25 October 2011

Automatic Beat Sync

First up: I believe that matching the BPMs and blending two tracks together is the most important skill of a DJ. Off cause playing the right music at the right time and looking like you’re having a good time is more value added skills if you look at it from a clubs perspective, but to call oneself a DJ and not be able to “beatmix” doesn’t add up in my book. (This is the rule of thumb for all genres, Hip hop DJ a like)

Back when Beat Keepers hit the market for the first time I actually wasn’t a big fan because newer DJs might only use the numbers as a guide and let themselves be fooled. You’ll still need to know how to match up two tracks and there are a lot of great tutorials online how to learn this. This also applies to Digital DJs. You need to learn how to beat match WITHOUT sync to really get the experience needed to be a proper DJ! All you need is practice.

One of the main issues a lot of non-digital DJs have with DJ software is the sync functionality. Serato Scratch is probably one of the only DJ software on the market still without sync capability and I've even heard some DJ say that they will stop using Serato if they incorporate sync functionality! Tough luck! Traktor, Serato Itch, Ableton, Torq, Virtual DJ, Mixxx, Mixmeister, Mixology all have sync functionality. I believe the only option left is Pioneer Record Box, but I’m sure they’ll add it soon as well.


The sync feature for me means freeing up more time to focus on the other tasks like planning ahead, selecting the right music, testing harmonics, working the crowd, adding more sources to the mix, playing around with effects and last but not least, mixing more effectively. All in all it simply gives me more time to focus on other things and giving the crowd more by upping my game. Just beatmixing and playing whole 5-7 minutes tracks wouldn’t be very interesting.

In conclusion:
  2. Sync is here to stay and is a very powerful tool. 
  3. Use the free time added by upping your game! 
  4. If you don’t like it: DON’T USE IT!

23 October 2011

Revisit: Shortcuts for the prep!

One of the very important things to do before any gig is to do run through of your music collection and do the picks for the night. You sit down with Traktor, Go to the Track Collection and start running through the list. This might take alot of time as you probably got alot of tracks in there and during this routine it is REALY imporant to be efficient! I've created an efficient shortcut setup that will enable you to do this very quickly.

Before you start:
Set the internal soundcard as you Monitor soundcard. This is done under Setup > Audio Setup. Select the internal soundcard of your computer. Go to Setup > Output routing and select the soundcard channels to be rounted to the internal monitor.
Create a new playlist and mark it as your preparation playlist by right clicking and selecting the option in the dropdown menu.
You can create your own setup or download my shortcuts from here.

Set it up like this:
  Preview player: Load
  Preview player: Back (Increment: Normal)
  Preview Player: Forward (Increment: Small)
  Preview Player: Forward (Increment: Big)
  Add to Playlist
  Browse: Up
  Browse: Down

Now you can easily rest your left pinky on the | (Pipe) key for loading tracks into the preview player, left ring finger on 1 will skip back in the track and your midle finger and index finger will be on 2 key and 3 key for jumping forward.
Your thumb is resting on the space button and if you come across a track you like you simply add it to your preparation playlist.
Your right hand will controll the up and down buttons for the list and the thumb will also rest on the space button.
You'll save HOURS on doing it this way.

Alternativly clicking the S4 browse button down you will load the track into the preview player. Once playing you can rotate the knob for scanning through the track. Click the browse button again to stop the preview player playback.


Problems with Traktor Pro 2.1.1 and Kontrol S4

I've downloaded the latest update for Traktor Pro 2 (2.1.1) and tried it out this weekend. There are a couple of new features that I've enjoyed (like the keying of samples and selecting which to process by effects), but there is also a great setback when it comes to the general performance of the software.
I tried out the software on the internal soundcard before I did my gig and didn't experience any problems. But when I got to the gig and connected my S4  the CPU load was through the roof.
Probably because my computer has the i7 processor Traktor didn't have any glitches so I just played the whole night with the WARNING light blinking on my S4!
I looked at the NI forum to see if anybody else was experiencing the same thing. There where quite alot of posts about other problems with the 2.1.1 update, but not direcly the same. Then I remembered that I had a similar experience when I bought the S4 and used the S4 software (Pre Traktor Pro 2). What I did then was to switch soundcard from the S4 built-in soundcard with my trusted Audio 8 DJ and voila CPU load dropped and didn't show much stress even when playing with 10 audio sources, all keyed and running 4 x 3 effects. Still... Pretty important.
All in all the new 2.1.1 update is a step forward, but I guess, since they've altered the architecture, that some old ghosts come back to haunt us.

