Complete Beginner (Q's on Digital DJing)
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  1. #1
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    Default Complete Beginner (Q's on Digital DJing)

    Hello.

    To introduce myself, I'm a dude over in New York who composes music mainly electronically using programs like FL Studio, Ableton Live, and a few other apps. Now as much fun as it is for me to write music, I feel that if I learn to dj, it will enable me to get a much better understanding on how to mix my own tracks for a live performance. Basically the goal I have in mind is to ultimately perform all of my material through a DJ interface. Allowing me to mashup different tracks and do all that fancy footwork that without fail causes my jaw to drop.

    My question, is what do you think the best way, or method, or any advice at all would be on learning to dj using nothing but a midi controller and software. I'm pretty much broke for the moment, so I'm hoping that learning this way would force me to open up my budget for a DJ specific midi controller. I apologize if the question is vague. I've been researching, watching vids, reading threads and tuts on mixing, what gear to use, why you use it and all that jazz. Although, everything I've looked up is based on some kind of physical dj gear. Whether it be Vinyl tables, CD decks, or those mp3 decks. But as I stated, I really don't have the money at the moment to spend on two decks and a mixer...like at all.

    One key thing that I see mentioned all over the place is the importance of beat matching. Now I REALLY REALLY wanna learn how to do this, yet at the same time, all I have to do is hit sync...and there we go...well as long as the tempo detected is correct (I'm still tryin to figure out how to correct this). And for the moment since I'm not really using any physical setup aside from my controller, I don't see where learning this would be too significant.

    Sorry for the babble. In some ways, I've come to the conclusion that in order for me to really get my feet wet..I have to do just that. Just plunge into the program and start messing around. From what I've seen, I have all of the basic gear I need, if not more.

    Traktor Pro
    Korg Kontrol49
    Oxygen 8 Version 1 (I modded it similar to Moldover's mod on one of his vids)
    2 internal soundcards with each having separate outs for Front, Rear, etc (which I saw somewhere that one card can be used within Traktor to separate the cue and the monitor to be piped individually to for example: cue>Front, and Moniter>Rear)
    some crappy sony dj styled headphones
    and my home stereo system

    That was a LOT longer than I had anticipated. So sorry about that. Any help at all would really be greatly appreciated. I've been dancing around the idea of actually doing this for some time, so here I am. I'm here to learn. I'm open to all comments, critiques, and advice. Any direction would be a step forward from where I am now.

    I thank you all for taking the time to read and possibly respond to this.

  2. #2
    Retired DJTT Moderator DvlsAdvct's Avatar
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    First of all, you don't need anything resembling CD decks and turntables. You don't need CD emulation MP3 players or controllers. All you need is what you have already. You just need to figure out how to make the work flow work for you. You are going to want to look into investing in a professional audio interface, however. That will give you a lot of power that I, personally, think you are going to need.

    Second, beatmatching. Now, i'm a proponent of learning how to manually do this myself. In the course of learning it you will begin to understand how beats line up, what sounds right and what doesn't. Just cause two tracks have the same tempo does not mean they should be mixed together. Learning to beatmatch teaches you that. Is it necessary? No. Practicing with the sync button will teach you the same thing, but it will take longer and could be more confusing. As much as I am a proponent of the digital revolution I think we should learn the basics before we learn to fly.

    Tempo detect is not an exact science yet. It will always need to be tweaked. The advantage of Traktor and software like it is that it allows you to visually see your beats and where the grid is in relation to them. You'll Let Traktor run it's basic beat detection and then you'll fine tune it. That's all there is to it.

    How knowledgeable are you with MIDI? If you are competent then I'd say look at Bomes MIDI Translator and implementing Traktor INTO Ableton Live! as well. This will give you infinite amounts of controls, allowing you to take everything you're talking about to a completely different planet. :-)

    Hope this helps as a start, and welcome to DJTT
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  3. #3
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    If I were you I would start djing with ableton as you already have that program and it is a very powerfull app. The big advantage you have is that you already made some tracks with ableton so you can easily remix them on the fly and combine them with other tracks to get a better flow.

    The basic workflow for djing in ableton is to put your tracks or parts of your tracks in 2 audio tracks. One of those is then deck A and the other deck B. Then you enable the crossfader and assign the tracks to the crossfader. Now you can add effects to the decks, returns or master channel. A good recource is abletonlivedj.com and the youtube vids of Tom cosm.

