There’s plenty of professional DJs out there who are into all kinds of music genres. While they do mix on the spot, they also need some preparation before the gig.
On their laptops, they use DJ software for choosing tracks and preparing sets, which later, along with a mixer/DJ controller, serves them as a tool when performing.
Traktor, Ableton, and Fl Studio are DJ software most used by professional DJs in the music scene, such as Richie Hawtin, Carl Cox, Tiesto, Martin Garix, David Guetta, and many more. Those software programs have loaded sound systems and dancefloors worldwide, as well as festivals, house/beach parties, etc.
If you are confused about what software brand would be most suitable for you, continue reading to see which ones pro DJs use.
Before We Begin, a Word About DJ Software
Traktor, Serato, Virtual DJ, and Pioneer Rekordbox are the most popular DJ software in the market. All have their pros and cons. It basically comes down to your personal needs. If you are a beginner with a limited budget, Virtual DJ or Serato Lite might be the choice for you. If you’re planning to produce, then it’s best to learn the craft on some of the DAWs like Ableton or FL Studio.
- Traktor: Traktor is DJ software developed by Native Instruments and also used by many DJs.
- Rekordbox: DJ Software to prepare your music collection for performance. It is made by Pioneer, the same company that makes DJ mixers and CD players for clubs. So it seamlessly connects to all Pioneer’s other DJ hardware.
- Engine Prime: Denon basically has a similar model with the DJ Software to prepare your music for their CD players and other DJ hardware.
- Serato DJ: This is similar to the above two but more used by HipHop DJs due to the integration of vinyl precise scratch potentialities.
- Virtual DJ: Beginner-ready, simple DJ software that’s getting better and better with every update.
DAWs – Digital Audio Workstations. These are programs that let you make music, DJ mixes, perform live, mix, and master. In contrast to the above DJ software, the DAW’s offer more opportunities in actually creating your own tracks from start to finish.
Popular examples of these are Ableton, Logic, Fruityloops, Reason, Cubase, Pro-Tools, Reaper, Studio One, Bitwig.
DJs That Use Traktor
- Carl Cox
- Richie Hawtin
- Many more
In 2011, Carl Cox said that he isn’t yet ready for DJ software because he just couldn’t follow syncing his records into Traktor on four players without the aid of anything else.
Also, it was weird for him because people used to see him back then with three turntables and effects, and now it was just a laptop. It certainly wasn’t the real Carl Cox. Then, for a while, he has just gone back to traditional DJing.
Years went by, technology progressed, and in his latest interview…
Carl Cox said that he’s now using [Traktor Kontrol] D2s as a DJ controller and Traktor Pro as a DJ software. He was still getting used to it and said that he would not upgrade till he learns all there is about his current setup.
Richie Hawtin uses Traktor and cooperates with Native Instruments
Hawtin is the go-to professional DJ example for Traktor users and is also great at using Traktor to do stuff you can’t really do on a CDJ setup.
Richie Hawtin uses Traktor as his software of choice. Not only that, but he was also assisting in the development of timecode technology that eventually became Native Instruments’ Traktor Scratch and changed DJing forever.
Here’s the video where Richie Hawtin uses Traktor as his primary DJ software:
He was actually one of Traktor’s first investors and is still a minor shareholder in it. His investments in new music tech startups and, of course, the development of his own DJ mixer, the PLAYdifferently MODEL 1, sum up Richie’s love for technology.
Russian-born German DJ/producer Zedd uses Traktor and Cubase
As we can see in this photo below, when performing live, Zedd’s software of choice is Traktor Pro. Traktor works pretty well with mixers on small screens like Zedd’s 13″ Mac. For producing, he chooses Digital Audio Workstation Cubase.
More professional DJs that use Traktor
- DJ Sama from Palestine played an amazing Boiler Room set with Traktor and a Z1, F1, and X1.
- Kaytranada‘s most famous Boiler room set is on an S2 using Traktor.
- Andy C (one of the D’n’B masters/for many people the best D’n’B DJ ever) – I sometimes listen to Drum and Bass, and Andy C is using Traktor for his live performances.
DJs That Use Ableton
- David Guetta
- Armin Van Buuren
For all production steps, David Guetta works in Ableton Live, his DAW of choice.
For the Sound on Sound, Guetta said: “I use Ableton every day, non-stop, both for producing and live shows. It’s excellent for writing and to do edits, for which it is unbelievable. For DJing, there is, undeniably, nothing more useful than Ableton.“
„As a DJ, I strive to give the crowd a unique experience for each performance, so every track I play is an exclusive edit. I don’t perform the normal versions of my hits.
So when I perform my hits, I always try to keep the vital sections and come up with a new drop. Ableton is so quick and so simple to use when you’re doing this.”
