We wet your whistle with the wide world of audio mixing in an earlier post. But our exploits in music mash-ups (or remixes, depending on how you arrange your project) were just the tip of the audio iceberg. There's a lot more to DJing and song creation than what you'll be able to pull out of Audacity. Whether you're adept at the turntables or no better than the default iTunes DJ feature, we've tracked down a little something for everybody in this killer list of audio-related applications.
Grab some of the free or open-source software on our list and you'll be making your own musical tracks and killer live remixes faster than you can say "Lady Gaga." And yes, we know she's not a DJ. See? That's just one less hurdle to overcome in your path to complete home audio mastery. Grab some headphones--or "cans," as you might have heard them called--and let's get poppin'.
What it does: It pains us to have to spell this one out, but here goes. Before you can begin laying down killer beats (or creating awesome songs), you're going to want to make a note of the tempos for all the songs you plan to play/mash-up. Why's that? Because it's going to sound absolutely horrible if you try to blend a 100 beat-per-minute (BPM) track against a 183 BPM track. Sure, you can be all Party DJ and adjust the speeds of songs to get them to sync up, but your groove is going be an epic fail if you're constantly modulating between extreme speed levels. Fire up TapTempo, hit the space bar in rhythm to the song, and you'll get a great approximation of how fast the tune actually is.
What it does: Without decompressing your MP3 file, mp3DirectCut allows you to perform quick, rudimentary edits to audio clips. You can cut the audio at a specific time point, normalize your selection, and even generate specific cues based on time interval you select. The program can record audio through a selectable input, making a perfect tool for making lightning-fast edits on any kind of digital (or live) music that needs a-trimmin'.
What it does: A slight caveat on this one. While the program itself is free to download, the fine folks behind Reaper only offer the unrestricted software as a trial download. If you like the program, you're encouraged (of your own volition) to pay for the full license. But we wouldn't recommend a fully-functional "trial" application if it wasn't just that good. Reaper is a powerful multi-track audio processor that makes the process of creating new music from existing clips or MIDI devices both fun and graphically pleasing. The application itself is as portable as it is customizable, although we find ourselves using and appreciating Reaper's virtual patching station a whole lot more. This application is like Audacity... on acid.
What it does: If music creation isn't your thing, the open-source application Mixxx allows you to queue up tracks and seamlessly mix between them as if you were rocking the physical controls of a DJ mixer. You can control the tempo and volume of each channel, splicing each to your headphones to help you create your concoction of sound. And remember TapTempo from earlier? Once you've added your jams to your library, you can input the BPM for future reference. You'll never mix another weird transition again, trust us.
What it does: The biggest fault of Mixxx is that it looks, well, like a common audio editing application gave birth to twins. For the ultimate in old-school DJ software, look no further than MR1200. You still load up your sound files and all that nonsense, but you actually control the feel and groove of the music using virtualized turntables. Scratch, nudge, twist, and wiki-wiki-wow your songs using the included groove simulation effect to visually identify transition points in the music. If this application were any neater, it would be. Well. A real turntable.