CDJs V Turntables – Skills Needed or Is It Cheating?
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I was having a chat with a friend and it made me think about this issue and I got quite passionate about it in my opinion.
Now, I’ve been djing for 18 years and I have taught a few people, who have gone on to be quite successful with it, so what I taught worked for them, but the fact is, I really don’t have the first idea about teaching and how to structure a good lesson, where to start? how to explain and all the other factors involved? but that said, I would love to get into teaching it on a more permanent basis. However that is not what I am talking about in this post, it’s just when I was talking about the subject behind this post, it included a chat about if I was teaching, so it kind of links in!
Let the CDJs v Turntables battle commence:
Basically, the way it came about was in a conversation about scratching and mixing on CDJ’s and decks and whether or not it is the same or easy to do on CDJs. So, I was talking about wanting a CDJ or two just to add that extra dimension to my sets and so we were talking about the various models available, which lead me to mentioning the technics SL-DZ1200 CDJs that came out quite some time ago, but the way they had made it was, in my opinion quite original and striking, it was all designed to look like a proper technics 1210/1200 turntable, in the layout of the buttons and the color and even the size was very similar to a technics 1210/1200 turntable, they also had the feet just like the 1210/1200. I was saying that because of the design of the SL-DZ1200 it was easier to scratch like you were using a turntable, due to the large platter that they have.
Anyway, the conversation went on and as they tend to do in my world, deviated to something along the lines of the conversation, but a different direction. We started talking about mixing on CDJs and turntables and if the two were the same in respect to the level of skill involved. I will never say that using CDJs is wrong and not needed, as i do believe that they serve a great purpose, but like I say, only to add a new dimension to a set or to allow you to use tunes that you have on cd but not vinyl, also things like stabs and samples that you could put on cd for use in sets, making the set more interesting in that way. But I do think that if you are going to set out in the world djing and want to start learning, I would recommend starting on turntables, every time. mainly because I feel that you learn more about mix craft and control and how to manipulate tunes more so than if you used a pair of CDJs, because they do a lot of the work for you. These days a good CDJ will work out bpm, key and all other manner of things, cue points can be set, so you always release the tune at the exact right time, the result is a super smooth mix almost every time. Yes to learn how to use a CDJ is a skill and does take time to learn the functions and how they effect the mix etc, but you don’t learn how to judge two bpms or how to find tunes that match up with the same key, saying that you can, but the temptation to allow the cd deck do it for you is there, so someone just starting out would probably use it and not pick up the true ability to listen to and analyze two tunes playing.
Getting a Feel For It:
I remember when I first started to learn, I was bought a set of cam belt drive turntables, that were a nightmare to use, and several times I would get so frustrated with it, I got to the point where I thought it was me and that I would never pick it up. But when I really started learning how my decks worked in the sense that they were ultra sensitive to touch, being belt drive, they would fly off into a spin if pushed to hard or come to a stop if my touch was too hard. When I realized that, I started being more gentle with my touch, so gentle sometimes I would hardly have to put my finger on the platter to speed up or slow down, it gave me the chance to learn perfect platter control, and so when I moved onto technics direct drive, my mixing improved ten fold, due to the sense of touch i had learnt on the belt drive decks. If a mix was going out by a slight bit, I would have the gentle touch to move it on or pull it back slightly enough to not push the mix out even more. This is something that you don’t learn as much with CDJs, because you don’t even need to touch the platter to control the mix, you have pitch bend to do that. When I first used cd decks, I actually had to re-teach myself how to mix with them (live at a party as well) because all I wanted to do was control the tune with a platter, but these were rack cd decks, so they didn’t have the platter, just pitch bend, which I found very hard to get used to.
So, I ended by saying, if someone came to me asking for me to teach them and they said they had CDJs, I would say the first lesson would be to put the CDJs in a cupboard, take them turntable shopping and then when they had a set of turntables, I could tech them to DJ, not just mix…
I have been a DJ for 18yrs and have played at many clubs, parties and even festivals, I love to share my knowledge of all things related to being a DJ and love to to talk about the tunes, the events and the artists that make the world of electronic music what it is. Pleas check out my site for more information http://www.lashingsofmusic.co.uk
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