How to DJ on a laptop: a beginner’s guide to the software, gear and techniques you need

What is a ‘digital vinyl system’?

Digital vinyl systems have a multitude of names. They’re often referred to as DVS, but some applications have their own branded version of the tech, such as Traktor Scratch. Whatever the name, all do pretty much the same thing - allow a digital DJing application to be controlled by the more traditional means of CDJs or vinyl turntables. This is done via the use of control vinyl or CDs, which use a timecode to relate the position of the deck to the software.

Why use one? The most common use is for DJs who want to use turntablism techniques, such as scratching, with their digital music. There are other reasons to consider a DVS setup though. If you already own a set of turntables and want to make the jump to the digital realm without losing the ‘hands-on’ feel of vinyl, a DVS system might be for you. 

It can also make things easier if you play sets in clubs, allowing you to connect your laptop up to the pre-installed CDJs or turntables instead of having to make space for your own controller.

Most major software incorporate some kind of digital vinyl system, although it often requires an add-on purchase and/or the use of a special hardware interface. Check the software’s manual or website.

Si Truss

I'm Editor-in-Chief of Music Technology, working with Future Music, Computer Music, Electronic Musician and MusicRadar. I've been messing around with music tech in various forms for over two decades. I've also spent the last 10 years forgetting how to play guitar. Find me in the chillout room at raves complaining that it's past my bedtime.