DJing With One Deck and Instant Doubles

One of the many advantages of using a DVS system for DJing, which is often overlooked, is the ability to play from just one vinyl deck or CDJ, in case of equipment failure or our of preference for a left or right side. In this article we discuss the technique for doing so, and how to achieve it using both Serato DJ, and Traktor.

The Single Deck Technique

Equipment breaks. Equipment can be poorly maintained. From bent tonearms on turntables, to broken jog wheels on CDJs – these things will happen. As a DJ, it’s worth knowing some techniques to get you out of trouble, and playing on one deck with your Serato DJ or Traktor Scratch setup is great one to have in your arsenal.

The principle is the same on both systems, so it’s worth going over that first.

The Setup

For this breakdown we’ll emulate the setup in the video.

Deck 1: This is the deck you’ll be doubling to, so it needs to be setup for Internal playback.

Deck 2: This is the deck you’ll be controlling with your turntable/CDJ, so needs to be in Relative or Absolute mode, as per your preference.

The follow these steps –

  • 1. Load track to deck 2, and play using timecode control
  • 2. Instant double that track to deck 1, where it will play from the same point
  • 3. Fade across to deck 1 on the mixer
  • 4. Load new track to deck 2
  • 5. Repeat!

As you can see it’s really quite straightforward. It’s basically a simple routine that you get into, and once you’ve been doing it for a few tracks it’ll be second nature. There’s a reason some (admittedly rare) DJs don’t even use a second deck at all in their setups.

Both systems require some slightly different tweaks in the setup to achieve it, so we’ll break those down.

Single Deck DJing In Serato DJ

Firstly, head into the Setup screen, and in DJ Preferences, make sure Instant Doubles is ticked. That will ensure the track plays from the same point when loaded to a second deck.

If you are using a native SDJ controller, you’ll find that double-tapping a track load button will instant double automatically (a nice feature).

If you are manually mapping a different controller, however, you’ll want to map the Instant Double buttons in the MIDI panel, though – that means wherever you are in your library, if you’ve forgotten to do the switch, you can still double with one button press.

At the most basic level, you can use your trackpad to drag from the platter of one virtual deck to another, though, if you’re stuck without an external controller.

Single Deck DJing In Traktor Scratch

As with Serato DJ, you’ll need to jump into the preferences, then the Loading tab, and make sure you’ve got ‘Duplicate deck when loading same track’ ticked.

That’ll mean you’ll get the instant doubles running, and you can drag from the header of one deck to another to load them.

If you want to MIDI map it, you’ll need to need to select your controller in the Controller Manager, then add an input for it:

  • Add In…
  • Track Deck
  • Duplicate Track Deck ‘X’
  • Then in Assignment choose the opposite deck to ‘X’

You’re selecting which track you’re duplicating from, and the one you’re duplicating too. Check the video to see it in action.

Author’s Note

In the video, you’ll see me having to duplicate a deck twice in order to make it load and play at the same speed. After some experimenting, I realized that’s because I have ‘Reset all deck controls when loading track’ checked in the Loading tab of the preferences.

For many Traktor users, that will always be off, as it messes with the function of pitch faders when using controllers like the S2 or S4.

In my case, I have it checked as I prefer my decks to reset when playing using X1s, which I’ll almost always do. So you’ll need to play with it and decide for yourself what the best compromise.

No DJ should have to play off a single deck, in perfect world. But, alas, the world is imperfect, so it’s worth spending a bit of time getting to know the instant doubles technique. It could save your bacon one night…

digital vinyldjingdjing on a budgetDVSinstant doublesone deckserato DJsingle deckTraktor Pro
Comments (28)
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  • Bobby B

    It’s a very rare chance that I would find such an article when one of my decks is gone for repairs. I have been a serato user since 2008 and I have known about this for a while but never had the need to use the feature but off late One my CDJ players is gone to pioneer for repairs and I am left with one deck and I need to know if your’re able to blend and mix regularly as if you were to play with both decks?

    If any one could shed some light would be great.

  • l3f

    actually, there is a better way to do it with traktor, no need for doubles. you just map the absolute/relative button to your keyboard / controller, then set your single deck as input for both channels. cue and play a track in deck 1, press deck 2 abs/rel button, cue and play deck 2, press deck 1 abs/rel, cue and play deck 1..

  • chris

    for such a song – like this – i need digital instant double

    (btw: this song is back to 1995, but so far away)

  • Beno Bernard Lloyd Hwang

    ah, thanks for this tip! i’m going to be djing a corporate halloween party that isn’t going to require a lot of hardcore mixing, so i’d prefer not to bring the whole setup, and this technique will come in handy.

  • Nick James

    I use instant doubles at my primary residency just for convenience. The gear is only set up on the weekends when I’m there and being lazy it saves me setting up the second deck and gives me more room on the table for my drinks ;D

    I know quite a few DJs who use it all the time for various reasons. The most famous example I can think of is Bobby C Sound TV who DJs with Instant Doubles.

