How to DJ With a MacBook

MacBooks are sturdy and lightweight enough to handle DJ gigs.
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There aren't many DJs carting around a couple of turntables and a box of LPs anymore. Most have made the switch to digital mixing from CDs, USB drives or standard hard drives on laptop computers. You need a heavy-duty hard drive and computing ability to create hours of crowd-pleasing playlists. DJ software is available at several price points and all of it is compatible with MacBook computers. Drop a MacBook Pro or Air into your bag along with some high-quality headphones and you'll be good to go for any sized DJ gig.

1 DJ Software

The most basic tool in any DJs arsenal is DJ software. The MacBook has always been packaged with software for recording music, and it has a long history of being configured with solid audio hardware. The MacBook's reputation as a musician-friendly computer holds steady with professional DJs. Free and paid DJ software is widely available specifically for Macs. DJ software enables you to load up hours of your favorite music from CDs or digital files, isolate and mix tracks, add beats and adjust frequencies to create your own mixes. Use DJ software to record pre-mixed tracks or mix music on the fly in front of a crowd.

2 System Requirements

In order to mix and playback tracks there are a few system requirements to consider. All base model MacBooks meet the minimum requirements to DJ, but you may want to invest in higher-end elements to get the most out of your software. MacBooks are available in dual- or quad-core CPUs. Either will work, but the quad-core will be noticeably faster. If you plan to run several programs simultaneously, consider the extra expense of a quad-core. To further increase speed, opt for 8GB of RAM rather than the standard 4GB most MacBooks come with. Finally, decide whether to get a solid state or mechanical hard drive. A solid state drive is faster than a mechanical drive. Solid state drives come standard on MacBook Air but it's a custom option with a higher price tag in a MacBook Pro.

3 Pro vs Air

The MacBook comes in two "flavors" and each has different benefits for DJs. The software is going to work the same on either notebook, but the standard configurations and price tags are different. The MacBook Air is lighter and thinner, but that may or may not be a good thing. Yes, it's lighter to carry, but the Pro has more heft and may feel more sturdy when you're mixing at a party. The price tag on the Air is also lighter. The Pro has slightly higher-end hardware and Kensington lock capability, so it may be worth the extra cost. If you're going to DJ in large public venues, consider a Kensington lock system to secure your notebook to the table.

4 Mix it Up

Once you've nailed down which MacBook to buy you can start mixing. Paid DJ programs offer more mixing and track options, but free programs offer plenty of options. Import music onto your hard drive or plug in an external hard drive loaded with digital tracks. Within the DJ software select music folders to access, and set up a folder to export newly recorded tracks. You have the option to mix "live" or record a file to play back later. It's a good idea to create a couple of prerecorded mixes before a gig just in case your computer crashes or there's a technical problem during the show. If there's a glitch, play your prerecorded track from a CD or USB drive on another computer so there won't be any dead air during your gig.

Aubrey Kerr is a writer and photographer. With a B.A. in media arts and public relations, she has helped small business owners design and implement online marketing campaigns since 2004. Her work appears on several websites including and the Houston Chronicle.