Last Night an LJ saved my life.
November 14, 2005 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Traditionally, (video) a DJ uses two turntables, but recently a series of new products has challenged the primacy of vinyl. While local record shops have been closing left and right, online stores have begun offering digital downloads. One digital-only outlet recently sold their 1,000,000th mp3. And now, a new store has taken the DJ completely out of the equation by making mix cds on demand.
posted by empath (59 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ace post. Cheers.
posted by nthdegx at 10:35 AM on November 14, 2005

This is my first post so take it easy on me, please.

I encourage everyone to download a couple of mp3s from one of those sites and try the ableton demo that I linked to. It's fully functional, aside from not being able to save or export anything. Going through the tutorial should be enough to have you mixing like a pro in a few minutes.

DJing used to be an expensive and time-consuming hobby (believe me, I've spent thousands of dollars on records and equipment), but now anybody with a laptop can mix as well as 90% of vinyl djs with only an hour or so of practice.

For the first time in a few years, I'm excited about what the future is going to bring to dance music as the kids that are coming up now using all digital technology really start to push the boundaries of what's possible instead of mimicking what's been done already on vinyl.
posted by empath at 10:36 AM on November 14, 2005

Wow. Just wow. Great FPP! (would read again, A+++)
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:39 AM on November 14, 2005

Some videos demonstrating what can be done with digital manipulation live:

CDJ + FX1000 sound effects board

Beatboxing with ableton live

Sasha and Digweed using Ableton live in a club
posted by empath at 10:41 AM on November 14, 2005

just as good as diamonds

Real Weighted Hammer Action II for true grand piano touch

indistinguishable from the original

I guess since turntables is fake music to begin with, nobody will care if you make a fake version of it.
posted by nervousfritz at 10:49 AM on November 14, 2005

Nice FPP empath. Most Big name DJs have abandoned most of their vinyl, (primarily for travel reasons, it's much easier to carry CDs than vinyl, and when you travel as much as they do, it's understandable.)

Sasha uses Ableton exclusively, and while I'm not a huge fan of Sasha, he's definitely pushing the limits.

The new breed of CDJ has introduced with it a whole new family of turntable tricks to drop into the mix. Simply go to a show with Carl Cox or Roger Sanchez to see some of the headliners leverage that technology.

Time signature scratch software (i.e Final Scratch) has allowed older DJs to make the digital transition, its primary advantage being that you can find older songs on CD much easier than vinyl (Try looking for some old family stone or parliment records sometime!). Also, always comes out on CD, being easier to mass product. Of course, the portability factor as well.

However, I'd like to state IMHO opinion: Nothing sounds like vinyl, nothing. I've seen and tried all most all the alternatives, and the warm bass off a needle and vinyl does make a difference.
posted by djdrue at 10:54 AM on November 14, 2005

Ableton Live is ridiculously good software. I think it's the only sequencer / virtual studio that was designed by musicians (Monolake, basically)
posted by fleetmouse at 10:55 AM on November 14, 2005

And now, a new store has taken the DJ completely out of the equation by making mix cds on demand.

Depends on what you want out of a dj. If it's just simple beatmatch and transition from one song to another, then yes, that can be accomplished with digital software. But this doesn't even scratch the surface of the turntablism (see beat juggling, scratching, etc), on the fly pitch adjustments, or even the intracacies of equalizer adjustment during playing.

Granted, software packages like Ableton enable people to do some pretty cool stuff - but it's like using Reason to program MIDI files with your mouse rather than playing a keyboard. It lacks the direct on the fly creativity that a record and crossfader at your fingertips allows.

Also, beatmatching is fine if your dealing with something with a constant BPM, but if your ever mixing anything that was recorded with a live drum, it's not quite as easy. Anyways, I'd like to see anyone's software package top my Tears for Fear's Head Over Heels -> Audio Two's Top Billin' mix.

Bring it.
posted by iamck at 11:17 AM on November 14, 2005

Some videos demonstrating what can be done with analog manipulation live:

DMC World DJ Championships, 2001-2005
posted by eddydamascene at 11:18 AM on November 14, 2005

fritz, I know you're trolling, but I'll bite.

