Make Your Own DJ Mix with Rane Serato Scratch Live

by Mixing Dj on October 20, 2009

in DJ Tutorials


If you’ve been keeping up with the DJ scene in the past few years you have no doubt heard of a DJ software program called Serato Scratch Live, by Rane. This is by far the most popular DJ software being used, to my knowledge. Serato Scratch Live is not just a piece of software, but actually a DJ mixing system. It allows you to connect your computer or laptop to your DJ CD players or vinyl turntables and your mixer. You can then play any music from your computer as if you had the record on your turntable. No more lugging around heavy record crates, no more bulky CD cases or scratched CDs. Everything is on your hard drive. So, let me introduce the basics of Serato. This is how the setup looks:

Serato Scratch Live setup

Serato Scratch Live setup

As you can see, the setup comes with software that goes on your laptop and an audio interface, which is more or less a 2-channel sound card, that connects to your turntables and mixer with RCA cables and to your laptop via USB or FireWire. You could also use your microphone with it. Your DJ headphones stay plugged into your mixer.

A summary of how it works:

  • Serato plugs into your turntables or CD players to receive the audio signal coming from the record or CD.
  • Serato picks up the signal coming from your laptop, which is where your music is actually stored.
  • Serato then sends that audio to your mixer, and you hear the music through your speakers.

It’s pretty straight forward because when you’re actually using it, the experience is the same as if you were playing regular CDs or records. But here’s the trick – you’re not playing regular CDs or records. You are playing special Serato CDs or Serato vinyl records. They have a special timecode, which tells the Serato interface and software exactly where you are in the track. It’s like a time signature, so if you’re on 1:23 of the track Serato knows to play 1:23 of the audio file on your computer. If you spin the track back, the software knows exactly where to pick up in the audio file. And so on.

Here is what the Serato Scratch Live software looks like:

Serato Scratch Live software

Serato Scratch Live software

This may look confusing at first but you’ll learn how to use it pretty quickly. You can browse through your entire music library and select whichever songs you want to play.

Beatmatching is easy with Serato Scratch Live

The middle section shows you a visual representation of the waveform of your audio track, so you could see where the different audio frequencies fall. This lets you easily see where the bass and treble hit, thus making it easy to beatmatch. (You do know how to beatmatch, don’t you?) All you have to do is line up the beats on both tracks and make sure they’re playing at the same speed. Which is also easy because Serato tells you the current BPM of the audible tracks. To make it even easier, the bar at the top shows little lines to represent where the size of the measures in both tracks, so you can be sure to line them up precisely. Honestly, it’s really easy to beatmatch with Serato.

You control everything from your hardware

Even though the actual audio is stored on your computer, you control everything from your turntables and your mixer, just like you would normally. Of course, you now have your laptop as an extra tool to help you beatmatch and make some cool effects (I’ll get to that in a bit) but for the most part the DJ experience is the same so you don’t have to learn anything new. It comes pretty naturally.

Special features

Of course, the software has extra features that you may not normally have with your turntables or CD players. For example, you can set cue points. You can see those in the image above under “Markers.” Cue points let you return to that exact point instantly anytime you want. The reason they’re called markers and not cue points is because the audio plays instantly from that point instead of cueing the track at that point. It’s the same as the Memory function on the CDJ-1000, so if you’re familiar with that CD player you know what I’m talking about. This feature can be very useful, especially if you like beat juggling. I’ve seen this used most commonly to mark the beginning of where you want the track to play from. So you can skip an intro if you don’t want to use it in your mix. If you set the marker right at the first beat, you can always return to that beat with confidence. Oh by the way, these markers get saved in memory, so you don’t have to make new ones every time you use the software.

Easy looping

It’s extremely easy to make seamless loops in Serato. There is a loop feature that lets you loop at any interval from a fraction of a beat to 32 beats, or maybe more, I don’t remember off the top of my head. Regardless, it’s really easy to loop and you can just from one loop interval to another. So say you are looping a 1/4 beat loop and you want to let the loop go but you don’t want to get too far into the track yet, so you can change it from 1/4 beat to 16 beats. There’s a variety of effects you could create if you get creative just with the loop feature.