Always bring along a back-up soundcard!

Lessons learned:
  • When upgrading your software you should try the system out before you do the gig with EVERYTHING connected as it would durring the performance. Do a stress test on the system.
  • If the S4 gives you trouble with high CPU loads... Try using another soundcard.

I guess this also would go for those of you who recently puchased the Native Instruments Kontrol S2 aswell.

13 October 2011

Misconceptions about Traktor by Serato DJs

I recently visited New York and LA and almost every DJ there used Serato, so I had to ask what the deal was and what they knew of Traktor. The answers I got varied from the standard "It's for house DJs" to "It's for beginners only".

I noticed that the DJs at Empire Hotell, New York used Serato. I didn't think very much about the platform at that time cause the guy was on fire. However, when the DJ the next day also used Serato, I thought that it might just be the club. But when I got to Hollywood the same thing was going on there. Only Serato all the way. First guy I talked to was playing on one of LAs hottest clubs: Drais (At the W Hollywood) and his response to why he was using Serato was that Traktor was for House DJs.
I went to Guitar Center the next day and there was this guy hamering it out on an NS7. I asked if he had tried Traktor and he looked at me and said that Traktor was for beginners and that I should talk to this other guy, so I talked had a longer discussion with one of the Sales Associates on DJ gear at Guitar Center Hollywood. He had been DJing for some time himself and was very well versed in digital DJing. He said that Traktor was an Ok system but he perfered Serato mainly because it was more streamlined for R'n'B and Rap and that Traktor had a to busy interface.

So let's have a look at the misconceptions of American DJs and let me explain why they are so wrong:

"It's for beginners only"
I you concider Grand Master Flash, Carl Cox, DJ Sasha or DJ Craze beginners, then the answer is yes. But then you're probably one of the few that has been DJing for more then 40 years. The system is used by thousends of DJs in clubs and on the big stage all over the world every day.

"The interface is to busy"

Is it??

I did a cleanup on my interface and came to this simple layout. It's not very busy and pretty simple compared to alot of other systems out there.

"It's for House DJs"
Well yes. It's for House DJs. If I only played House I would most likely conclude that Traktor is the right selection due to the wide pick of effects and solid beatgridding system.
But is it ONLY for House DJs? No.
DJs like DJ Craze, DJ Rafik, DJ Shiftee and Grand Master Flash is among the DJs who actually use Traktor when performing (and most lightly not just for the money cause I haven't seen them use other systems).
There are however no videos proclainming Serato as the best platform. Atleast not in English. :)
Bottom Line
I believe that the ones that say Traktor isn't very good simply hasn't tried it.. In the end it's got alot to do with what you are used to. If you started with Serato, you probably won't like the Traktor interface. If you started with Traktor , you probably won't enjoy the Serato interface. However.... I can't see all that many reasons to switch from Serato to Traktor, but I can see alot of reasons to go from Traktor to Serato.
Traktor has:
  • Better sounding Algorithm.
  • Higher resolution on DVS.
  • More features and effects.
  • One system with options for Turntablists AND Controllerists.
  • Way more options when it comes to configuring the interfaces.
Case closed.
But let's give credit where credit is due:
I realy like the smart crates, track marking and some other general browser features for Serato which I hope and believe will be ported to Traktor within a short timeframe.
The Numark NS7 is a super interface for turntablists.
Serato can work with video (If you get the right equipment). Traktor can only work with music... :(