My name is Adam Lerschen aka DJ Kimchi. I am 22 years old, living in Eugene, Oregon. I am a radio DJ at KWVA - the University of Oregon’s radio station. I am excited to share with you all what life is like as a radio DJ. By the end of this post, I hope you will get an idea of what a radio DJ does, and why it is so much fun! I even hope to hear that I was able to encourage you enough to apply at your local station.
When the word “DJ” comes to mind, one seems to instantly picture someone spinning in front of a huge crowd. At a festival, in a dance club or at a music venue. Radio DJs appear to be a little different. This does not mean that being a radio DJ is any less “cool”. In fact, radio hosting is one of the oldest forms of DJing. Let me explain the exciting world of being a radio DJ!
I would consider being a radio DJ the most basic form of DJing. A radio DJ will perform mixing at a very basic and simple level, in which one will use a channel volume fader to transition into the upcoming track. This is different compared to the DJs who mix songs using beat matching. A radio DJ will voice announcements, introductions, comments, jokes, and commercials in between songs. It is important to keep in mind that the radio DJ can not afford to have any dead air at all during their show. Allowing any “dead air” is the biggest no-no a radio DJ can make. If you can recall, when is the last time you turned on the radio and heard white noise? Never, that’s right. This serves the same justice as if one were at a party, festival, or club. Imagine the current DJ stopping the music. Exactly my point.
Depending on what style radio station you are a part of, a radio DJ will work with what kind of power that they are given. In my case, my radio station allows me to be able to do so much! I am allowed to play whatever music I please during my show, and host my show in any manner I choose. This is the best part of being a radio DJ – the simple fact that I have the opportunity to share something I love oh so much! It is an indescribable feeling. It truly is amazing when someone calls the station and is dying to know what song that they had just listened to.
It truly is amazing when someone calls the station and is dying to know what song that they had just listened to.
Often today, especially with kids of my age, we are stuck in a streaming world. We are accustomed to using internet apps, such as Youtube, Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Datpiff, Bandcamp, etc to listen to music. And by no means is this a bad thing, it is just how times have changed. What one my age must try to remember, is that we are the only generation up to date to enjoy this type of luxury. We do not understand what it was like for our grandparents, parents, or even older siblings generations on how they would listen to their music. I can guarantee that the radio played an important role. Just think, during our grandparents day, the radio was the main source of anything! The radio changed the way how humans lived. It is completely mind blowing to me how humans even figured out how to transfer and broadcast signals of information through waves in the air. It is very special to be a part of something so important in human life.
With all of this being said, a radio DJ will learn to develop their own unique personality. Since you are on the radio, you are playing a role in the community. You are a part of someones day. Why not try and give the listener the best experience ever!
You will begin to form a listening audience each week. There will be someone out there who is looking forward to your show. You begin to form a relationship with the community.
It is fun to give the listeners something to look forward to every week. You may be as creative as you want. I love hearing whatever DJ is currently on because they each have a distinct personality. It is fun to listen to their style of music & show, their interests, knowledge & suggestions of what music to listen to. Experience their radio charisma. It is wonderful to be surrounded with people who share the same love and passion of music as me. We wouldn’t be DJing if otherwise.
And ultimately, that is what being a radio DJ is all about: to have an impact on somebody’s day. The radio DJ has the freedom to brighten someone’s day, allow one to discover their new favorite artist, flashback a great memory, and so on. Ever since the 1950s, the radio DJ has played a big part of the daily life of humans, and will continue to do so.
The application was to list 100 artists I would play on my show
Before I became a part of KWVA, I listened to it every day. I still do! Whether it was playing in the living room, the car, or during work, I would find myself listening to it. Once my sister introduced how it was possible to become a DJ at KWVA. I applied as soon as I found out. The application was to list 100 artists I would play on my show. I mastered the tasks and got the job. Amazing!
It's amazing to have the capability to give an artist air time
What is an amazing perk of being a DJ at my station, is that I am allowed to bring in guests! It is so fun bringing in people to come do a show with you! How often does someone ask you to go hangout and be on the radio? An amazing thing that KWVA encourages us DJs to do is to host actual bands/artists or have live interviews. We have the free will to give a band/artist an opportunity to play a live set on the radio. The interviews may be on whatever topic you want to discuss. Remember, it is your show, and you choose how you decide it goes. It is amazing to have the capability to give an artist air time on the radio.
This is an amazing part: to begin developing your own radio personality. You must think of your DJ name and name of the show that you will be hosting. For instance, I am DJ Kimchi, and I host the Fermentation Hour. Here is the DJ catalogue at my station. You can see how much fun the DJs have with naming their show and how it ties in with the style of music they play.
Perk number tree of being a radio DJ? If you notice from the image on the right, there are a ton of DJs! This is a 24-hour on air station! To keep this station going, it takes a community of over 90 DJs! It is an absolute honor to be able to be a part of something so special as this. Not only am I able to be a part of the community I live in, I am able to connect with all of the other DJs. There are some DJs who have been at the station for over 20 years! It is amazing to gain all of the knowledge and learn how they approach their shows. I use any show I listen to as a learning experience.
I bet that many other radio stations will have something like this to offer. Each week, the station receives new releases from artists from all over the world. I have the opportunity to discover new music every time I step in the building. I have the chance to burn any of the music and add to my own collection. Might I add this for any of you aspiring DJs out there... No one will tell you this at the beginning, but being a DJ may be pricey. This is a perfect way to get free music. It is honestly more than I could ever ask for. Also, we are affiliated with a music venue in town, so guess what that means? FREE CONCERT TICKETS!!! Awesome, I know.
Becoming a radio DJ has been one of the coolest things
that has ever happened to me.
By now, I hope you have gained a better understanding of what a radio DJ does. We are anywhere and everywhere, ha! But for real, I will say that becoming a radio DJ has been one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me. To those who want to be more than just the plain old radio DJ, this is always a great place to start. You will gain new insights on how the music industry works and what it is like to be involved in the music scene.
If you plan to become a radio DJ - here are the skills to work on:
This is no different than a chef who is preparing the ingredients for the tasty dinner that is about to be created. Approach prepping a setlist in this manner. A setlist should have some effort put in by the host. When you are a radio DJ, you will be the host of your own show. Have a general idea of what style of music you want your listeners to expect to hear each week. Select a genre (or multiple), and create a theme to work with. Give your show attention and thought.
The goal is to introduce the listener to as much new music possible.
A daytime show is going to be different than an evening show. Understand what times the community works in. I will play more energy songs at night time, compared to the daytime, I will play more relaxing music that more older crowds can connect with. You will talk more in a daytime show than you would during a night show.
Learn how to talk into the microphone & broadcast like nobody is listening. This takes less stress off of you, and you learn to be more at ease talking. You will gain more confidence each show you do, so you will no longer have the butterflies talking in front of a crowd. This is great practice if one were to be a DJ for events, in which MCing would become second nature. Learning how to talk behind the mic is huge for Radio DJing. The radio DJ should have some general back ground knowledge of the music they are playing. It doesn't hurt to know how far the band has come, or what cool things you like about the music. The radio DJ is pretty much color commentating the music that is being played. You are an announcer that the crowds needs.
Learning how to talk behind the mic is huge for Radio DJing
Your radio personality will unfold as you begin to take your show more serious. You will begin to give the listeners a general idea of what your show is going to be like. For instance, I look forward to "The Sunday Morning Hangover" each week. Marc Time is the host. He has won several awards for his radio show, as he is known to host such a great show each week. I am inspired each week to listen to his show and to learn from him.
Like I had just mentioned, I continue to learn as much as I can. Learn how to take notes and record your own shows / mixes. Listen to what your show sounds like, and try to discover how you can take steps to improve your show. There is always something you can learn and apply it when the next show comes. That is truly the key to success, have the will to learn. If you have the will power to learn, you will open many doors for yourself.
This goes for anything, especially being a radio host. For all we know, nobody cares what the radio DJ has to say. Remember, all we are doing is playing music for the community on the radio. This is not a life or death situation. Learn to have fun with the show and try to smile. . It is so fun to have the opportunity to do something so cool like this, so have fun with it.
Don't settle. I am very fortunate at my station because we receive new music every week. Reserve a day in the week where you learn new tracks.
Every Monday, I download and analyze at least 100 songs. Do the math, thats over 5000 tracks a year. I have created an entire day around it.
I have asked several friends to send me 10 of their favorite tracks that they listened throughout the week. This saves an enormous amount of time. Your friends have already done all of the searching for you. I trust their taste and actually look forward to see what other people love listening to. Seriously, I will even bug them to remind them. One of my most favorite feelings is discovering a new track.
I have asked several friends to send me 10 of their favorite tracks that they listened throughout the week
This is similar to laughing at yourself. Act as if you are talking to only one person. Have a normal conversation, have something to say, and share some knowledge you know. Share why you enjoy this artist so much, or how this song makes you feel.
Have the hunch to make you great. Life is great when you have something to look forward to each week. You get inspired to be the best you can. Reach out with the community you have placed yourself in. Learn how to connect with other DJs around the world. We have the internet at our hands. It is all a learning experience, soak everything like a sponge. Continue to create. Be the person that OTHER DJs want to learn from. Act as both student and teacher!
For myself, I am going to take my DJ career as far as I can go, but I will always hold the radio DJ close to my heart. The radio station has helped me get my foot in the door in what I want to be doing, and has opened an unbelievable amount of possibilities.
It is a great opportunity to build your own brand and fan base.
I own a Traktor S4 and my show will include the mixes that I prepare each week. We all have our own style, and this appears to be mine. I can name a handful of DJs who started at a radio station, and then were able to perform their mixes on a live broadcast.
It is a great opportunity to build your own brand and fan base. Since I have found my way into the radio DJ world, I know I will always have a spot in life to be on the radio and be a part of someone’s life.
Thank you for reading and please do let me know if you have any success applying at your local station! Also, if any of you guys have any music you would like for me to play on the radio, leave a link in the comments! I will be more than glad to give anybody exposure for their art. We are a community, so that is what I have to offer. Feel free to keep up with me and my DJ journey.
Sincerely, DJ Kimchi.
Listen to the interview recording
Music production is a topic every DJ should know at least the basics about. Understanding how tracks are made helps to anticipate their timing and progression and makes you a better DJ. It also allows you to start making your own tracks which opens a whole new world of opportunities.
You can do it just for fun and express your creativity. You can produce tracks and include them in your sets. I had a customer walking up to me during a gig and requesting a track I produced (NuOneForYa). One of the best song request I ever had!
