Mix Master MacGyver

Has this ever happened to you? You’re ready to drop the set of your life to an eager audience when a technical issue threatens to spoil the evening. Panic stricken, your eyes dart around the room for a sound guy, who of course is absent or non-existent. At this very pivotal moment, the night could be saved by your “Mix Master MacGyver” skills. Most of us have been jerry-rigging turntables and the like since we first popped a penny atop the cartridge of mom’s home stereo and cut up “Sesame Street” records after school. Thusly, I’m sure some of these tips you’ll already know, but if the following information saves just one party, then my job is done. After all, the show must go on.


The number one crucial piece of gear that seems to be missing or forgotten has to be slip mats. This one is a simple fix. Push paper bar napkins over the nipple of the turntable, and voila! I’ve heard of everything from doilies to whiskey bags used. Record sleeves or paper of almost any kind can be used in a pinch.


Bad control signal or mono analog signal is often caused by poor contact between the tone arm and cartridge. Licking and sticking, although sometimes effective, can exacerbate the problem in the long run by causing extra corrosion to accrue. Instead of licking, try using a #2 pencil eraser. Remove the cartridge, insert the eraser end of the pencil in the tonearm and twist it back and forth to clean the contacts. Do the same with the contact points on the cartridge. Don’t forget to blow the erasures away. Reattach the cartridge to the tone arm and throw down.


It’s a fact. Accidents happen in dark clubs, especially when alcohol is involved. If the tone arm is fastened, and you attempt a bit too vigorously to place it on the record, the handle and the cartridge may part ways, making it extremely difficult to cue records. Paper clips work well as a fix but better is a small zip tie. Affix the zip tie around the cartridge body and trim to length.


A loose fader can be deadly in a set. Flying faders are the #2 cause of blindness in the club, right after alcohol and stilletos. If a fader easily slides off, take a small piece of napkin and fold it over the top of the fader post then wedge the fader on top. Make sure the piece of napkin is long enough to be pulled out rather than packed inside, which will add to your problems. Also take care not to tweek the fader by pressing too hard.


Largely due to the problem mentioned above, I can’t count the number of missing faders I’ve encountered. Some nicked, some no doubt shot across the room during vigorous mixing. You then spend the rest of your set trying not to bloody your fingers. Instead, try this. Starburst candies can be pressed over the bare metal fader tab, providing a comfortable and delicious solution. Just don’t let groupies eat them afterwards, no matter how tempted they may be.


One of my personal high points DJing wasn’t opening for so and so, or headlining such and such club. It was actually at a small bar gig, on a Tuesday night, with a reputation for a janky sound system and DJ booth. Upon inspection of the gear during set up, I was unable to locate one of the turntable’s counterweight. Without this small but critical piece of the tonearm assembly, records will not play. It was the only time I’ve ever encountered this particular problem, but I’m sure it’s happened to others, so I’ll share my fix. A small lime from the bar with a hole poked in the end can be slid back and forth to achieve the proper weight on the record. Not only did the show go on but, it was lemon fresh!!!


There are a few things that you can include in your bag of tricks that’ll help you out of a fix.  The above is what I carry with me and each item has proven to be well worth carrying along. After all, even MacGyver would have been shit out of luck without his trusty Swiss Army knife. Make sure along with the knowledge you have the tools as well, and you’ll save many a night and hopefully create a more comfortable DJ experience for yourself.

Dj Tipsfix broken faderseratoslip matTips
Comments (48)
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  • Beanz

    [quote comment=”28342″]you forgot using headphones for a microphone.. da da ![/quote]

    Seriously, this is the best trick/show-saver i have have encountered. I still don’t remember the science of how it works, but it is genius! Although I do love it when drunks come up and are like “dude you got headphones that are a mic too??? Thats crazy! Those must have cost a ton o’ money.” LOL

  • dj freshfluke

    missing in the list: a mini maglite! that has been a lot of help for me sometimes when you had to fumble around with cables and no light.

    also good to have: an adapter snake to hook up 2 headphones at the same time. it’s easier to play ping-pong with your fellow dj etc.

