Laptop vs. traditional turntable djing.

Asger

Matki wandalki
Hey guys, been wanting to get into some mixing for a long time, mainly because a lot of the music I want to hear isn't being played by the local djs (I live in Århus, Denmark - Scandinavia).
I think i've decided to go for the laptop (just bought an iBook 2 months ago, but I have a couple of questions, and at the same time I would like to start a little discussion about the pros and cons of laptop djing and turntable djing. Which medium do you prefer, and why?

What is the normal laptop method, 'pre-made' mixes (Ableton Live...?) or 'on the spot' mixing (Traktor, etc..?).

And what hardware do I need to rip vinyl onto my computer (turntable (have a 1210), soundcard and a mixer right?)?
 

nomos

Administrator
Good thread. I hope there are a few responses because I've been curious about people's experiences with this for a while. I think there's still a bit of a stigma about it though so maybe people are shy to brand themselves as post-vinylists.

Anyway, I don't think there's really a normal way. Traktor and Final Cut-style setups - whether using the vinyl interface or not - seem to aim at a more tradtional and linear cut and mix approach whereas the strength of Live is that it makes it easy to break down your tracks into segments and remix on the fly (or prepare it all ahead of time and just push a button when you're "live"). Actually, a back-to-back set employing both methods could be quite interesting.

I guess you're looking for a firewire in/out box if you've got an iBook? I like the looks of the things M-Audio carries. Not sure if the Final Cut contraption can be used that way or not. But yes, apart from the audio interface, all you'd need is your mixer.


Here are a couple of related threads that I started a while back. Didn't get many bites though.

http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=401 - DJing with mp3s

http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=1231 - specifically about mp3 sound quality in a club setting
 

wonk_vitesse

radio eros
traktor is quite popular here in London, i've seen quite a few well knowns names use it. get yerself a half decent sound card, although frankly apple's own sound in/out will do for sticking tunes in yer gonna 'play out' .

There's loads of little software audio recorders, i use Amadeus just coz it doesn't seem to mess up and has good effects and editing facilities.

I think the golden rule is 'don't mix your formats' use a laptop or dex not both together! (unless you're clever like aaron spectre)

oh yes and as for audio mp3 quality, along as it's 160-192Kbps the public won't notice. Jeez most systems in bars/clubs are so shit anyhow :(
 
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Asger

Matki wandalki
autonomic...

Nice threads, altough neither produced a lot of replies ;/ too bad...

As i'm not really great at mixing, hold tight Gutterbreakz every time, I'm thinking (semi) pre-made ableton mixes are going to be my choice (then I just need to get some cash - 499 euros is a lot of money hehe).

I've settled M-Audio's 'Firewire Audiophile' as it's in my price range, and luckily my older brother sells music equipment, which means i'll get a tiny discount...

But just to get things started I guess im going to dl the Live demo - the "this one is computerised" mix is done in live right? Can you give some hints/tips to start me off - just basic stuff (maybe you have a link to a nice tutorial sorta thing, or is the manual very newbie friendly?
I've tried the app before very quickly, and it looked very nice, but didn't know where to begin :D

Btw. Are there any essential plugins, I need to get a hold of?

And what about ripping apps, is Audiograbber ok?
 
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tryptych

waiting for a time
I've been using Traktor for a couple of years now, mainly because it means I can take more music with me when I got house parties etc instead of a limited set of records.

I've got version 2.0, so everything I say below might not apply to the newer updates:

1) It can be unstable - I've read lots of people having problems with getting it to work, and at first mine would crash and lose all the data in the database - I think that problem relates to the fact that Traktor cant handle special characters (accents etc) in mp3 names or tags.

2) It's hard to use Traktor as you would use vinyl. You can't just grab a track and think, "hey i'll try mixing this in" in the middle of a set. The reason for this is the incredibly crap sensitivity of the pitch fader - the most sensitive it gets is +/- 35%, so fine adjustments arnt very easy.

The way round this of course, is to use Traktor's own BPM detection to get the correct BPM of the track, then hit sync to lock it to the track thats already playing. But this only works well if you're mixing stuff with a clear 4/4 beat - otherwise the BPM detection isn't very accurate, and the tracks will drift apart once sync'd. If you'r nifty with the pitch nudge controls you can keep them together, but it can be a bit fiddly.