Apart from having fun and spicing up your sets, getting started with music production could be the beginning of a DJ superstar career. Most of the guys rocking the festival main stage, cashing in six figures per gig got there because of a successful releases. If this is the route you want to take - keep reading (or listening).
I have quite a bit of experience with music production and sound engineering myself, but for this podcast I decided to partner up with a very skillful friend of mine - Reuben Samuel: DJ, producer, teacher at and founder of Mile High Sounds. He is a certified Ableton trainer and has a lot of experience in music production. Our talk brought up quite a few gold nuggets summarized in the resources section below. Have fun listening (or reading)!
Ableton Live Intro production software
Deep Listening Video (coming soon)
loop masters (free starter pack)
Production software FruityLoops (now called FL Studio)
Production software ProTools
Production software Logic
Focusrite Scarlett Soundcard
Virtual Instrument Massive
Virtual Instrument Sylenth
Virtual Instrument Serum
Book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"
This is DanoEF from TDJC Traktor DJ Course, and today I have the honor to be guest at Reuben Samuel place - Mile High Sounds. He is the founder of this teaching centre and production studio. Reuben is also a DJ - I would say he is Mr. Music 360. It would be a pleasure to pick his brain about getting started with music production for DJs.
As we all know many big shot DJs out there are actually producers, they got there because they had some track in the charts, and because they had success with the track they produced. For those of you who would like to follow this route, and maybe start your own productions as well, I thought it would be a good idea to speak to “Mr. Ableton”. He will obviously have some hints for us on how to get started. Reuben, Just a few words about what you do here at Mile High Sounds.
Hi Dano. At Mile High Sounds we do everything audio and music related. We look at people that have very basic needs, or maybe very advanced needs. We can take a project from any stage along the production line; it could just be a basic riff. A student might come in and have difficulty with making the drum sound fatter. They might have problems with completing their song. They might have problems with developing their ideas further, and this is where we usually step in and help. Guide them and pinpoint where along their production process there might be ways to get over that hurdle and move forward with their productions.
That sounds great. We all could use this kind of help I guess. So let’s say I was trying to get started with production. I would come to you and say “you know what, I know a bit about DJing, I bought myself a Traktor Controller and I want to start with production.” What would you tell me?
"I would like to know what your musical influences were, where you’ve come from"
I would first want to know a little bit more about you. If you played some instruments when you were younger, or if you still do currently play instruments. I would like to know what your musical influences were, where you’ve come from, how you’ve developed as a DJ. You could be a DJ that just started or you could be a DJ that’s been playing for a long time, but it’s still interesting to know where it all came from, how the passion is fielding and so on. Because that also is a decider on how your production will be shaped in the future, and where you might want to take your influences and package them into how people may want to hear what you have to offer.
Yeah I think that’s where we come across the topic of musicality. I think it comes into play what’s my musical background, how much do I know about music, right? It would be a big part of the whole picture how much I know about music theory, playing an instrument and knowing about scales, harmonies and rhythm.
Definitely. A big part of learning about how to make a full song, how to arrange something, is also understanding how a lot of your favorite songs are put together as well. And one of our components and models we do is known as Deep Listening, where we would time stretch a track and put it into the grid in Ableton Live, and listen to it literally from the very beginning to the end and break it up into sections of what’s happening in every bar.
From the beginning you would identify what instruments were used in the production, and then we would look into what happens when and why. What elements come in such as Cow Bells, which are everyone’s favorite. Closed hats, why do open hats happen after 16 bars? Why is there a riser at this point? Why is there a breakdown? What led up to that breakdown? And when everything built up and then drop later, why was there a change in feel and energy and so on. So we would look at that pretty much as a handwritten grid and that really helps people transforming their ideas into a digital audio work station, such as Live or Logic or any other program.
We are already getting into the music production theory and skills I guess, and that’s a really wide topic to talk about how tracks are built, the whole world of sound design and arrangement. That’s something to cover in many hours I guess.
First of all we need hardware and software. So let’s just cover these two briefly. What would be the most reasonable start set-up?
I think there’s a misconception that you need to go and get the latest drum pad, or the most full-fledged version of software. Even if you’re not a DJ you can literally pick up a copy of, say Ableton Live Intro. It gives you 8 tracks and limited effects, but I mean you can still get into the very core of what makes music production possible which is working with blocks and actually structuring your track, and developing an idea. So for example if you wanted to get in straight away, you could get a copy of Live Intro for example. That’s about $99US dollars and you can do all kinds of things.
You can do pretty complex mash ups, and you can do real edits, you can do voice over recording. You could take an existing vocal lead, you could put drums and base, and pads, and that’s only for tracks on its own. So you can really do a lot with the basic software.
Rather than reinventing the wheel if you’re going to create or recreate a genre that people have gotten used to certain sound elements, for example DeepHouse like classic MS20 “boom boom” kind of sound to it. Rather than sitting there for 4 hours and trying to figure out how that one particular tone is made, there is nothing wrong with going out and getting some sample packs that help introduce you to how to place that block in the context of a song.
You can work it out by listening to how a song is made. As I mentioned before - deep listening. You can see where the beats are, where the beats remove themselves, what comes in when the beats remove themselves, and you can actually look at production from a top down approach, rather than left to right which is what we typically do.
There are a lot of free packs, Ableton Live Lite version for example. Or you could hop on a website like LoopMasters - we’re actually in partnership with them where we can hook you guys up with a free starter pack as well.
Talking about monitoring: Headphones help. Even a hi-fi can help but I just generally recommend against using a PC speaker, mainly because it’s only so much that a PC speaker can produce. A laptop speaker is very tinny and you won’t quite understand what’s happening with the sounds you put together.
The more you can spend on the speakers or headphones, the better. But a decent pair of DJ headphones would do for starters right?
It’s good to get familiar with your palette, just like a
Yeah definitely. Also before you get into how things sound from a fidelity point of view, it’s good to break down the process as well. I think understanding what sounds are like, and what they sound like on their own is definitely a good thing to separate from how they sit in the very beginning. It’s good to get familiar with your palette, just like a painter would choose a medium and so on. They would want to know what they have at their disposal, before they get in there and start to get busy.
Get familiar with the colors.
Yeah. Having said that the more advanced you get, the more aware that you are that you can literally pick your medium knowing what the end product is going to be, and that of course comes with time.
Do we need a keyboard?
"I’ve made some pretty horrible tracks on the airplane"
Not necessarily no. You can actually program beats and baselines and so on with your mouse and your computer keyboard. Of course a computer keyboard doesn’t feel great when you play it like a virtual piano, it doesn’t have velocity which is how hard instruments respond to pressure, but you can definitely get by. I’ve made some pretty horrible tracks on the airplane, but having said that I’ve sketched ideas in the airplane and I’ve brought them back. I’ve had times I’ve had hardware fail on me before but I have still managed to finish everything on the computer.
But the musical keyboard would help and I think they go for a few bucks right.
Definitely. You can get 25 key, 49 key, 61. A 25 key keyboard these days comes with plenty of knobs and faders, so you can assign your favorite effects and hear any tracks you like. And start to emulate what you enjoy about those genres and so on.
Yeah. So the hardware is covered: we have (maybe) a keyboard, a headphone, some kind of PC software - Ableton first choice.
I mean people start with FruityLoops as well. They are all very advanced softwares and it really comes down to the process. I personally find that I work very fast in Live, based on how it’s got 2 methods of composition. You’ve got the session view and arrangement view, which I’ll drop in some links to demonstrate what the differences are between them. But yeah it’s all about speed.
"When you’re stuck on an idea in the creative process and you spend too long on it, you start to loose passion"
Time is getting very precious these days, and sometimes when you’re stuck on an idea in the creative process and you spend too long on it, you start to loose passion in that particular project. That’s something that I used to get very sad about and that block has been lifted for me. Having more options to approach a hurdle is definitely better.
After software and hardware we still need the stuff to work with right? We need our paint, we need the samples, the instruments, and all this is also part of Ableton I guess. We have a lot of stuff to work with to start with, we don’t have to go out and buy instruments and sample packs. We can, but Live already comes with a decent set of material and resources to work with.
Yes. So depending on which version of Live you’d get, you’d get a different library set and effects and a starter kit of instruments as well, which are located in the packs. Which I’ll also drop a link to so you can see a comparison between them all, but you will find that there are a lot of producers that have a particular instruments in mind, when they want to produce. They might immediately think: Sylenth is what I want, so they might want to make very minimal tracks. And again the Live Lite version would work. They could use Sylenth as a VST or an AU, and that would be their main instrument in that case. In which case you would not be relying on the built in instruments of Live, you might add on Massive from Native Instruments and so on. Serum is very popular now.
"You could do an entire track out of samples"
But you definitely don’t need to go too crazy with instruments to actually get an arrangement done. You could do an entire track out of samples, that’s been a very, very common practice thing for many, many years since even the first trackers came out. That combined with perhaps recording organic instruments, someone could be just playing a guitar. You could put that into Live, you can time stretch it, make it fit really well, you could sample it, you could get a vocalist on there, and already your track is starting to sound very organic.
So whenever somebody plays a real instrument they can always sample it, record it, and start working with that inside Live also.
Exactly. Yeah and literally takes 5 seconds to drop in a sample and map it to your keyboard and start playing it rhythmically as well. So you can really expand everything with samples too.
So this covers everything we need to get started, and after this I think it’s all about skill.
A power socket 🙂 And of course like I mentioned before: recording. You may want to look into getting a sound card and a microphone. There are relatively cheap entry points to that, usually in the 100-150 USD range. Focusrite is famous for its Scarlett, the 2 in 2 out. So you could have like one microphone and one guitar input.
"It takes many years to create an overnight success."
Once you have a way of getting sound into your computer from the outside world, you’re pretty much sorted and again, you may want to add on things to your studio set up. It doesn’t have to be a case where you buy something and it becomes redundant later, just because you made a budget choice. The quality has improved a lot compared to 10 years ago, and it is perfectly fine to use that sound card again in the future with a more powerful set up.
And as soon as we have all this together the only thing we need is learn, learn, and practice and analyze.
"People don’t actually see the studio hours that were put in before that even became possible."
You definitely have to put in the hours. There is a common misconception that just because a producer suddenly is touring the festivals, within a month of what seems like their first release. People don’t actually see the studio hours that were put in before that even became possible. The hundreds of tracks that are not mentioned before leading up to that very release that got them on to the main stage.
It takes many years to create an overnight success.
Exactly. I mean there is the ghost producer thing but we’re not going to get into that today, we’ll save that for a separate.
