How To Use DJ Controller; Getting It All Right

how to use dj controller

DJ controllers are a breakthrough innovation for both the gigging DJs and the studio producers.

These controllers put 2 bulky units, that is 1 or 2 CDJs and 1 mixer, together in one useful and compact unit.

But using one of these highly sophisticated and feature-packed controllers may not be too easy.

This is particularly true for a beginner disc jockey.

Therefore in this article, I will show you exactly how to use DJ controller like a pro by taking a simplistic approach to it.

First thing first. A quick overview of what a DJ controller is and what it does.

What Is A DJ Controller; What Does A DJ Controller Do?

Simply put, a DJ controller is a piece of audio production equipment that has been built to mimic the features and functionalities of both a mixer and a traditional vinyl player turntable in one piece. In other words, when you say a DJ controller, what should come to mind is a mashup of both a traditional turntable and an audio files mixer. With this piece of musical instrument, as a DJ, you’re able to get the tightest and easiest connection between hardware and software by playing tracks on the software and adding such effects as faders, encoders, knobs, and more.

Now, if you’re wondering and asking what do the buttons on a DJ mixer do, I have answered that in complete detail under the next header. After that, I will show you exactly how to use the DJ controller with these buttons.

What Do The Buttons On A DJ Mixer Do

Fundamentally, there are two sections to a controller. On the one hand, you have a deck section and then there’s the mixer section on the other hand.

First off, below is the complete list of everything you’ll find on a controller’s deck.

  • Tempo controls
  • Jog wheel
  • Pads
  • SHIFT buttons
  • Play controls
  • Jog wheel tension adjust
  • Deck select
  • Loop controls
  • Playback modes
  • Browser controls

Later on, I’ll expand on what each of the listed features does and how to use them all step-by-step. For now, below is a list of the features on the mixer section of a controller unit.

  • Sound color FX
  • Mic controls
  • Headphone controls
  • Channel I/O controls
  • Isolator EQ
  • Master output controls
  • Crossfader
  • Volume faders
  • Crossfader assign
  • Best FX controls

Go ahead and check your new mixer to confirm that it does come with all the listed features. After that, see below for the purpose of each of these features and how to use them as a beginner DJ.

Features On The Deck Section Of A DJ Controller And How To Use Them

  • Tempo controls; the tempo control allows the tweaking of both the pitch and the playback speed of a track. And as most DJ controllers come with two jog wheels, the tempo controls enable you to match the BPM (beats per minute) of a track on a jog wheel with the BPM of the other track to make beatmatching possible.
  • Jog wheel; to simply put, a jog wheel is a vinyl recorder. You may notice two round turntable-like structures on your DJ controller, those are 2 jog wheels. The functions of a jog wheel include; scratching, and speeding up and slowing down of a track’s tempo. Touch the face of a jog wheel to scratch for dynamic effects. Or touch the side of either or both of your jog wheels to increase or cut down track tempo for beatmatching.
  • Pads; those large lit buttons in varying colors on your mixer are called pads. They are there to make you a creative curator by triggering different loops presets and cue points, allowing you to interact more with your tracks on the fly other than just playing in a plain jane mode. You can use these pads right on your chosen software.
  • SHIFT buttons; the shift buttons simply activate all control buttons for a secondary function. Call it the mode changer.
  • Play controls; to play or pause the track on a jog wheel, that is what the play controls are for. They also pause and play cue points. Just click on the play control closest to the jog wheel in which the track you want to play or pause is spinning.
  • Jog wheel tension adjusts; build a knowledge base around this feature and you’re sure to be DJing like a pro very soon. The jog wheel tension adjust control allows you to determine the resistance and response level of each jog wheel to spinning. Knowing when to make a jog wheel spin fast and easily to your push and when to make one less spinning is important to become a creative disc jockey.
  • Deck select; simply put, a deck is a track and all the controls assigned to that track at a point in time. On most DJ mixers, you can play up to 4 tracks, and by implication, have up to 4 decks. So where does the deck select comes in? Deck select control lets you switch between decks for manipulation and effects creation.
  • Loop controls; this set of controls usually consist of two round lit controls and a box. They are there for loop creation. When the two, round controls are activated, they either double or cut down the loop length by half.
  • Playback modes; there are basically 2 playback modes on all mixers namely; slip and slip reversal. Whenever you scratch or hold back a jog wheel, on slip mode, the track returns back to its previous point upon release of the jog wheel. For the slip reversal, the track plays backward to how far you hold back the jog wheel and then continues forward later.
  • Browse controls; these are simply for selecting a track from your library and adding it to a deck.

That being that. Moving on to the second section of your DJ controller.

Features On The Mixer Section Of A DJ Controller And How To Use Them

  • Sound color FX; each time you need to create channel-based FX to filter parts of tracks in dynamic ways, the sound color FX controls are your configuration keys. A set of sound color FX controls usually consists of 4 rotary control knobs and 4 horizontal buttons. Toggle between them according to your user’s manual to establish creative effects.
  • Mic controls; these permit the tweaking of your mic input level and EQ for the needed setup. Once your mic is connected, adjust the mic control knobs accordingly.
  • Headphone controls; suppose you want to preview the master output and a track playback before serving your production to the audience, you’d plug in a headphone through the jack. Right? In the preview process, you may need to do some more tweaking and that’s where the headphone controls come in. They simply certify the headphone mode control of your playback so only you can listen as you preview and tweak before playing back to the audience.
  • Channel I/O controls; quite straight forward. The channel input/output controls define whether each channel will be controlled via an external input box or onboard on the deck.
  • Isolator EQ; an isolator equalizer boosts or cuts down each frequency range, whether high, low, or mid. You’ll most likely find more than 3 isolator EQ buttons in one controller.
  • Master output controls; at the end of your final mix, the master output controls are there to adjust the overall volume of your post-mix.
  • Crossfader; the function of a crossfader is to dynamically switch in and out of one track to another when scratching.
  • Volume faders; what a volume fader does is that it fades a channel volume or permits the original volume of the channel. And as vastly DJ controllers come with 2, 3, 4, or more channels, you can add volume faders, one for each channel by simply pushing the volume fader controls right or left as the case may turn out to be
  • Crossfader assign; to decide in what order the faders should be assigned to the channels, the crossfader assign control is unavoidable. Again, using this feature is very intuitive. So get around it immediately.
  • Beat FX controls; finally, the last features you will find on a DJ mixer are the beat FX controls. They enable you to create and switch between 14 or more FX which include; flanger, echo, and more. The secondary purpose of these controls is to tweak the duration of the sound effects.


As a DJ, whether a beginner or a seasoned disc jockey, the need to constantly be at the edge of the trends can’t be escaped. And as the saying goes; the more you know and learn the better. In this article, so far I have explained and simplified all the overwhelming mumbo jumbos and shown you how to use DJ controller like a professional. I can only hope this helps someone. Meanwhile, if you need more help or more personal guidance on how to use your DJ controller as a beginner, reach out to me in the comments below, please.