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A controllerist using a Traktor S4 controller

Controllerism is the art and practice of using musical software controllers, e.g. MIDI, Open Sound Control (OSC), joystick, etc., to build upon, mix, scratch, remix, effect, modify, or otherwise create music, usually by a Digital DJ or "controllerist". Controllerism developed at the peak of USB MIDI controller market around the year 2000. Often on the side of virtuoso performance art, controllerism is also a nod to traditional musicianship and instrumental-ism paired with modern computer sequencing software such as Ableton Live and Native Instruments Traktor. However a working knowledge of scales and chords is not necessarily required as the performers typically focus their efforts more on sequencing events, software effect and instrument manipulations using buttons, knobs, faders, keys, foot switches and pedals than on instrumental notes played in real time. The term was coined by Matt Moldover.[1] Controllerism, starting in 2007, was popularized by Moldover and Ean Golden to describe the process while paying homage to and giving respect to the art of turntablism.[2]


Controllerism, like turntablism typically involves complex musical routines using the controller in the manner of a musical instrument rather than a simple mixer. Some DJs use turntables and controllers simultaneously, blending the two techniques.

Software and equipment[edit]

Since controllerism depends on a physical controller and a software interface, there is considerable uniqueness with equipment and personal styles among controllerists. Popular software for controllerists includes Native Instruments Traktor, Atomix Virtual DJ and Serato Scratch Live. There are alternate platforms that are less common, including Torq and Deckadance.

Hardware typically consists of a physical controller, most often a MIDI or Human interface device, often resembling a scaled-down CDJ setup (albeit, without hardware CD players). Some include built-in sound card interfaces and others rely on the PC's internal sound setup or make use of a breakout box with a sound card. Some makers of controllers include Numark Industries, Native Instruments, Vestax, Denon. Some DJ CD Players, such as the Pioneer Corporation CDJ800 and Numark MixDeck can also function as controllers. Older controllers occasionally used standard MIDI connectors, most controllers today are USB-based.

Some controllers depart from the traditional two-deck system and incorporate four decks, effects sections, or do away with the traditional deck/mixer setup altogether, using touch-screen interfaces, arcade buttons and other devices. Many DJs use turntables with timecode records to utilize a turntable in a similar manner as a controller. The software that interprets the timecode vinyl is called vinyl emulation software.

Custom controllers[edit]

Matt Moldover pioneered the construction of custom MIDI controllers in an attempt to make DJing an experience beyond that of simply two turntables and a mixer.[3] As of 2012, he's made the design and programming files of his Mojo MIDI controller open-source, along with instructions on how to build it.[4]


As controllerism gains acceptance in the DJ World and the club scenes, many controllerists have begun to collaborate and compete in the same manner that turntablists have been doing for many years in events such as in the DMC Championship. One of the first organizations to bring controllerism to the mainstream was the Midi Fight Club,[5] a tour of Controllerist and Controllerist/Turntablist DJs including such notables as DJ Shiftee, DJ Craze, Ean Golden, Miami's The Overthrow, Ed Paris, DJ Dystopic, DJ Velz, Detroit's Edison, Ryan Start, and Hedgehog.[6]

Controllerism Songs[edit]

There is evidence of controllerism songs being publicly distributed, such as the songs "Club Devious" and "Controllerism (featuring Moldover)". The aforementioned songs were created by the recording artist DJ Buddy Holly.[7][8][9]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]