Music is nothing more than the manipulation of sound over time. The instrument that the DJ plays isn't the record, but the club sound system, and on a good night, the club audience. He's as much a musician as the conductor of an orchestra is, who neither writes music, nor plays an instrument.

The products I listed in this post merely lessen the need to learn technique, but they don't eliminate the need for artistry and creativity, they make it easier to be creative.

DJs playing on vinyl are limited, generally, to playing 2 records simultaneously and very rarely 3 or 4, for short periods of time. They're limited to basically playing those records in the way they were recorded to vinyl, and can only beatmatch records that were recorded at a certain tempo, and usually try to play records that are 'in key' with each other.

With the new software, those limitations are blown away. You don't have to spend several seconds 'beatmatching' before you can start to mix. You can adjust the pitch of records to force them into compatible keys, you can remix records on the fly, you can play a near infinite number of 'tracks' simultaneously. You can play live instruments and loop them, edit them and add effects to them instantly. BT does all of this during his 'laptop symphony' tours.

IMO, at some point, you're not even DJing any more, you're just a musician.
posted by empath at 11:18 AM on November 14, 2005

Have you used Ableton, iamck? Or looked into any of the MIDI controllers that have be designed explicitly for use with Ableton? Any MIDI instrument can be assigned to any function within Ableton on-the-fly.

Truly amazing software. One of the most intuitive music software suites I've ever encountered, too.
posted by kableh at 11:20 AM on November 14, 2005


I actually agree with everything you just said. The automated mixing I think is kind of a joke, really, even though I was impressed by what that site was able to do.

Using the new software just makes it easier to get into the intricacies of djing because you don't have to worry about constantly adjusting the vinyl to keep it in sync. You have more time to play with eqs and all the fun effects that come with ableton.

There are, btw, midi controllers that you can use with ableton, as you can see if in the sasha/digweed video I posted. You don't dj live with ableton using a keyboard and mouse.
posted by empath at 11:22 AM on November 14, 2005

But you can! It's not that hard to do some live mixing with the normal computer essentials with Ableton, but the right hardware definitely helps. Allen and Heath's Xone series of mixers that double as MIDI controllers are crazy and I'd love the opportunity to play around with one. That said, turntablism in the form of scratching and playing directly with a turntable and vinyl aren't going to transition -- when the actualy equipment is your instrument, you're not going to throw it out the window.

Great post, empath.
posted by mikeh at 11:33 AM on November 14, 2005

Wow, empath, that beat boxing video was incredible =D
posted by kableh at 11:33 AM on November 14, 2005

Live now supports true realtime looping. Excellent program.
posted by Rothko at 11:42 AM on November 14, 2005

He's as much a musician as the conductor of an orchestra is, who neither writes music, nor plays an instrument.

Hmm. I know symphony conductors who can take an orchestral score with 20 different lines of music on it, some of the parts in transposed keys and different clefs, and play a decent version of it on the piano. Think we're trying too hard here to be taken seriously?
posted by QuietDesperation at 11:42 AM on November 14, 2005

empath, I know I'm just trolling along with fritz, but I used to hear keyboard salesmen twenty years ago say "If you close your eyes it sounds just like a real grand piano" when of course it didn't (BTW, on the sam ash site they spell it "reel")...and, really, I have no beef with turntablism and whatever this would be called...but all conductors do play at least one instrument, although not at the same time they're doing their baton-waving gig.

It's all good, and I don't want to turn this into a "who's a real musician thread" cuz everybody sounds excited about this and I probably would too if I weren't such an old fart...I just can't help but think that there's something essentially different about producing music with wood and steel and fingers than there is about DJing...I ain't saying one is better than the other -- I even buy DJ mixes -- all right, I'll stop kvetching now; I know I don't know what I'm talking about.
posted by kozad at 11:49 AM on November 14, 2005

I think the problem is that you want djing and electronic music to sound like something else, whereas, I'm perfectly happy for it to sound like electronic music.

The video about the Roland-303 that's been posted here more than once is a perfect example. It sucked as a bass guitar simulator, but it was amazing at making NEW sounds that nothing else could.

