How To DJ A Wedding With Linux: A Review Of Mixxx DJ Software

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Back Story

First off, I had never planned to do a review of any DJ software.  I’ve never been a DJ, nor have I ever had the desire to be a DJ.  But you know what they say;  Never say never.  So, how did I come to learn about Mixx, and how did I end up with a real use for it?  I’ll tell you.

It all started when my wife’s co-worker decided to get married.  There was a little drama surrounding the entire ordeal and long story short, the bride had lost a bridesmaid.  Though the bride only knew my wife for a short time, she thought she would ask her to fulfill those needs and balance the wedding party.  My wife graciously accepted.

When she came home to give me the news — which I was not very excited about — she mentioned that there was a need for a DJ.  I responded — half-jokingly — that I could probably do it.  “I could probably do it” is probably the least committal way to volunteer oneself for a job, but that was enough for her.  One day later she told me “You are the DJ for the wedding, are you excited?”

No, I was not excited.  I never really wanted to do it at all, but it was too late to back down.  It was time to start planning.  At first I thought that it wouldn’t be a big deal.  Being a DJ is probably the easiest job in the world.  If you have any sort of trunk-slammer mentality then you should be adequately equipped to hook a laptop to a PA system and play a playlist.  While I could have easily taken that route, I decided against it.  It was pretty soon after I started to get organized that I realized Rhythmbox wasn’t going to cut the mustard.  And so the search began.

I searched and searched and most of my searches came to a dead-end.  All the time I was searching, anxiety started to set in.  I thought, what if I can’t find anything for Linux?  My machine doesn’t have a Windows partition and I’m sure as hell not rearranging my hard drive for one catastrophic evening.  Then I found Mixx, and anxiety set in again.  I resigned myself to the fact that this is the only serious DJ software out there for Linux, and if it doesn’t work well, is unstable, etc., then I am supremely screwed.  There could not possibly be anything more embarrassing than having your DJ app crash in the middle of The Electric Slide.

And now, I will make no secret that the review you are about to read is probably the most glowing review I’ve ever written about a piece of software.  So, let’s get to it!

Installation

For our non-Linux using readers, you will be happy to know that Mixxx is available for Mac and Windows as well.  The former is available in the Mac App Store, so installation for those individuals should be pretty simple.  The DJ machine for this event is is my HP Envy 15t-3200, a beast of a machine with a quad-i7 processor and 16GB of RAM.  It’s running Ubuntu 12.04.  While Mixxx is available in the Ubuntu Software Center, it is quite a bit out of date.  This is a problem with many Linux distributions, but I’ll save that for another editorial…  Luckily, Mixxx makes itself available through a well maintained and up-to-date PPA.  Better yet, the PPA has packages for Ubuntu all the way back to Lucid Lynx (10.04).  To install for yourself, do as follows:

	    sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mixxx/mixxx
	    sudo apt-get update
	    sudo apt-get install mixxx libportaudio2

One of the best aspects of installation is how light it is on dependencies!  This made installation a breeze, and if there is one thing I hate, it’s unnecessary package weight in my installation.  Obviously, it needs what it needs, but I appreciate it’s lightweight nature none-the-less.  Sometimes that can be a deal breaker.  For instance, I’m not going to run Amarok in Ubuntu, but I don’t want half of KDE on my system just to use one application.  In this scenario, my hands were tied.  If Mixxx had the same dependencies as Amarok, I would have installed it regardless.  Hell, I’ll probably never use it again regardless of how great it is, because if there is one thing I learned from DJing, it’s that I don’t like it at all.  I’ll save that for the end…

Interface And Usability

I’m not typically one to get overwhelmed.  I am pretty much cursed with a can-do attitude, even if I can’t.  Though there is a lot here!  The default interface is packed with controls that simulate what a DJ’s physical workspace might look like.  It simulates a hardware mixer, and even 2 turntables!  It comes with a handful a skins — sort of like Winamp skins — that are built for specific resolutions.  There is only one that is designed for a 1920×1080 screen, and that was enough for me.

Mixxx in action. Click to enlarge.

The theme shown — the one I used — is the default, 1920×1080 version, called “Deere”.  It’s great! Also, it’s what I practiced on.  That’s right, practiced.  One does not simply walk into a wedding and DJ it.  The design principal in the default theme is obvious; represent the physical controls of a real mixer board while making it high contrast white on black for dark areas, like a club.  This is one of the very few troubles that I ran into.


Dean Howell

Dean Howell has over a decade of experience with Linux and nearly 2 decades of experience with computers in general. Currently, Dean is Editor-in-chief of The Powerbase and also works for one of the world's largest providers of Linux-based NVRs.