Lots of other useful features

This is just a basic overview of some of the most commonly used features. I’ll go into more depth on how to mix with Serato Scratch Live in a later post.

You will love Serato Scratch Live

Honestly, if you’re serious about DJing and you want to learn how to DJ with Serato Scratch Live DJ software, you should just get it and play around with it until you master all the features and all the things you could do with it. But it won’t even take you that long to see that it’s worth the investment. It’s no coincidence that you see DJs all around the world displaying stickers like this one:

I Love My Serato Scratch Live!

I Love My Serato Scratch Live!

Did you find this informative? Do you have any questions about Serato Scratch Live? Leave me a comment below!

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Muxxex November 13, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Love the diagram for the setup.

I wanted Serato so bad but ended up going with NI Traktor.

Eventually I’d like to get a Rane TTM-57SL, such a badass mixer.

The reason why timecoded is so great is because it’s simply too hard to find some songs on vinyl these days. You can’t find any Italo albums around my place so I’d have to pay a ton of money for a single song because of importing.
.-= Muxxex´s last blog ..Ghreg on Earth – T3 =-.

Reply

Gothique November 16, 2009 at 8:19 am

Nice article, I will keep visiting this blog very often

Reply

Hammad November 25, 2009 at 8:02 am

It’s very nice post about Make Your Own DJ Mix with Rane Serato Scratch Live.

Reply

DJ White Hawk November 29, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Hey cool , first time here . Dig it !

Reply

dj lock December 1, 2009 at 6:56 am

Wicked post – first time here but will defo be stopping by more often – gunna download now and test drive Serato Scratch Live – dj lock

Reply

topo December 5, 2009 at 5:43 pm

wow.. this is cool..
nice post about these serato scratch

Reply

Zubair Khan December 26, 2009 at 10:53 am

ya thats right wow what a post i am also a music lover and i just love this post its a valuable sharing bundle of thanks for this post!

Reply

Marko January 3, 2010 at 4:07 am

Awesome stuff. A friend of mine has been looking for something like that for some time now. I’m definitely showing him this.
.-= Marko´s last blog ..HeGeeks is Powered by Thesis Theme =-.

Reply

admin January 7, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Thanks to everyone for the comments!

@Muxxex – I tried NI Traktor once and it was pretty decent too. I wasn’t familiar with it though so I didn’t really get to use all the features but it’s definitely a good alternative to Serato, along with Torq. I did my research before finally deciding on Serato and it was tough because all 3 of those products are pretty good and each has its limitations. Eventually I just chose Serato and never looked back.
@DJ Wicked @DJ Whitehawk – Thanks guys, always glad to help out a fellow DJ.
@Marko – Thanks!

Reply

Party DJ January 13, 2010 at 7:33 am

Thanks for the tutorial! Always wanted to check out the serato stuff
.-= Party DJ´s last blog ..13.02. (Sa) Casanovaball Frankfurter Hof =-.

Reply

BethCharette January 13, 2010 at 12:47 pm

There is a fellow in the news often who does mixes of popular tunes on his computer and then releases them as original compositions.

I am wondering if the system you are mentioning here has that capability as well, not that you are doing that.

In other words, I understand that the name of the company is DJ Rane. But, does that have anything to do with this fellow who is composing original pieces by using the snippets?

I don’t know very much about DJ’ing except that they are a joy.
.-= BethCharette´s last blog ..New Article: Elf Culture: One with Nature =-.

Reply

admin January 25, 2010 at 9:59 pm

@Beth – No I don’t think this really has anything to do with that guy. He is probably using different software and hardware to create his snippets.

