There are several reasons to DJ without a controller. You might not have the money to buy a DJ controller right now or you want to figure out if DJing is something you want to pursue. I still DJ without a controller sometimes, just for fun. Whatever the reason, DJing without a DJ controller is totally possible.
You can DJ without a controller using DJ software and the keys on your computer keyboard. Different key combinations will trigger different corresponding functions in your DJ software. In the DJ software, you can also click, fade and turn knobs using your computer mouse. With the right tools, you can use all the functions of a DJ controller with just your laptop.
There are several DJ software out there that you can use. Some are better than others. In this article, I share the best DJ software to DJ without a controller, where to find the keyboard shortcuts, and give you some extra tips.
Best DJ Software to DJ without a Controller
Most DJ software was made with the main focus on being used with a DJ controller. However, there are a few DJ software companies that did pay a little attention to DJing without a DJ controller.
What’s important about DJ software in this situation, is that it’s easy to find and adjust the keys on your keyboard to their corresponding function. The DJ software needs to be simple and very user-friendly to use without a controller.
My absolute favourite DJ software to DJ without a controller is Serato Play.
Serato DJ is very famous for its user-friendliness. Their Lite version and their Pro version are definitely one of my favourites.
You can buy Serato DJ Play as an expansion to Serato DJ Lite or Serato DJ Pro. You can also buy all Serato expansions in one bundle.
|Serato DJ Suite – All-In-One DJ Software Bundle||Amazon||$449|
|Serato DJ Suite – All-In-One DJ Software Bundle||Guitar Center||$399|
Serato Play – (Serato DJ Expansion Pack)
With Serato Play, you will be able to use all features of a normal DJ controller without any DJ equipment.
Compared to other DJ software, Serato Play offers so much value.
Serato is the only DJ software company that dedicated time and effort to making DJing without a controller fun and effortless for those DJs that like to DJ with just their laptops.
Serato Play activates EQ, FX, filter, crossfader, pitch, sync, etc on Serato DJ Software with added hotkeys to trigger its features through your computer keyboard.
With the use of Serato’s keyboard covers, it will even be much easier.
Download Serato Play
With just the base versions Serato DJ Lite and Serato DJ Pro, you can DJ with your laptop, but you won’t be able to use the added features, and you won’t be able to use your headphones to cue up a song.
When you already own one of these versions, the only thing you have to do is to buy the Serato Play expansion pack.
Activate Serato Play
When you’ve bought the expansion pack, activate your Serato Play purchase on the Serato website.
Log in to your account on Serato -> Products -> Add new product licence
If you’re already logged in to your Serato software, you might need to log out and log in again to see your newly added features
For Serato DJ Pro, you might also need to go to your settings -> expansion packs and enable Serato Play.
Once you’re done, you will see the mixer button added to your top bar menu.
When you activate this button, an extra horizontal window will appear in your Serato DJ software with the mixing features.
When you click on the gear icon on the right side of the horizontal mixer bar, you can check the box for Use Split Headphone Cable and you will be able to cue up songs in your headphone.
When you check the box for Serato Play Hotkeys, the Serato Play hotkeys on your keyboard are activated. Click on View Keys to get an overview of the keys and their functions.
Other DJ Software to DJ Without Controller
There is more DJ software out there that might work well for you. I will list all the DJ software below with instructions to download and use them.
Djay Pro is a DJ app available for Windows and Mac computers. Apps are a little bit simpler than software programs. That is why apps are sometimes a better choice than complicated DJ software.
Djay Pro is not a free DJ software, but there is a free trial available for Mac and Windows.
Djay Pro is very simple and user-friendly, that is why I like it. The keyboard shortcuts are pre-set so you can start DJing without adjusting complicated settings.
You can find the keyboard shortcuts when you click on the menu icon in the top left corner of your screen. At the bottom of the menu, you’ll find Keyboard Shortcuts.
If you like Djay Pro, you can buy the full version for $49.99.
Serato DJ Lite
Yes, I mention Serato DJ Lite again because the free version of Serato DJ offers a pretty good DJing experience without a controller as well.
You might now be able to use all the features, but you are able to use some.
You can download Serato DJ Lite straight from their website. You’ll find the system requirements on the download page as well.
Especially if you own a Mac, check the information provided on the download page, you’ll find some important information.
Now install Serato DJ Lite and add some music to your music library.
To find the hotkeys, click on Help, in the top menu bar. A menu will unfold where you can click on Show shortcut keys.
It takes a little while to get used to them, but within a couple of hours of practising things will go much smoother.
You can download VirtualDJ straight from their website. Here is a link to the download page on the VirtualDJ website where you can choose your version of VirtualDJ, windows, or Mac.
Finding the hotkeys on VirtualDJ is a matter of pressing the ALT button. A virtual keyboard will appear with all the shortcut keys to manipulate the music.
On VirtualDJ, you can change these shortcut keys in the Virtual DJ settings.
Go to Settings by clicking on the gear icon in the top menu bar on the right. After that, click on Mapping on the left menu bar in the window that appears.
In the list that appears you’ll see all the shortcut keys and right next to that the corresponding function.
Now all you have to do is simply click on one of the shortcut combinations keys and change the combination in the Key bar on the right side of the list.
Practice a lot and change the keys however you see fit for your style of DJing. What is most practical or most effective. It’s all personal preference.
Another free DJ software that passed the DJ software test for DJing without a DJ controller
Mixxx is a Dj software without a company behind it. It is made for DJs by DJs and other clever tech guys that have a love for DJing.
It looks very clean, and it’s very easy to use.
You can download Mixxx straight from their website. It’s free and it “will always be free”, as stated on their website.
When you downloaded and installed Mixxx, you need to Enable Keyboard Shortcuts, by clicking on Options in the top menu bar and checking the box.
Next, go to Help and click on Keyboard shortcuts. Mixxx will now open a PDF file with a keyboard screen with all keyboard shortcuts.
- When you first start DJing without a DJ controller, it can be difficult and overwhelming to use all those keys on the keyboard. However, you will find that if you keep practising, you’ll get better by the hour.
- Use a Laptop stand to put your Laptop on. DJ software can be taxing on your computer. It may get overheated quickly. You might even want to buy laptop cooler pads just to be safe.
- Think about using Serato DJ keyboard covers for your keyboard. On the covers, the shortcut keys are displayed, so it will be much easier to DJ with your keyboard keys. You can use these with Serato DJ Pro, Play, and Lite.
DJing without a DJ controller requires user-friendly software that helps you use your keyboard keys as shortcuts to the functions of your DJ software.
DJing without a controller is not very uncommon, though DJ software manufacturers don’t spend a lot of time developing this feature. There is one exception to this, and that is Serato.
The best DJ software to DJ without a controller:
Serato DJ Lite or Serato DJ Pro is needed to install Serato Play.
Serato Play is dedicated to DJs that don’t use a DJ controller. It’s a very easy-to-use DJ software with efficient use of keyboard shortcuts.
DJing without a controller is a little bit harder than it is to DJ with a DJ controller, so if you ever want to level up, you can find my top 3 best beginners DJ controllers in this article.