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  • http://2buntu.com Roland Taylor

    I have had the experience myself, and drunk or not, it’s not something I can say I love, especially when people complain complain complain complain complain… you get the point.

  • Joseph Rhodes

    great article and i will definitely check this out. but, as a dj, rule #1 is you never ever take requests…unless they are coming from the people who paid for the wedding. if you are doing it for free you never ever take requests period :-)

  • http://www.digifail.com/ Tom Nardi

    Silly question, but if you just have to queue songs on each side and fade between them…isn’t that something the software could do automatically? What’s the human element really for?

    • http://profiles.google.com/deanhowell2 Dean Howell

      2 things that I forgot to touch on.

      1. Auto-DJ. This requires a predefined playlist, which wouldn’t have worked here.

      2. The other hard part of being a good DJ is knowing when you stop a song. If they want Freebird, they don’t get the whole thing. Start another song on the other deck and drag the slider. Unfortunately, there is not a button that I could find that would auto crossfade from one track to another outside of auto-DJ.

  • David

    “…if there is one thing I hate, it’s unnecessary package weight in my installation….I don’t want half of KDE on my system just to use one application.”

    Dean, have you heard about sudo apt-get install –no-install-recommends [APP NAME HERE]?

    I discovered it on Jeff Hoogland’s blog; he shows a couple of examples of the reduced bloat:

    http://jeffhoogland.blogspot.com/2011/11/howto-use-apt-without-bloat.html

    I agree with you — it’s crazy to install DigiKam in Ubuntu and have Konqueror come along for the ride.

    • http://profiles.google.com/deanhowell2 Dean Howell

      David, this is going to change my life. Thank you for this. :)

      • David

        Glad I could help, Dean!

    • ned flanders

      I dont want GNOME bloat just because I use one application.

      File this under “Waaaaaaaaah!!!!!”

  • Zack

    My experience with Mixxx has also been wonderful paired with a Numark Mixtrack Pro controller on Ubuntu Studio 12.04. Mixxx indeed has a powerful search function. It is easy to overlook as a new user. It’s a small box sandwiched between Deck 1 and the left folder pane…

  • http://fredrikfritteandersson.wordpress.com/ Fredrik Andersson

    Good read and glad you sorted it out =D
    ive been trying it on and off, but will see if i can get it to work with my M Audio connectiv device.
    In that case i can use timecoded cds for my pioneer players and use them to control everything.
    I have a spare win7 partition but would be swell to be able to use Linux for all this :)

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  • dj:AP

    Hi,

    A great review of this awesome software – I use Mixxx on a regular basis for semi-professional work and love it to bits. Your experience and review has shown up many of its good qualities.

    I was surprised by your comment about not being able to search the library. This is, obviously, a fundamental feature in such a program and has been built into Mixxx from pretty much day one. You can even see the Search box in your picture – it’s next to the header of the library that you spent the night scrolling up and down! DJing like that must have been an absolute ballache, but I (and your screenshot) can verify that a Search function DOES exist, AND it is superfast as it happens too. I can (although rarely do!) go from someone requesting a song 30 seconds from the end of the previous one, slamming it in the search, loading it into the deck, and having it play without any dead air.

  • Harold T

    I just came across your blog here, a couple of years after you wrote it. I used to DJ with vinyl two decades ago. DJ’ing is not easy. Plenty of preparations such as song selections, and then there’s the practice part, beatmatching and mixing songs as best and seamlessly as possible. Amateur or pro, I agree with your meme, but it applies not just to weddings, but on any occasion and in any venue. Even if there is no occasion and people just wanna dance.

  • deviant inc

    Great review! I use Mixxx to dj in clubs and am constantly surprised other djs have never heard of it. V1.11 has pretty much every function the expensive proprietary dj-software products have, and all for free. It has very few downsides (my own personal gripe is that track metadata like hot-cues and beatgrid is stored in a central SQL file rather than with the music file, so if you move the file you have to either open an SQL editor or re-configure the saved settings). And yeah, pleasing everyone is hard, which is why I turn down weddings and the like – in a club you get FAR less people requesting weird/crap/inappropriate songs!

  • www.floorripper.com

    Hi, I am going to DJ one wedding of my friend next month. I have to admit I am PC literate and I love music and I am a dancer. I know a lot of songs from various styles. But so far I have worked only once with hardware Mixer device. I have played music only on the Winamp/audacious so far. I do not use Rhytmox I-tunes either. So I will share my experience with you guyz as long as I install this softwarre.

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