If you’ve been DJ’ing for a few years, eventually you’ll play at a gig where the DJ’ing equipment is faulty.
An easy way to minimise these problems is keeping an emergency DJ equipment kit with you as a backup. This which can help you to solve (or minimise) any problems which may affect your DJ set.
And it may prevent the dreaded event of the music stopping because you can’t get your DJ’ing gear working (I’ve had this happen – it isn’t funny).
Things have changed
Now, depending on what type of DJ you are, and the equipment you use, the equipment in this guide may or may not be relevant.
Personally, I’m a scratch DJ and a bit of a turntablist. And I’m a Native Instruments Traktor user who relies on vinyl timecodes.
Also, I tend to play mostly hip hop and oldskool house/techno. The majority of clubs I play at tend to use traditional DJ’ing gear – usually it’s two technics 1210 and a Pioneer DJ mixer.
So, my emergency DJ kit requirements are little different from a DJ who might rely on CDJ’s or on a controller board. But if you’re in the latter read on, because you may pick up some tips, nonetheless.
DJ Kippax’s Emergency DJ pack
1. Adjustable Headtorch
Trying to set up Serato/Traktor in the dark can be nightmare – it’s easy to accidentally unplug the wrong thing and cause sound problems.
A cheap head torch is handy way of keeping both hands free when you’re setting up. Also, it’ll help prevent you from unplugging the wrong thing and silencing the music in the club. I’ve done this and it isn’t funny.
I would recommend getting one with an adjustable light. That way you can avoid dazzling people or lighting up the DJ booth too much when you’re moving your head around.
2. Cartridge Needle Cleaning Brush (vinyl and timecode users)
If you are using the house system and their turntable needles, take a needle cleaning brush with you.
Personally, I tend to take my own needles AND a stylus brush. But more about this later.
If you are using vinyl timecodes, a dirty turntable needle won’t affect sound quality. But a dirty needle can mess up your DJ’ing software’s ability to calibrate and track properly.
This can also happen mid set too. So, it’s always wise to have something to wipe the needle. That way your tracking and (if you’re a vinyl user) your sound quality stays tip top.
3. Spare music in a variety of formats
If you’re frequently playing in the middle of the club night. And there’s multiple DJ’s on using different styles of equipment. Chances are you’re going to have to plug your own gear in while the other DJ is playing their last record.
If this happens to you, you’re going to have around 5 minutes to get one deck working with your timecode/laptop before you can start to play.
However, sometimes shit goes wrong, and previous DJ’s final record will end. Ideally, you need something just to plug the gap while you get your gear working.
Before you go the nightclub, event, festival or whatever – you should try and find out who is playing before you and the style of music they are playing.
Once you know who’s playing, and the style of music they’re playing, try to include a few vinyl’s, a CD, and a USB stick of similar music to DJ who’s on before.
Basically, you’re planning for the worst. If you’re in the middle of change over, and the previous DJ’s last record ends, you can stick an album on, or play another track using your backup music. This can give you some much need time to troubleshoot and hopefully solve your DJ equipment changeover problems.
Taking a few extra tunes (even if they’re not your own style of music) and taking them with you in a variety of format (vinyl’s, USB, CD, etc), just means you’ve got all bases covered.
You hope you really don’t have to use them, but sometimes it’s a case of damage limitation. And, most importantly, it allows you to keep the music going.
4. Spare RCA/phono leads
- I can replace damaged phono leads in the DJ booth.
- It’s easy to damage your own phono leads during transport.
- If you’re playing more than one gig in one night, it’s easy to lose a phono lead.
Another tip is to buy spare phone leads which are longer than the default ones which come with your DJ software soundcard.
Also, longer RCA leads means you can have your soundcard further away from the DJ mixer. This is handy if you’re setting up your DJ’ing gear at a distance and away from the house mixer, or PA system.
Personally, I like these 1m long RCA cables. They’re decent quality without being too expensive.
I don’t like the cheap RCA connectors with the wing style connections. These have a habit of bending when stored away in a tightly packed DJ bag.
5. RCA/Phono Connectors/Coupler
Another cheap but useful thing to add to your emergency DJ bag are some RCA to RCA connectors.
These allow you to connect one male RCA to another. This means you can extend the range of your RCA connectors because you can connect them together.
Also, if you’ve followed my previous tip, and you’re using 1m long RCA cables, you run a few connectors/cables together and cover large distances. This is great if you have any funny cable routing problems and you’re having to run cabling around and behind stuff.
It’s rare I need to use them. But they’re cheap and bloody useful when I do.
6. Your own carts & needles (vinyl and timecode users only)
One of the first things I learnt when I started DJ’ing was to take your own needles/cart to the club. Especially you’re a scratch DJ (like I am).
If there’s one item of equipment which gets fucked up in a club (and never replaced) – it’s needles and cartridges.