And yes, I was reaching on the conductor reference. I was mainly pointing out that you CAN be a musician without actually playing an instrument or composing. DJs who take their craft seriously end up as 'producers' not peformers; although with electronic music, it's hard to seperate performance from composition, engineering, production and recording. You usually do all of them simultaneously.
posted by empath at 12:03 PM on November 14, 2005

I've been a vinyl DJ for 8 years or so, and I'm a couple months into my transition to digital, using ableton. Totally pleased with it so far. The members of MefiSwap Teal will be the lucky(?) recipients of my first mix CD put together with ableton.

I've used it at one real party (~300 people) so far, with great success, though it did make it clear to me that I have a lot more work to do in perfecting my controller mapping - I do still spend too much time on the mouse! All mixing, eq, and effects, however, I control with one of these. Now I just need to figure out how to best control the clip browsing and launching from an external controller, and I'll be set. (BTW, any live experts out there know how to ADD a clip to a slot through midi control or external scripting?)

Regarding the impact on the creative process, I for one am more than happy to give up the task of keeping records beatmatched manually. It's not something that added any creative control from my point of view (I'm not a beat juggler, more of a smooth mixer), whereas it did add considerable risk and mental overhead.

The biggest challenge so far? Resisting the urge to keep adding more layers of sound. Just because I CAN, doesn't mean it's always a good idea.
posted by jeffj at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2005


this is the problem with DJing - how do you define DJ? Some DJs just play music, fade out, and play another record. Some DJs mix electronic records and beatmatch, and fade. Some DJs mix, but mix quickly, and do on the fly pitch adjustments. Some DJs don't mix at all, and are amazing at manipulating records for making sounds.

Basically, the problem is that there is no definition of DJ, except that a turntable is involved. And some people play the turntable like a saxaphone, others don't ever consider the possibility.
posted by iamck at 12:06 PM on November 14, 2005

Once in a while, I'll put together a long mix for parties or whatever using MixMeister, a prog that mixes sound files, beatmatches them and converts the whole thing into an .mp3 (or whatever type of) file. It's not like I really have the whole thing sussed, but for a novice like me it's satisfying to come up with a nice mix of things that'll work together. It's not the same as ableton, I think, as it seems to be too unweildy to use to piece together individual samples, but for complete songs it's good.
I've also poked around with Tracktion a bit which seems to be ok... what are people's opinons/comparisons on them? (ableton vs. Tracktion vs. ...?)
posted by Zack_Replica at 12:16 PM on November 14, 2005

Keeping the adroit use of decks in the picture, I've seen a turntablist rockin' Serato Scratch Live for awhile now and the sound is great with inaudible delay. The queue up and real time UI of the turntables is simply amazing.
posted by hywel at 12:26 PM on November 14, 2005

fritz, I know you're trolling, but I'll bite.

Hopefully in a good natured, productive way. I agree with what you wrote.
posted by nervousfritz at 12:36 PM on November 14, 2005

Even though nothing still beats the SL-1200 in terms of tactile response and "feel", the CDJ comes close.

Also the cue points are pretty dope. I need to get another one.
posted by wakko at 12:57 PM on November 14, 2005

I generally get very annoyed with these types of discussions, and become highly agitated at grouping DJ's and musicians under the same umbrella. If a DJ is a musician, then a projectionist is a filmmaker.

But, as a side note, that kid-beyond is simply amazing, and has a talent, as unusual and unconventional as it may be.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:27 PM on November 14, 2005

If a DJ is a musician, then a projectionist is a filmmaker.

A projectionist that could cut several times a second would be a filmmaker, no doubt.
posted by eddydamascene at 1:33 PM on November 14, 2005

Some of the most interesting musicians / DJs are guys like Philip Jeck who use a couple of beat up turntables and primitive effects. The Songs for Europe collaboration with Jeck and Janek Shaefer consisted of traveling to Turkey and Greece, finding old scratchy vinyl and mixing it up in a gorgeous po-mo "DJ set".

Are they musicians? Are they DJs? Or are they something new made possible by a confluence of imagination and technology?

Whatever the heck they're doing it turns my knob more than anything I've heard from traditional musicians lately.
posted by fleetmouse at 1:36 PM on November 14, 2005

There's not a whole lot to say here that hasn't already been said, but I would like to re-emphasize that Ableton's Live 5 is (in the best possible way) blurring/blending the arts of live performance, djing, and production. The potential is pretty astounding if you are paying attention to these artforms.

