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You’ve learned how to use Ableton Live or Garageband and free music loops and started making some sick beats. Everyone is telling you that your music is the best they have ever heard and that you should totally DJ for their brother’s cousin’s wedding next week. That means you’ll need DJ equipment.
If you’re looking to DJ or perform digital music for the first time, then this guide will show you everything you need to get started. Let’s jump right in.
Mobile DJ Prerequisites
Before making any purchases, you’re going to need a few basics first:
- Music software
While performing digital music without a laptop is not impossible, it’s certainly not very easy to do. The MacBook Pro is probably the undisputed king of mobile music production, but its price certainly leaves a big dent in your wallet. Do you already own a laptop? Otherwise, our guide to the best laptops under $1,000 may come in useful here.
Best Speakers as Mobile DJ Equipment
Besides a laptop, speakers should come high on your list of priorities. A basic set of Hi-Fi speakers may suffice for a house party, but birthdays, weddings, and other events may require something more powerful. While a whole industry is built around live music reproduction, a basic public address (PA) system such as the Peavy audio performer pack or Behringer Europort EPS500MP3 should be enough to get you started without breaking the bank.
If you find yourself in need of a bigger speaker system, it’s possible that large venues may have their own systems, and you can always hire or upgrade at a later date if your system is no longer making the cut.
Once purchased, videos like this one from Soundcraft Mixers will help you learn how to use it:
Lights for Mobile DJs
No party would be complete without a lighting show. Professional and even amateur lighting rigs are remotely operated using DMX control. Even though you may not want or be able to remote control your lights right now, it’s important to consider DMX compatibility for future expansion. When using DMX, it’s possible to sync all your lights up to change uniformly at the same time, as well as create complex light sequences.
If you’re just getting started in lighting, the DragonX 4 Bar LED set contains everything you need in a self-contained package, but if you’re really looking to push the boat out, this U`King 4-pack moving head lights set will really wow your audience.
Finally, you’ll need some software to mix your tunes. consumer music players such as iTunes or Spotify may suffice for one or two gigs, but you’re going to want something a bit more professional. Fortunately, our guide to the best DJ software can help you out here.
Check, One, Two
Before you spend the remainder of your budget on gold-studded headphones or a stretch limo to take you to the venue in style, you should probably buy a microphone. How else will the audience hear your epic MC-ing?
The Shure SM57 is one of the most popular, rugged, and reliable microphones you can buy. The SM57 bundle comes with everything you need to get started, including a mic stand and cable.
If you’re looking for a wireless system, the Line 6 XD-V35 is an excellent digital system that can be used license-free anywhere in the world. You’ll never have to worry about the local taxi company broadcasting over your system during the first dance!
Now that you’ve got your core rig purchased, you’re going to need to hear yourself. Being able to cue your next song in the privacy of your own headphones is not just a fantasy, but is almost a requirement to being able to DJ effectively.
If you’re not sure what exactly you need headphones for, then watch this mini tutorial from YouTube DJ ellaskins:
The Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones offer outstanding sound quality, along with excellent exterior sound attenuation. While slightly on the expensive side, these headphones have a near legendary status in the pro-audio industry — and for good reason!
If you’re looking for a pair of headphones that may be cheaper, or lighter, then make sure you read our guide to the best wired headphones. Our guide to headphone styles may come in handy if you’re confused by the many different types and styles available.
An audio interface is a special box that produces high-quality sound from any computer. Sure, you could get away with using a 1/8th-inch cable out of your Laptop’s headphone jack, but that yields rather pathetic sound quality — and it’s hardly a reliable or rugged connection for a touring DJ.
As YouTuber Audiohackr explains, audio interfaces or sound cards are almost required for good sound quality:
The Focusrite Scarlett Solo is small enough to fit into any bag and provides two line outputs, which you can connect as a stereo pair to your PA system. This USB interface has a microphone preamp as well, so you can branch out into live recording in the future.
Firewire audio interfaces like the Focusrite Saffire Pro 14 are available, but you may wish to consider a newer standard, as Firewire ports are rapidly dropping out of circulation.
A DJ controller is a fairly essential tool for digital performances. They allow you to spin “virtual” records, as well as providing physical buttons for crossfading, looping, and much more!
Whatever you purchase, make sure to double check if it’s compatible with your choice of software. Most of them are fairly universal, but you don’t want to end up being disappointed.
A MIDI keyboard is a keyboard that instructs your computer to play a certain note. Not all DJ software will support one, however, so this will only really be useful if you’re into live beat making or remixing.
The Akai MPK Mini is a solid performer from a reputable brand. Powered by USB, this keyboard also features several pads and dials, which you can use to trigger samples and adjust settings.
If you’re looking for something wireless you can bring onto the dance floor, then Akai once again have you covered with the LPK 25 wireless keyboard. While this model has fewer options than the one above, it is wireless and provides all you need to jam away all night long.
One of the final things you may wish to consider is a MIDI controller. These allow you to trigger samples and adjust settings, but they can sometimes duplicate the functionality found on certain MIDI keyboards, so you may not need one.
The Novation Launchpad is an extremely popular model, and for good reason!
This 8×8 grid of buttons is far more useful than it first appears, and as this video from NovationTV shows us, it can be used to play whole songs:
If you’re after a few more controls to really dial in your sound, the Novation Launchcontrol XL is exactly what you need. With enough controls to launch a ballistic missile, you’ll not go wrong with this model.
If you’re into your DIY, have you read our tutorial on how to make your own MIDI controller? It covers every step needed to make your own MIDI controller — big or small, the sky really is the limit with this project!
DJ Equipment Accessories
Once you’ve assembled your DJ kit, there are a few final accessories you’ll need. This Novation backpack is big enough to store nearly all of your gadgets and gizmos, and don’t forget a USB hub to connect all your devices to your computer.
All this gear may seem over the top, but there’s no need to buy all of it at once. You could start with the basics, and add more as you need it, and as you start earning money and building a reputation.
With so much choice available, there’s a lot to take in, but starting any business — especially one in the music industry, is a fun and exciting venture.
Let us know in the comments below what gear you use!