Headphone cuing 101

This is the first of many posts that will go into all aspects of DJing. Techniques, theories and applications that will take you from your first mix to playing in front of thousands. They are grouped according to what might interest you:

DJ 101: just getting started
DJ 202: starting to get the hang of things here
DJ 303: yeah, I built my own mixer from car parts, it was easy.

Headphone cuing:

To cue means 2 things: 1} to move to a cue point or a specific place in the song, usually the start. 2} to listen to a song before playing it. We are going to focus on number 2 and give you a really reliable method to improve your mixes.

Cuing requires 2 separate outputs, because usually you are listening to one song while another one plays over the speakers. All dj mixers are equipped with a headphone jack that has its own volume control and a separate routing system that you can use to send different channels to that output. In the digital realm its exactly the same, you need a sound card with 2 separate outputs. many sound cards offer a headphone jack on the front but usually this is just another plug-in point for the master output. In this case, you need to plug in your headphones into the back of the sound card into outputs 3/4 or 5/6. These will have their own routing and volume control so you can hear a song before the audience does. Before you buy a sound card make sure that it has at least 2, but preferably 4 discreet outputs. Then you have maximum flexibility down the road as your dj techniques advance.

Sound check

Now believe it or not, the volume levels play a big difference in how long your ears last and how well you can mix. To set reliable levels for your headphones follow this basic routine several times an hour.

1) turn the headphone volume all the way down

2) cue the same channel that is playing over your speakers in the headphones. Now slowly turn the headphone volume up until it is just a little louder than your speakers. Keep that level!

3 ) gradually your ears will tire and the instinct will be to turn the volume up louder and louder. Don’t do it. Over-cranking the headphone output will not only destroy your ears but give you incorrect information about your mix causing more mistakes than you want.

Next we will look at split cuing techniques and ways to mix entirely in the headphones for more accuracy in Dj Cuing 202.

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