Despite all of the many different buttons, knobs, faders, and controls on a mixer, a beginner shouldn’t be intimidated by the learning curve that is necessary to use your mixer like a professional. If you are wanting to learn how to use a DJ mixer, or are simply curious as to how DJs do what they do, you definitely want to continue reading.
What all of the Shiny Controls do (in plain English):
You probably have seen a really nice mixer with over 100 different buttons and features. To simplify things, let’s start small and break down the very basics of your mixer. Using a very basic model, the Numark M2, let’s explore what all of the controls do.
- This knob controls your master volume, or the volume that you are projecting out to the crowd. The knob to its left controls the volume for the first channel of music, and the knob to its right controls the volume for the second channel
- Each of these three knobs effects how you sound on the microphone. The bottom “MIC GAIN” is simply to turn your microphone up or down. The “MIC BASS” knob in the middle controls how loud the deeper tones of your voice will stand out, and the “MIC TREBLE” controls how the clearly middle-higher tones of your voice will stand out.
- These knobs serve a similar purpose to the bass and treble controls for the microphone. The difference is that there are three different equalizers for your music. Here is what they look like up close:
If you wanted to make the bass louder, you would turn the bass knob up. If you wanted to make the middle-range frequencies louder you would turn the MID knob up, and if you wanted to raise the higher frequencies (perhaps to help add some flavor to a drop) you would turn the “TREBLE” knob up.
You should notice that there are two different sets of these knobs in the middle. The set on the left is for channel one, and the set on the right is for channel two.
- First of all, lets take a closer look at this one:These controls affect how the crossfader (see number 10) works. If you wanted to blend songs together slowly and smoothly, you would set the “CF SLOPE” switch to the left. If you wanted to quickly be able to cut to the other channel for a quick transition or to assist with scratching, you would switch this to the right. The “CF MODE” button simply switches the crossfader to work in reverse (some DJs do this to scratch more comfortably). In other words, when this button is pushed down, you will want to position the crossfader to the far left to hear channel two, and vice versa.
- This is your channel fader. Like the 3 volume knobs at the top (master, channel 1, and channel 2), this affects the volume of your music. Since there are more than one volume knob, you might be wondering why you need to have several different volume controls. The answer to this is simple: since a mixer is capable of boosting the volume of a track louder than is typical, it is easy for the track to distort, or clip. This is why it is nice to have several different means of controlling the volume (see number 6).
- These lights are here to assist you in knowing how loud your music is, and specifically the quality of your music. There are three different columns for the lights, one for both channels of music, and one for you to use while cueing (see number 8) tracks with your headphones The goal here is simple, you want to keep your music in the green and yellow. If you are reaching up into the red lights, it means that you are clipping the music. It is never acceptable to clip your music, even if you need the extra volume. It can cause damage to your equipment, as well as give a very bad quality sound.
- This switch (and the controls for number 8, both pictured below) control what you hear in your headphones. If you want to hear the master output in your headphones you would position this switch on “MASTER,” and if you want to hear an individual channel you would position this switch down to the “CH1-CH2” slot.
- The “CUE GAIN” knob controls how loud the volume is in your headphones. The fader below this knob controls whether you hear channel one, channel two, or a little bit of each in your headphones.
- These switches you typically won’t work with, unless you change your setup. If you are using vinyl turntables you will want to position the switch to the “phono” side, if you are using CDJs, or essentially anything else, you will position this to the “line” side.
- This is the fader you will be touching the absolute most while you are DJing. Its use is simple, if you want to hear channel one you position the fader to the far left. If you want to hear channel two would position the fader to the far right. The crossfader is one of the key tools in learning how to scratch. If you are a beginner who wants to eventually become a scratcher, you will want to spend extra time becoming skillful at moving the crossfader very rapidly.
Everything else you need to know:
Once you understand these basic controls, upgrading to the fancier 4-channel mixers, or MIDI controllers will be a very easy thing to do. Typically, mixers are very similar in their setup to help DJs easily switch products.
On nicer mixers, you will notice things like the ability to add sound FX to the tracks, measure the BPM of the tracks, create loops in your music, and much more. Most of these features are considered luxury features, and certainly not necessary if you need to know how to use a DJ mixer.