Today we’re going to take a trip through time, back to your first trembling attempts to work those wheels of steel. How old were you? Back then, you knew amyl as something you used to clean vinyl, not stick in your nose; you were spinning wild tracks that make you shudder with shame or nostalgia now, you got it wrong a hundred times before you found that sweet spot and felt the thrill of exhilaration surge through you, godlike now.
But your little cousin, he wants to learn too now and he’s not interested in your dusty old records and heavy, pointless turntables. He’s been on Facebook since he was four; he’s a seasoned getter of cracked VSTs and he’s quite happy to play all his music through his Alienware, thank you very much. So where to begin?
Virtual DJ has played third fiddle to Traktor and SSP for some time now. That’s not to put it down – that still puts it right near the top of an ever-bigger pile, and its breadth of editions puts it right in front of your little cousin’s fingers. He doesn’t even need to crack it – it’s a free download.
The Home edition – properly called Virtual DJ Home Free – is a trimmed down version of the full current VDJ 7. Some features – an impressively agile automap, for instance, and advanced audio configurations – are timebombed, while others are just disabled altogether, but even after the omissions there’s plenty here for little Stefan – for so I’m naming your excitable, fictional cousin – to get his teeth into.
All the fundamentals work well, obviously, although given the tendency of these programs to be pretty unforgiving to the Luddites using a keyboard and mouse, it might have been wise to let hardware controllers work for more than ten minutes. In fact, it’s the selection of enabled versus disabled features that should decide whether or not we want little Stefan getting mixed up with VDJ Free or playing with other friends, and while it ain’t perfect, it’s pretty damn good.
So he’ll get the twelve sample slots and the sweet effects. He’ll get the video tools and he can record and even broadcast his mixes, albeit only in ten minutes bursts. That’s probably okay, though, because the Ritalin gives him the attention span of a dormouse anyway. He’ll happily learn how to sync and even key-match and he’ll get his hands dirty on your hot cues. But most importantly – he’ll learn the interface inside out, the same way you got to know every dent and scratch in those 1200s, and when he grasps those fundamentals, he’ll be fine to make the switch to any software he likes, or to CDJs or whatever, because he’ll feel the thrill. He’s godlike now, too.
Of course, the value of these free editions is that they bring you into the fold, so that when you start hitting limits and it’s time to upgrade, you go with what you already know. And this is VDJ, one of the holy trinity, so it’s safe to say that little Stefan could grow up exposed to far worse in the seamy DJ underworld.
But the best part is – you never have to worry about him putting his grubby adolescent fingers all over your precious Scooter LPs.