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

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The wedding started in daylight, outside.  I could hardly see my laptop screen at all.  I could have changed to one of the other themes that are more suitable for the condition, but the wedding was imminent, and the other skins placed the controls in different places.  I didn’t want to have to risk  learning a new interface and botching up the wedding ceremony itself.  Though readers should note that there are a good handful of skins available that are good for all lighting conditions  There are even skins formatted to fit the 1024×600 screens that are popular on netbooks.

Mixxx in daylight using “Deere”.

Mixxx at night with “Deere” skin

After a few practice sessions, the software was easy to use and the behavior was predictable.  The bottom half of the screen behaves like a standard jukebox ala’ iTunes or Rhythmbox.  The top half acts as the mixer and song queue manager.  Double-clicking a track from the library manager will automatically queue the track on the left side of the mixer.  Not only is the track queued, the waveform is loaded into memory and displayed in the queue so that it can be directly manipulated.  Double-clicking another song from the library will queue it up on the right.  These are called ‘Decks’.  When you are DJing, you will be managing your decks closely.  When one song is stopped in the right deck and a song is playing in the left deck, clicking a song from your library will automatically queue to the right deck and vis-a-verse.

The key to successful DJing lies is switching decks with the cross-fader.  The idea here is to never have dead-air.  So if you have a song queued on each side, when one song is close to finishing, you start the next song on the other deck.  Then you gradually drag the slider from one deck to the next.  It’s as simple as that!  This does reveal a major weakness of the software however.  You cannot search the library!  When you’re managing a list of 10,000 top 40 songs, things can get a little hairy.  Especially when you’re taking requests.  A lot of times, guests will come to you with requests and they don’t always know the proper title to a song or the exact artist.  I had to have Rhythmbox running in the background so that I could alt-tab to it and search for tracks, and then once I was sure that I had it, I would scroll one gigantic list in Mixxx in an attempt to find it.  As the night went on, these requests became more frequent, and the drunk requests were the most difficult to fulfill.  So it was often times very difficult to find the requested song in time to get it queued into a deck.  I would simply has to find something else to play so that there was no dead-air until I could properly fulfill certain requests.  It’s hard work.

The interface offers a lot of toys to play with, and you don’t have to be a master of anything to use them.  You can easily add reverb, echo, flange and more and toggle all of your effects on and off if you really messed things up.  The most fun here is the speed slider.  You can increase or decrease the speed of any song by a factor 2.  If you’ve got a group of folks doing the Cha-Cha Slide, you can really have fun with them here.  I did.  :)  You can even scratch the waveform like a record!

Stability And Usefulness

It’s hard to trust an application you’ve never heard of, let alone used before.  I was initially very leary about this software because I spend an exorbitant amount of time looking at the Internet every day.  Most of that time is monopolized by desktop Linux related things.  I was surprised that this gem had slipped under my radar.  I am happy to report that this software is not only incredibly functional, it is stable as well.  Not only did I not have any issues with the application when I was testing it, I had no issues running the software at the wedding whatsoever.

With Mixxx, I DJ’ed from 5pm to 1am without stopping.  Well, I did take restroom breaks, but other than that I had the help I needed from my wife and some other friends at the reception (drinks and food).  They made sure that I stayed good and liquored up.  Even in my inibriated state, I was unable to fail with Mixxx.

A Few Words About DJing…

I performed the DJ duties at this wedding for free.  That was a big mistake…  Once I learned that my fate was unavoidable, I changed my tine from “I don’t wanna” to “This is a great excuse to learn about something new”.  So, regardless of not having complete trust in Mixxx going in, I was fairly confident overall and I felt like I prepared well for the occasion.  It really paid off.  But that doesn’t change the fact the DJing is hard!

After this experience, I have a new found respect for individuals who DJ events for a living.  To think, these guys used to do this with a record collection and then CD decks.  That seems like a lot more work than what I did.  Trying to please 20-30 people (it was a small wedding) who are all drunk and have emotional issues is not something that I am properly equipped to deal with.  It takes a certain personality type to really be a successful DJ, and I don’t have it.  That said, I value the experience and I loved getting a chance to use Mixxx, but I will never DJ again.



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.

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