When you purchase your first DJ mixer, learning how to use it can seem pretty complicated. Even basic models will have multiple functions and controls that you’ll need to understand in order to learn how to get the most out of your mixer.
But as you become more familiar with your mixer and how it works, you’ll wonder how you ever did without one! Not to mention that perfecting this skill is a great way to stand out from the crowd and make your DJing style more unique.
How do you use a DJ mixer? Learning to use a mixer is a challenge, especially if you’re a beginner and don’t have much experience editing tracks, or you’re totally new to the DJ scene. But with the right mixer and a solid guide, you can easily start using your DJ mixer in a manner that allows you to achieve the type of sound you’re looking for.
You’ll want to start by paying special attention to adjusting the master volume as well as the headphones volume, becoming familiar with the trim knobs, EQ, and crossfaders, and paying close attention to the VU meters in order to prevent distortion or damage to your equipment.
As you can see, there are many steps involved in setting up and using your mixer correctly, but my extensive guide will walk you through the entire process, so you can fine-tune your mixer’s volume and controls and enjoy the same type of mixing process and setup that the pros use.
Setting Up Your New Mixer
Once your new mixer arrives, before you decide to dive in and start mixing tracks, you’ll need to ensure that it’s set up correctly. The first step in the process is plugging in the speakers and decks and any other equipment you have. Each DJ mixer will feature line and phono inputs for every channel, which is where the turntables and players are connected.
If you plan on using multi-players, CD players, or any other type of digital source you’ll want to connect them to the line inputs. Connect the right deck to channel two and the left deck to channel one. Be sure the mixer’s white plug is connected to the white connector. The same will apply to the red plug.
If you’ve purchased a four-channel mixer that comes with a total of four decks then you’ll need to do the same, keeping channel four on the right and channel three on the left.
To connect turntables you’ll use the phono connections. If you’re using a vinyl deck you’ll use the phono connections instead. On the back of each turntable, you should also find an earth or ground wire, which will connect to the signal ground/earth/GND connector on your mixer.
The DJ speakers should connect to the master inputs. Amplifiers can also be connected here.
Make sure the power lead is connected, but refrain from switching the mixer on just yet. To switch on your DJ equipment there’s actually a certain order you need to use in order to prevent damaging your equipment.
Using Your New Mixer
Once all of your equipment has been turned on you can then set the volume. You’ll need to use the master volume knob for your speakers. When using booth monitors you’ll use the booth control knob. Booth monitors are used by most DJs who play larger venues and aren’t often used by beginners.
When you’re playing around with the mixing functions of your mixer, be sure that the channel gain and trim knobs have been set at twelve o’clock. You’ll find these knobs right about the channel EQ. The next step is setting the low, mid, high channel EQ knobs in the twelve o’clock position as well.
In order to open up the faders, simply push them to the top. Next, check out the channel input and make sure you’ve chosen the right input based on the type of equipment you’re using. The faders can be found on the top of the mixer, directly above the gains.
Adjusting the Volume
Once you have a couple of tracks playing you’ll need to increase the master volume slowly in a clockwise position. Make sure you continue to gradually increase the volume until you’ve reached the ideal level. You’ll do the same if you’re using booth monitors.
The next step is turning up the headphone volume to the right level. Place your headphones on and increase the volume gradually until it has reached the right level. Make sure you don’t listen at a high volume for an extended period of time, in order to avoid damage your hearing.
Now that the volumes have been set, these controls should only need to be tweaked in the future. If you plan on using your mixer to play a live set in different venues or environments, then you will probably have to go through the process of adjusting the volume again.
Both decks will be audible when you move the crossfader to the center. The further the crossfader is pushed to the right, the quieter the deck on the left will become. When the crossfader has been pushed to the right all the way, the left deck will be completely closed off.
Some models of mixers will have a crossfader curve adjust switch located close to the slider. This will change how quickly the music fades in and out as you gradually move the crossfader to the center. Most users will usually set it to open instantly for scratching, or they’ll set it to fade gradually for general mixing purposes.
Channel faders are what control the volume for every deck and channel. When they’re fully open you will be outputting the full volume, as it has been set by the master volume knob. When they are pushed to the bottom, you will be closing the channel, shutting down the sound completely.