  • tretuna

    I’ve been doing this for years! It all started when I was the turntablist in a heavy metal/hip hop band and needed a smaller, quicker setup for on stage with them. Then, one of my turntables broke, so I just started using this. What I did is setup my dicer on the turntable with one page for doubles, beat-jumping, and controlling what type of decks are in Traktor.

    Now even after I’ve purchased 2 new decks, I still use the single deck setup at shows a lot of the time just because most of the places I play don’t have tables, and I’m kind of tired of the hassle of carrying two around and dealing with people bitching about how much room they take up because their S2 (or better yet, Serato internal with no controller) setup is nice and compact…. No offense to controllerists, but screw off… I’m also so used to this setup that it almost feels weird having both decks setup and I end up half ignoring the 2nd deck when it’s there.

  • Ricardo Thomas

    Thank you for the video.

  • DJ D. Jones

    Thanks for sharing this…. I’ve noticed a lot of other club DJs using this technique lately.

  • Erik Airrik Dale

    I’ve been using a single turntable for a while now. Simply because A. I can’t afford a second turntable presently and B. There is never enough room to set up a pair of turntables at a venue that has cdjs. I love it. I can do a lot more creative transitioning and timing ideas. I have instant doubles set up on my maschine mikro.

  • Aguy@

    I never thought about using this technique before, but I own a single TT which I hardly ever use for djing because I don´t have a pair. Thanks a lot for writing articles that are actually useful for this community

  • ItsWesSmithYo

    Oh man….great post…brings back memories..I did this for nearly a year at a spot that didn’t have room for more than one deck and a mixer…life saver then and really such a great feature to know about if you are ever in a tight spot.

  • Noisedisturbance

    I have been thinking about moving to a single deck setup, I have done it before once in the past but I think it would be cool to do fully. I have a Z2 and 2 different turntables, 1 with terrible torque and one with good toque that I use on the right side for scratching. I also use a Launchpad mapped to Traktor for Cuepoints and beat effects. I reckon it will be an easy and good move, something to get used to.

    • Noisedisturbance

      Also learnt I can actually control both decks with one turntable and the Z2 with just the Z2, I can switch decks A&B on the fly when ever I feel like it, very clever think I learnt last night.

  • QAMRONparq

    I rock a single deck SSL setup for my weekly residency. I have the turntable on the left and an Akai MPKmini and a KP2 on the right. My MIDI is mapped to hot cues, loop on/off, pitch, loop size, brake time, nudge forward/backward and, of course, load and instant doubles.

    I’m so comfortable with this that sometimes two decks feels alien. This is also useful if you have to have many DJs setup at the same time – it saves a lot of space.

  • Matías J. Padilla

    If you map a second instance of Duplicate Deck on Traktor with Invert enabled and release it as soon as you see the Deck loaded it will sync BPMs saving you the second press. Still not as straight forward as Serato but hey =)

    • tom


  • MaBonzo

    The reason Traktor does not detect BPM the first time is because you have ticked the: Reset all deck controls when loading new track

  • Rob Ticho,Club mU

    The simplicity of this is beautiful. I can’t believe I never thought of it. Nice work.

  • Timothy Reese

    I’ve been using a Midifighter 3D as a single deck pulling double duty for a couple of years. Paired with a Z2 (or even a Z1), it’s far easier than you might expect. The hard part is getting used to always checking to make sure the MF3D is assigned to the right deck before you start changing things. Always check. Always, always, always check.

  • bkbikenerd

    Having a broken turntable is so common in venues that I learned how to DJ on instant double in Serato years ago. You would be surprised how accustomed you can get to pressing (cmd+shift+right) duplicate left turntable to right side.

    I since switching to Traktor and mapped the (cmd+shift+right) and (cmd+shift+left) to perform the same functions as Serato to not stump myself as well as anyone doing guest set on my Traktor setup since it’s a Serato dominated scene in the states.

    • Mojaxx

      Good shout on the keyboard shortcut idea… Should have thought to mention that myself!

      • bkbikenerd

        Thanks. Also worth mentioning is that Traktor takes instant doubles one step further than Serato by matching the tempo.

        • QAMRONparq

          That’s not true. Serato matches the tempo automatically.

          • bkbikenerd

            Never knew that. I assume you are talking about Serato DJ and probably the latest version 1.7.. Thanks Q

          • QAMRONparq

            I was referring to SSL. When you drag’n’drop, or hit your instant double mapped MIDI pad/key, it brings it over at the same tempo and position in time – allowing you to fade to the internal deck and load the now empty deck to start matching the next track up.

  • Pieter Paßmann

    Had to use instant doubles on one CDJ in Traktor a couple of weeks ago. This is more common than one might think. When transitioning to the next DJ at a club night or something like that. We had the problem, that the next DJ’s seratobox would not function correctly. I played along for 20-30 minutes on one CDJ with Traktor. Actually quite an interesting challenge.