Also for what it's worth, I recommend Traktor for more straight up djing, and DanceTracksDigital for more jazzy/soulful side of electronic sounds.

Great first post man! This area seldom gets covered here, because somebody always disses it without giving it any sort of fair perspective. So, thanks.
posted by Rattmouth at 1:43 PM on November 14, 2005

Does anyone have some good Live tutorials bookmarked? I'd love to play with it some more.
posted by rfordh at 2:11 PM on November 14, 2005

If a DJ is a musician, then a projectionist is a filmmaker.

To stretch the analogy even further to DJs like Jeff Mills who carries a 3 projectors and plays 3 films at once, cutting rapidly between films, in perfect syncronisation to artistic effect, with a lot of the spools of film created by the projectionist himself out of various abstract/geometric video elements with this method of presentation in mind. Then gets flak by cinema purists because it doesn't look anything like "citizen kane"
posted by zog at 2:11 PM on November 14, 2005

Great post, the vids were particularly enjoyable. For my 2 cents on the "are DJs musicians" debate, are people who make music without instruments musicians? What about electronic musicians who build music out of samples (Aphex Twin or Portishead for example)? Are musicians who have their music and lyrics written and produced for them by other people still musicians (think Madonna or Brittany Spears here). I think in the end you can relate to it as music or not and decide for yourself what intrinsic value it has, but what's the point of dissing someone else's art? (in a feeble attempt to steer back to the original topic, I think this same consideration has to apply to the whole vinyl vs. digital, is it really DJing debate as well, despite my love for vinyl).
posted by YurikoKinje at 2:11 PM on November 14, 2005

I generally get annoyed at elistist snobs who get their jollies telling other people their taste in music sucks or that someone isn't a musician.

Have you ever seen/heard Kid Koala, Coldcut, DJ Shadow, Q-Bert, any of the great turntablists practicing their craft?

Then again, there's still a train of thought that "rap isn't music" that's been going around for the past 20 years. Some things never change.
posted by kableh at 2:36 PM on November 14, 2005

The whole digital thing is great, except that it makes me sad.

I really like just playing records to dancing people. It's fun.

But I like the visceral experience of it: pulling out a record, queueing it up, looking at the patterns on the vinyl track to make sure the timing works and there aren't any stupid huge breakdowns I've forgotten about. Flipping through a crate while bouncing along to the last thing I put on. Moving the record back and forth across the needle to find a good place to drop in on.

I just loooove doing that. (Or did when I was finding music I enjoyed, and was getting bookings at parties that had both good energy AND good music. But that's a different story). But doing it on a computer, or with CDJs, has just never appealed to me in the slightest.

I don't have a problem with the people that DO like it: they're doing with DJing than I ever did. But on a purely selfish level, it makes me sad because I can be relatively sure I'll never get a booking again.
posted by flaterik at 2:39 PM on November 14, 2005

but what's the point of dissing someone else's art

I did no such thing. I only point out that they are DIFFERENT from one another. I admit, from the very beginning, that my argument is mostly a semantic one. But that doesn't make it any less valid, when semantics are the issue.

The beatbox guy is a very interesting situation. Is he a musician? I would say yes, in as much as a singer is. But DJ's are not musicians, they are DJs. Conversely, if a DJ is a musician, then so is someone who sits at a player piano.

Those that keep pounding the table that DJs are musicians are trying to lend it some sort of credibility that basically it doesn't need. Those that scream the loudest obviously feel that being a DJ is not sufficient on its own, and must assign another label to it to make it more legitimate. This betrays them much more than any pronouncements I might make about them not being musicians.

Painters are not sculptors. Can the two overlap? Certainly. But one is not necessarily a subset, nor a superset, of the other. They can exist wholly without one another just fine. Why force a dependency or relationship when it is not necessary?

There are DJs who are simply phenomenal at their craft, and they are certainly talented individuals. But just because they are talented at something related to music does not make them musicians.

On Preview: kableh, it's not elitist to look at an apple and say it is an apple, even though others keep insisting it is an orange. Being a musician is not BETTER than being a DJ, it's DIFFERENT than being a DJ.