To adjust, hit play on both of the decks, moving the crossfader to the right or left. Next, move the channel faders around in order to get a feel for how they work.
Adjusting the EQ and Trim
A 3 band EQ section and the trim adjustment knobs can be found above each channel fader. Some lower priced mixers may only have a couple of band EQ, while feature heavy models will come with four.
The trim knobs control the volume for every channel. On some models, they may be labeled as input, level, or gain. As you mix tracks you’ll find that the levels in which each track is recorded tend to vary. The trim knobs will allow you to keep the same volume level for each set, preventing higher levels that tend to distort the sound.
The trim knobs adjust the volume of each channel separately. These are sometimes labeled as gain, level, or input. As you mix from track to track you’ll find that the levels that tracks are recorded in can vary slightly. The trims will let you keep the same volume throughout your set and prevent high levels that cause distortion. You’ll use the EQ to blend the different frequencies of a couple of tracks.
The lights you see moving to the beat of a track is called the VU meter. Most models will feature a separate set of lights for every channel, while other models will also include a set of lights for the master output.
You never want to allow the audio levels to clip because it can damage your equipment or cause distortion. If any of the lights on the VU meters turn red this is a clear indication that the audio levels are clipping. If you see any red lights, turn up the amp or speakers and turn down the master volume. Another option is adjusting the EQ or trim of the clipping channel until the red lights cease to flash.
Make sure that the lights on the amp or speakers also aren’t clipping. As I mentioned, this can damage your speakers or other equipment.
Adding Headphones to the Mix
Now, put your headphones on. You will be able to hear both tracks even though only one track is playing on the main speakers. This is how you’ll be able to get each song playing at the same beats per minute and how you’ll line their beats before you mix.
On the mixer, in the headphone section, you might find a cue mix in the shape of a mini crossfader or knob. This means you can slide the fader or turn the knob in order to choose the predominant channel in the headphones. Leaving the crossfader in the middle will allow you to hear both of the songs at the same volume.
The main crossfader and the channel faders will not have an effect on what you’re hearing in the headphones. However, you’ll be able to EQ the track and set the gains using the headphones. Play a couple of songs at the same time in order to familiarize yourself with the EQ, the gains and effect, and the cue mix for the headphones.
Certain types of DJing software will allow you to mix music on four channels, which is why many pros choose the 4 channel mixers. If you prefer using four separate decks, then you’ll have another reason to purchase a four-channel mixer.
But even a basic mixer can look pretty complicated, which is why beginners tend to steer clear of 4 channel mixers, which look very intimidating. However, the 4 channel models really aren’t any more complicated than the two-channel models. 4 channel mixers feature the same functions of a two-channel model, the only real difference is a couple of extra knobs that control the extra channels.
What Type of DJ Mixer is Beginner-Friendly?
There are a variety of models of mixers to choose from ranging from basic to advanced. Models like the Numark Mixtrack Pro 3 Mixer feature intuitive controls, an easy setup, and a company that offers excellent customer service, should you run into any issues. If you want more information about top of the line mixers designed for DJs of all skill levels, check out my beginner DJ mixer buyer’s guide here.
Do the Type of Headphones I use for Mixing Matter?
It definitely can in certain situations. Headphones are mainly worn by the DJ in order to cue songs and allow for a smooth transition from track to track. They can also be an essential piece of gear if you use turntables in your setup.
Do You Have to Use Turntables When You DJ?
Old school DJs prefer to use turntables because they claim that the tactile feel is what gives the DJ the most control over a track while also allowing them to truly showcase their mixing skills. for this type of DJing, you’d need to use two turntables, vinyl records, a DJ mixer, and some speakers.
For a digital DJ setup, you would not have to use turntables. Instead, you would use a DJ controller, a laptop with DJ mixing software, and your library of music, and headphones.
DJ mixing for beginners is simple if you have the right mixer based on your skill level and the type of tracks you want to mix, in addition to the proper setup. Learning how to set up your new mixer will help you become familiar with its many features, how it works, and exactly what you need to do to tweak the settings in order to get the sound you’re striving for.