For anything without a good solid 4/4, its best to manually work out the BPM by creating a beat grid for each mp3. Do this, and you'll have pretty accurate BPMs for everything and will be able to sync to your hearts content - you'll never need to cue things up on the headphones again! This can be attractive - play on any sound system, without the need of a mixer and get faultless beat matching every time.

The downside of this is the time involved before hand. Accurately determining the BPM of each track requires playing though each track at least 2-3 times, getting the markers in the right place, and you really cant do it whilst in the mix. So less work when you're actually playing out, but a lot more before hand.


I can't really decide whether I like Traktor or not. It's great that I can take out 30gb of music when I play - having that variety of music is great, but it really takes out some of the spontaneous and inspirational elements of DJing that you get with vinyl. I guess my problems would be solved by using Final Scratch, but at £500 it's well out of my reach at the moment.
 

Tweak Head

Well-known member
Asger, Live 5 has lessons built in and one of these covers DJ mixes. The Demo has it too. It's pretty easy to follow.

Also this month Computer Music has a special on Live, which includes a section on DJing. The Computer Music specials always seem to deliver less than they promise but for £6 (in UK) including a CD with tutorials and patches it's not bad value. I guess you ought to be able to find it in Aarhus.
 

minikomi

pu1.pu2.wav.noi
ah.... if you were on pc i could be of a little """"""""HELP""""""""" ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) in regards to ableton live. (nudgenudgewinkwinksaynomoresaynomore..)



also, for quick beatmatching on pc i quite like this ap... handles really nicely, is intuitive if you come from a vinyl background and fits on a floppy disk :p

MR1200


you can get around the huge final scratch price tag by using this app and just buying the timecoded vinyls

http://www.djdecks.be/

good luck :)
 

nomos

Administrator
Asger - Yes that mix I did was done in Live and I'm nearly done another. I suppose my one-a-year pace says something about how finnicky you can get in Live. "This one..." was completely unlive - all cut and paste and edits, although with some practice I think I might be able to achieve a similar effect live using a MIDI mixer.

There have been a couple of good threads in the Ableton foum about DJing with Live. I think the most important thing I've learned is to immediately throw out all beat markers (except for #1) that Live makes when you import a whole song. Then, set the tempo of your project to the approximate tempo of your track, put that track on 'solo,' turn on the metronome and start following your song. Adjust the beat markers as you go. I find it useful to set a couple of them early on (e.g. around beat #9, #17) then go as far along the song as possible (e.g. beat #98, #161, etc.) before setting another. The advantage in this is that it saves you the trouble of lining up all the beats in between and, for that reason, you avoid creating unnecessary wow and flutter due to varying distances between your beat markers. Vinyl captured from a quartz-locked turntable seems to keep very steady time, although mp3s, and especially the variable bitrate ones, seem to fluctuate a bit.

As for plugins, I try to keep it pretty simple to start with. EQ 3 is probably the most important one to have on every track if you're doing a lot of long beat-matched stuff.
 

Asger

Matki wandalki
minikomi said:
ah.... if you were on pc i could be of a little """"""""HELP""""""""" ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) ;) in regards to ableton live. (nudgenudgewinkwinksaynomoresaynomore..)
hehehe, luckily ive also got a (stationary) pc, which is semi-powerfull (2,8 ghz p4, 1gb ram). I should be able to transfer mixes done in live on that, to my mac right?

Btw. Still listening to your a-town mix now and then, very nice!
 

mms

sometimes
i prefer decks as i wouldn't want to dj at a computer if i've been at one all day for work, plus i prefer to be more hands on and put some skill and effort and a bit of randomness into it .
plus computer programmes still sound a bit rubbish imo.

watching someone djing at a computer is visually the same as a laptop performance utterly fucking boring and one of the reasons people don't go to see people play live off laptops as much as they see bands etc
 

nomos

Administrator
mms said:
i prefer decks as i wouldn't want to dj at a computer if i've been at one all day for work
indeed. i've been at it for two days and i think my eyes are bleeding.

mms said:
plus i prefer to be more hands on and put some skill and effort and a bit of randomness into it
.
the tactile thing is why i finally got myself a second deck again after many years. it's a completely different thing though. even meditative if you want it to be. whereas the computer thing is more on the level of using photoshop or final cut. of course it takes skill. just different sort at the level of technique. the only reason to do it though is if you're doing something you couldn't with decks.

mms said:
watching someone djing at a computer is visually the same as a laptop performance utterly fucking boring and one of the reasons people don't go to see people play live off laptops as much as they see bands etc
true but there's also a difference between richard james on a couch checking his mail and someone djing with a laptop. there's no point looking at either of them, but in the case of the dj there should be no pretense of it being important to fixate on her/him.

but yeah, two different things. each rewarding in their own way.
 

