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Let’s be honest, DJ mixers are intimidating. There are so many buttons, knobs, and switches, it can be hard to know where to start!
Finding your groove on one of these mixers does take time and practice, just like any other musical instrument.
With a bit of dedication and hard work, you’ll be well away!
Of course, you’re not going to get very far if you can’t even set the mixer up. Have no fear, we’re here to help.
We’ve put together a beginners guide for DJ mixers that will take you through set up, basic functions, and creating your first mix.
Table of Contents
The first thing to note is that a mixer doesn’t create any music or sound on its own. You need to plug in your decks or media players as well as any speakers you’re using.
If you’re using turntables, you’ll need to use the phono input. Any digital players will use the line inputs. These will be marked on your mixer for each channel.
When plugging in your decks or media players you want to alternate between left and right.
If you have a simple 2 channel mixer then connect the left deck to channel 1 and the right to channel 2. For a 4 channel mixer, it should be deck 1 left, deck 2 right, deck 3 left, deck 4 right.
When you’re plugging your players or decks in, make sure you put the white lead into the white connector and the red lead into the red connector.
If you’re using decks instead of digital media inputs, you’ll also need to connect the earth wire.
The earth wire is found on the back of the turntable and needs to be hooked up to the GND or earth connector on the mixer.
Your speakers or amplifiers need to be connected to master outputs. Your booth monitors need to be connected to the booth outputs. Don’t mix these up otherwise you’ll find that you’re turning the volume up on the wrong speakers.
Finally, you can plug the mixer into the power but don’t turn it on. You need to give your equipment power in a very specific way.
Essentially, you want to turn your speakers on last because audio equipment can cause a power spike which causes a loud pop. This pop can blow out your speakers.
So, it’s decks and media inputs first, then anything else connected to your mixer like sound cards, then the mixer, and finally the speakers.
Setting the Volumes
After set up, the next thing you need to do is to get the volume levels right.
In terms of output, you’ll have master controls for the speakers and the booth monitors. If you’re practicing at home, you won’t need a booth monitor so you can just ignore that particular dial.
Booth monitors are smaller speakers that face the DJ so that they can hear what they are mixing. It’s like the equivalent of a monitor earpiece worn by singers.
For your speakers and your booth monitors, you use a simple turn knob to adjust the volume. Both knobs are labeled for ease. Turn them right down for now.
Initially, you need to focus on the input volumes. You want to find the channel gain knobs. They should be labeled and are usually above the channel EQ knobs.
Turn the gains to the 12 o’clock position initially. This will be a tolerable level that you can fine-tune in a moment.
After the channel gains, you need to set the channel EQ knobs to 12 o’clock. These are usually 3 knobs labeled high, mid, and low.
Once you’ve set all the knobs into the right position, you can open the channel faders by sliding them right to the top.
To set the volume, we’re just going to use channel one. Rather than switching things off, you need to slide the crossfader to the left. Remember that when we set up, we put the left deck on channel 1.
We are finally ready to play some music! Drop the needle or press play on your deck or media input. You can now slowly turn up the master speaker volume and the booth volumes until you’re happy.
For your headphone volume, you want to do the same. Plug them in, turn the volume right down, and slowly increase to a tolerable level.
Once you’ve set the volume switches, you won’t need to change them unless you change venues or your parents tell you to knock off the noise!
The crossfader lets you switch between your channels.
The further to the left the crossfader is, the louder the first channel will be, and the quieter the second channel will be.
If you push it to the left then the second channel will be cut out entirely and vise versa.
The channel faders control the volume for each channel. All the way to the top means the channel is at full volume and all the way to the bottom turns the volume for a channel off.
The EQ or equalizer knobs allow you to adjust the frequency of each channel.
Most mixers will have a 3 band EQ which means you can boost the high, low, and mid ranges of each track. Cheaper models may only have two but higher-end mixers may have four.
EQ control is a whole world of its own and can change your tracks. You should definitely look at this more deeply as you get to grips with your mixing.
These are the funky lights that seem to dance around to the beat. Their job is to monitor the levels of each channel and alert you if things go too far.
You’ll usually have a VU meter for each channel but some mixers also have a VU meter for the master volume.
You don’t want to see red lights. That means your input is too high and you risk damaging your speakers or amps.
If you are getting red lights you’ll need to start by lowering the master volume. Once you’ve got that done you can turn the speakers up individually. If you’re still getting red lights, play around with the EQ to find the balance.
Mixing isn’t simple but it is amazingly fun and rewarding. Just think of all the music you love, now imagine being able to blend some of those.
You can bring out the best of each track, reworking the music till you’re happy. It’s like baking, but with music.
Now that you have the basics, you can play around.
Get the feel for your equipment and enjoy the process!
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