Many clubs will never invest in a good set of needles because some thieving bastard will probably steal them at the end of the night.
If they do provide them, they’ll be of the cheap and nasty variety. If it’s a bigger club (and a more glamorous) venue, you’ll have a better chance of better equipment.
But if you’re playing at a smaller club night/festival/event, chances are you will be playing with poor quality needles.
So, take your own so you can minimise any problems. But keep an eye on them once you’ve finished your set. Carts and needle are easily stolen due to their small size. And they’re often worth a bit of cash. So, they’re probably the worst items for getting pinched at a gig.
Once you’ve done your set, pack your carts away at the first chance you get. And then keep them somewhere safe.
7. Spare needles
I like to take a set of spare needles for my turntable cartridges.
Many times, I’ve had my needles get damaged when travelling to gigs. So, it’s always worth having a spare in your kit bag just in case this happens.
8. Extra 4-way power adapter
But now, at the very least, I have a laptop and a Kaoss Pad to plug in. Sometimes I even plug my own scratch mixer in too.
All this extra gear requires extra power sockets. Therefore, I tend to take a four-way mains adapter with me to most gigs. I also make sure my 4-way adaptor is the type with an extra-long power lead.
The extra-long lead gives mean I can set up my gear further away from any power supplies in the DJ booth. It also gives me more freedom when routing the power cable too.
9. Pack of Bluetack
In the UK, Bluetack is a squashy a sticky substance which is used to stick posters and paper to walls. It might be called something else depending on where you live. And, I know you can buy a similar product from different manufacturers.
Anyway, a full pack of Bluetack is handy for sticking down a laptop stand on an uneven surface.
It’s also useful for stopping a scratch style mixer from moving around too. And it can be used to sure-up a turntable if it has a dodgy leg.
Bluetack comes in a flat pack so it doesn’t take up much room in the DJ’ing bag.
10. Gaffer Tape
I like the to take a roll of Gorilla tape with me to gigs or festivals.
If you’re having to run cables around, this stuff is great for keeping them in place, or attaching any cables to surfaces.
There’s nothing worse than tripping over a lose cable mid DJ set, and killing the sound. Worst still you might even damage the DJ’ing gear in the process/
So, get those cables stuck down, it’s safer and it might prevent you having an accident.
11. Warped copies of the records you might be playing (if you’re using vinyl rips)
It’s always best to assume the worst when you are playing the new club or a rundown venue.
Often you have no idea if the equipment you will be using has been badly treated and has problems.
My vinyl rips often have tempo slight fluctuations in them. This means they can’t have the beat grid applied easily to them in Traktor.
But this also means that if the turntables aren’t working properly, I can’t control my tunes and mix.
I’ve had a few occasions where the ground cables were broken on the turntables in the club/festival. This meant that I couldn’t calibrate Traktor with my timecodes, and therefore couldn’t DJ.
Luckily, I’d already planned for this, and (prior to the gig) I’d warped all my singles in Ableton and then bounced the tracks down to Wavs.
This meant that my vinyl rips had no tempo fluctuation, and their BPM was as accurate as today’s dance music tracks. Thus, enabling me to use the auto beatgrid in Traktor, and enabling me to mix internally using Tracktor. If I hadn’t have done this I wouldn’t have been able to play.
The above situation was unique to me as I use vinyl rips. Modern dance tunes (unless it’s something weird from the like of Aphex Twin) have little or no tempo fluctuation in them. So, if you’re playing modern dance music you won’t really need to have a warped copies of your tunes as backups.
But it’s still worth having your tunes stored on either a couple of CDs, plus a USB stick (ideally two USB sticks). This will allow you to use the CDJ’s just in the event of any turntables malfunctioning.
12. Cheap pair of in ear headphones
A set of cheap in ear headphones is another backup item to stick in your DJ’ing backpack. They’re inexpensive, take up little room, and if your main headphone break (or go missing) you’ll still be able to perform.
13. 1/4 inch to 3.5 mm jack
The 1/4-inch adaptor will allow you to use your backup in ear headphones.
Also, it’s worth having a backup headphone adaptor as they’re easily lost. And not all DJ’ing headphone use adaptors or come with them. Some DJ headphone come with a premoulded ¼ built in them. This means you can’t always borrow a ¼ jack from another DJ’s as their headphone might not use them. Best to have a backup just to be safe.
Having all this gear in your bag is a bit like having car insurance. You might go years without ever needing it, but you’ll be glad it’s there when you do require it.
I’ll admit that most of this article has been written from my point of view (that being someone who relies on timecodes and plays vinyl rips). But even if you’re just someone who plays solely using a DJ’ing controller, or some other gear, you should be able find something helpful in my guide.
Anyway, if you think I’ve missed anything out feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. If you suggest something good, I may add it to this list.