I think a good approach would be to just take your favorite tracks and look at them very closely. Analyze the bar structure, the intro, the extro, all what’s happening, how the different layers play together, all the phrases, loops that you have, the 8 bar phrases, the 16 bar phrases. As soon as you get a grip of all this, I think you can develop quite fast and apply this new learned stuff to your own productions.
In fact I’d be more than happy to send you a link over to a video I’ve done, where I explained deep listening and my process to it.It’s really short again it’s a concept you can apply, to any work station that you currently use. You can know the bmp of a track drop it into ProTools for example. All I’m doing is helping people listening to sections, I might play sections over and over again but while I do that, I will write down exactly what parts are being heard, and get people to really hear them. Then put markers in throughout the arrangement.
"Start picture a mind map of what’s happening."
So for example a track would start with maybe a kick drum and a clap. I would write BD+ CLP. And then if a closed hat comes in, I would put on the next mark. I’d say ‘after 8 bars plus CH’ which means closed hat. Then if the break down would have come I might put ‘-PD (breakdown)’ just to indicate that’s happening. And then if a rise was coming I would put ‘rise (8 bars)’, and then you could actually start picture like a mind map of what’s happening.
This topic is so big. We could go into so many directions now. We could go into sound engineering, we could go into mastering. We could go into sound shaping, EQing, compression, and all the tools you can apply. I mean its endless right. I think we scratched the surface of everything so far, and we can provide some links for people who want to dig deeper in certain directions, to be able to do that.
This could be the introduction to a lot of other things we can start to cover.
"I guess everyone should know the basics about scales,
harmony and rhythm"
We could take a closer looks at the deep listening part, of course arrangement, music theory. I guess everyone should know the basics about scales, harmony and rhythm. Then sound engineering and mastering. And after all this is done and let’s say my track is now ready and polished - what now?
Well what I would usually say at that point is ‘well you should thought about that earlier’. All that work and you don’t have a plan.
Exactly. Now you have this amazing track which you love so much, and now what. I mean yeah you have social media, but I think it only goes so far.
Yeah every platform needs to be explored, but most importantly a plan needs to be devised of where you’re going in the first place
If your goal is to make your music production effort a passion project, well good. Establish that from the very beginning. Then you would just be really, really happy with improving yourself. But the great thing about targets is that you really do strive to improve yourself in areas, that maybe causing you to fall short of reaching that goal.
So for example maybe getting signed to your favorite label, one may assume that ‘oh my track isn’t really ready for that label’. And what happens? They never send it. If they never send it they will never know.
Yeah of course you got that pretty high chance that you won’t get a response, but if you do – my goodness! Maybe you’re on to something! But that doesn’t just mean being the most amazing producer and sit in your room, and don’t call anyone, and don’t hang out, and don’t take in the scene. If you don’t do that you’re definitely not going to get any results.
Exactly. ‘Begin with the end in mind’ is one of my favorite sayings from Stephen Covey. I think this would be very helpful as soon as you sit down, and once you start producing you know where this is going.
Is this for fun or is this actually a career? Is this supposed to become something to get you somewhere? So then I would picture the end first.
Let’s say I have a favorite label I want to be published on. Or I have some festival where I want to play, or whatever it might be. Picture this and then start moving towards this direction, and then stuff will fall into place. I did hear an interview of a guy who submitted 136 demos to his label before he got published.
It’s a big number to keep in mind because I remember sending my first demo many years ago, and I got so frustrated by the rejections. I stopped doing that and it was silly, because it definitely takes more than 1 or 2, or 3, or 10 demos to go somewhere before you get any attention, and any feedback.
Definitely. I think it’s also important that if you are going to have a goal in mind that you also enter into the process with an open mind, because after all those 3 years of trying you might find that maybe you’re going in a different direction. You need to embrace that because that can actually be the reason why you took that journey in the first place, to find your calling.
Exactly. Changing directions is part of the process. Sometimes we just have to get there first, before we know ‘oh this is actually maybe not what I want’. Maybe I want something else, or maybe just want to change my target a little bit. But yeah - it takes the work, and it takes the process to get there.
So I guess we just round up here. This could be the start of a series of sessions I could imagine, but let’s see where it goes. Thank you very much Reuben!
If you want to be a DJ, keep on reading. Wherever you are in your DJ career, we have a lot of good advice to guide you through and help you to make the right choices when it comes to DJ hardware and DJ courses. If you want to learn how to be a DJ, first of all, you have to pick your DJ gear and become good at using it.
So how do we start? There are three basic things every DJ needs to get going:
If you are starting off your DJ career, you have to concentrate on steps 1 and 2 first.
If you are reading this, chances are you are already very passionate about your music and know very well what you like and what you don't like. I think that's very important to know. There is no way to be a good DJ without a very strong relationship to music. But then, there are famous DJs out there maybe playing something very different and you might be asking yourself, should I play what is popular or should I play what I like? On many gigs you will have to face the question of whether you want to do your thing or play something that makes your crowd happy. Ideally, you will make your crowd happy with what you love. That's what I call "DJ heaven". But many times you will have to compromise.
Ideally, you will make your crowd happy with what you love
My basic rule is, don't try to be someone else. Stick to what you stand for, what you love, even if no one seems to care. It takes courage to be yourself. If you think about it, if people love what you play and it's not you, it will feel wrong. How to be a DJ is how to find your way. Better to be patient and eventually find the crowd, the club or the record label that appreciates who you really are than be loved for the wrong reasons.
We will cover music sourcing in our Traktor DJ Course. Nowadays, it's not very hard to find your music on the Internet, but it takes time to develop a strong musical personality – and that's your most valuable asset.
Now that you know what you want to say, learning how to DJ also means finding the right skills and tools to express yourself. And you need to be really good at using them – otherwise it will all come out wrong.
Choosing your gear is important. At the end of the day, you have to buy it and practice at home for quite some time to develop your skills. The question is, what DJ equipment to buy? It's not cheap, so we want to make a good decision.
Here are the three choices you have:
I remember buying my Technics 1210s back in the nineties. Boy, was I proud. And broke! But in those days, it was the only way to be a DJ: buy those 1210s, learn how to beat-match, mix, buy your records and all that.
Nowadays, turntables have this huge sentimental aura, and you will hear more than once that spinning vinyl is the only real way to do it. And yes, it is a great experience to work in the purely mechanical, old-school way. It’s very honest and direct. There’s no computer involved, no MP3s. But then, time moves on.
Today, no club will have turntables (with very few exceptions), and buying vinyl is a challenge compared to buying MP3s. But it can be done and it can be great fun, especially when you are into old-school stuff, or maybe have your record collection already. On top of that, vinyl is having a revival in many cities. Record stores are opening again. How I miss them! They have always been the best hangout for DJs. They’re a place to check out the latest releases, have a chat with the owner who will tell you what's hot right now, and even meet some music geeks and DJs.
Turntables will be your first choice if you are into turntableism, scratching, hip hop and all that stuff. For that purpose, controllers will be completely useless.
But if you want to play regular club gigs or events, you MUST be familiar with at least one of the other options: CDJs and controllers.
In 1982 music became digital. The first commercially available CD player was released. Pioneer established the club standard for DJs with their CDJ series: CD players with a turntable-like interface, allowing you to scratch and pitch-bend. Over time, CDJs became more and more sophisticated, offering further control features like hot cues, USB port, linking, better displays and even automated beat-matching. This is how to DJ the most convenient way. You can travel the world with nothing more than a pen drive and headphones in your bag, because you can rely on clubs having CDJs in place. But in order to get familiar with them, you will have to buy a pair and a mixer in order to practice at home. If you go for the latest model, it will cost you around $4,000 just for the 2 CDJs. But of course you can have it cheaper if you go for older or second-hand models.
Talking about models: as of November 2014, Pioneer also offers a CD-player-less CDJ: the XDJ-1000. It looks like a CDJ, but the only music source is USB. The screen is bigger and touch-sensitive (includes a QWERTY keyboard) and the selling price is substantially lower. Have a look:
Compared to the laptop/controller solution, Here are the CDJ pros and cons:
Just like CDJs were a logical consequence of audio CDs and digital music, DJ controllers were the logical consequence of laptops becoming available to everyone. How to be a DJ always reflects technological development.
DJ controllers are setups consisting of a laptop running a DJ software (Serato and Traktor Pro being the most popular and professional ones) and a controller – a piece of hardware that allows you to beat match, mix, add effects and also works as a four-channel sound card (you need four audio channels in order to mix: two for the music signal and two for your headphones). Buying a controller / software package is much cheaper than a CDJ setup (provided you already have a laptop) and gives you much more control over your sets and mixes. The downside: You have to carry your gear to every gig. And if something goes wrong – your laptop crashes or your controller gives up – it's all on you. It’s happened to me before. Trust me, you don't want to be in that situation.
So to wrap it up: pros and cons for DJ controllers:
DJ Controllers Pros:
DJ Controllers Cons:
If you ask for my opinion how to DJ, the laptop / controller setup is the natural consequence of technological development and reflects the software-based approach, which makes more sense in today’s world as opposed to the hardware-driven concept reflected by CDJs. It is much simpler to update software than hardware. So despite the cons, I still prefer my controller (Traktor Pro) setup. But you can't ignore the CDJs for now and need to know how to work with them in case your laptop doesn't boot.
One important piece of hardware is still missing, though – your headphones. Check out the best DJ headphones here.
This topic alone could easily take a whole book to cover and I will keep adding content on this. For now, I just want to give you a breakdown of the essentials to enable you to investigate further on your own and stay on track.
Having everything of the above in place – your music, sets and hardware – is a good and necessary start, but if you leave it at that, you'll be just another bedroom DJ. If you want to learn how to DJ in clubs, bars or events on a professional level, promotion, marketing and branding are a major ingredient for that. Don't fall into what I call the 'artist trap' – cultivating the mindset that says, “It’s good enough to be creative and play great music. Taking care of the business side of it is somewhat unworthy.” Learning how to be a DJ implies treating DJing as a business: delivering value that people are willing to pay for, as well as reaching out to those people.
1. Find out who you are
Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you stand for as a DJ. What makes you unique? What is it that nobody else can deliver? An exercise I find very useful is to take a sheet of paper and write down all the qualities you associate with yourself. Colors, brands, genres, movie stars – whatever it is that is relevant to you, put it on a list. That's your identity-chart. From there, find a description, maybe a tag-line and a DJ name that describes you best. And whenever you talk about yourself, make sure you relate to that list. This way you create your own profile, identity, and brand.