Surely someone out there sees the difference.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:43 PM on November 14, 2005

The biggest challenge so far? Resisting the urge to keep adding more layers of sound. Just because I CAN, doesn't mean it's always a good idea.
- jeffj

I don't think this is unique to digital/computerized music. As a composer, there's always that urge to add more, more - but yeah - it's just so much easier with these programs.
This is why artists like Kraftwerk and Reinhard Voigt are so impressive to me - they do so much with so little, and it comes across as effortless. But a lot of work goes into their minimalism. So I try to not resist the urge to add, but likewise don't resist the need to trim away the fat. You definitely have to swallow some pride when you find out that awesome bassline just doesn't work with the rest of the arrangement.

While everyone else is showing off their toys, I'm excited about my purchase today: the Powermate. So much easier than having to set the controller every time.

On preview - rfordh, Live has a decent tutorial built in, not sure if it comes with the demo version though.

And FWIW, who really cares what "real" musicians think of DJs/electronic musicians? It's such an old and boring argument. Turntable manipulation has been around for 30+ years - let them figure it out. It's its own thing (as Ynoxas says), and more punk rock than "real" or "true" punk rockers will ever admit.
posted by hellbient at 3:01 PM on November 14, 2005

I started DJing techno/acid/house about 93-94.

I have to say that Traktor and Ableton are already the present and future of DJing. Here's a live mix I did in Traktor 2.5. It's as 'live' as any vinyl session could be. There's no beat grid programming, no post editing, no post processing, no cuts, no multitrack, etc. The tempo/pitch control is all manual via keyboard and mouse. I favor extremely long mixes and blends with attention to EQ control, live loops and edits and creative blending and syncing techniques.

That mix in particular is a rough practice/jam session for an upcoming mix CD release, and was primarily posted for my friend and contact to listen to and critique. I have many others that exceed the technical qualities of the one, but in the interest of timeliness I'll just leave the one that's there up, raw and unpolished. (Which is to say I'm not entirely happy with some of the track choices, sequences and mixes, but there's no total trainwrecks there. YMMV)

The first turntables I ever tried beat matching on was a mismatched pair consisting of a Technics 1200 Mk2 and a Technics 1500. The 1500 is not a DJs turntable, instead of a pitch control slider it had a 3 button digital control that incremented or decremented pitch 0.1% per click, or reset pitch to 0% in one click. The mixer was an old Autogram Broadcast Radio mixer with these huge rotary knobs and no crossfade. To do a crossfade, you'd spin both dials with one hand, one going up and one going down. Non-optimal to say the least.

Previously I had DJed (or tried to, anyway) with portable tape recorders that had tiny little pitch dials on them, with reel-to-reels and more.

Later I gained access to the station's mobile DJ rig with a matched (though beaten up) pair of 1200s and a proper DJ mixer, and access to the station's vinyl library. I literally ended up living there learning how to DJ over the next few years.

I've also done techno-style beatmatched DJing on floating belt drive tables, such as the Technics 200SL models with tiny little rotary knobs for pitch controls. Anyone who has done much DJing knows about the challenges posed by using this kind of cruft as a rig - it's vastly more difficult to get a sync lock between two tracks.

The whole argument of "A DJ is/isn't a musician" is valid, but often mis-argued. It's not an either-or argument at all. Most DJs are more like conductors in a sense, in that they orchestrate the seamless flow between multiple tracks (or movements) to make a single cohesive song (or symphony) out of them while controlling the tempo and tone of the overall work.

A fair amount of the extremely popular "mainstream" electronic dance music DJs barely do any mixing or remixing at all, relying on window mixing the tracks between beatless or ambient-ish intro-outro segments. These people I wouldn't call musicians, except in exceptional cases.

Many other DJs actually work for the title of musician, even those in the techno/dance realm that don't fit the definition of "turntablist" in the hip-hop sense. Jeff Mills, Carl Cox, Carl Craig, Surgeon, Richie Hawtin and many, many more.

These people I would call musicians, and challenge all comers to a knife fight to the death if they disagree. It's just as insulting and ignorant to make the blanket statement "DJs are never musicians" as it would be to have said 50 years ago "Electric guitar / rock and roll artists are not musicians" or even "Punk rock isn't music, it's just noise."

There's a fine art to beatmatching, blending and mixing. It triggers the same addictive brain response that playing music live does, and many of these DJs are also live, instrument playing musicians themselves, whether live, in studio or on a computer.