Deadmau5 loves Ableton because of the control it gives him
Deadmau5 also uses Ableton Live. With Ableton, he has more control over music because he can control the individual layers (vocals, drums, synths, etc.) instead of just the track as a whole. When he’s on the stage, he’s firing off his songs’ different clips and mixing them together.
He also has a few MIDI controllers (basically a piece of equipment with buttons/knobs/faders/etc.) that can be programmed to control the software).
Every time he hits a different button, another part of a Deadmau5 song starts playing (for example: “I Remember” vocals, the keyboard part of “Strobe,” drums from “FML,” etc.).
Armin Van Buuren uses Ableton and Apple Logic
Dutch DJ Armin Van Buuren has made himself popular with marathon DJ sets and memorable progressive trance. In 2020 he’s still producing original music alongside his remarkably successful DJ compilations, as well as assembling very successful radio sets and many remixes.
In the past two years, Armin Van Buuren has frequently relied on Ableton Live. He uses it to make quick edits for his DJ sets and to try different things. In addition to making mixes, he uses Ableton for production work and creating a fantastic groove on the fly.
And based on his Q&A session two years ago with Harvard College’s Electronic Music Collective, he also uses Logic!
This isn’t all that surprising because many top trance producers also use Logic for their DAWs. Many of them harp the depth and breadth of Logic, some of whom say that you can endlessly browse through all that Logic has to give.
Marshmello works with Ableton and uses plugins
Marshmello is also one of the many DJs/producers that use Ableton. Except for the beats and samples he makes by himself, he often uses lots of plugins available in pro versions of Ableton.
For example, he used the Nexus plugin for his song “Alone”.
DJs That Use FL Studio
- Martin Garrix
Dutch DJ/producer genius Martin Garrix fancies Image Line’s FL Studio as a canvas for his works. Martin has said that he uses various FL Studio versions because he hasn’t put all of his synths and samples into a single version.
Keep in mind that Garrix and some of the DJ/producers we’re going to talk about are NOT DJs by trade. They are producers who’ve had to learn the fundamentals of DJing. The songs they mix are thoroughly prepared/edited and don’t require special mixing skills. That’s not taking away from what they do, but don’t confuse them with top-level, traditional DJs.
Martin once said that he also uses “a bit of [Apple] Logic seldom.” In a tweet, he listed some of the plugins he’s purchased when he could afford pro software, including Nexus, Sylenth1, Massive and Gross Beat.
When I saw one performance by Martin Garrix, I got a glance at the equipment he used. It was CDJs networked together so he can use a Rekordbox USB drive. He probably did preparation in Pioneer’s software (Rekordbox) that did the metadata organization (BPM, key, Title, Artist, Album artwork, etc.) and exported his music on the USB drive. At that point, he probably plugged it in his flash drive into a CDJ, and his collection appeared on all the CD players.
Afrojack uses FL Studio since the early days
Grammy Award-winning producer Afrojack has been an FL Studio user ever since he got involved in DJing and EDM production. He has the stock FL Studio plugins such as 3xOsc, and a massive collection of software synthesizers as Native Instruments Komplete.
Here’s a quote from Afrojack on FL studio: “Don’t let folks tell you that Logic or different programs are ‘superior,’ just practice and experience!”
Although he’s not a pure DJ but more of a producer, he mixes live and is worth adding to this list.
Tiesto used a variety of software, but now sticks to FL Studio
Tijs Michiel Verwest, also known as Tiesto, the legendary trance DJ/producer, has been producing and DJing music for the last 25 years.
He has won numerous awards in his career, including a Grammy for his remix of John Legend’s song All Me.
Almost every year, he has been consistently ranked in DJMag’s Top 100 DJs. He has collaborated with renowned artists such as Post Malone, Diplo, Three Six Mafia, and Nelly Furtado.
Tiesto has used an incredible amount of music gear in his life, but not much is known about his recent DJ software use.
Tiesto has been seen working with DAW’s such as Apple Logic Pro, Steinberg Cubase, Ableton Live, but currently uses FL Studio.
You can buy a new version of Image Line’s FL Studio Software on Amazon.
What software should you use?
We all have our choices and whatnot, but there is no such thing as a “DJ card” or “professional” standard.
It doesn’t matter what DJ software you use as long as you can work at a great level of competency (don’t redline, know how a booth operates, show up on time, honor your contracts, etc.), can flexibly work on any type of gear, and can properly move a crowd at the appropriate time.
If you’re also thinking about producing music, you might want to learn to use one of the DAWs instead of Traktor, Serato, Rekordbox etc.
As a longtime Traktor user for House, Deep house, Tech-house, Afrobeats, Funk, Disco, and all-around dance floor destruction, I played all over the world in gigs, large and small. I’ve also used any other software when I couldn’t use mine.
Anyone who thinks that the tools make the craftsman is either insecure, immature, shallow, or all of the above. As long as you’ve been professional in your mixes, professional in your behavior, and the crowd loves it, no one that matters cares.