2. Talk about it
Needless to say, it’s recommended to have a website and social media sites in place. Build your authority by posting what is relevant to you, what's happening in your music niche and in your DJ life. Be authentic and add value to other people. Make the point that you are here to provide a unique experience and enhance everybody's life.
Here is what I consider a good basic starter kit for a DJ:
On top of that, you may consider having a Beatport DJ profile, ResidentAdvisor profile, BandCamp page and a Twitter account. The list could go on and on – you won't have the time to cover each and every social network out there, but the four basic ones mentioned earlier should do the job to show that you have your sh** together and are not hiding under a rock.
Reach out to colleagues and authorities in your music niche. Find ways to cooperate with other DJs and producers, artists, club owners and event organizers. Build a team around your brand. It's not about what you know, it's about who you know. And even more important, who knows you. Make it a habit to reach out to three to five people every day who have the potential to make a difference in your career. How to be a DJ includes being a good communicator.
As you may have noticed, almost all the big DJ names out there are not exactly known for their DJ skills. They are big because they managed to get a label deal and hit the charts with their releases. Don't push yourself if you're not ready, but for most DJs it will be a natural need to produce their own tracks and remixes anyway because it’s the best way to add your very personal flavor to your set. If you haven't started investigating the great realm of production yet, Ableton Live would be a good starting point.
DJ technology has evolved immensely over the last 20 years. Beat-matching is computerized, tracks can be found all over the web, and courses like the one on this page make it easy for beginners to master the technical side of DJing in a very short time. Finding paid gigs, however, still is a manual task and one of the biggest challenges for young DJs.
Before you go out hunting for gigs, make sure you are ready for it. There is nothing worse than finally getting the opportunity to play and screw up. Assuming you did your homework already, it still might make sense to go through this checklist:
If you can answer all these questions with a confident “yes” then go on. Otherwise, your time is better spent on preparation.
Like in all businesses, when it comes to how to get DJ gigs, it's not about what you know but all about who knows you. Typically, in the beginning of your DJ career, not too many people out there will know you as a DJ. But that's OK. Every star was a beginner at some point without much of a supporting network. A network can be built up. Here is how to do that:
Go through all your current contacts and check if any of your acquaintances are related to the DJ scene. Reach out to them, be honest about where you are in your DJ career and ask them if they know of a gig opportunity for you. And if they don't, ask if they can introduce you to someone who does. You'll be surprised how many people, even if they can't offer you a gig, still know someone who might. Follow up with those introductions.
This is easy to do because these people will be present and approachable during their club nights and events most of the time. Find out who is the manager of the club (ask the bartender), introduce yourself with a prepared little 30-second presentation, and hand over your demo CD. Find the people you met this way on Facebook and start interacting with them. One important thing to know about club managers: they don't care much about your music. This can be difficult to digest for enthusiastic young DJs, but these folks are mostly interested in the cash they bring home at the end of a night. No way to blame them – that's their job. So in order to cater to your clients’ needs – which is the essence of every service, including DJing – focus on how you can bring a spending crowd to the place rather than on how fancy your music is.
Now that you have your list of potential clients, the most important part is to follow up. The biggest mistake you can make now is to walk away after the first "no". There is a rule of thumb in marketing saying that you have to get into your client's face seven times before he will consider buying from you. Be persistent. Come back again and again, always politely, of course. Establish a relationship. People are impressed with persistence. If you don't give up easily, they will know you are serious and determined and eventually will even help you get DJ gigs.
Clubs naturally focus on making their weekend happen, plus other special nights like “ladies’ night" and so on. On these nights, they will be very particular about who gets to play the music because a lot of risk is at hand. It’s not easy to get in for a newcomer. But there are other nights – the odd nights. Normally during weekdays, not much happens there and mostly there is no DJ booking since it doesn't make sense economically. Targeting those odd nights and coming up with a proposal to play for little money, or even better, to bring a crowd, can be a very successful strategy to getting your first foothold in a club. As soon as you get in and make those odd nights a success – even a small one – chances are you will be offered a weekend night as well. And boom, here comes your residency. Check out how Kuala Lumpur based DJ Victor Goh applied this strategy.
For most DJs this will be the hardest way, but it has the potential to get you right to the big international festivals, which is very, very hard to accomplish otherwise.
Look at the big DJ names out there – the international ones, making six figures per gig. How did they get there? Do they mix a hundred times better than the average club DJ? In most cases, definitely not. Some even do much worse. They had a hit at some point in their career. They managed to produce and publish a track which got some international attention. And when people around the world, even if it's in a tiny underground music niche, know your name, love your music and want to see you play live, that's when the bookers will start calling you and asking you to play in Ibiza. Production is not for everyone and is a topic to be covered in books rather than articles, but if you have some musical talent and a drive to make music, this could be very well worth the effort. A label deal will probably take years to happen rather than months. But if you can make it happen, this is how you get DJ gigs on an international level.
At the annual Electronics Fair IFA (International Funk Ausstellung) in Berlin, Panasonic announced the resurrection of the legendary Technics turntable series.
Technics turntables were completely dominating the professional market in the 80ies and early 90ies. Launched in 1972 by Matsushita, they quickly took over the live DJ and radio scene foremost because of it´s direct drive high torque motor design. Push-button-cueing and scratching became possible for the first time and were enthusiastically adopted by hip hop DJs.
The other amazing feature Technics introduced to the market was Variable pitch-control, allowing the rotational speed to be adjusted between -8% and +8%. Now beat-matching was possible and the SL 1200, later 1210, became the inevitable and dominant DJ tool for many years to come.
The revolution of digital music, starting in the 80ies, gained momentum rapidly. The convenience of having 20 tracks on a CD combined with quickly evolving CD players started pushing vinyl out of the market towards the end of the 90ies. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd re-branded themselves into Panasonic Corporation in 2008 and shortly after that, in 2010, discontinued the production of the Technics series. The second hand market price for 1210s skyrocketed soon after that. Thanks to archive.org, we still can take a look at the last version of the Technics website.
Analog music is gaining back market shares – who would have guessed?! WIRED Magazine says:
Recent data collected for the British Phonographic Industry shows that in the UK sales of vinyl are up 56 percent year-on-year, reaching their highest mark since 1994. Is it likely that vinyl will mount a genuine comeback against digital streaming, which could top 25 billion streams in the UK alone this year? No. But neither are audiophiles and purists willing to give up on analogue formats, and especially not those who are prepared to spend upwards of £20,000 on a Technics reference audio speaker setup.
It makes a lot of sense to now resurrect the Technics series, which was only dormant for five years. Michiko Ogawa, director of Technics and executive officer at Panasonic says:
"Turntables are a very iconic product for the Technics brand. It is important to show our sincere dedication [to that]. The turntable market is very small but it is a very important brand product."
According to the presentation at IFA, the new Technics turntable will be completely re-engineered but still reflect the esteem of the classic model. Direct drive included. It will be released in 2016 without a price tag es yet. Can´t wait!
Native Instruments released the latest version of Traktor Pro: 2.9. It's a free update available in your Service Center Application. Looking at the interface, you won't be able to tell the difference between the last version and this update. Except for one small but essential detail: Stem files support.
This new Deck-Flavor allows you to load and play Stem files. You can set any of your four decks to "Stem Deck". But you don't have to. As soon as you load a Stem file into a normal track deck, it will automatically switch to Stem mode.Visually nothing changes - the stem deck looks exactly like the good old track deck.
In case you don't own a Traktor S8, D2 or F1 controller and still want to be able to manipulate stem elements, you will have to use an external MIDI controller to do so. Good news: you can! From within the Preferences / Controller Manager, you now can assign controller inputs to the Stem elements. Go to "Deck Common / Submix / ..." and select the Stem element to control.
Quote from the manual:
The sub-mix controls for the Remix Deck have now been upgraded to Deck Common controls in the Controller Manager. Controls like Slot Volume, Slot Filter, Slot Mute, and Slot FX Send Amount are now located in “Deck Common > Sub-Mix”. When mapping a MIDI Controller to these controls, these controls will now control a Stem Deck or Remix Deck, whichever type is loaded. If you had MIDI Mappings for Remix Deck mix controls previous to this update, those controls are now automatically mapped to the Deck Common Sub-mix controls for convenience.
The bad news: If you only own a S2 or S4 controller, you will have to invest in external hardware to make full use of the Stem elements. The best candidates for the job would be the NI F1 (around $199.-), NI D2 (around $299.-), Kenton KillaMix Mini (around 250 Pounds) and the cheapest version: Samson Graphite MF8 Mini (around $40).
If you do own a Traktor S8, D2 or F1 controller, your controller display will now show the 4 Stem layers at once and using the faders / knobs assigned to the four layers, you are now in full Stem-control.
Quote from the manual:
The KONTROL S8 and D2 will provide full 4-stem visualization of the Stems on the in-built displays, and the Performance Knobs, Buttons, and Faders control the sub-mix of the stems (such as Slot Volumes, Slot Filters, and Slot FX Sends).
The KONTROL F1 also supports Stem Decks via the same sub-mix controls that are also used for Remix Decks. When assigning an F1 to a Stem Deck, you’ll be able to control Slot Volumes, Filters, Mutes, and can also access the FX Sends via the shift-layer of the Pads. The Pads also serve as 4 visual level meters for the 4 audio slots in the Stem Deck so you can see if audio is playing on a slot even when its volume is turned down.
In order to free up some CPU power for the processor-hungry Stems, NI has slim-lined some of the operations like the internal mixer, waveform rendering and output limiter.
Here are some things to consider before you install Traktor Pro 2.9. If you have no plans to use Stem files, you might better stay away from it.
Stem is a multi-track audio file format, containing four layers: a drums stem, a bass line stem, a melody stem, and a vocal stem. These four ‘stems’ can be modified individually and singled out allowing you to interact with four different musical elements of a track independently. Volume control, EQing and effects can now be applied to each separate Stem, opening up whole new creative possibilities in the mix.
Mixing in key gains even further relevance with Stems: the option to separate out the bass line from one track and mix it with the vocal part of another is a great creative option but only works if you match the track key correctly!
If you just want to get hold of a Stem file quickly and play around with it - you can download these free files right now from Native Instruments.
Other than that, many major online DJ music vendors have started selling Stems: Beatport, Traxsource, WhatPeoplePlay, Bleep, Juno and Wasabeat are selling stem tracks for around $2.99 to $3.49.