Again, this isn't a black or white binary argument. A DJ can be simply a track selector on one mix and an artist/musician on the next, all in the same session. It needs to be analyzed on a case-by-case basis.

If you enjoy it, it's music. If the sum-total exceeds the individual parts and components and produces something new, it's music.

It also needs to be said that a DJ who doesn't acknowledge the music and tracks being used as the basis, backbone and source of their work is worse than a fool. I have only scorn for these sorts of DJs.

The dividing line between DJ and live artist is rapidly shrinking and has been for some time. Richie Hawtin has incorporated synths, sequencers and drum machines alongside turntables and traditional DJing for years and years now. With Ableton Live even more people are blurring the lines and creating whole new territories and landscapes, entirely new geographies of music and expression.

And even better, with new technologies the dividing lines between musician, DJ and audience is shrinking as well. Shrinking away into non-existence. Perhaps in the near or far future instead of a single DJ at a dance party providing one sound source to many it'll be every single person there helping to create, shape, mold and direct the music being heard and appreciated.

I would argue that that it's this promise of a "shrinking gap" that has driven electronic and experimental music so fast and so far - the promise of the death of the radio star and the rise of everyman - the promise of Do It Yourself and Hands On - the promise of new and greater forms of communication and musical sharing - the promise of a return to creative tribalism, of musical Stone Soup philosophies re-remembered and newly realized.

And that's fucking rock-and-roll and punk rock at it's finest.
posted by loquacious at 3:02 PM on November 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

Awesome post. I sold my 1200s about five years ago and I've always missed them (but not regretted the decision -- who could keep buying that much vinyl?)

I tried some early MP3 mixers but found them too primitive. Thanks for the reminder to check out the new state of the art.
posted by nev at 3:08 PM on November 14, 2005

Hey Ynoxas, way to ignore everything in this thread.
posted by iamck at 3:09 PM on November 14, 2005

Do It Yourself and Hands On

As loquacious probably knows from seeing me running around working on sound gear at parties that had none of my gear, this was a HUGE factor in my interest in the electronic music scene.

I've noticed that I quickly get bored at Professionally Produced Events, because there'll be nothing for me to help with. And there'll be security that'll probably care if I duck behind the rack and tell the sound guys what'll fix the problem they're having I'm almost offended at how many times I've done that. I'd stop if I wasn't right all the time!

I have very little hope that this will actually translate into the music. It's a really interesting concept, and I'm sure the thought has been around for as long as the concept of the rave dj as the anti-rock star. But that idea rapidly evaporated as law enforcement started to actually be effective at breaking up parties, and the "scene" went either so far underground that it lost vitality or so far above ground that it... lost vitality.

I hope I'm wrong. I'd love to see the audience particpating in the music in some way other than "the DJ is good and can play the crowd.". But at the moment I'm far too cynical to thing that more people would play along than destroy things.
posted by flaterik at 3:18 PM on November 14, 2005

flaterik, with regards to your comment earlier in the thread - amen. I will absolutely miss those things, and can only hope that new tactile experiences will arise to take their place. One small reason for optimism is that there is now much more capacity to customize one's performance gear than there was before, though it's difficult to see how the sheer physicality of flipping through your crate and pulling out *the one* can ever be matched.
posted by jeffj at 3:28 PM on November 14, 2005

Agreed, flaterik. Good to see you on MeFi and not just on SCR. ;) That's one of the things that got me into dance/electronic as well. I quickly discovered that there was usually just so much chaos and mayhem at a loft/warehouse/outdoor party that you could just dive right in and help out. And make friends. And geek out, and all that. I love watching a soundstage arise out in the middle of nowhere, as if by magic. Making spaces, folding space, kicking up dust and warping time. Optimal experiences, they call it.

Yeah, I miss the tactility of vinyl. I don't miss lugging records around. I don't miss dust and scratches and physical media. But I miss the memory aid the physicality of vinyl provides. As I DJ in Traktor I find myself struggling to remember what tracks are where and how they fit into my collection of tracks as a whole.

But I love how I have my Traktor rig set up. Just keyboard and mouse, with a hotkey layout that simulates the functions of a CD DJ rig with pitch bends and increments, mutes, punches, EQ kills and tweaks all mapped to one hand. I can do shit in Traktor with one hand I couldn't even do if I had eight arms and a meth addiction.
posted by loquacious at 3:37 PM on November 14, 2005

As I DJ in Traktor I find myself struggling to remember what tracks are where and how they fit into my collection of tracks as a whole.

