How to Use a DJ Mixer, and How Does It Work?

We explain how a DJ mixer works, what it requires to work, and the basics of using it.
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Last updatedLast updated: September 03, 2021
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There are many people out there who love music that has been mixed by a DJ and they often wonder, how to use a DJ mixer?

A DJ or a disc jockey is not only responsible for playing music, but they also exhibit the skills to properly mix different songs. In order to mix music and create an exceptional sound, DJs use mixers that help blend different audios to create something new. By mixing different music, DJs are able to add sequence and transition to their music.

If you are someone who is into DJing and wants to learn how to use a DJ mixer, then this article is just for you. This article will be covering up on what a DJ mixer is and how it is used in different contexts.

So let’s get started!

How Does a DJ Mixer Work?

How to Use a DJ Mixer, and How Does It Work?

Before you get into the process of mixing, it is essential to understand the equipment that you will be working on. A DJ mixer is an essential tool that all DJs must own if they want to mix their own music.

A DJ mixer makes use of different audio inputs and merges them together. Apart from merging, the mixer allows you to modify the frequency of the music accordingly.

DJ mixers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Here are some of their hardware and key features that you should keep in mind before buying.

Hardware

A DJ mixer has the following hardware:

  • Input

The input is essentially the sound source that needs to be mixed. Different types of mixers can use different sources for their inputs. For example, some DJ mixers use line-level devices Trusted Source Line level - Wikipedia Line level is the specified strength of an audio signal used to transmit analog sound between audio components such as CD and DVD players, television sets, audio amplifiers, and mixing consoles. en.wikipedia.org as their input source. This can include connection to phones, controllers, and so on.

Other than that, some DJ mixers have their own microphones which allow for a direct source of the sound input. Some mixers are able to connect to computers through digital connections or via USB, in order to gather sound. With different options available, you can literally add any sound possible and use it for mixing.

  • Mixer

Next up, we have the mixer itself. This hardware is at the core of every DJ mixer. It is able to collect all the input and allows you to modify and adjust the sounds. A mixer allows you to change the frequency and volume of each sound. This is where all the magic happens and new music is created.

There can be different types of mixers. From beginner-friendly two-channel mixers to professional and complex six-channel mixers, you can have it all. With the help of a mixer, there are endless possibilities for the music you mix and produce.
  • Output

Lastly, we have the output. An output allows you to listen to your end product after mixing. There are many different outputs that a DJ mixer can have. Some mixers can have booths connected to speakers, while others can have headphone connections. This particular hardware is essential for you to test out your final products.

Key Features

While you can find all sorts of mixers in the market, there are some key features that are common to most DJ mixers:

  • Channel faders are basically volume controls for each audio input. This particular feature allows you to adjust the volume of each audio input accordingly. Each mixer also has a master fader which is responsible for the overall volume of all channels.
  • Cross faders are essential for cutting audio between each input. This is the key feature used for transitioning into a different song.
  • Equalizing knobs allow you to alter the tone for the audio input. With these knobs, you can adjust the frequency for each channel.
  • Each mixer has its own version of an effect section that allows you to add that extra layer to your music while mixing.
  • A filter knob adds further depth to the frequencies of each song. It can help with the transitioning and the build-up of the music.

How to Use a DJ Mixer Properly

How to Use a DJ Mixer, and How Does It Work?

DJ mixing can get complicated at times, but it is the basics that every DJ must master. The following guide will help you on how to use a DJ mixer properly and with the right steps.

Setup

Before getting into the mixing process itself, you need to ensure that your mixer is set up properly. To set it up, you have to plug in your output and input it into the mixer. Make sure that each input is connected to the correct channel. For mixers with 1 or 2 channels, you simply have to connect them in a line while ensuring that each plug goes into the correct connector.

If you are using a mixer with 4 channels, then you connect each channel on the correct side. For the mixing process to start, it is absolutely essential that you get this step right.

Apart from the inputs, you also have to ensure that the output is connected correctly and your power lead is in the correct plug. A correct setup also protects your mixer from any electrical damage.

Volume Adjustments

Once you have set up the mixer properly, it is time to adjust the volume of your setup. To fix the overall volume of the output, you make adjustments with the master knob. For the volume of each channel or input, you make adjustments with the channel faders. Before mixing, make sure that all the knobs are adjusted at the 12 o’clock position. You can change that once you have started mixing.

For volume adjustments, make sure that you are using the correct fader for each channel.