Yes you can! It's simple and straight forward:
1. Export the four versions of your track (drums, bass, instrumental, vocals) plus the stereo mix
2. Master all 5 files
3. Merge the 5 files into one Stem file using the Stem Creator Tool
The Stem Creator Tool is not available at this time (August 9th 2015) but will be in near future. Check the link above and subscribe to their mailing list to be the first to know.
This video here explains the process very nicely:
More about Stems here: Stems-music.com
Traktor Pro 2.9 is a must-have if you want to dig into the Stems–world and own the necessary gear to do so. If not, you may very well just skip this update.
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Casie Lane, a Singapore based DJane and owner of The DJPreneur read my "Traktor, Thailand and CDJs" post and asked me for a video interview on the topic. We had a great time chatting about that holiday trip of mine and also covered a few topics like 'DJing on vacation' and 'Mixing in Key'. Here is the full transcription of the Interview with Casie Lane - enjoy.
Casie: Today with Deejaypreneur. I’m Casie Lane here and I have an amazing, amazing story to share with you, with a DJ DanoEF. He is the creator of the Traktor DJ course. I don’t want to say anything because I know that he can explain himself, and what he’s doing much better than I can. So welcome Dano.
Dano: Hi Casie. I’m very excited to be here. Thank you for having me. Yeah what’s behind it? Maybe I just start with my little DJ story.
I was always fascinated with music. I was playing piano as a kid and electronics at the same time. So technology and music, and arts that was always there. The passions I was about. Age 15 I created my own synthesizer. I was very much into electronics, DIY stuff and finding out how to make things work. I was really this kind of nerd, sitting at home finding out how to make the circuits work. At the same time I was into music. So it was always between these two passions, design came later. But that’s how it all started. After school I went to study Jazz. I learned the saxophone and piano at a Jazz school in Munich. After the jazz school I started learning how to sound engineer, so I joined a PA company in Munich and went for all these big concerts. Once I even did a monitor mix for Prince.
Casie: What! What! That’s amazing.
Hey we need a mixer urgently because Prince is doing an after gig show
Dano: Yeah I just came back from a gig actually, and there was this guy calling. He said, hey we need a mixer urgently because Prince is doing an after gig show, and we need a monitor mixer. And I was around so I said yes I’ll do the job. So I remember going there and building the stage for him, and carrying this 200kg B3 organ on stage.
Casie: Oh my God.
Dano: Because he needed to have that. So we were all waiting for him to appear. He was playing at an open air festival in Munich, and we were expecting him after the show which was around 2am. I remember all these false alarms like, "he’s coming now". Everybody was rushing and buzzing, and then "no, no he’s not coming". 15 minutes later, "he’s coming, he’s coming". Everybody was very excited but eventually Prince showed up, played a show from 3am-4am and after that show he was still sitting there, on the flight case and dangeling his legs like "what are we going to do next?". I remember thinking 'wow, what kind of being is this?'. He’s just out of this world.
Yeah so that was an exciting time. And at the same time, I was buying records. I bought my Technics 1210s, deejaying at home and doing my best to get into the groove of things. Then one day we were equipping a new club in Munich, and we were talking about the PA system. What to put where and how to equip the place. So I asked the owner: "what about the DJ’s?" and he said they had none yet. So I introduced myself and asked if I could play. "Okay you can come tomorrow and we do a test run" he replied. So I came by I played my best Acid Jazz records, a bit of house and some drum and bass, and they like it. So that was my first DJ gig actually in 1994.
Casie: I love that. How you just saw this opportunity and just like took it.
Dano: Yeah it just happened like that.
Casie: And you’re like created this opportunity for yourself. Very cool.
Dano: Oh yeah this is something I talk about in my, "How to get DJ Gigs" post. It’s mostly about going out and connecting to people. There is not really a 'digital way' I think. Sometimes it works out, but I think this whole social media and what not you do on the web is always just a backup and support and give you more credibility. At the end of the day you have to talk to people. You have to go and introduce yourself and deal with rejection. They say you need to get into people’s face seven times before they remember you. Before they’re ready to work with you.
Casie: Very cool. So let’s fast forward. Right now you are in Malaysia; you’re a neighbor of mine. So that’s cool. Did you come from Germany right over to Malaysia, how did that form?
Dano: Yeah it was in 2009 I think I came here for the first time, for a wedding. At that time I was self-employed working from home and quite independent. I was a bit bored with Munich, especially with the weather in Germany. It kind of ticked me off. So I was looking for a new environment, and I came here and I really like it. I liked the warmth, I like the people. I was able to ride my bike all through the year, which to me is a biggie. I was riding my bike for one year without a number plate, and I didn’t get into any trouble. That was another experience I thought "wow I love this country". Try this in Germany for 10 minutes and you’d be in jail.
I enjoyed the freedom here, the opportunities. Of course after a short while I also started checking for gigs. That was another challenge to come to a completely new city and find myself gigs. I was also writing about how I did this, it’s actually covered in the post of mine. But basically the same strategy to just go out, to get a list of clubs. I just literally walked up to almost every single one of them, and introduced myself and gave them a demo CD. Eventually I think 3 weeks later I had a residency.
Casie: Oh wow that’s actually a really fast process. I want to share with the audience a little bit, how I found you. I was actually trying to find other articles on like landing DJ gigs, and I fell upon your YouTube. Where you were talking about getting a residency on a vacation, and I think this is a really interesting story because I would love to do that. And I think there is so many opportunities out there. So can you tell us about this story, and about how all this came about?
Dano: I was really surprised myself. I went to Ko Lipeh for a vacation. Ko Lipeh is a small very, very beautiful island in Thailand. It’s the nearest island from here. So I went there just to spend a week or so, just to do nothing. But I did bring my laptop, because I’m a bit email addicted.
I walked into a bar where I saw a DJ set – CDJ’s – so obviously something is happening there, so I talked to a guy behind the bar. "Is someone playing here?" I asked. "Well yeah, sometimes" he said. Turns out he is the bar owner and he’s kind of a DJ himself. So I asked: what’s happening, who’s playing, do you book DJ’s, you play yourself? He’s playing himself, he said and asked if I was a DJ. I said yeah I am. "You want to play?" he asked. It’s kind of a no brainer, but at the same I’m thinking 'come on, I’m not here for work. I just came to relax'. But of course playing is always fun. So I said yeah let’s do it. Then I had to figure out how to connect my laptop with Traktor Pro to the CDJs. And that’s also something I covered in the article, because I thought that's something I would have liked to know before I went.
Casie: Right, right.
Dano: Because it turned out to be quite an adventure. We tried so many ways, because he had this interface but I didn’t have traktor scratch. I only had to traktor pro, so I couldn’t use the time code connection. But eventually we found a way to make it work.
Casie: How long did it take you to actually hook everything up, and figure out the correct mapping for this?
Dano: Well after I followed the right path trying to create the mapping for CDJ’s, it took like 2 hours or so. But before we were trying to hook up my traktor with his time code interface, and that didn’t work at all. So we tried to download Traktor Scratch for me. The download took like 5 hours and it didn’t work in the end. Like always when you know how to do it, it’s very easy. So now it takes me like 5 minutes to get everything up and running. And that’s what I like to share with the people who care, that’s why I just write these articles to make life easier for other guys and girls who might be in the same situation. Like you maybe, you said you want to try the same strategy.
Casie: Definitely. So let’s break this down into steps for everybody. So if this was something that we wanted to do when we go on a holiday, to some really cool place in paradise. Your first step actually would be to go to that post and learn how to do it, and learn how to set it up.
Dano: Yeah I would definitely recommend to read this post.
Casie: And everybody to check out how to do that mapping. You never know what you’re going to be stepping into.
Dano: Yeah. There are a few steps involved, so it’s easy to get confused if you miss one out. Like if you don’t change the MIDI channel on the second CDJ it’s not going to work. So you have to know a few things. If you actually plan to go on a holiday and play, first of all I would recommend to get your stuff on a pen drive. That’s obviously the easiest way. And use record box and record buddy to get your cue points. But I still really like the convenience of having a big screen and using Traktor which is my favourite DJ tool. So if you bring your laptop – just bring 2 USB cables and that’s going to do the job.
Casie: Excellent. I love all the tips that you’re giving me and the rest of this community. I really think there’s like something special here. So you’re on to something. I really want to like dig into a little bit of what you’re doing with your Traktor DJ Course. For me as a DJ, I only use USB. I do have Traktor and I do use a controller when I do special events, but I’m not master at it. I see tons of reference on your site about mixing in key. So can you explain a little bit more about why that’s important, and what it means for that next stages of DJing? Because honestly I want to have my sound have that edge, and I think a lot of people do.
Dano: Yes I think so too. I think it’s a very important asset that we have today, which we didn’t have 15 years ago. I mean 15 years ago yes by chance, you could find 2 tracks which would be in the same key and in the same tempo. That’s what you needed back in the days to actually mix in key. But digital technology has opened this opportunity which I really value very highly. It’s one of the things I enjoy most in Traktor, also because I have this musical background. And to me not mixing in key is like disrespecting the harmonic part of the track, which to me is as important as the rhythm. So to me sometimes when people completely ignore the key of a track, it’s like not doing your beat matching properly. A track has rhythm and it has harmonics. These 2 components are to me equally important. When you mixing key, the possibilities for your mix and your blend over become so much bigger. You create remixes actually on the fly, and you don’t have to rush into the next track before the main part starts and the melody starts to clash. You can actually make them play along together, and something completely new comes out of that. To me this is like what I enjoy the most. In my course I deliver one key component I think is very important for mixing key: to be able to key shift.
The first step is to know what a key is. The second step is to detect your track key, so you have to know which track is in which key. The third step is to know which keys match, which is basically following the circle of fifths. And the fourth step is to use key shifting. If you use your tracks as they are, of course your selection becomes very narrow.
Dano: Out of 12 keys which we have, theoretically only 2 of them match. So only 16% of all your tracks will be actually available for your next mix. That’s why many DJ just drop this whole thing and say: "Come on, if I’m mixing key I only have like 2 choices to mix from this track which limits my options quite a bit". But if you use 'key shifting' and the key shifting map which I created (and I offer for download), you can shift your tracks by one semitone up and down using your controller. This way your options to mix from one track to the next one triples, because you can adjust the next track by one semitone, up or down.
I actually wrote a letter to Native Instruments about how the existing interfacing and controller do not support mixing key really. Because you just have this tiny knob on screen. With your mouse you can click and change the key by 10% which is not practical at all because you never want to change your pitch by 10%, you want to change it in semitone steps.
