A lot of DJ’s these days are finding it hard to get noticed, they are technically gifted when it comes to DJ’ing and any feedback they have is fantastic, but things just don’t seem to be going any further. Recording your mixes to reach a wider audience is one of the best way to overcome this. Uploading your mix onto websites to share with people outside of your local network is one of the best tools to expand your DJ’ing credentials and maybe help you become the next biggest thing. Who knows who will pick up and listen to your mix, a club rep from a major chain of clubs or the A & R department from your favourite Record Label. The internet has become a great tool in terms of promotion and the possibilities are endless! Not only this but recording and listening back to your own mixes is an integral tool to you becoming a better DJ as you will be able to listen to your own mix back properly for the first time. Listening back to your own mixes offers you a unique chance to make assessments of your skills and get the viewpoint of a listener, you can hear exactly what they get to hear. Us here at Essential Cornwall are also looking out for the latest and greatest mixes coming from you guys, so who knows, get recording and your mix may end up being played on our radio station.
There are a couple of different options on how to record your mix but the most common way is straight into a computer. Older methods used to include directly onto a tape or CD but these methods have started to be replaced by the computer and its not as easy to share these with the world. Higher end and more commercial methods include the use of a Digital Audio Recorder but these are typically found in higher end installations with portable versions start from around £125.
Recording Your Mix
If your recording externally (via CDJ’s and a mixer for example) you’ll need to setup and route your audio before you start. Your specific setup will mean this varies but usually a simple male/male RCA to 1/8″ cable will be enough. This should then be plugged into the line in/ Mic in on your computer. Most popular mixers such as Pioneer and Allen & Heath will have an output labeled Record Out whereas a few mixers, Rane being one, will have an output labeled Session Out. The reason a Record Out is used instead of the normal Master Output is because the level coming through this output stays at a constant. The Master output sends the signal to the speakers that the audience listens too and this may be adjusted during the mix. Even at home when its only yourself listening you may want to make adjustments to the Master out. The Record out however is not effected by the master gain so your mix will always stay at a constant level no matter what tweaks are made to the master gain. However there is one way to make sure your recordings sound great, and thats testing and checking before you start, but we will cover that later.
If recording externally one the best, and certainly most popular programs is Audacity. Audacity can be downloaded free of charge from the internet and is a simple program to use. Once installed setting up for recording couldn’t be simpler. Within the preferences make sure the device is set to Line In/ Mic In (as this is where your mixer is plugged into) and the channels are set to 2 (stereo). From there you simply hit the big record button and your up and running.
Good news for people who mix with DJ software, your job is a lot easier in terms of setup. There are no wires and nothing needs to be plugged into the computer, it is all done internally. As long as all the audio is going through your software and is output through one master channel your DJ software will be able to record your mix. This is simply done by checking your levels are not clipping or going into the red. You will however still need to check the levels before you commit to recording your mix. The two main heavyweights in terms of DJ software are Traktor and Serato. Within Traktor the audio recording is located in the top right hand corner (it may be hidden behind the FX unit so make sure you click on the cassette icon and you will be presented with the audio recorder window. Simply clicking the red record button will start the recording. Check to make sure your mix isn’t hitting the red to ensure the best quality.
Within Serato The Rec button needs to be pressed on the top of the window and you are presented with a new bar just under your virtual decks. In the drop down menu you need to select Mix, set your record location and hit the record button. Again check the levels aren’t hitting the red to maintain the best quality. Once finished hit the save button to save the recording to your desired location.
Test you recording before you start
Taking the time to test your equipment and checking how your recording sounds will make a huge difference to the quality of your finished product. One key step is to check all your equipment and follow your signal path to make sure nothing is peaking. From each channel to the overall output from your mixer and the input settings on your computer, keeping all levels out of the red will mean a much smoother sound with no lose of quality. If using Audacity as your recording program you are presented with waveforms live when mixing. These waveforms should have clear peaks and the sound source should not consume the entire area. Below is an example of what not to see when recording your mix.
Note how the entire area is consumed with the signal input, this means the mix is peaking and the quality of the recording will be poor. Turning down the output level on the mixer is the best way to sort this. What your looking for is distinct peaks and troughs with a clear signal and no clipping. Below is the best example of this.
This is what you will see when the setup is done properly.
One important question to consider is wether your computer is powerful enough. Even more so if your using it to play and record the music. If it isn’t powerful enough then you may find your mix will cut out at certain sections or again the quality will be poor. It is difficult to answer this question so the best way to find out is to simply test your setup. For a large percentage of DJ’s spending a lot of money on their equipment means another expense of a top of the range computer is simply too much. It’s at this point you may want to consider a digital audio receiver as this will be a lot cheaper than a new laptop. You will have a standalone unit dedicated to recording your mixes and you wont have to run extra software through your computer.
Linking back to the start of this article the main reason for recording your mixes will be to share them with the world and hopefully get you noticed. The quality of this mix is of upmost importance so its important to set the recording up correctly. Traktor and Serato will both record and save their recordings as WAV files and with Audacity you are given the choice. I would recommend WAV files personally as they are the highest quality. That being said a lot of websites wont allow you to upload a WAV file as they are simply too big and even if they did you could be here for hours waiting for it to upload. Downloading 3rd party software to allow you to convert your file is the best way to overcome this. There are plenty of different programs out there so searching Google is the best way to find one. I would personally convert the file to an mp3 file and if your able to, select the highest Bit-Rate possible. That should be it, no other setup or no other steps are needed its just down to you to fill the recording with the best mixes you have. Any questions please feel free to leave in the comments and we will get back to you as soon as we can. We look forward to hearing those mixes from you soon!