use of colour to indicate waveforms makes it visually appealing.

The software also offers track suggestions, related tracks and match for creating easy mixing playlists. Rekordbox also displays valuable information such as the BPM, Keys and Phrases.

Exporting tracks has never been easier with Rekordbox, you can export them to a USB drive to be played on CDJ’s/XDJ’s and controllers.

Within the software, you can control up to 4 channels, with an array of FX available that can boost and unleash your creative potential.

An excellent feature that is relatively new at the time of writing is the light and video effects for the party scene, good visuals can keep the crowd in awe. One Pioneer controller that has been integrated with all of Rekordbox features is the DDJ-RZX.

Final Thoughts

Even though Rekordbox is relatively new in the software industry, it has, like it’s hardware became a global and well-respected name. The seamless integration with the brand industry-standard hardware is a massive factor in making this software one of the best in the world. Be sure to check out out our comprehensive buying guide to the best pioneer controllers on the market with reviews.

What Is DJ Software?

Digital DJ software emulates the original way of DJing, that is, using a mixer, turntables and a heavy bag of vinyl records but instead this is all done via DJ software loaded onto a computer or an app like DJay installed on a smart device or tablet. For this article, we will be focusing on DJ software used on a computer.

What DJ software does at a basic level is allow you to take music tracks and combine them together and mix the tracks together and create a unique remixed blend of the tracks.

Thanks to technology DJ software can do a lot more than just blend two tracks together on a computer screen. The introduction of DJ hardware such as CDJs and controllers has not only made it easier to control DJ software it has also made it a more effective way of DJing.

Within DJ software there are many features, functions and capabilities which not only help you through the use of visual information like waveforms, the time elapsed or displaying the tracks BPM. It also offers features that can automatically sync or beatmatch the tracks BPM for you. Whilst this is a good feature that can really help anyone to DJ it also can be argued that it eliminates the art of DJing manually. There are FX features within the software for applying multiple effects that can add an abundance of creativity to your mix.

Details To Consider When Choosing DJ Software

Although all DJ software essentially does the same thing, like any product there are important elements to consider before coming to your final decision.

Compatibility

This is extremely important when it comes to choosing DJ software. Hardware such as DJ controllers is sometimes only compatible with specific DJ software, for example since Pioneers’ introduction of their own Rekordbox software, many of their controllers such as the DDJ-1000 only work with Rekordbox.

Other factors to consider;

  • Does it require external soundcards if one is not built-in?
  • Is it compatible with your computers operating system i.e Windows or Mac?

Features, Functions and Capabilities

All DJ software offers different features, functions and capabilities. Some software will offer detailed waveforms allowing you to see the track visually, this will help you in knowing what the track is doing, when the big drops are coming or when the track quietens down allowing you to make on the fly adjustments.

Effects have become vital to DJs, adding echo’s, reverbs, loops, beat jumps, flangers and more can open up a world of options to push and unleash your creative potential. Effects capabilities can vary between DJ software and this is an important factor when choosing DJ software.

Recording your mixes can be invaluable to your progression, its important to hear your mixes back in order to hear your sound and make improvements along the way.

Software like Traktor Pro 3 support DVS set-ups, this means turntable DJs can still mix digitally via this software. Then for CDJs and controllers, there is a host of software available all offering different features and functions.

Some software offers easier to use features which may be beneficial to someone who enjoys the craft and of DJing would like an easy to manage library for example.

Software Standard & Reliability

Another thing to consider is the reliability of the software, it is always worth checking reviews and expert opinions in order to eliminate software with technical and performance issues.

We always recommend paid software above free or even lite versions as they tend to work and operate correctly.

Price

Price is important to consider when choosing DJ software, it’s important to consider your overall budget and what it is you desire from the software.

Most hardware devices, whether the device is a low-budget controller or a high-budget controller will come bundled with software. Some come with the full version which means there will be no need to worry about buying more software, or sometimes the device will come bundled with a lite version of the software to get you started.

Layout & Structure

Last but not least is the layout and structure of the software, this is how the interface looks and feels in use.

Would you like more emphasis on the deck section so waveforms BPM and general track information are more visible and easy to see, or do you like your files and folders managed in a more intuitive way?

We don’t feel this is as important as other factors listed above but it is still something to consider.


So Which Software Should You Choose?

When it comes to choosing your software, it comes down to personal preference, we do recommend following the factors we point out above

  • Compatibility – Make sure the controller you have chosen is compatibile with the software of your choice
  • Features, FX & Capabilities
  • Layout & Design
  • Price

Of course, they all have their pros and cons but all 3 mentioned above are excellent pieces of software that will be great for a beginner DJ entering the world of mixing.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to software, it’s purely down to the user and how comfortable you feel when using the software. There is much music software available some not mentioned above, but in this article, we have tried to narrow it down to the 3 we feel are best and are most commonly used.

Most DJ controllers use the software, controllers such as the Roland DJ-202 or the Denon MCX8000 use Serato, whilst many Pioneer controllers use their own software Rekordbox.

We have compiled a few buying guides to help you in choosing a controller:

You’ll find our comprehensive buying guide with reviews of some of the leading DJ controllers on the market here.

Some of the DJ controllers listed above can be expensive, which is why we’ve compiled a list of what we think are the best low-cost controllers for under $500, read more here!

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