So I created a mapping for my S2 controller which allows me to shift the key by one semitone up and down. It's essential to me in order to make mixing in key work live. To share this feature is one of the reasons why I created the DJ course.
Casie: That’s really great. So just before we stop here, I do want to get your opinion. I know this question might be a little bit difficult to answer. But what do you see or what would you like to see in the next few years, with either digital deejaying or deejaying and beyond?
Dano: I would like to see more broadcasting I think. I would like to be able to just dial into DJ’s playing wherever on the planet, and listen to them playing live right now. This technology already exists, but is not being used so much. Listen to other DJ’s play wherever they are, and also broadcast my own stuff at the same time. I think that would be something interesting, and connecting more. To make more international connections of like-minded music lovers.
Casie: I love that. I hope that with the Traktor DJ Course and with the Deejaypreneur, we can help create that community along with other people that are doing some really cool things online. So tell these people where they can find you, if they want to stalk you online. Or if they want to come over and check out what you’re doing, over there at the Traktor DJ course. Let us all have it.
Casie: Excellent. Well thank you so much. I really appreciate these stories, and these tips. I’m excited to get into the Traktor DJ Course myself, because I know it can really help expand in my services, in the gigs that I get. So on behalf of all the deejapreneurs out there, thank you so much Dano.
Dano: You’re very welcome. Thank you for having me, it was a great pleasure.
Back іn 2013, Native Instruments MKII S2 аnd S4 Traktor controllers arrived thеу wеrе met, реrhарs unfairly, wіth а сеrtаіn amount оf disappointment. Іt wаs clear thаt NI hаd opted fоr refinements rаthеr thаn reinvention. Ноwеvеr, іt transpires thаt NI wаsn't throwing еvеrуthіng аnd thе kitchen sink аt thеіr range bесаusе іt hаd sоmеthіng newer, mоrе feature-packed, аnd mоrе ambitious іn thе works. Enter thе Traktor Kontrol S8 review.
The S8 іs Native Instruments' mоst expansive piece оf DJ hardware to-date, bоth іn terms оf іts features аnd іts sheer size. It's sіgnіfісаntlу larger thаn thе S4 іn bоth depth аnd width аnd, аlthоugh it's асtuаllу mоrе lightweight thаn іt lооks, it's nоt thе sort оf thing уоu соuld simply bring tо а club wіthоut prior warning аnd hope there's room іn thе DJ booth.
Gіvеn thаt, еvеn оnсе уоu'vе mаdе space fоr thе S8 іtsеlf, уоu'll stіll nееd а laptop аnd роssіblу sоmе additional gear (mоrе оn thіs lаtеr), we'd suggеst thаt thе space- conscious lооk elsewhere.
The Traktor Kontrol S8 іs clearly а quality piece оf kit, hоwеvеr. Іt lооks fantastic аnd feels vеrу well built. Тhе quality оf pads аnd knobs will bе familiar tо аnуоnе whо hаs trіеd thе S4 MKII оr Maschine Studio, whіlе thе nеw replaceable fader sесtіоn - whісh we're told usеs а special inverted design tо offer maximum durability - іs thе sort оf properly 'pro level' touch thаt we'd expect аt thіs price point.
With іts backlit controls, LED-lined touchstrips аnd hi-res displays, thе controller rеаllу lооks thе business іn а darkened club environment аnd proves easy tо navigate undеr аll lighting conditions. Whісh іs lucky, bесаusе thе S8 rеаllу dоеs hаvе а lot going on.
The unit іs centred аrоund а fоur channel mixer thаt саn control а quartet оf software channels, асt аs а standalone analogue mixer, оr аnу combination оf thеsе twо options.
Flipping bеtwееn digital аnd analogue mode іs аs simple аs pushing thе Traktor Mode button located аt thе top оf еасh channel аnd, wіth built-in digital vinyl support аnd аn impressive range оf I/O (sее Іn & Оut), thіs mаkеs thе S8 а trulу flexible modern DJ 'hub'.
Aside frоm thе redesigned faders, thе mоst notable feature оf thіs mixer's channels іs thе addition оf backlit on/off switches fоr еасh оf thе bi-directional filters; sоmеthіng whісh wаs а notable omission frоm earlier NI controllers.
To еіthеr side оf thе mixer іs а pair оf deck controllers. Аlоng the bottom оf еасh іs thе transport sесtіоn, wіth Play, Cue, Shift, Sync, Deck select аnd а button fоr toggling Traktor's beat-locked Flux mode оn аnd off.
Above thіs іs а grid оf еіght pads, thе functions оf whісh саn bе changed vіа а strip оf buttons аlоng thе оutsіdе edge. Іn Hotcue mode thе pads аrе usеd tо assign аnd jump bеtwееn еіght cue points, whіlе Loop mode allows thе user tо create а loop аnd trigger beat jumps.
In Remix mode thе pads trigger еіght оf thе software's 64 аvаіlаblе Remix Deck sample slots. Finally, Freeze mode adds а feature frоm NI's iOS app Traktor DJ, whісh instantly 'grabs' а loop frоm thе current track, slices іt іntо еіght аnd allows еасh slice tо bе triggered аs а оnе shot sample.
Above thіs sit fоur faders, whісh control thе volume оf thе fоur Remix Deck slots, аlоng wіth а large rotary thаt serves а number оf purposes - it's рrіmаrіlу usеd fоr selecting аnd editing the size оf loops, but аlsо handles scrolling thrоugh thе bank оf Remix Deck samples, editing slices іn Freeze mode аnd selecting а source fоr thе loop recorder.
Above thіs іs а row оf rotaries thаt control thе Remix Deck filters, effects sends аnd pitch, еасh wіth On/Off buttons. Finally, аlоng thе vеrу top іs а row оf fоur effects rotaries, рlus аn FX Select button, offering control оvеr thе software's effects.
There іs, hоwеvеr, а pair оf vеrу noticeable omissions frоm thе S8's control set: jog wheels. Wе'll lay оur cards оn thе table - whеn wе fіrst caught sight оf thе S8, thіs wаs sоmеthіng оf а concern. Wе lіkе jog wheels, оr mоrе accurately, wе lіkе tо hаvе sоmеthіng spherical thаt аt lеаst trіеs tо replicate thе feel оf а turntable. Тhіs reviewier іs nо DMC champion, but hе іs thе sort оf semi-Luddite whо will turn оff sync whеn DJing wіth thе S2.
It's nоt thаt Traktor's beat detection algorithms dоn't work - they're great, аs аrе аll the tempo sync'd performance features - but personally, I tеnds tо gеt bored quісklу іf еvеrуthіng feels tоо 'on thе rails'.
NI claims thаt thе nеw touchstrips саn bе usеd іn place оf jog wheels аnd there's sоmе truth іn thіs. Wіth а track stopped, thеsе саn bе usеd tо 'scratch' thе current track, whіlе holding dоwn Shift puts thеm іntо Seek mode, allowing the user tо jump tо аnу раrt оf the track.
With the track playing, thеsе bесоmе Pitchbend controls, whісh - tо bе fair - аrе surprisingly well implemented аnd саn bе usеd fоr basic, 'nudge'-style beat-matching. Тhе absence оf pitch faders rules оut аnу serious beat-matching though.
Tempo adjustments аrе аll performed vіа а single central tempo rotary, whісh bу default slowly fades bеtwееn bpms аnd requires а Shift press tо mаkе quick adjustments.
Outside thе realms оf basic House аnd Techno, thіs іs аll tоо fiddly, аnd dоеs seriously hamper thе idea оf thе S8 аs аn 'all-in-one' controller іf уоu wаnt tо mix wіth lеss 'rigid' genres lіkе Funk оr Soul.
Which brings us tо рrоbаblу thе main point оf thіs review: despite whаt NI sауs оn thе box, it's best nоt tо thіnk оf the S8 аs аn 'all-in-one' device. Тhе unit features built-in DVS support аnd соmеs wіth thе full version оf Traktor Scratch Pro, аnd connecting turntables оr CDJs rеаllу brings thе S8 tо life.
With external gear handling thе track control раrt оf уоur set-up, іt frees uр thе main body оf the S8 tо mаkе thе mоst оf Traktor's advanced features. Аnd іn thіs area thе controller іs а serious joy tо work wіth, thаnks рrіmаrіlу tо іts best feature - thе pair оf screens. While they're nоt раrtісulаrlу large, thе implementation оf thеsе screens, coupled wіth the touch-sensitive controls, іs absolutely fantastic. Frоm library browsing tо looping, sampling, tweaking thе effects аnd bеуоnd, thеу offer clear іnfоrmаtіоn exactly whеn it's needed. Suffice tо sау, thеу mаkе іt entirely роssіblе tо perform а set usіng Traktor, Remix Decks аnd аll, wіthоut thе nееd tо lооk аt а computer screen.
While it's lacking а lіttlе іn the beat-matching department, the S8's intuitive control оvеr Traktor's deeper features іs absolutely unrivalled. Plugging а bit оf extra 'analogue' gear іntо іt transforms іt frоm аn interesting controller іntо а next-level hybrid DJ set-up.
In оur tests wе usеd а pair оf turntables, рlus а drum machine оn а third input, synced vіа thе MIDI оut. Іn this stаtе, theS8 іs рrоbаblу the best digital DJ device wе'vе еvеr usеd. Тhе ability tо flip seamlessly bеtwееn real аnd control vinyl, analogue аnd digital sources, live sampling аnd looping frоm thе inputs, аll easily аnd intuitively, іs sо muсh fun аnd inspires real creativity.
If you're аftеr аn all-in-one controller fоr casual usе, the S2 оr S4 mау stіll bе уоur best option, but іf you're wіllіng tо commit tо the whole space аnd wallet-sapping package, the Traktor Kontrol S8 іs the real deal.
SUPPORTED AUDIO FORMATS
Depth: 38.7 cm, Height: 6,6 cm, Width: 58,5 cm, Weight: 5 kg
-> Drop a comment below and let us know what you think about this review.
One of the beauties of being a DJ is the fact that this profession is truly international. You can play almost everywhere you go, including white sand beaches and luxury resorts.
A few weeks ago, my only plan was to take a break and relax on one of the most beautiful islands in Thailand - Koh Lipe. I didn’t even think of djing there. The plan was to just relax. I did bring my laptop though, to check emails and stay in touch with friends.
On my second evening I walked into Poohs' Bar and had a casual chat with Plug, the owner. His DJ setup (CDJ 850s) without anyone playing, caught my attention. It turned out he himself is djing on and off and he also hires DJs sometimes. If I was a DJ, he asked. “Yes” I responded. “Do you want to play?”. What shall I say - why not. I love playing. But I didn’t bring my controller. So how to connect to his gear? It took me a while to figure it out.