As you start playing your music, the volume should be adjusted at a gradual pace. Keep increasing the volume until you have reached your required volume. Make sure that you are listening to your output to get the correct volume.

Controls

After your volume has been adjusted, it’s time to get acquainted with the controls.

Most 2 channel mixers come with crossfaders as well as channel faders. While the channel faders control the volume for each channel, the crossfaders are responsible for cutting between channel sounds. If you move the crossfader in the middle, it is able to play both inputs at the same time. And if you want to play either input over the other, you have to push the fader to its side. Some mixers have curve adjusting knobs that help you adjust the fade speed.

EQ Meters

Next up, we have EQ adjustments. The EQ setting is usually on the top of every channel faders. Each mixer can have a different number of EQ bands in it. However, these segments help with the trimming and volume adjustments for the sounds. The bands remove any kind of distortion and smooth out the music by helping adjust the frequencies.

VU Meters

While mixing can be technical, it can also be fun with the VU meters. These meters consist of lights that blink with the beat of each tune. You can visualize your sound using these lights. Each color indicates a different sign.

For example, if your lights turn red then it means that the master volume needs to be adjusted.

Using with Headphones

Mixing can be done efficiently while making use of your headphones. With headphones, you will be able to hear both tracks at a time while the main speaker only lets you listen to one. The headphone will enable you to place both the sounds at the same BPM (beats per minute). This lines up the tracks while you start the mixing process.

Each headphone comes with a cue or a mini crossfader. By turning this knob, you can adjust the channel volume that you are hearing in your headphones. You can even equalize the tracks and ensure that the quality of sound is not compromised while mixing.

Additional Tips

  • While mixing your music, make sure that you adjust the speed of all tracks at a similar pace. Not only this but the volume should also be adjusted properly.
  • If you want to mix different beats, then select some steady inputs that are long enough for crossfading.

As a DJ, you should have active ears and be receptive to how your output is coming out to be.

2-channel vs 4-channel: Is There a Difference in Using Them?

While you may have now figured out how to use a DJ mixer, it is absolutely essential you get the proper mixer. While 2 channel mixers are ideal for beginners, 4 channel mixers can be complex and are preferred by professionals. 4-channel mixers basically have the same features as 2-channel mixers but they come with some additional features such as:

  • Booth Control

This booth control especially comes in handy when the mixer is being used for big parties and functions. With the help of the booth control, you can connect extra outputs to the mixer and control them with just a single knob. The Pioneer DJ DJM-900NXS2 is a great 4-channel mixer with effective booth control.

  • Effect/FX Panel

4 channel mixers are able to add an extra layer to the tracks using their effect panels. Commonly known as the FX feature, this helps add echo, delay, reverb, and much more to your track. If you are looking for a mixer with all these features, then you should consider the Traktor Kontrol Z2 DJ Mixer.

  • Microphone

This feature is common to both 2 channel and 4 channel mixers. However, 4 channel mixer microphones come with higher functionality. These microphones allow for high-quality input. The price of the mixer does increase as you get this additional feature.

With a microphone, you can add echo to your track or even customise your own voice by using the EQ functions.

DJ Mixer Software

How to Use a DJ Mixer, and How Does It Work?

DJ mixers come with a different type of software. Each app/software has its own features and functions:

  1. Traktor Pro is one of the most common software. It is mostly used by DJs who are into mixing hip hop or EDM music. This software has various features that accommodate the mixing of such genres.
  2. Rekordbox is another common software. This particular software is able to export music directly from your computer or laptop. However, some outputs may not be compatible with this software.
  3. Serato is an easy-to-use software that can usually work without the need for any hardware.

For each software, you need to see if it’s compatible with your mixers. If the software is offering your desired setting functions and effects, then you should definitely opt for it. Get specific software for your mixer. With this software, you will soon learn how to use a DJ mixer app.

Final Thoughts

While it may have seemed complicated at first, you must have realised how easy it is to use a DJ mixer. This article helps you figure out how to use a DJ mixer.

For successful and proper mixing of tracks, you need to first ensure that you have figured out the function for each and every part of your mixer. Once you get the hang of it, you need to start with the mixing process.

Each knob and button represents a different but very vital function. As you go along the way, make sure that you keep on practicing until you perfect your mixing skills. Good luck and have fun!

References

1.
Line level - Wikipedia
Line level is the specified strength of an audio signal used to transmit analog sound between audio components such as CD and DVD players, television sets, audio amplifiers, and mixing consoles.
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