It’s never been easier to get into live music mixing
Believe it or not, the art of ‘DJing’ has some pretty deep-rooted history in American history. As early as 1935, radio disc jockeys practiced live or “real time” mixing where they would select singles recorded on discs to play on broadcast.
Remarkably, the first instance of what we recognize today as DJing occurred in 1947, when Jimmy Saville, an English radio DJ claimed he was the first person to ever live mix using twin turntables at a jazz club. A few years later, artists began to try out new formats, some introducing live drummers to play between songs to keep club dancers moving to the pace. Though it wasn’t until the late 1950s and early 60s in the Jamaican ghettos did the art of DJing really take off. Loud PA speakers meant disc jockeys or “selectors” as they were called could blast music while hyping the crowd through a rhythmic vocal style called “toasting”.
The history of DJing, or mixing music in real time evolved and changed over the course of the next 50 years. At the precipice of all that change was one constant: technology.
Nowadays, it’s never been easier to get in the DJing game. Until relatively recently, if you wanted to DJ you would have to buy expensive live mixing equipment such as turntables and crossfaders. While those devices are still prevalent in some parts of the live mixing community, most of the time DJ’s don’t need much more than a laptop or even an iPad. Here are five great apps that will get you started in your DJ career. Best part? They won’t cost you a penny.
Simplicity is key when it comes to this free iOS app! The simple interface allows you to live mix songs from your phone’s library, drawing in music from iTunes, Deezer, SoundCloud and even Vimeo. Edjing Mix comes built in with a number of great free and in-app features including BPM detection, hot cues, loops, scratches, audio fx with free and paid samples. Not to mention the app is Apple Watch friendly. Learn more here.
Free (with iOS 9 or higher), $4.99
You’ve used it on every Mac since the early 2000s, but there’s a reason they keep bringing it back. Garageband is definitely one of the greatest apps out there when it comes to virtual music creation. With hundreds of authentic sounding instrument patches built in, there are few free apps out there that will let you fine-tune your mix as expertly as Apple’s product.
Though the standout feature for us is Apple’s Live Loop feature. Great for composing your own songs as well as remixing others for your set, Garageband’s easy-to-use interface makes creating your own track pretty well as simple as clicking some buttons. There are nine genre’s you can pick from to get started including Hip Hop, Chill, Electro, EDM, Dubstep, Funk, Rock and Beat Masher.
Virtual DJ Home
Virtual DJ is the premier app when it comes to live mixing and cutting. The mobile-friendly app lets you mix songs in real time as turntables would. With the click of your mouse (or fingers), you can easily speed and slow down songs, scratch records, crossfade, and so much more. The beat sync tool is also incredibly useful for matching song speeds for seamless transitions between songs.
Whether your spinning your best friends house party or broadcasting live on radio, Mixxx is another great option for you to consider. Available on any desktop platform (Mac / PC / Linux) this free app comes with all the hits: track looping, scratching and fx.
As soon as your track is dropped into the live mixing, the app will automatically detect BMP and mark cue points as well as a broad overview of the song’s waveform. Mixxx’s powerful master sync will keep beats locked in even as you play around with speed. For broadcasters, the app allows users to live stream their mix using either Shoutcast or Icecast serves, as well offers talkback options for radio DJ’s or emcees / rap battlers.
Mixing apps aren’t really known for their visual design, but iOS app Pacemaker is the exception. There’s a reason this app took home a prize for Apple’s Design Awards in 2015. Its minimalist design reflects the easy to use live mixing app. Giving you access to over 30 million tracks on Spotify / iTunes, there’s little else out there that makes mixing so accessible. But don’t confuse simplicity with power: because this program comes loaded with truly heavy software. Pacemaker’s AI program scans it’s users mixes searching for bugs and consumption behavior to self-regulate needed improvements.
Pacemaker lets you crop beginnings and end of tracks and modify levels using it’s easy-to-use built-in editors for bar and beat, phrase and more. Works on desktop, all iOS devices including Apple Watch and is completely free.