DJing isn’t about two turntables and a mixer anymore. There’s a lot of skills form decades past you don’t need and a lot of new skills you do, if you want to make it in music as a DJ.
Laptop DJing for example uses software like Native Instruments’ Traktor, Serato, and others to organize and prepare music, slice and loop track sections, trigger samples, and manipulate effects.
Then, there’s USB stick DJing which brings music up on a stick as opposed to a laptop. There are certainly advantages to both but which one is better – this is the debate between laptops and USB sticks.
There’s a lot you can do with a laptop. Everything’s right there, ready to be manipulated, triggered, sliced, looped, and whatever you got to go. You can automatically sync tracks and do what you do on software of your choosing. Ableton Live on a laptop is a DAW but is used frequently by DJs live in the same way prior software was. That said, software like Ableton doesn’t have the most DJ-friendly library organization.
Laptops have pros like being a visual aid, can help you find music faster, is easy to produce a quick mix, and is great for longer, open-format sets where you might be pulling from different genres. Drawbacks are it is heavier to load and comes with more equipment, can lead to stress when changing over, and there’s not always enough space in a DJ booth to accommodate a laptop. It’s the sort of thing where if you want to be a laptop DJ, you’ve really got to take the good with the bad.
USB stick DJ
In favor of USB stick DJs, it can be a lot more fun to them to use a stick as opposed to a laptop. That said, many bring laptops to DJ with because they may not necessarily trust their stick to accomplish everything they want to with their library. For single genre dates or if you’re playing for a specific event, USB sticks can certainly help keep things clean and easy.
It can be very freeing to not be tied to a screen at a DJ event when all you need is your USB stick. As long as you can locate tracks quickly and easily enough, many will say you don’t need a laptop and they’re not entirely wrong. USB sticks make for way lighter travel, is great for changeovers with minimal setup time compared to laptops, and is easy for short, single genre sets. That said, some USB stick DJ cons are that there aren’t any visual aids, finding music is not only challenging but sometimes near impossible to do efficiently, it can be harder to quick mix, and they’re all around a bad choice for open-format sets where you need to be on your toes.
It’s what speaks to you
Plenty of DJs use laptops. Plenty use USB sticks. There’s a time and place for both. It’s ultimately something which needs to be judged according to what you feel suits the venue and the occasion. Regardless of which you choose, it should always be done with ease of use in mind. Whatever makes it easier for you to do what you do is exactly what you should go with. Laptop v. USB stick DJing is a battle with no clear-cut winner, outside of an acknowledgement neither is better than the other and they both have purpose in the world of DJing.
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