Asger

Matki wandalki
Tweak Head said:
Also this month Computer Music has a special on Live, which includes a section on DJing. The Computer Music specials always seem to deliver less than they promise but for £6 (in UK) including a CD with tutorials and patches it's not bad value. I guess you ought to be able to find it in Aarhus.
I guess that's the dec. 2005 issue, cause it's not in jan. issue (?) - i've looked in that in a shop down town.
 

bassnation

the abyss
mms said:
i prefer decks as i wouldn't want to dj at a computer if i've been at one all day for work, plus i prefer to be more hands on and put some skill and effort and a bit of randomness into it .
plus computer programmes still sound a bit rubbish imo.

watching someone djing at a computer is visually the same as a laptop performance utterly fucking boring and one of the reasons people don't go to see people play live off laptops as much as they see bands etc
watching someone hunched over a pair of technics is equally fucking boring if you ask me. unless they are an incredible scratch dj and even then as a fan, its sad and nerdy to be clustered round the decks. more into dancing than watching, but there you go.

and as for the sound quality, this is debatable. anecdotal evidence suggests even high quality mp3s don't sound great over club soundsystems - but if your playing from a laptop you can easily use wav or aiff in which case the sound will be better than vinyl.

computer mixing still involves skill, but its more about the tune selection rather than the beatmatching - practically anyone can learn the latter but the former takes real skill. that for me is the essence of djing. the technical fancy stuff less so, although a combination of the two is obviously the best.

everyones seen a boring laptop set - but i'd suggest its more down to the selection and selector than it is the technology.
 
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john eden

male pale and stale
bassnation said:
watching someone hunched over a pair of technics is equally fucking boring if you ask me. unless they are an incredible scratch dj and even then as a fan, its sad and nerdy to be clustered round the decks. more into dancing than watching, but there you go.
I think the "work" thing is key really - watching people type if you do that all day is actually less visually interesting than watching them take a record out of a sleeve and cue it up etc.

There is also the suspicion they are just playing a mix CD and writing an email to their mates or something. The fact that laptops are so small means it's less of a performance - if it involved massive banks of flashing lights like a secret laborotory from an episode of The Man From Uncle then I'd be all for it.

Aaaaand why do people think it's OK to fucking sit there on their arses if they are using a laptop? You don't usually get that with decks, do you?

However I can see that it's incredibly convenient and if I was starting from scratch as a young whippersnapper I would definitely consider it.

Plus obviously some people can pull it off - I'd rather see that LFO Demon laptop set at Sick and Twisted again than yer average "bar" DJ with vinyl.
 

bassnation

the abyss
john eden said:
There is also the suspicion they are just playing a mix CD and writing an email to their mates or something. The fact that laptops are so small means it's less of a performance - if it involved massive banks of flashing lights like a secret laborotory from an episode of The Man From Uncle then I'd be all for it.
when people talk about being entertained by watching a dj it always makes me think of fatboy slim gurning and putting his hands in the air behind the decks - something vaguely embarressing about it, but maybe thats just me getting old!

john eden said:
Aaaaand why do people think it's OK to fucking sit there on their arses if they are using a laptop? You don't usually get that with decks, do you?
yeah, whats that all about? the laptop sets i've witnessed have all been minimal glitchy house kind of affairs - which probably explains it - more listening music than dancing.

on the other hand, i've heard a few traktor sets by surgeon which are totally rocking (providing you don't mind the techno piledriver thing) so it doesn't have to be that way.

also worth mentioning that for "studio" mixes, computers win hands down. when i used to do mix cds using decks i got tired of making one small mistake and having to do the entire thing again. by the time its finished you never want to hear those records ever again.
 

bassnation

the abyss
john eden said:
I'd rather see that LFO Demon laptop set at Sick and Twisted again than yer average "bar" DJ with vinyl.
you've got me intrigued now - what was it like? can i download it from anywhere? ;)
 

john eden

male pale and stale
bassnation said:
when people talk about being entertained by watching a dj it always makes me think of fatboy slim gurning and putting his hands in the air behind the decks - something vaguely embarressing about it, but maybe thats just me getting old!
You don't love it when he waves a record around in the air like he is signalling de plane? :confused:

errrr well maybe there is some middle ground between that and maybe looking a bit excited when you put a record on and some middle ground between THAT and LOOKING LIKE A FUCKING ACCOUNTANT.

