Virtual DJ: how to mix

Virtual DJ is a great software for learning how to DJ with digital music files like MP3s. Here, I’ll take you through the basics of mixing. You’ll still need practice, but this should get you started. There are four parts to this guide – importing your library, basic controls, preparing tracks and mixing.

Importing your Library

When you open Virtual DJ, start by finding your music library using the file tree on the left. Right click and choose Virtual Folder, which will create a place you can keep all the tracks you want in Virtual DJ. Drag a few songs you like into this folder, and then one by one drag them into the decks. This will allow the app to analyze the beats per minute (BPM) of each song. I think it’s a good idea to put any song you play in the app into your Virtual Folder, as it’s more comfortable than the messy Windows file tree.

Basic controls

It’s easiest to use Virtual DJ combining some simple keyboard commands with the cursor keys. Here are the three essential keyboard commands you’ll need:

  • Tab – switch between A and B decks
  • C – mark a cue point and play from cue point
  • Space – play/pause.

Preparing tracks

  1. Choose two songs with similar BPMs. Drag one into deck A, the other into B.
  2. Press Space and deck A will start to play. You’ll see a waveform moving, with markers underneath. You should see that these markers pass the center in time with the music. If not (sometimes the auto analysis is half a beat out), tap the BPM button once in time with the music, and the markers will slip into place.
  3. Press space to stop the track.   Now we want to set a cue point – the point where we want to start the song. Cue points are saved by Virtual DJ, so you only need to set them once for each track. Under the name of the song, you can see a small waveform of the whole song. Click the start of it and press Space to play – watch and listen for the beat you want to set as your starting point. Press Space to stop, then click on the big waveform with the cursor, and drag it back to exactly the right point, aligned with the center marker. Press C now, and your first cue point is ready!
  4. The C key behaves differently depending on the circumstances. When a track is stopped, C sets a cue point. When the track is stopped at the cue point, C will start the track (it will stop when you let go of the C key). When the track is playing, hitting C will stop the track and bring it back to the cue point.
  5. Hit the Tab key, and you’ll see deck B is highlighted and active. Now the C and Space keys will control that deck. Play that track, make sure the beat markers are OK, and set a starting cue point, repeating the method above. With two tracks prepared, you’re ready to mix! Don’t get put off if you’re not perfect right away – you’ll quickly improve with practice.

Mixing

  1. Press Tab so deck A is active. Hold C to start the track, then tap Space and let go. You could just tap Space, but starting by holding C means you can jump right back to your cue point if you make a mistake when mixing, so it makes sense to do it this way!
  2. In the center of the deck is the cross-fader. Slide it to the right and your song will fade out, slide it back and it returns. When in the center, you’ll be able to hear both decks if they are playing, but if you slide it to one extreme, you’ll only hear one. Practice dragging it with the mouse!
  3. Put the cross-fader back in the center, then hit Tab to activate deck B. Click the SYNC button on Deck B. Now it’s set to the same BPM as the track you are already playing. This is the tricky bit. Hitting C will start your next track from the cue point, so try pressing and holding it with the beat of the first song. If the two tracks don’t sound quite in sync with each other, still holding C, tap the PITCH arrows. With these you can nudge the track forward and back to get it just synchronized with the first. The blue and red beat markers should be lined up. Try it out!
  4. Tap Space then let go of C, and you should have two tracks playing in time with each other. With the cursor, drag the cross-fader to the right to fade out deck A. That’s it! You can also fade out deck A using the volume slider, and by using the High, Medium and Low knobs – but it’s best to play with them once you have the basics down.

You will have to experiment with where to bring in new tracks, and how quickly to move the cross-fader. Try out different combinations of tracks and you’ll soon be able to put a set together!


Feel free to ask in comments for any more Virtual DJ advice.

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