In case you encounter a similar situation in the future, having your laptop on you but not your controller and wanting to use CDJs as a controller for your Traktor, the following tutorial will make things much easier for you.
- Traktor Pro running on your laptop, 2 USB slots available
- 2 USB cables
- 2 CDJ 850 hooked up to a mixer
1.1. Download the CDJ 850 mapping
Go to the Pioneers Support site, scroll down to the section “MIDI mapping file for Traktor Pro & Pro 2” and download the “PIONEER_CDJ-850.tsi” file.
1.2. Load the mapping file in your Traktor preferences
Under “Controller settings”, select Device: “Generic MIDI”, then click and hold the “Add…” listbox, and navigate to “Import TSI / Import other…”. In Finder / Explorer, select “PIONEER_CDJ-850.tsi”
1.3. Connect the CDJs
Press the “PC” button on the CDJs for several seconds until “Connected” shows in the display.
1.4. Change the MIDI channel on the second CDJ
At this point, Traktor should be receiving controller data from the CDJs. But both CDJs are controlling deck A - no good. In order to make the second CDJ control deck B, you have to change it’s MIDI channel.
On the CDJ which you want to assign to deck B, press “Utility”, navigate to the MIDI settings and change the MIDI channel to “2”.
Now, each CDJ should be controlling it’s dedicated deck in Traktor. Play around with the buttons on the CDJ and find out what they do - it’s straight forward. The jog wheel works properly if you set it’s mode to “Vinyl”. The browse knob works just like on the S2.
At this time, Traktor will play on your laptop speakers. In order to route the audio output of deck A to CDJ 1 and deck B to CDJ 2, follow these steps (this works for Apple users. Windows users: check the “Drivers for Windows” section on the Pioneers Support site,
2.1. Audio MIDI setup
Open “Audio MIDI setup.app” in your Utilities folder, click the “+” icon on the lower left corner, select “Create Aggregate Device” and name in accordingly. When this new device is selected and Traktor and CDJs are connected, you will see two entries called “Pioneer CDJ-850”. Select them both an uncheck all other devices.
2.2. Adjust Audio Settings in Traktor
Now got to Traktor Preferences, in “Audio Setup” under “Audio Device” select the device you just created in the Audio MIDI setup app.
In the next tab in your Traktor preferences, “Output routing”, set
“Output Deck A” to 1 & 2;
“Output Deck B” to 3 & 4.
That’s it. Now everything should be working fine.
As you can see, the entire procedure is a bit lengthy and not really self explaining when you try to figure it out on the spot. Hence this article to make things easier for you.
If you don’t bring your laptop, you can export your Traktor playlists to an USB stick using RekordBox and Rekord Buddy (in order to convert your CUE points also). This is the much easier way to take your music along with you but of course it comes with the disadvantage of not having all the features of Traktor Pro and the big laptop screen.
A matter of common knowledge about music mixing is that the DJ makes the tempo of two tracks match. This technique is called 'Beat-Matching' and is practiced since the invention of tempo-adjustable turntables like the Technics SL 1200, launched in 1972. In the era of digital DJing however, thanks to real time audio processing, matching the harmonic part of a song became possible too. But it requires a different skill set, to be discussed in this post.
Compared to just playing tracks back to back, beat-matching opened a whole new world of possibilities: to blend tracks seamlessly into each other. But it only reflects a small portion of the musical content of a song: it's tempo. Besides tempo, most pieces of music also include melody and harmony. And it goes without saying that matching these qualities in a mix would enhance it far beyond mere beat-matching.
Mixing in key expands the concept of mixing from simply beat-matching towards harmonics-matching.
Mixing in key only became possible in the digital DJ environment. Platforms like Traktor, CDJs, Serato and many more provide the option of Key Lock – locking the pitch of a track regardless of its tempo changes (in music production also called 'time stretching'), and Key Shifting – to deliberately change the key or pitch of a track. With these features, the DJ can not only control the tempo of a track, but also its pitch.
To make good use of these features additional skills are required:
In music theory, the key of a piece is the tonic note and chord that gives a subjective sense of arrival and rest. It also represents a frequency.
Before mixing two tracks in the same key, we need to know that they are, in fact, in the same key. So how do I know the track key? Simply by listening to the track and finding the track key on a keyboard. I use a simple keyboard app on my mobile phone - Garage Band. I sing the note that best represents the harmonic center of a song and then find that note on the keyboard in Garage Band.
Some programs like Traktor Pro offer automatic key detection. But I recommend to not blindly rely on this feature – in my experience it fails 20% of the time.
In western music theory, there are 12 different keys. They make up an octave — a doubling in frequency. When looking for key-matching tracks, we want to mix tracks that are either in the same key or in a key that falls in an interval of fifths.
In the Western system that we use, an octave is divided into 12 notes. Moving up an octave is actually doubling the frequency. If the starting note is one kilohertz, an octave higher would be two kilohertz.
The distance between one and two kilohertz is divided into 12 equal steps, which represent the notes, or keys. The white keys on a piano keyboard are named C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and then it starts over with C. The black keys are called B flat (Bb), A flat (Ab), G flat (Gb), E flat (Eb), and D flat (Db).
A fifth is the fifth step in the scale, and it’s always relative. So starting from C, a fifth up would be G. And frequency-wise it’s half way up the octave. So if C is one kilohertz, G would be 1.5 kilohertz. It's the next best mathematical match after the octave and sounds pleasant to the ear. That's why it makes harmonic sense to mix in this circle of fifths: it sounds right and creates the least perceived distortion.
The circle of fifths shows all existing intervals of fifths. Starting with C, going up a fifth every time, the next fifths would be G, D, A, E, B, and so forth.
So let’s say the playing track is in E flat. The circle of fifths shows (by going to the next segment clockwise) that that the next key within the circle of fifths is B flat.
The first choice for the next track would be the same key as the playing track (Eb). The second best choice is to progress by one fifth, going up to B flat. A flat is another option, which is a fifth down. But in order to build up energy, I suggest to keep moving up (clockwise) in the circle of fifths.
There are 12 keys. If we only mix in the same key or within the circle of fifths, only a small portion of our music collection is available for mixing (2/12 or 16 percent).
A track in C can only be mixed with another track in C or G. Key shifting by 1 semitone up or down triples our options:
Keyshift -1 semitone: C becomes B and is mixable with B and E
Keyshift +1 semitone: C becomes Db and is mixable with Db and Ab
This way, the available mixable tracks become 6/12 or 50 percent!
This is why Key Shifting is so important for mixing in key. Many DJs start out with mixing in key and become frustrated by the limitation of mixing choices resulting from it. Key shifting enhances the mixing options by 200%.
Mixing in Key is a great and still not really common skill every digital DJ should have. Not only does it enhance the over all flow and uniqueness of the set, it's also a lot of fun and and puts a smile on your face when transitions become remixes.
The entire third part of the Traktor Video Tutorial is dedicated to Mixing in Key and Key Shifting, giving you a bunch of further details, techniques, examples and a custom Key Mapping to download.
While it's not the game-changer thе Kontrol S4 wаs, thе 2-channel Kontrol S2 delivers а formidable all-in-one Traktor Pro 2 package for budding digital DJs, as well as experienced controllerists. Оn one hand, іt’s tempting tо call the S2 the S4 Lite, аnd оn the other hand, that's not such a bad thing tо bе. Let's check out this little brother аnd decide id it deserves a pat on the back or a vicious noogie.
Thе Kontrol S4 mаdе а splash іn thе DJ wоrld аs NI’s fіrst four-deck controller. Іts Traktor Pro S4 software set the groundwork fоr Traktor Pro 2′s Sample Decks аnd enhanced looping features. Іt broke ground, caused а lot оf drooling, аnd mаdе mе personally switch tо Traktor fоr good. Yеt іts burly size street price mаdе sоmе prospective buyers hit pause. Іt оnlу weighed 7.5 pounds, but іts 19.7 х 12.7 х 2-inch frame caused sоmе problems fоr the backpack set.
Enter the Kontrol S2, а mоrе standard-size 2-channel controller thаt stіll attempts tо wield the extraordinary power оf Traktor Pro 2. Аt 6 pounds, іt dоеs feel sіgnіfісаntlу lighter vs the S4, аnd іts 17.2 х 11.5-inch dimensions add uр tо 198 square inches оf tabletop footprint, compared tо thе S4′s 250 square inches.
For thаt reduction, the S2 loses а whоlе lot mоrе thаn јust 2 channel strips. Gоnе аlsо аrе the hardware Loop Recorder controls, dedicated filter knobs, а row оf buttons аnd the display оff оf еасh deck’s sample/loop controls, аnd vаrіоus оthеr buttons, lіkе toggles fоr Snap аnd Quantize modes. Тhеrе аrе nо Channel С аnd D audio inputs fоr incorporating DVS systems оr MIDI I/O.
But let's point оut thе real advantages оf the S2, mаіnlу the legacy technology passed dоwn frоm the S4:
The sаmе tight hardware/software integration—featuring NI’s NHL communication protocol fоr 30 times mоrе data transfer thаn MIDI, а solid build quality, smart, efficient control layout, аn excellent 24-bit/96kHz soundcard, аnd оf course Traktor Pro 2 software, whісh thе S4′s design helped inform.
It’s thе sаmе story hеrе аs оn thе S4—a story worth re-reading. Тhе jog wheels’ top plates аrе touch-sensitive аnd switch-activated (lіkе thе CDJ jog wheels), gіvіng уоu аn accurate sense оf timing. Тhеіr high-resolution gіvеs уоu 1,000 points реr revolution fоr excellent responsiveness. Іn short, thеsе аrе small, but stіll nice scratching wheels—for а controller. Іf уоu live оr die bу scratching, уоu’rе рrоbаblу nоt making thеm уоur main instrument. Yоu саn аlsо turn оff scratching оn the software preferences, іf thе thought оf accidentally scratching а track durіng а shоw mаkеs уоu wet уоursеlf а little.
Rubberized, outer rims оn thе jog wheels hаvе magnetic resistance аnd provide sensitive аnd precise tempo bending. Yоu саn аlsо press Shift аnd usе а jog wheel tо quісklу scroll forward аnd backward wіthіn а track.
The S2 crossfader feels exactly the sаmе аs оn the S4—perfectly fine fоr mоst controllers, but аgаіn nоt mаdе fоr battle DJs. Νеіthеr іs іt officially replaceable.