Ironically enough, this is both something that I struggle with as well (in ableton), and one of the reasons that I wanted to go digital in the first place.

Physical records, by their nature, can only be organized in a single linear arrangement. With a bit of grouping and labelling, you can superimpose a tree-like structure on this linearity.

However, even a tree is a pretty lousy way to organize a very complex dataset, where each entity might want to be rated on many axes (houseness vs. technoness vs. goaness), and hold many relationships to other entities (this track mixes well with these 4 other tracks).

A fully digital collection, though, with the right interface, can present all of these relationships to the user. I'm not aware of any software that solves this problem currently. I've dreamt for a while of writing it myself, though it's almost certainly one of those projects that I will never find the time for.
posted by jeffj at 3:55 PM on November 14, 2005

On the touch and feel front, has anyone tried out on of these? (or something similar) I can't imagine they're the same, but are they worth messing with?

Ynoxas: I wasn't trying to say you were dissing. It's cool man.

"if I had eight arms and a meth addiction." (^_^)!!
posted by YurikoKinje at 4:01 PM on November 14, 2005

As I DJ in Traktor I find myself struggling to remember what tracks are where and how they fit into my collection of tracks as a whole.

Ironically enough, this is both something that I struggle with as well (in ableton), and one of the reasons that I wanted to go digital in the first place.

My biggest problem with this is I'd often remember that the one with the half yellow label on one side with an eye on the other side went great with the one on siesta with the green side when moving up-energy, and so on. I have lots of visual memory cues, and that just doesn't translate well to pure text.

There's also the whole "stuff on the same label have similarities and if you're in a bind will probably go well together" thing. There isn't even a goddamn id3 tag for "label", and it's not something that non-EDM people even think about.

I'd feel so lost trying to spin with nothing more than an artist/trackname listing in front of me.

Yuriko: Big expensive toys like that, and things like FinalScratch, are certainly CLOSER. But everything but vinyl puts something between you and the physical media the music is on. I've always been a technical/computery type of person, and being a DJ was the one time when my artsy/hands on/visceral side really got to come out and play. It's too similar to everything else I do when that element goes away.

At that point I have more fun being the sound guy - and digital tech has even affected that. I used to have a rack with nothing but knobs. Ohhh, the knobs. I loved them so. Now I've just got a driverack PA, and while the results are much more consistent and overall just BETTER than when I was using analog components... I still miss me some knobs.

but the pink noise tuning, despite being completely automated, is still way too much goddamn fun. I don't think I'd trade the loud whooshing noises and listening to the system tune itself for knobs.
posted by flaterik at 4:16 PM on November 14, 2005

My biggest problem with this is I'd often remember that the one with the half yellow label on one side with an eye on the other side went great with the one on siesta with the green side when moving up-energy, and so on. I have lots of visual memory cues, and that just doesn't translate well to pure text.

yup. When I write my DJ database software (ie. never), the interface will be mostly visual, and then it will be time to scan all my record covers. Plus, it will auto-generate colorful and memorable covers for tracks that I don't have images for.

How am I ACTUALLY going to solve this problem, as I move forward with actually DJing digitally? I don't know yet. I'm hoping someone else will solve it for me.
posted by jeffj at 4:45 PM on November 14, 2005

It's so funny that you all bring this up, because I've struggled with that just mixing with CD's I've burned of downloaded mp3s (all legal from the sites listed above, mind you)

I usually just fit as many as I can on a cd and burn doubles, but I'm finding that I can't 'hear' the music in my head without a visual cue. I'm going to take every single one of my cds reburn them with one track per cd and actually print the cover art out from beatport to put on the label.
posted by empath at 5:37 PM on November 14, 2005

Cool post.

Being a performing/recording musician for nearly 20 years, I used to be in the "those that can't, dj" crowd. I started to learn DAW recording and working in programs like Reason, Acid, etc., and I learned a valuable lesson: anyone can learn software; the talent is understanding beats- tempo, bpm, etc., and the sonic spectrum. You can't be taught that. If you don't get it, you never will and it will show.

