Tittle

1. How to route the output of your DJ mixer to your computer

If you are familiar with your DJ mixer you probably notice that it has several outputs that can be used for recording. There should be a dedicated record out labeled 'Rec', normally an RCA connection. Alternatively if you are in a studio or bedroom set up and not requiring booth monitors or fold-back, you could use the 'booth' output. The advantage of this is that you will have a separate volume control for your mix on the DJ mixer which can help with setting the signal level.

Next you will need to connect this to your sound-card or audio interface, most computers will have a built in sound card with an input for recording (usually a 3.5mm stereo minijack connection like the one in an iphone) however, this often won't give you the best signal and can add a certain amount of noise (or hiss). For best results it is worth investing in a descent audio interface with at least 2 mono/ 1 stereo line inputs. The interface I am using here is the M-Audio Fast track pro.

Connect the output of your DJ mixer directly to line inputs 1 and 2 of your interface.

DJ mixer

If connecting to the built in input on your computer, an 'RCA to 6.5mm jack' adadapter is useful.

2. Make sure your interface is set up correctly

You will now need to check that your signal is being routed into your software correctly. This can be done in your softwares audio preferences, simply make sure your audio input device is the device that you have connected your DJ mixer to your computer with..

audacity

In Audacity which can be downloaded for free the
input settings can be found at the top of the main window.

Download Audacity here for free

Logic X

Logic's audio settings are found in the preferences
menu like in most other D.A.W's

Note: If using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) such as Logic X or Ableton, you will also need to assign the inputs (1 and 2) on your audio track.

3. Setting the levels

The most important thing to keep in mind when recording audio is that your signal must not clip as this will result in a distorted signal, this means your level must not exceed 0db on your softwares input level meter.

clipped audio

This image shows a piece of audio that has clipped and distorted.

Notice the top of the peaks have been 'clipped' off.

However it is also important to realise that if your recording is too quiet, it will need a lot of gain to increase the volume in the mastering stage and any noise (or hiss) picked up in the recording process will also be increased. So with that in mind, if your audio is peaking at around -9db to -6db this should leave you enough head room and give you good results. This is covered in a lot more depth on all of our courses.

audio fader

This is the ideal level when recording a DJ mix.

It is also important to keep in mind that when you are in the mix and have more than one track playing, this will generally push the levels (volume) up quite significantly, so keep an eye on this and use your mixers trims, output volume and EQ to control this.

You are now ready to record your mix !

4. Editing your mix
Use your audio editors features to strip away any silence from the beginning and end of your recording and insert one second on each side of 'digital silence'. This will eliminate any noise or 'hiss' and can be done in the functions of even the most basic audio editors (for example Audacity)

You will probably notice some parts of the mix are much louder than others, this is due to use of EQ, effects and simply a boost in gain when more than one track is playing. Automation of your volume can be used here to tame those peaks in your mix along with some compression that we will look at later.

Logic X automation

Its important not to reduce too much volume and make sure keep an eye on the level meters when using automation.
We will tame these peaks further at a later stage.

5. Mastering your recording
The reason we master the audio is ensure the recording will sound good when played on any system whether it be in your car, at home on a hifi or on a laptop etc.. As all recordings are slightly different, we need to make sure they sound consistent when played next to other mixes or tracks in your song library. However, all the songs in your mix should already be professionally mastered so we don't need to change anything to drastically. The main thing we need to do is get the volume up as much as we can whilst also avoiding clipping, in addition we will need to bring down any peaks and bring up any parts that are too quiet to level the recording out.

There are a few things you will need for this:

Paragraphic EQ - Your recording software should have an EQ but if not,
the free Mequalizer by Medla productions can be installed and used in Audacity.

Download MEqualizer here

Compressor – Mcompressor by Medla Productions is a free compressor
that will do the job.

Download MCompressor here

Limiter – Loudmax by Thomas Mundt is very good for this job and also free.

Download Loudmax here

EQ It's important to remember that the tracks in your mix have already mastered, so any EQ you decide to add should be very subtle. I tend to roll off the very low frequencies, more out of habit than anything as frequencies below around 30hz are inaudible but could be present for various reasons. The other thing you could do here is add a very slight increase to the high end frequencies (8-10khz) at just a couple of db. This will add a bit of 'air' to your mix which may have been lost in the recording process.

EQ settings

Compression A compressor is used to reduce the volume of a signal when it exceeds a threshold, this will help tame those peaks and bring down the loudest parts of the mix. The result is a bit like the automation we looked at earlier but a compressor is automatic and can respond incredibly quickly.

audio compression

Here you can see a piece of audio before and after compression has been applied.

Although this may sound fairly simple, mastering the art of compression is one of the hardest parts of mixing and mastering for a beginner. There are a lot of parameters and types of compressor to take in to consideration, so for this reason, we won't be going in to too much depth in this tutorial but compression is covered in far more depth on all of courses at AAI.

For now, I am going to give you some basic settings:

Ratio - You need a fairly low ratio, something between 1.5:1 and 2:1 will work well. This is the amount of gain reduction that is going to be applied when the signal exceeds the threshold. For example, if the ratio is set at 2:1 and the signal exceeds the threshold by 2db, it will be reduced so it only ends up exceeding by 1db. If the ratio is set to 5:1, the signal will need to cross the threshold by 6db to get an increase of 1 db. So basically, the higher the ratio, the heavier the amount of compression.

Attack and release - The attack is the time it takes before the compressor starts to work, this is measured in ms (milliseconds). For mastering, we generally want a slow attack time, so around 20-30ms will give good results here. For the release (time it takes the compressor to stop working), you will need to set it to 200ms or if you can, put it on 'auto'.

Threshold - We only want to apply a small amount of compression here, so the threshold will need to be brought down until you see only a small amount of gain reduction.

Compressor settings

Here are the recommended settings shown on the Logic X standard compressor.

Limiting The job of a limiter here is to ensure that the recording has reached its maximum volume throughout the mix. You can use a mastering limiter (or maximiser) such as the free Loudmax by Thomas Mundt, the download link is included above. To use this, find the loudest part of the mix and bring down the threshold until the limiter has applied a maximum gain reduction (attenuation) of 2db, this can be seen on the right hand side of loudmax. Any further reduction of this will sound over compressed as the tracks are already mastered.

audio limiter

Free vst/au limiter/maximiser plugin by Thomas Mudt.

Now you can export your mix as a WAV and/or MP3 file!