The Beginner DJ Blog
How To Choose Which Type Of DJ You Will Be: Music Format
Beginner DJs have a lot of hard decisions as they start their career. Perhaps the hardest of those choices is which music format you will be spinning.
A proper choice of music formats will lead the beginner DJ down different paths throughout their career.
There are 3 major types of music formats for DJs: Vinyl, CD and Digital (MP3/WAVs).
Each musical format has its own pros and cons but it ultimately comes down to the individual on which to choose.
Before you go any further, you may want to see the types of DJs as well.
Vinyl has been the backbone of DJing since the beginning but it has seen its eventually downturn after years of use and newer, cheaper formats to choose from.
Vinyl is a way of life to many DJs, the fondness of digging through crates at a local record shop looking for a gem.
Vinyl may seem like a dated format to today’s DJ yet many still mold their play style around this format.
Let’s look at some of the pros of using vinyl:
- Vinyl is an analogue format which means it produces a rich, analogue sound.
- Vinyl requires a high amount of hands on approach to DJing
- Record shops are a phenomenal way of meeting other vinyl enthusiasts and DJs
- There is a certain stigma and nostalgia when using vinyl on a pair of vinyl turntables
- Vinyl becomes very collectible as the years pass giving you an added investment in your collection
However, there are a few cons, let’s take a look:
- Vinyl is often more expensive than the other formats
- Vinyl is increasingly becoming more difficult to find due to many artists releasing tracks exclusively on CD and digital formats
- Vinyl requires a constant routine of maintenance to prevent them from warping and becoming damaged
- Some new, hot tracks cannot be played because they have not been pressed on vinyl yet
- Vinyl can become cumbersome when traveling from gig to gig
It may take longer to learn to beatmatch and mix on vinyl as well.
Vinyl is a great place to start for any beginner DJ that wants to explore the beginnings of the DJ culture. Collecting vinyl is an excellent and profitable hobby as well.
In the late 80s and mid 90s, CDs rose as the dominant form of musical format amongst the masses; it’s no mystery that DJs would soon adopt this format.
CD DJ culture is in it’s own league, full of new tricks, gear and availability of tracks.
The beginner DJ interested in CDs has a lot of breathing room on which gear and the type of music they wish to spin.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using CDs.
- Virtually every song is available in CD format
- CDs are relatively cheap and accessible
- CDs can easily be replaced with scratched
- You can make backups of CDs onto your hard drive which will allow you to easily transition towards digital DJing without the laborious task of ripping vinyl
- You will be able to hold a larger amount of music on each CD compared to vinyl
- A case of CDs is a hell of a lot lighter than a bag full of vinyl records
- You will need to develop a system for labeling and organizing your massive CD collection
- CDs are very easy to break using minimal force
- With digital formats, it’s a lot of work to hunt for CDs when you could just download the track instead
- CDs are beginning to be phased out, just the same as vinyl
CDs is the perfect in between for those beginner DJs that still want to keep a hands on experience but not be limited to the amount of music they want to spin.
You could always download music and burn the tracks to CDs, giving you an infinite amount of options in your sets.
Digital is the new king of the musical format.
The internet has given the opportunity to millions of bedroom producers and mainstream artists to openly distribute their tracks to everyone in the world.
In older days, you would need to painstakingly hunt for new tracks at your local music shop. Now you can jump on your computer and have instant access to all of the latest, hottest tracks in the genre you spin.
Modern DJing is very high tech. Laptops, midi controllers and many other devices can now hook together to create a set up that is unmatched in versatility.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of digital:
- You can download almost any song from around the world
- Many new artists use digital downloads as their primary format which means you get to spin a track seconds after it’s been released
- MP3s and WAVs are very cheap, often $0.99 a track on iTunes and Beatport. You could build a massive collection on a fraction of what you would spend on vinyl and CDs.
- MP3s are easy to organize and arrange plus you could carry your whole collection on a zip drive
- You could always burn your MP3s to CDs if you prefer to use CD turntables
- It’s the future!
- MP3s can sound muddy if it has a very low bit rate. When played across a system, the MP3s will sound very distorted.
- Digital DJing is often not nearly as involved as DJing on vinyl or CDs. Digital has given the rise of lazy DJs automixing and beatmatching, a real passe amongst fellow DJs.
- A computer crash or a nasty virus could wipe out your entire collection in a few minutes. All that hard work you put into building your collection gone down the drain.
- Software upgrades sometimes will cost you
Digital is the new format that is going to stick for a very long time.
The sheer amount of availability of music is enough for any beginner DJ to begin their career using this format.
New pieces of gear are continuously being developed to integrate with the computer, there really is no end to what the digital DJ may be able to do in the future.
You could begin digital DJing right at this moment, you already have the main component: your computer. All you would need is a program like Virtual DJ, Traktor or Ableton to begin spinning your own mixes.
Bonus: Time Coded Systems
Least I forget, there is still one major player that can help you bypass all of the restrictions of your music format: time coded systems.
Serato, Traktor and Torq are some of the most common systems you will find that use a time coded vinyl system to control digital music. It really is the best of both worlds.
To use a time coded system, a DJ would still use traditional gear such as turntables but it will be hooked up to their computer through a controller box. Time coded vinyl replaces traditional vinyl on this system which allows the DJ to control MP3s on their computer using the time coded vinyl.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of a time coded system:
- You can use any type of music format
- You get the traditional feel of vinyl
- Time coded systems are relatively cheap ($200 – $500)
- You’ll have to lug around, not only your turntables, but your time coded system
- You may find yourself fiddling with setting up before your set
Overall, a time coded system is one of the best ways to go because of the amount of versatility. You could still spin vinyl, hook up a cd deck, play your digital tracks while getting that old school feeling of vinyl.
The musical format really depends on what you want to do.
Vinyl may feel like the right choice for you if collecting, trading and having a very intimate hands on experience when DJing is your desire.
CDs are very versatile and cheap, making it an excellent format for many current beginner DJs to get their hands on.
Digital formats will continue to evolve with new gear and file distribution methods, if you’re a techie, digital is calling you.
Your DJ gear will be dependent on the format you choose. It’s best to know the pros and cons of each format before you make any costly mistake purchasing a pair of decks to spin a format you aren’t comfortable with.
About the Author - Muxx
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