How To CDJ

Okay, you appreciate vinyl and all, but those records are heavy and you may be wondering how to CDJ instead. CDJs use specialized CD players that have controllers on the top surface that emulate vinyl turntable platters. These controllers allow much greater control of the music, including scratching, dropping samples in, spin backs and more.

To CDJ, you will need:

  • Two CDJ players
  • A DJ mixer
  • An amplifier and speakers
  • Audio cables
  • Headphones
  • Audio CDs
  1. Get the right set of decks. Investing in a good quality pair of CDJ players is important, as the cheap knock-off brands just won’t hold up to the amount of abuse most players will take during a real gig. Top brands include Pioneer, Denon, and Numark. Make sure you test them out in a music store before picking up a pair, as you want to make sure you are comfortable with the way the platter and jog wheel feel since those are the primary interfaces you will use. If they do not roll smoothly or grip your fingers right, go for a model that works better.
  2. Make the connections. Connecting your CDJ decks is the same as connecting turntables or a regular CD player. Most jocks prefer to put their mixer in between the two CDJ players. Connect the audio cables on player one (red and white ends) into the corresponding Channel 1 input on the mixer (will be marked Line 1 or CD 1 or similar), which should also be color coded. Red goes with red, white goes with white. Repeat for the second player. Connect the mixer to an amplifier and speakers following manufacturer instructions, or use a pair of headphones.
  3. Start mixing. Insert CDs in each player and start playing. If you have DJ'd with turntables before, CDJing is very similar but with more possibilities. The jog wheel is used to fast forward or rewind quickly to a certain section of music, and you can use the turntable platter to pause the music and do fine searches. CDJ players allow for pitch control, and most also allow you to retain the original pitch of the song while you adjust tempo. Match tempos of the tracks playing on player one and player two, and use your mixer to fade from one CDJ player to the next. To make a seamless mix takes practice.
  4. Scratching and tricks. Here is where the advantage of CDJing over other forms becomes apparent. You can use the platter to scratch by dragging it back and forth rapidly like vinyl. You can also program certain cue points on a track, which will allow you to find and “stutter” a sample.  Looping is another great feature, and one neat trick you can do it to take a few seconds of a beat and loop it endlessly on one CDJ player, while you play a track on the second CDJ player and mix them together. Voila! Instant remix!

Most major DJs that travel to international gigs know how to CDJ well. It is simply way more convenient than vinyl, and the music is a lot less heavy. As a result, a CDJ can bring a lot more music with him to a gig, allowing him greater flexibility and a better performance.

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