Cue points were something that I utilised in the early days of my DJing without really knowing the terminology “cue point”. I used to say “lining up the track” or beat, usually on the kick drum of the first beat of a record vinyl. Needless to say knowing what a cue point is and how to use them to your advantage is an essential DJing technique.
What are Cue Points in DJing? A cue point is an audible marker on a music track ready for playback. DJs can “cue” up a new track ready to be mixed into another track currently playing live. Cue points can be marked using stickers placed onto a record vinyl or set and triggered using DJ software.
If you’ve been following my blog then you’ll know I started ages ago DJing with record vinyls. As time went on I got stuck into the hybrid of digital and vinyls, a DVS Serato setup, this is when I got to know all about setting cue points. Here are some great points and tips I’d like to share with you regarding cue points in Serato and cue points in general.
Cue Points in DJing
As mentioned cue points can help DJs know where the first beat of a track is, whether it be on a record vinyl or digital track being played from DJ software. When performing live in a club, bar or even recording a mix, cue points come in very useful to speed up efficiency of “cueing’ up tracks ready to be mixed into other tracks playing live.
Multiple cue points can be set on a music track, if using a record vinyl you can use a few stickers placed in between the audio grooves of a vinyl and the middle sticker. A tip here is to find the first beat on the vinyl using the needle and stylus, then carefully place the sticker in the location advised above.
Many cue points can be set when using DJ software, such as Serato or Traktor. In the case of Serato you can setup up to around 4 to 8 cue points, depending on the software and options selected. This gives great flexibility in picking different cue points and also greater options to drop in music tracks at desired points that suit other tracks you want to mix with.
For example a cue point can be set half way through an intro if it’s too long, or a cue point could be set on the first beat of the drop (the chorus).
Why Set Cue Points?
My opinion of why DJs use cue points is to do with a few necessary key areas.
Organisation & Preparation
Preparing a track to be mixed is essential if you want to be quick a cueing up the next track. It’s really helpful for DJs in genres that mix quickly, for example Hip Hop there’s sometimes the use of a lot of samples being dropped in and out of a mix and also used for scratching samples too.
Improves Knowledge of Your Music Library
Detailed knowledge of the tracks in your set lists are critical if you want to mix quickly and efficiently. Cue points generally allow DJs to get to know their tracks better by setting cue points at specific time stamps throughout a track. This certainly benefits if tracks are being used for looping reasons too.
Speed & Efficiency of Cueing up Tracks
DJ software has made it remarkably easy for you to jump to a specific point in a music track using cue points. Simply with a click of a cue point button it’s possible to jump to the time stamp of that audio. This is not a luxury that vinyl DJs had in the past.
How to Use Cue Points Effectively?
Name Your Hot Cues
In Serato DJ Pro, this software allows you to set and add hot cues anywhere on the music track. Once set the software gives you the ability to name and label the hot cue. This massively benefits you as a DJ because you can actually see what the purpose of the cue point is in words, as opposed to seeing a numeric time stamp.
For example, if you were to add multiple hot cues throughout a track, the first cue is obvious, it would be the “first beat” of the track. Secondly you could add one for the “breakdown” and potentially another for the “drop” (first beat of the chorus) and even a part of track for “sampling/looping” reason e.g. a vocal snippet of the track.
Colour Coding of Cue Points
If you really want to get stuck into cue points and help you be super efficient you can use colours to add to each cue point.
For me I’d advise to use the exact same colour for all cue points representative of the first beat of a track, say orange for example. That way your cue points are labelled are consistent throughout your music library. This could be replicated but for a different type of cue point such as a sample or drop, as mentioned above, using different colours to identify easily.
Set Cue Points as Outro Markers
Setting cue points can be useful to help you remember certain points throughout the track to be dropping in another track.
So for example if you’re reaching the end of the second chorus after the second drop in a track, then this is really helpful to know. Essentially the cue point is acting as a marker to drop in the next track to be mixed in.
This is also a great point to know as Serato shows a little count down bar in the turntable dial on the software for when a cue point is about to trigger. This is a useful tip for beginner DJs just learning their music tracks.
Mixed in Key Software
I’ve talked a bit about improving efficiency of you DJing with the use of cue points. Being honest with you I do find it quite a boring task to do, especially as I’m hyperactive and just excited to start mixing like a mad man. Fear not, manual boring cue point setting has been upgraded with a beautiful bit of software called “Mixed in Key”.
The software allows you to drag and drop a track from Serato for example into Mixed in Key. It then analyses the track quickly providing a wealth of information including BPM, key and most importantly cue points. When dragging and dropping a track back to Serato there will be multiple cue points at various important parts of the track. This is a brilliant hack for improving the time to set cue points across many tracks.
Additional tip here is for those DJing with a DJ controller, you may well have beat pads below each jog wheel turntable. This is another way to utilise and cue up tracks super fast, mix quicker and be creative.
Looping Sections of the Music Track
What I’ve seen other DJs do with DJ controllers is pretty cool, they use cue points for looping bars that are near a specific break down. In some cases there are 8 beat pads and you can cue up certain phrases and sections of the songs to support your mixing techniques. Also add in cue points that are closer together for performing with, it can certainly be more entertaining for listeners and fun to add a bit more of a creative edge when mixing.
Here’s an example, use cue points to loop 2 bars (so 8 beats) which will then be used to mix in with another track currently playing live. Once the new track is mixed in (the looped track) it’s then possible to decide when you want to cut off the loop with the hot cue and let the breakdown shine brightly into your audiences ears to enjoy.
I’d suggest that this might only work for specific genres or certain tracks and recommend testing this out to custom set you cue points ready for DJing live.
How do you Set Cue Points in Serato DJ Intro?
Cue points on Serato DJ are located next to the virtual decks, far left and far right of the turntables. There are buttons for all 8 cue points, or all 8 loop buttons or 4 of each. To set a cue point, click on the plus sign “+”, this will add a specific time stamp unique to the track playing or selected.
Does Serato Save Cue Points?
Serato saves cue points to each audio file, cue points are recalled for each track once loaded onto a turntable. All cue points set for each track are not lost if they are moved to a different folder or file names are edited.
How Do I Delete a Cue in Serato?
To delete a cue point in Serato, locate the cue point and click on the cross “x” button next to it. The shortcut key to delete a cue point is SHIFT + PRESS on the cue button itself within the software or using a hardware button to activate the cue point. Both methods delete a single cue point.