How to Use SHIFT Button On DJ Controllers | Beatmatch Guru

How to Use The Shift Button On A DJ Controller

DJ controllers have become very popular over the past few years, especially due to the amazing functionality that they offer and the price. Even the most basic and cost effective DJ controllers, such as the Pioneer DDJ-400, allows a DJ to put on a great performance.

What is the SHIFT Button on a DJ Controller?

The shift button on DJ controllers allow DJs to activate secondary functionality. Certain buttons or pads have primary functions, but holding down the ‘shift’ button allows access to secondary options. The shift button gives greater usability to DJs by reducing the amount of buttons featured on DJ controllers.

There are a lot of buttons and functions are packed into these controllers though. So if you’re a beginner DJ, I feel your pain, the learn curve is steep at times. Get your knowledge level to a high level as quickly as possible and you will be fine. The shift button is one of those basic aspects that will help you on your way to becoming fully fledged on a DJ controller.

shift button

How Do I Know What the Secondary Options Are on a DJ controller?

The primary options are quite clearly stated with words on the actual buttons themselves, whereas the secondary options are featured underneath or nearby.

The secondary options are usually highlighted with a box around them which is to signify they are compatible with the shift button. You can see this from the image of the SHIFT button above with a white box surrounding the text.

Now lets go into a couple of examples of DJ controllers to give you a real life experience instead of just explaining the concept of the SHIFT button.

How to Activate the Secondary Options?

Holding down the SHIFT button and then pressing the particular button that activates the secondary option will give you access.

To revert back to the primary function simple hold down SHIFT and press the same button that you previously activated the secondary option.

What Functions can the Shift button activate?

Pioneer DDJ-400 Example

DDJ-400 Pioneer

On the DDJ-400 it’s easy to see where the secondary functions are located. As explained above, under each of the performance pads there’s text in a white box with a name of each of the different functions.

Performance Pad Secondary Options

shift button options on pioneer DDJ-400

FX & Sound Manipulation

As you can see in the image of the Pioneer DDJ-400 above, the options give you, ‘KEYBOARD’, ‘PAD FX1’, ‘PAD FX2’ & ‘KEY SHIFT’.

All of these are great for adding FX and sound manipulation to your DJ performances which include:

  • Delay
  • Echo
  • Reverb
  • Vinyl Stop (pressing stop on a play button on a record vinyl turntable)
  • Repeat loop sound
  • Sample playing
  • Key shift – changes key of the track playing, similar to a piano play a sample

Loop Control

There are functional aspects to other areas on the DJ controller too which can help you control sample loops.

On the Pioneer DDJ-400, these are located at the top of each turntable above the jog wheels.

secondary options on ddj-400 pioneer DJ controller

As you can see in the image above it’s possible to activate a loop, store and delete sample loops too. The Tempo range can be controlled too underneath the BEAT SYNC button.

Search Functionality

Another function that SHIFT can activate is -SEARCH+, which is really useful if you are setting your cue points on new tracks that you’ve purchased and downloaded.

search functionality on ddj-400 df controller SHIFT button activation

If the beat grid is snapped to the track, for example 1/2 beat, you’ll see this by the lines on the audio wave in the DJ software (Rekordbox in this case).

Each line on the track is a marker for you to quickly navigate through the audio track. Using the jog wheel and holding SHIFT will allow you to achieve. It takes a bit of practice at the beginning to get used to how quick the jumping between the snapped to beat grid.

Jump Back to Start (Cue Button)

cue button on dj controller

There’s a secondary option and purpose that the cue button has too.

It allows you to jump back to the start of the track. This is really useful if you are beat matching a track and want to bring the track quickly back to the original cue point that you started from.

Simple and effective, exactly what you need when DJing, you need fast functions to get you to the next mix swiftly and efficiently.

More Information

Here’s the hardware specifications for the Pioneer DDJ-400. The PDF document goes into further detail of all the controls for both primary and secondary functions. My advice is to review this while experimenting on the Pioneer DDJ-400 itself.

Traktor Kontrol S2 MK2 Example

traktor S2 MK2 DJ controller

Not all DJ controllers are the same in terms of how the buttons work. In this case we quickly look at some of the features that the Traktor Kontrol S2 M2 offers secondary functionality using the SHIFT button.

NOTE: having tried and tested the two DJ controllers featured above, I found that the DDJ-400 to be easier and more obvious to use in terms of the buttons and features available.

shift button on Traktor s2 mk2 dj controller

Shift functionality on the Traktor DJ controller offers the below functionality:

  • Sample loading
  • FX activation
  • Gain / Filter control
  • Track navigation (similar to the SEARCH function on the DDJ-400)
  • Keylock
  • Cue point manipulation (delete/set)

These are just a few examples of the areas that the Traktor can offer. The point I wanted to make here is that secondary options using the SHIFT button are on offer on all DJ controllers.

The difference on all of the brands and models that the buttons are presented differently and some do differ slightly in functionality.

TIP: Before buying any DJ controller make sure you experiment on all of the DJ controllers that you’re interested in purchasing. Go to a shop or find a friend that has one that you like. It’s highly worth doing this instead of wasting your money.

More Information

Here’s a very detailed user manual that Traktor have put together for this particular model, Traktor S2 MK2. It might be too detailed to be honest but at least it gives you the exact controls of how to use the SHIFT button secondary options.


Something so simple can activate a whole wealth of different options and settings on your DJ controller. The more you look at the functionality and design features of DJ controllers the more amazing they are. The value you can get out of DJ controllers, especially for the low end budget controllers is fantastic.

I honestly believe that DJ controllers are going to give new DJs and existing DJs the capabilities to learn, grow and become better DJs very quickly.

I’ve mentioned before too that DJs are going to become more performance based due to the performance pads and FX to help manipulate music and sound to the benefit of the audience.

Related Questions

What are DJ Controllers used for?

DJ controllers are used by DJs to play music. Music is controlled by two turntables located on a DJ controller. In between each turntable is mixer which allows the DJ to mix two music tracks together continuously for extended periods of time, for example 60 minutes.

How do you key lock on rekordbox?

Rekordbox has a button on each turntable highlighted as “MT”, this stands for Master Tempo. Key lock means that the tempo does not change if the jog wheel on each turntable is moved clockwise or anti-clockwise.

Do I need a mixer with my DJ controller?

No, it’s not essential to purchase or acquire a mixer with a DJ controller because there’s a build in mixer already within the DJ controller itself. Depending on your speaker setup you may require an external multi-channel mixer to connect the DJ controller to which then plays to four speakers. For example DJ booth monitors and speakers for the audience.

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