At the end of the day, it's all music. Different intruments, same goal, same art.
posted by mrblondemang at 6:16 PM on November 14, 2005

Wow, that Kid Beyond dude is doing what I thought of doing months ago but dismissed as infeasible. Now I just need to come up with the money for a laptop and the assorted AV equipment and I can start doing open mic nights. Time to get a job!
posted by Eideteker at 6:44 PM on November 14, 2005

eideteker: he outlines exactly the equipment he uses in one section if you listen closely, and it doesn't sound like too much to get started. He also gives what i suspect is a huge hint mentioning another software package he uses for midi mapping. It's basically a quick and dirty how-to instructional video along with a nice demo. Save that clip.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:31 PM on November 14, 2005

Sorry - where's the Kid Beyond video? I can't find it.
posted by hellbient at 9:55 PM on November 14, 2005

It's the beatboxing video a few posts into the thread :)
posted by empath at 6:31 AM on November 15, 2005

Ynoxas wrote: Painters are not sculptors. Can the two overlap? Certainly. But one is not necessarily a subset, nor a superset, of the other. They can exist wholly without one another just fine. Why force a dependency or relationship when it is not necessary?

mu·si·cian ( P ) Pronunciation Key (my-zshn)
One who composes, conducts, or performs music, especially instrumental music.

A violinist is a musician, and a percussionist is a musician, but a violinist isn't a percussionist and vis versa. Painters and sculptors are both artists in the same fashion. Someone who simply plays a record or song is not a musician because they are not creating music, they are a manual jukebox. A DJ is someone who uses recordings of other musicians to create new and different music. Their instrument is a turntable, CD player, or computer. Turntablists even use other parts of their instrument to create unique music (as shown in the main link of this FPP). They compose their music either on the fly or preplanned (like sheet music), conduct their music by monitoring their devices (in my opinion, this is much easier than conducting an orchestra), and perform their music as any other musician would.

A DJ is a musician.
posted by cleverusername at 8:11 AM on November 15, 2005

Oh well, I'm a day late on the dj thread. Looks like I'm also the only mefi dj who is still clinging to my precious vinyl and not yet ready to make the digital switch. For me the loss of audio quality and the loss of the physical tactile user friendly interface are not yet surpassed by the convenience of digital. Plus I still feel compelled to support the dying vinyl industry - once everyone goes digital, there will be no more records and the sound quality will undoubtedly go downhill (as well as listeners' ability to even discern the difference in quality) :(

I'm sure I'll join the game and make the switch eventually (although I still can't imagine trying to digitize my 1500+ records). As the software gets better and better at imitating hardware interfaces and offering new inventive features, I'm getting closer to making the switch. Especially when toys like this amazing controller start to come down in price, and when MIDI either gets a decent update or gets surpassed by OSC.
posted by p3t3 at 8:13 AM on November 15, 2005

p3t3, I'm with you on this. You'll have to pry my vinyl from my cold dead hands.
posted by iamck at 9:31 AM on November 15, 2005

Who was it wanted the Ableton Live tutorials?

As someone else said, the tutorials that come with the software are pretty good, but here's a couple of others:
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:54 AM on November 15, 2005

cleverusername: wow, if everyone had known a paste from would have solved this, you could have saved dozens of music communities endless hours of struggle.

Now, when you think of something even remotely persuasive, you might want to come back.

DJing is its own thing. It doesn't HAVE to be "the same" as a musician.

Does a musician become a DJ if they play back their own recordings? Can anyone who plays back prerecorded music be a DJ?

Oh, I bet there are all kinds of limitatons on who really gets to be called a DJ or a turntablist, aren't there?

If anyone who "makes" music is a musician, then anyone who "plays" music is a DJ. Right?

(Note: I have been both a professional musician and a professional "DJ".)
posted by Ynoxas at 1:01 PM on November 15, 2005

DJing is its own thing. It doesn't HAVE to be "the same" as a musician.

Nor does it have to be different.

/head implodes from over-semantics
posted by iamck at 2:56 PM on November 15, 2005

Painters are not sculptors, but they are both artists.
Violinists are not DJs, but they are both musicians.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:28 PM on November 15, 2005

end of argument.
posted by hellbient at 6:30 PM on November 15, 2005

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