Reply

Ultradrive March 2, 2010 at 4:28 pm

And this post is veryy nice, wow. I wasn`t use Serato cause I don`t like too much technology in djing (it is useful )but with all that tehnology djing losing a soul and every beginner can start with this without knowlege of beating, ajusting speed etc.. and with all these tools in the softwares they don`t get on their hear, cause everything what dj must to hear now can to see on the display. I was use a NI Traktor for learning in begining, but when i`m get a CD players that was a diferent storry, and I was must to learn some stuffs again and to work on my hearing. But for a some proo Dj these softwares can be only useful. And to sum everything what I was to say is for begenners Djs: You must to learn on the basic equipment (CD players or turntables and mixer). This is mine opinion. Sorry on my bad english if I have a some gramatical mistakes. Once again great postss and usefull too 😉

Reply

admin March 7, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Thanks for your comments, Ultradrive. I agree with you, technology in DJing can be useful but it’s not always good to rely on it too much. The best approach is to learn all your equipment very well.

Mozie March 5, 2010 at 11:08 am

Very cool Article, keep up the excellent work. I have to mention that your blog looks very cool. Contact me if you need help with your Web Design and graphics 🙂

Reply

admin March 7, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Thanks, Mozie. I’ll keep you in mind.

DJ Splicer March 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Good articles man, look forward to seeing some more. I’m working on some similar content myself. I been using Virtual DJ a lot, it’s really great. I’m using Serato too, with an SL1.. if it weren’t for the latency issues, I’d prefer VDJ, for it’s effects, scripting language and since I can still interface it with the SL1.

Reply

admin March 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Yea man to be honest I like VirtualDJ best of all the DJ software I’ve used and it’s actually what I originally learned on. But now I’m using Serato primarily because of the integration with the SL1. Doesn’t seem to work well with VDJ, like you said. I can’t believe Serato doesn’t have effects functionality like VDJ, you’d think being such a popular product they would work that in. Nice site, by the way =]

DJ Splicer March 19, 2010 at 6:29 am

Hey thanks – glad to hear it! I pretty sure the reason Serato hasn’t had effects like VDJ goes something like this: People are closed minded and frequently ignorant. Some people, think that if you are using a computer to DJ, then you’re not really a DJ. Or another example, if you’re using samples in a beat, that you’re not really a producer. News flash, midi instruments are samples too. So in aiming to gain respect from a difficult crowd, Serato doesn’t have effects like that by design. No autoplay either. Someone that doesn’t know how to beatmatch could use VDJ, but not Serato. That gives it it’s pro’ rep’. But if you’re a pro’ AND using VDJ there’s a lot more one can do.
It’s amazing how many ppl think that a software will ‘do it all’ for you. One of my best beats I’ve made, ppl don’t believe that I made the drums.. like a computer did it all for me.. lol. gotta be using rocks, a hubcap and an 8 track to be a ‘real’ producer. 🙂

Reply

DJ Splicer March 19, 2010 at 6:32 am

Oh I forgot to mention.. Serato’s got a new deal.. can’t remember off the top what it’s called, but it interfaces with Ableton Live.. so that will open up some doors to the effects DSP. Haven’t tried it yet, but looking forward to it. Ableton is good software too, but by itself I’ll use it in the studio, but not for DJing..

Reply

Tattoo Ideas May 10, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I just started my adventure in world of music. And as a beginner I have to thank you for this really cool article. This tutorial helps me much and thanks to it I just mixed my first set. Its not perfect yet 🙂 but I hope the next ones will be. Thanks again and keep up the good work. Peace

Reply

chris @ Karaoke DJ Equipment May 15, 2010 at 11:13 am

Super post with great diagram. btw. You’ve always got good quality info here. I’m trying to decide what software to source at my ecommerce store and I was so happy to see you’d written this post about Serato. It doesn’t seem to be the thing for karaoke, but Serato looks like an excellent tool for DJs.
It makes me sad that some people think computers=zero skill DJ. I suspect that isn’t always the case, since computers can really open up a DJs ability to store and access their music collection.
Thanks again!

Reply

Ian May 19, 2010 at 8:53 am

Great post and review of the Serato system.

I manage a lot of DJ’s and have seen that many of them have a preference for Traktor. In particular, the guys with 40 years of history between them – Soul Mekanik – use Traktor with an Allen and Heath Xone 3D which they have customised and designed their own overlay for. It’s ace.