    The difference with other DJ apps is that you can't beatmatch but have to map a beatgird before you start but there are a lot of tutorials on it.

    Good Luck

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    Ahaa. Well thank you very much for such a quick response and the sound advice. Every little bit helps.

    As for the audio interface, I was actually considering the Echo AudioFire 2 that Ean reviewed not too long ago. Although I'm not sure if it's out yet, it seemed like the perfect choice. Right now I'm runnin on the motherboard's stock sound card, and I have a Soundblaster X-Fi platinum with the Front panel interface for midi, rca, headphone, 1/4" input, spdif, and optical ports.

    As for beatmatching, I do think that it's important to learn as well. After reading your post I said screw it and started using the pitch fader to match. And it worked to a degree until I couldn't get it to be the EXACT tempo that the other is. It was around like .004 off or something like that. I'm sure I'll figure somethin out.

    And yes, I agree with you, simply because two tracks have similar tempos is in no way implying that they SHOULD go together. I believe it's about the content that each track contains and it's mostly about finding the best pieces that fit together. Sort of like Legos in a weird way. You have all of these different sized and shaped pieces that fit PERFECTLY together in terms of the dotted grids you place them on, yet to truly make a masterpiece, it takes time to figure out what particular types of pieces should go where. Rather than a bunch of random pieces stacked up to make the ugliest sack of crap imaginable. No function, no purpose, just jumbled pieces.

    My midi knowledge is veeeery basic at best. I've looked into Bomes translator for using Ableton to do all that Controllerism stuff, but honestly, I feel that at the moment, it's out of my league. I simply want to focus on technique, and work flow. As I get better I will most certainly expand over into using the two programs in conjunction. I also have Reaktor, which is something ELSE I have to learn as well. At the moment, I think I need to spend my time on basically figuring out all of these different pieces of equipment I have. I got the keyboard not too long ago, and the same thing with Ableton, Traktor, and Reaktor. I'd say I've had them all for abut a good month. Reading manuals and watching videos to get an understanding of how each piece works. I guess all that's left now is to simply hammer away at it.

    Thank you VERY much for your time. None of the input will go to waste.

  5. #5
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    Ahh, a few more questions.

    Along with DJing my own material, I feel that it might help if I did some standard club djing with whatever tracks are hot and what not and here and there blending a track of my own to see the crowd's reaction and to push myself out there.

    For one, I take it that I will have to spend a LOOOOOOOT of time listening to music in order for me to have a dynamic and forever expanding and evolving set list. The only problem is that for whatever reason, I seem to suck at finding music. The only time I hear about a band or whatever is when a friend asks if I've checked these guys out. So what I'm saying is that, I don't know where would be a good resource or way to always be up to date on the latest and best tracks that are out there. I think I saw Beatport among other places mentioned, so I'll have to check it out. Any recommendations?

    My other question is regarding separating the outs of Traktor (the Monitor and Cue) to work on a single card. For whatever reason when I upgraded my computer and installed the new motherboard, my Sound Blaster seems to be incompatible in a way where regardless I get pops and clicks and no BIOS or software updates have seemed to alleviate the issue. So I would like to know if I can set for example the Front output of a card as the monitor, and the Rear output as the Cue.

    Yet again, sorry for the length. I'm too wordy.

    ---Edit---
    At the moment, I'm using, both cards to mix. My cue is on the Sound Blaster so I can use the headphone jack on the front panel interface, and the motherboard is goin through my stereo. But it sounds ungodly. Both cards are popping and clicking. And it only happens when both are in use.
    Last edited by FractalEarth; 01-07-2009 at 01:18 PM.

  6. #6
    Tech Guru Monika.mhz's Avatar
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    As a digital musician who performs her music live in addition to being a DJ here's the advice I have.

    When DJing use software designed to be a DJ. if you plan on going really far into the effects etc realm, route your DJ software into ableton.

    When you're live performing, do yourself a favor and just use ableton.

    I have a 4 piece electronic band. And everything we do routes into Ableton. 1 Drums player, that cues the drum track with his MIDI playing. second drums player that cues sub-bass frequencies (drum and bass) with her drums. a keys player that either a. uses a live synth like a nord lead or a virus or b. cues a soft synth from ableton with a midi controller. either way, it routes the audio into ableton. And finally me. My vox as well as my keys route into ableton. my keys are midi only.

    I can set up the effects, etc beforehand, OR we can control them live via midi. There is NO need to add a DJ into the mix because we're performing the music live. if there's a synth part that needs to be played that we dont have enough folks to play, I just add a pre-rendered MIDI track.

    Electronic bands everywhere run off solely ableton live. Theres really no need to make it more complex than it needs to be. Remember the point of DJ software is to play pre-rendered material. If you've already got the individual bits and pieces to each track, just use ableton. We mix our tracks together in monika.mhz with ableton as well, and it sounds great!
    Monika.mhz - I do things. Also stuff.
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  7. #7
    Tech Guru Monika.mhz's Avatar
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    Here's a great example of a band that does live mashups of their material.

    Do you think when Underworld performs Rez/Cowgirl, that they're using DJ software?

    NOPE! They're using Ableton Live.
    Monika.mhz - I do things. Also stuff.
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  8. #8
    Retired DJTT Moderator DvlsAdvct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FractalEarth View Post
    Ahh, a few more questions.

    Along with DJing my own material, I feel that it might help if I did some standard club djing with whatever tracks are hot and what not and here and there blending a track of my own to see the crowd's reaction and to push myself out there.

    For one, I take it that I will have to spend a LOOOOOOOT of time listening to music in order for me to have a dynamic and forever expanding and evolving set list. The only problem is that for whatever reason, I seem to suck at finding music. The only time I hear about a band or whatever is when a friend asks if I've checked these guys out. So what I'm saying is that, I don't know where would be a good resource or way to always be up to date on the latest and best tracks that are out there. I think I saw Beatport among other places mentioned, so I'll have to check it out. Any recommendations?

    My other question is regarding separating the outs of Traktor (the Monitor and Cue) to work on a single card. For whatever reason when I upgraded my computer and installed the new motherboard, my Sound Blaster seems to be incompatible in a way where regardless I get pops and clicks and no BIOS or software updates have seemed to alleviate the issue. So I would like to know if I can set for example the Front output of a card as the monitor, and the Rear output as the Cue.

    Yet again, sorry for the length. I'm too wordy.

    ---Edit---
    At the moment, I'm using, both cards to mix. My cue is on the Sound Blaster so I can use the headphone jack on the front panel interface, and the motherboard is goin through my stereo. But it sounds ungodly. Both cards are popping and clicking. And it only happens when both are in use.
    In regards to your previous post, beatmatching through MIDI is difficult. Soon Traktor Pro will support 14-bit MIDI, but for that you need a MIDI controller that transmits IN 14bit.

    anyway

    You need an audio interface. Sound cards like the soundblasters are not made to process the kind of data that Traktor, Ableton, etc. require. They are mdae to just process pre-rendered sound files.

    Like Moniker said, you don't NEED Traktor and Ableton. If you're comfortable in Ableton already then Traktor isn't necessary. I like Traktor a lot for what it is, and how it works. The transport commands and GUI are what keep me using it, along with the on-the-fly structure it has that Ableton kind of lacks. But this is all very personal stuff, so don't take my word as gospel (although no one really does ;-) )

    Once you have an audio interface you only need that one card and it will run your master outs and monitor outs. All you'll need is an open USB port.

    With your MIDI knowledge I think you have the right idea. Learn the basics of what you can. I had my eye on the Kontrol49 for a long time before I got the Remote 25SL, but it still looks like a solid piece of machinery. Once you start getting deeper into MIDI then think about the direction to go but I think you have the right idea.
    It's the FAQ. Read it.

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  9. #9
    Tech Guru charo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DvlsAdvct View Post
    In regards to your previous post, beatmatching through MIDI is difficult. Soon Traktor Pro will support 14-bit MIDI, but for that you need a MIDI controller that transmits IN 14bit.
    I agree, using a standard midi fader to beatmatch is hard. the option in the mean time is to have a fine pitch control and a course pitch control. Also you can use something like a jogwheel to control the pitch, instead of fader, so that the output is not 0-127 but an increase or decrease depending on what way the wheel is turned. hope that makes sense.

    good luck

  10. #10
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    If you already have ableton why are you also using reaktor? I don't have experience with reaktor but isn't it just another producing program like ableton or does it have more features because to me it seems a bit overkill to use two programs for producing.

    I might take a look at reaktor sometimes and see how it works.

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