  • DJ MAP

    when life gives you lemons, say ‘fuck the lemons’ and bail

  • Prime

    For vibration, instead of tennis balls try using a computer mouse pad or even better a wrist rest that goes in front of a keyboard. Cut it into sections and you have some nice (not bouncy) turntable/deck feet. They are also good for getting your decks a bit higher to save your back.

    Put them under the feet, or under the corners of the flight case or coffin.

    This the the only thing I’ve used that has ALWAYS worked and you can get them for a couple of bucks at an office supply superstore (or from the ticket booth/office at the club in an emergency).


  • audiomontana

    you forgot using headphones for a microphone.. da da !

  • Radio Shaolin

    Another easy way to clear tonearm without “licking and sticking”.

    Just take a cigarette, put filter in da vodka, and clear tonearm with it. Size of filter exactly the same as cartridge.

  • NZ

    This are all the reasons why i quit vinyl and bring laptop, controller and sound card with me and just plug my master output into the mixer)))

    The article is very nice, thanx Dj Mei-Lwun!

  • Dj Mei-Lwun

    [quote comment=”28316″]Super Rad article bro! I have to pack a #2 pencil, cause that #1 pencil didn’t work at all. Jeez[/quote]

    Andy Caldwell ladies and gents… Super star Dj and Comedian!!!

  • Andy Caldwell

    Super Rad article bro! I have to pack a #2 pencil, cause that #1 pencil didn’t work at all. Jeez

  • Dj Mei-Lwun

    [quote comment=”28301″]a trusty pen knife will get you nicked these days in the UK[/quote]
    yeah not for post 911 air travel obv,

  • silk wolf (ATL)

    i think i just fell back in love with this blog. hahaha. amazing.

  • And what of it?

    a trusty pen knife will get you nicked these days in the UK

  • Roman Seoul

    The pencil eraser on the contacts has saved many of shows. Especially when there’s timecode vinyl involved.

  • Dj Mei-Lwun

    when life gives me lemons… i tend to make ‘lemon drop’ shots.

  • DJMC2

    i guess the lime/tonearm trick brings a whole new meaning to being a fruity dj

  • chex

    lol lemon fresh!

    I never encountered a lemon used, instead i once found a wad of pennies taped together stuck in place of the counterweight that was used. It worked fine, but i didn’t like playing my records on it though. 😛

  • 2YLITE

    zip ties are a must!
    I also keep an RCA cable with one end (left and right)intact..and the other end already stripped. and some electrical tape. As I’m sure all of you would agree, bad connectors are a nightmare!

    and although I tend to carry nearly double everything (yes, two laptops) it still beats carrying record crates (did that for nearly 20 years!)

  • junejhunkie

    vibration is like one of my biggest enemies.
    mpetersen3 used his hoodie, i used a windbreaker once and put my vci on top of it. problem solved.

  • onemikefitz

    party startin problem solver! get em mei!

  • ToS

    My Baggy (note that I’m a diggital DJ):
    – Windows XP setup CD
    – Buch of cables and connectors (1/8″TRS Male-Male; 1-2 Stereo RCA; 4-8 RCA-1/4″TS converters; 1/8″TRS-1/4″TRS Headphone jack converter; etc)
    – custom built connector for splitting one stereo output to Master+Cue in case soundcard dies
    – power extender cable with one Ground lifted on single connecting slot (nobody likes ground loops). Altough I’m working on a laptop power cable (clover connector) with a on-cable switch for ground lift.

  • Wil

    [quote comment=”28259″][quote comment=”28258″]I use lemons all the time. still thinking how to implement them into my VCI.[/quote]
    Yeah, Ean, any special hidden mapping features that will allow us to use these lemons?
    Controllerism would take leaps forward![/quote]

    Build us a Lemonfighter!