Check out their stuff, and if you want WAV’s of their music to DJ with check out the free house music download of their acclaimed album.
.-= Ian´s last blog ..Soul Mekanik release ‘Foca-Mostar-Sarajevo’ =-.

Reply

Brett May 20, 2010 at 2:19 am

Nice instruction. For my computer I also have one of those cool Apple Keyboards (works on a PC)

Reply

Vocalist June 2, 2010 at 6:05 am

Thanks for showing how it works, personally i didn’t knew. I am vocalist and playing with the group instrumental, now we want to collaborate with DJ and change our format to Live Industrial. Thanks again, Good luck to you.

Reply

Chester July 18, 2010 at 2:09 am

Very clear instruction. Thanks for sharing. Now I can start learning in mixing.

Reply

CasementWindows July 18, 2010 at 1:05 pm

great tutorials and instructions. i really like your blog because your instructions are easy to follow.

Reply

Anonymous July 19, 2010 at 1:38 am

“Thanks for the heads up on these!!
I did find some useful tips that I would have otherwise never knew about. “

Reply

Headphone Reviews July 21, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Thanks for sharing. I am not a DJ and apparently I don’t know DJ’s do their stuff. But what I know is, computers do help in a lot of ways. It makes things easier. And I think it’s good enough to have these tools around.

Reply

Ron September 21, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Nice setup here Mixing DJ! This Rane Serato Scratch Live looks really cool and awesome. It was really one of its kind!

Reply

dj yovani January 10, 2011 at 7:50 pm

how can i set up my itunes with my serato thank you

Reply

admin February 1, 2011 at 6:34 pm
DJ Animosity January 26, 2011 at 2:41 am

nice article. I use serato scratch live as well with my TTM-57SL mixer. New things about it everyday. my only question is , how can I reset my cue points? thanks!

Reply

Alim February 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm

This is really a great posting! The instructions are so nice and the only thing we need to do is to follow the instructions.. Well…, I will just follow them and thank you very much… Keep on great posting!!

Reply

shawn March 12, 2011 at 7:01 pm

can scratch live work with the numark cdn 95 dual cd player?

Reply

admin March 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm

I’ve never tried it with a dual cd player but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. That model has real-time scratch so that should be fine for Serato.

Futon April 27, 2011 at 1:47 am

Great tips&tricks. I live in Greece and on the islands the djs go crazy every night, all the summer. Party baby!

Reply

Roz June 18, 2011 at 7:54 am

Hey,

Was just seeing your set-up with the serato software, and I am a little bit confused. Do you need to connect your turntables to your laptop before you can start mixing tracks? And also what is the device which connects the turntables to the laptop?

I am a little bit unsure of it all, as I am quite new to it all. You see at the moment I am learning the basics and I am using virtualDJ home just until September and from then I will be using vinyl turntables. So just need to practice a little bit first!

Any information appreciated!!
Thanks! 🙂

Reply

admin June 21, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Hi Roz,

Yes, the turntables need to connect to the laptop before you’re able to use Serato. The device you see in the middle is a Serato audio interface, which is basically an external sound card. It processes the signals between your turntables and your Serato software on your laptop.

The Mixing DJ June 30, 2011 at 8:19 pm

meal replacement shakes says
Thanks for this. I was interested to read this.

Reply

Dave July 11, 2011 at 3:17 am

My friend has an ipad…He installed some sort of software that could make you feel like you are a dj…im not sure what’s the name of the app tho

Reply

lionoutlet@gmail.com October 14, 2011 at 12:16 am

The DJ Scene is abuzz with a new software program called serato sl3 Scratch Live or SSL. This is by far the most popular DJ software being used, to my knowledge.

Reply

DJ SWIFT January 9, 2012 at 9:52 am

I have an SL-3 running with my Numark TTi’s and its a flawless setup 🙂 Played Insomnia in Dallas with it and shook the rough off all about the bassssss 🙂

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: