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.
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.