  • Pieter

    [quote comment=”28258″]I use lemons all the time. still thinking how to implement them into my VCI.[/quote]
    Yeah, Ean, any special hidden mapping features that will allow us to use these lemons?
    Controllerism would take leaps forward!

  • Wil

    I use lemons all the time. still thinking how to implement them into my VCI.

  • Fatlimey


  • luca de grandis

    with the tone arm u can also use a cigarette and afterwards u give the cigarette to friend of you for rolling a joint while u mixing… haha

    greets from switzerland

  • Slawa

    I always have some poti&fader spray with me……is veru usefull on old djm 500-600 mixers and in general on old mixers….greez from germany

  • DVJ Kay Jay

    You can use filter side of cigarette instead pencil eraser to clear contacts of tone arm and cartridge.

    Yet another good thing for fix situation is two audio CDs. Must have!

  • mpetersen3

    I have used my hoodie bundled up under the VCI to remove bass vibrations in a pinch.

  • DJ DMuRD

    I think i will just use the lemon as a counter weight all the time….

  • Pier

    HAhaha the lemon lime tip is great!

  • Lance Blaise

    starbursts will never last in my bag 🙂

  • Str8upDrew

    I have pretty much the same McGyver kit, now i’ve got to add the pencil, and some Starburst.

  • Hooker T

    I always keep cabinet shelf liner in my bag (the foam mesh that you cut to fit inside your cabinets to keep dishes in place). You can place them under your laptop or controller to reduce vibration from heavy bass and keep them from sliding around on top of the turntable cover.

  • rallevondalle

    Lemon fresh – mmmLOL 🙂

    A coin taped to the headshell for extra weight also helped me out during phat bass pumping sets (less skipping, more phat bass!).

  • Hipnotikk

    that’s a nice one FDRK, better than tennis balls that’s for sure 😛

    that startburst one is pure genius.

  • Tamay

    Funny one thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Sarasin


    The Cable Tie will be employed tonight!
    My GF broke my headshell…..

    Done the slipmat work around!


  • digibeach

    This is a great article, I love tools and fixing stuff! Here are two things i dont leave home without:

    -Individual Use Tubes of Crazy Glue OR Gorilla Glue (the blue cap only)
    Ive used this for Cracked headphones, fader/sliders pop off, and shutting the mouth of drunk requests (jk)

    -RUBBERS- I always have a few squares (different sizes) of Rubber Grip Mats/Pads. You know the rubber stuff your mom puts under the throw rugs on wooden floors or the lining of a utensil drawer in your kitchen. You can buy a roll at any hardware or drug store for like 3 bucks and just trim out the sizes you want with a scissor.
    THEN…place underneath any object heavy or small. Perfect of inclined or slippy surfaces. Ive used to secure a Lap Top, a nanopad, or even a large heavy object like a CDJ. Then the object wont budge a bit, if you have heavy fingers and reach across to punch a button or track pad. I hope my explantion makes sense b/c this is a great little trick.


  • digibeach

    Starburst is a GREAT idea, this past sunday this exact problem came up…but then where do you find the candies? Get on the mic and ask the crowd? This was in NYC so there are 24 hour bodegas all over. But what if your in the MEATPACKING! I guess you could send a barback on a sprint but thats cruel.

  • BentoSan

    I loled at some of these :p

  • Ronnie Dilan

    oh man!! the zip tie has been a favorite of mine for a long loooong time. I keep a couple in my gear bag right next to some wire cutters and some wire nuts. showed up to an event where the guy who packed the tables left the power cord hanging outside of the flight case. nobody noticed that one side of the power cable was snipped clean through and the other side was just being held on by the insulator. the night was almost done but we used a razor blade to trim the insulation off the cable and then used some stickers from one of the Dj’s laptop to make sure it wasn’t going to rub anything and throw some party sparks from the half ass repair we had to make.