There’s a pretty common question I see from lots of new up and coming DJs. They see the cue button in their new DJ software or on their controller and wonder what it does. This great option is universally available, whether it’s in Traktor, Virtual DJ, even on CDJs. Learning how to use it right will improve your performances and recordings. There are actually a few cue buttons to worry about. Each one has a different usage. There’s the monitor cue, hot cue, and track cue location.
What Is A Headphone Cue
The first cue type I want to get into is the mixer, monitor or headphone cue. This cue essentially allows the chosen track to be played in your monitor headphones. If you use the headphone cue anything you play on this channel will be privately played to you and not sent out to the actual mix being played in your performance. This allows you to “cue” up the next song and match beats without worrying interrupting the rhythm of your show. You can easily find starting beats, timing, and key. This cue is usually near your faders, gain, EQ filters, etc. It’s part of the mixer and channel sound controls portion of your deck.
What is a Cue Point?
A cue point is a deck cue that indicates an important point in the song, used to designate when in the track the music will play. It sets the starting point for the track so that you can perfectly beat match the two (or more) tracks together. This button is found on each individual deck. If you push this button while a track is paused it will set the cue point. Pushing the cue track button while the track is playing will cause the track to restart at that cue point. So you set your point on beat and as long as you do it right you’ll always be able to cue up and play on beat music. If you hold this button down after the track goes back to this cue point it will only play as long as you hold the cue button down and will pause/stop when you release it.
What’s a Hot Cue?
Hot cues are essentially just setting addition cue points in a song. Want the track to start at a drop, place one there. Want to skip distracting vocals or an uninteresting section in the song? Place a hot cue after the section when the song becomes useful again. You can build up a list of these hot cues for each track. Hitting a hot cue will set the song to that set cue point. Allowing for massive control and on the fly creativity. They allow you to pick and choose aspects of the song you want while skipping the things you don’t.
DJ Cue Tricks
One of my favorite uses for the hot and regular cue buttons is to create a live mashup. For an easy example, lets say you just have song one running. Song two has a vocal you want to inject into the current song. All you have to do is set a hot cue on the second song just before that vocal. While the second track is paused you hit the hot cue to go to that point in the song. Then you hit the cue button and it will set the cue to start the track at this point. Then all you have to do is hold down the cue button and the song will only play as long as you hold it down. The vocal plays over your track one, and you release the cue. Now you have this vocal that you can drop in on your main track at any time, creating a simple vocal mashup live. This is called cue sampling and you can improvise without needing to set up samples beforehand.