Obviously it's mainly about the music and the crowd and the vibe and all that, but how the DJ looks is still a big part of that I think.

bassnation said:
yeah, whats that all about? the laptop sets i've witnessed have all been minimal glitchy house kind of affairs - which probably explains it - more listening music than dancing.
Yeah I think maybe me too, but I don't see why there still can't be a bit of performance alongside it all.

bassnation said:
on the other hand, i've heard a few traktor sets by surgeon which are totally rocking (providing you don't mind the techno piledriver thing) so it doesn't have to be that way.
Chicken and egg maybe - people are drawn towards that type of music because of what they are like? I dunno.

bassnation said:
also worth mentioning that for "studio" mixes, computers win hands down. when i used to do mix cds using decks i got tired of making one small mistake and having to do the entire thing again. by the time its finished you never want to hear those records ever again.
I just leave the mistakes in... or get Paul to edit them out. ;)

Mind you I'm less bothered about beat mixing and all that stuff. Certainly bashment mixes can be beatmatched on a computer but I think they can come out quite sterile. Mayhap I will give it a go sometime this year and see what happens.
 

mms

sometimes
bassnation said:
when people talk about being entertained by watching a dj it always makes me think of fatboy slim gurning and putting his hands in the air behind the decks - something vaguely embarressing about it, but maybe thats just me getting old!

its more exciting to watch someone just select and cue for sure, there is nothing less interesting than watching someone on a computer i think, and having to concentrate on a screen takes away most of the movability and tactileness of a trad dj set.




bassnation said:
yeah, whats that all about? the laptop sets i've witnessed have all been minimal glitchy house kind of affairs - which probably explains it - more listening music than dancing.

on the other hand, i've heard a few traktor sets by surgeon which are totally rocking (providing you don't mind the techno piledriver thing) so it doesn't have to be that way.
techno boys and their latest toys is'nt it ?
with richie hawtin being top boy.
surgeon is very good - everything gets pushed down to one speed though, it enables layering faster so it's good for layering tracks and rhythms etc, that aspect is excellent.
But on the whole since computer mixing is based on mimicry there is still something unsatisfactory about the way normal mixes sound through a mixing programme, plus the sound still isn't as good as vinyl despite what you say imo :)
seeing average djs down a pub with a laptop etc way more miserable than seeing them with records.
I'd still much rather play records i love cuing em up and fiddling away with the knobs , adjusting the speed and seeing what happens with different mixes etc. Selecting random things and generally pissing about is fun.
 

nomos

Administrator
best of all, turntables rarely crash mid-set ;)

i like doing the lappy thing for a sit-at-home, geek-out mash-up, post-it-on-the-internet mix. it's great for that. but i'm really not into the idea of playing out with one. maybe with final scratch, but otherwise i'd rather fuck up a lot with decks and a cd player.

i bet we see acrobatic turntablist type laptop djs soon.
 

bassnation

the abyss
mms said:
sound still isn't as good as vinyl despite what you say imo :)
lol, i'm not venturing any further with that one - i've seen entire discussion boards erupt into flame wars on this very topic! ;)

mms said:
I'd still much rather play records i love cuing em up and fiddling away with the knobs , adjusting the speed and seeing what happens with different mixes etc. Selecting random things and generally pissing about is fun.
well, despite what i said, it is more satisfying to use decks for playing live. theres the point where the two records take on a life of their own, and its almost like your riding a wave of noise and not knowing where its going to go - a feeling which can only be described as totally exhilarating. chopping up samples into ableton for four weeks prior to the night is not really going to yeild that feeling is it? even talking about this is making me want to dust off my decks and have a go.

but i still prefer computers for doing mixes "offline" even though (technically) its cheating. doing these kind of mixes is closer to production than it is to djing, although the two things have always crossed over with dance music.
 
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