5 Life Hacks Every DJ Should Know

Sticky Fingers Free

By Glen Ervin

It’s a fact of DJ life: software crashes, hardware fails, cables fray; things go wrong – typically at the worst possible moment. No doubt you have your own Plan B in place when the inevitable happens; but just in case you missed that episode of MacGyver, here’s a look at a few essential seat-of-the-pants fail-safes.

  1. Ground Hum

If you’ve DJ’d for any length of time, especially with a laptop, midi-controller and a flat screen or two, you’re all-too familiar with the fingers-on-chalkboard sound of 60-cycle hum bleeding though your speakers.

For many the solution seems simple enough — drop the ground; lose the hum. But what you may not know is that simply removing the ground is never a safe option. A far better solution, one that won’t require routing through a ground lift (and the resulting loss of volume and tone), can be easily arrived at with the Ebtech Hum X Ground Loop Hum Exterminator. Easy to use, easy to install, can be used with any device with a 3-prong outlet and will not affect your audio signal.

Kill the hum, not the buzz (or your gear).

  1. Laptop Crash

If an RCA to 1/8” cable isn’t the first cable you run when you’re setting up, it should be. Routinely hook that bad boy up to your smartphone and the emergency playlist of party favorites you have at the ready and you’ll never have more than a few moments of downtime while you reboot.

For an extra layer of prep, keep your emergency playlist on auto play to completely eliminate any chance of dead air.

Also good to have for that pesky laptop switch.

  1. No Mic? Use your headphones!

Here’s something might have missed: If you’re ever in a pinch for a microphone you can always use a pair of headphones. Geek-speak aside, a microphone is pretty much the same as a speaker: both use a diaphragm and magnetic driver to convert sound to current.

How do you do it? Simple. Just grab the nearest pair of headphones and plug them into your mixer’s headphone input. Oddly enough, this seems to work best with cheaper iPhone type earpods, but typically whatever cans you’re wearing will do the job.

  1. Mixer Meltdown

Ouch. This is toughie to bounce back from: Your mixer craps out and you don’t have a back up.

Solution: A 1/8 to dual XLR male cables will let you bypass your new doorstop and route directly from your laptop to most powered speakers.

Have ‘em ready to run and your downtime will be minimum.

   5. The Ultimate Hack

While dead air might not be a matter of life and death, it can sure feel like it when 100 or more people are staring you down.

Remember: There is no panic button on your keyboard.

Stay Calm. It’s the ultimate life hack.

After being turned out to pasture following a 16-year club residency, Glen Ervin finds himself gainfully employed as Promo Only sales manager, media consultant and staff writer.


  1. 2. Laptop Crash. – A neat trick I have. If you’re using a laptop to DJ, record your whole night as a continuous mp3 without the microphone. Transfer it to an iPod (or similar) and run it continuously while connected to a spare mixer channel all night. If the laptop crashes, push the fader up for the iPod, no downtime and you have the rest of the night to recover the computer. You could record different nights at different venues so that you have a suitable backup for each venue. 😉

    1. Been on top of this idea for a decade. Every mix i ever made from cd, i made it 1 track so it be uploaded to my hard drive. I have over 400 mixes from my day 1 to now in my library. Multiple genres mixes for any occasion…wise2.0

  2. The headphone plugged in to the headphone input won’t work. However it might function as a makeshift mic by plugging it into a 1/4 inch high impedance mic input. I’ve also seen microphones used as a headphone although I certainly don’t recommend doing that.

  3. Had a gig where direct boxes and hum eliminators didn’t work. At the end of the night something made me check the power we were plunged into in the ice arena we were raving. Yup, hot and
    neutral reversed.

  4. Just a little typo, “…plug them into your mixer’s headphone input.” That won’t work and how many mixers have a headphone INPUT anyway. Plug it into your mixer’s MICROPHONE input. But if your mixer still has 1/4″ microphone input, upgrade that mixer. LOL

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