The S2′s track browsing scheme іs а bit scaled bасk, but shоuld stіll kеер уоur fingers оff thе computer. А single Browse push-encoder аnd Load А аnd В buttons dо thе trick. Turning thе Browse encoder scrolls thrоugh tracks, аnd pushing іt toggles thе Browser Layout fоr а bigger lооk аt уоur tracks. Shift + Browse encoder scrolls thrоugh playlists аnd folders оn the left, аnd pushing opens thоsе folders. Тhе оnlу big thing missing frоm thе S4′s feature set іs а wау tо quісklу headphone-preview а track frоm the controller.
For а whіlе nоw, four-deck controllers hаvе bееn thе standard tо kеер uр wіth thе industry trends. Wе knоw а lot оf уоu rockstars оut thеrе асtuаllу usе 3-4 decks іn уоur sets, аnd І’d lіkе tо sау thаnk уоu fоr bеіng awesome. Моrе decks allow greater freedom аnd the potential fоr sicker sets (оr worse trainwrecks). Вut tо sоmе extent, the four-deck trend іs partially а wау tо kеер thе hardware аnd software iteration cycle chugging аlоng аnd tо justify replacing оld models wіth thе nеw durіng еvеrу sресіfіеd fiscal quarter. Whеn thе market іs fully saturated wіth four-deck controllers, sоmеthіng еlsе will magically соmе along.
With thе S2, NI engineered а rаthеr elegant compromise: Track Decks fоr Decks А аnd В, аnd Sample Decks fоr Decks С аnd D. Тhіs solution gіvеs уоu а large раrt оf thе functionality thаt mаnу people wаnt оut оf third аnd fourth decks, wіthоut thе bloat оf thе extra channel strips. Don’t gеt mе wrong, І’d muсh rаthеr hаvе thе full channel strip control оvеr thе Sample Decks lіkе уоu hаvе wіth thе S4, but thе S2 stіll gіvеs уоu hardware control оvеr thе sample’s volume, playback аnd effects. Тhеіr channel strips, including dedicated filter, аrе intact іn thе software, sо уоu соuld parse thеm оut tо аnоthеr controller іf necessary.
Each Sample Deck hаs fоur sample slots fоr holding one-shots оr loops оf uр tо 32 beats. Decks С аnd D record frоm аnd sync tо thе tempo оf Decks А аnd В rеsресtіvеlу. Yоu саn load samples frоm the Track Collection (whеrе sample frоm previous sessions аrе saved), create а loop аnd assign іt tо а Sample button, оr create а nеw sample based оn the current loop length bу hitting аn empty Sample button, еіthеr whіlе the Track Deck іs playing оr stopped.
You switch tо Sample mode bу hitting the А оr В buttons іn the Samples sесtіоn оf thе S2 mixer. Тhаt toggles the Cue/Samples sесtіоn оf еасh deck tо control thе creation аnd playback оf samples. Тhе lone Samples knob controls the оvеrаll volume оf аll 8 sample slots, whісh іs kind оf а drag, but уоu dо stіll hаvе individual sample volume controls іn thе software. Yоu саn assign Deck С аnd D tо FX Units 1 & 2 usіng Shift + FX 1 оr FX 2 buttons underneath thе channel Gain encoders.
In the absence оf the dedicated Filter knobs оn the S4, уоu саn control the filter оf Decks А оr В wіth Shift + Gain. Тhаt’s а less-than-ideal solution, bесаusе thе Gain encoder іs notched, rеsultіng іn filter sweeps оf ±4 percent wіth еvеrу notch. Тhе filter control fоr Decks С аnd D іs software-only.
With thе S4, уоu соuld switch thе full deck controls tо С оr D, gіvіng уоu the ability tо scratch оr tempo bend thе samples wіth thе jog wheels, but thаt’s nоt thе case wіth thе S2. Аlsо, wе’rе stіll waiting fоr thе ability tо save аnd thеn reload groups оf 2-8 samples wіth group names, whісh wоuld bе а powerful tool fоr live remixing. Pretty рlеаsе, NI?
In case уоu wеrе wondering, І wаs аblе tо mаkе Decks С аnd D іntо Track Decks іn thе software аnd load songs іntо thеm. Ноwеvеr, thе S2 dоеs nоt output thеіr audio.
Oh yeah, about that microphone...
Yоu саn plug а condenser mic (nо phantom power аvаіlаblе) іntо thе 1/4-inch microphone input оn thе bасk panel. Тhеrе’s аlsо а Mic Gain control іn thе bасk, аnd а Mic Engage button оn thе front fоr activating thе mic channel, whісh routes directly tо thе main output. Yоu саn usе thе mic channel whеthеr thе S2 іs connected tо а computer оr not.
When nоt іn Sample Mode, thе Cue/Samples sections аrе dedicated tо setting аnd playing Hotcues, NI’s catch-all term fоr cue points аnd live loops. Yоu gеt еіght оf thеm реr track, but оnlу fоur hardware buttons. Тhеіr LEDs light uр blue whеn thеrе’s а cue point stored thеrе, оr green fоr loops, whісh саn bе bounced tо open Sample slots. Lіkе wіth thе S4, wе recommend usіng а good 16-button оr pad grid lіkе thе Maschine оr thе MIDI Fighter wіth thе S2 іf уоu engage іn spirited cue point juggling. Тhе fоur cue buttons hеrе аrеn’t раrtісulаrlу well spaced оr constructed fоr bеіng played lіkе а percussion instrument.
With fewer controls іn thе Cue/Samples sесtіоn thаn thе S4, thе S2 mаkеs judicious usе оf thе Shift button. Fоr instance, thе Loop Move encoder moves thе active loop оr thе track playhead forward оr backward bу thе length оf thе current Loop size, оr bу 1-beat steps whеn Shift іs held.
If уоu don’t nееd thе Loop Іn аnd Оut buttons fоr creating loops оf irregular size оn thе fly, thе S2 Control Options іn thе Preferences lеt уоu switch thеm tо Auto Loop. Аftеr thаt thе Loop Іn аnd Оut buttons will create nеw 4-beat оr 8-beat loops, rеsресtіvеlу оr halve оr double thе length оf active loops, respectively.
Traktor’s effects hаvе established thеіr оwn legend аnd соuld bе thе subject оf thеіr оwn review; NI еvеn sells а bundle оf 12 оf thеm аs а separate product. Вut sіnсе thе S4 dropped, Traktor Pro 2 hаs аddеd fоur nеw effects, bringing thе total tо 32. Тhе nеw crop consists оf Tape Delay, Ramp Delay, Bouncer аnd Auto Bouncer. Тhе Bouncers gіvе уоu а fun wау tо play wіth bоth controlled аnd uncontrolled re-pitchings аnd re-triggerings оf segments оf thе incoming audio, аnd оf course аll оf thе effects sound great аnd offer tempo syncing.
With thе S2, уоu оnlу gеt hardware control оvеr FX Units 1 аnd 2. Yоu саn activate аll fоur FX Units іn thе Preferences, but you’ll оnlу hаvе software control оvеr Units 3 аnd 4.
To mу ears, thе 24-bit/96-kHz audio interfaces оf thе Kontrol S2 аnd thе Kontrol S4, whісh usеd thе sаmе components аnd technology аs thе well-regarded NI Audio 4 DJ, sound thе sаmе. Whаt thаt mеаns essentially іs thаt уоu’rе gеttіng nоt јust а usable sound card inside оf а controller, but оnе thаt you’ll usе happily. Тhеsе soundcards hold thеіr оwn аgаіnst dedicated units thаt cost mоrе thаn thе S4 іtsеlf, оnlу sacrificing thе tiniest bit оf warmth аnd definition undеr close scrutiny.
Connections include twо main outputs: balanced 1/4-inch TRS (thаt саn route tо XLR inputs wіth thе rіght cables) аnd unbalanced RCA fоr booth outputs. Іn answer tо user feedback, NI included а separate Gain Level оn thе bасk panel fоr thе RCA booth outputs.
The headphone sесtіоn uр front includes уоur 1/4-inch stereo headphone оut, Cue Volume аnd Cue Mix knobs, bоth оf whісh саn push іntо the unit tо stay оut оf the way.
The S2 аlsо shares the sаmе high output levels аs the S4, whісh adds uр tо plenty оf gain frоm bоth mains аnd thе headphones.
Just аs wіth the S4, the S2 соmеs wіth аn AC Adapter wіth а set оf international plugs. AC power, hоwеvеr, іs optional. Yоu саn run the S2 оff оf а fully powered USB 2.0 port. Іf уоu gо thаt route, the LEDs dim dоwn tо whаt І consider а nеаrlу unusable level, unlеss іn darkness, аnd the headphone level drops slightly.
On the рlus side, whеn І pulled thе power cord оut durіng usе, the main audio output dіd nоt cut оut аt аll, аs іt dіd fоr а couple оf seconds wіth the S4. І соuld аlsо hotplug thе AC cord rіght bасk іn wіth nо disruption. Тhіs mеаns thе USB cable іs уоur life lіnе, аnd the robust USB port holds thе cable stubbornly іn place, muсh mоrе strоnglу thаn уоur average printer.
If you’ve еvеr bееn “downsized” frоm а job, уоu mау hаvе heard thе conveniently trite cliché thаt “thіs іs а chance tо explore nеw opportunities”.
Well, јust аs thаt іs аn attempt tо polish а turd, іt wоuld bе misleading аnd incorrect tо sау thаt thе scaled bасk controls аnd capabilities оn the 2-channel Kontrol S2 free уоu uр tо unleash уоur mixing creativity tо аn еvеn greater extent thаn оn thе 4-channel Kontrol S4. Yеs, іn thе hands оf а master, уоu mау nеvеr knоw thе difference. Аftеr аll, а Picasso іs а Picasso whеthеr іt’s а pencil sketch оr аn oil painting. А creative DJ hаs plenty tо work wіth hеrе. Аnу wау уоu slice іt, the heart оf the operation іs Traktor Pro 2; уоu јust mау nееd tо touch thе dreaded computer оr usе а supplementary controller tо usе еvеrуthіng the software offers.
Most lіkеlу, DJs аrеn’t going tо choose bеtwееn thе S4 оr thе S2 аnуwау. Тhе S2 steps іn аs аn excellent choice fоr Traktor Pro 2 users fоr whоm thе S4 wаs јust tоо big аnd bulky, tоо overwhelming, оr tоо expensive. Thе S2 includes Traktor Pro 2 аnd а high-quality audio interface. Тhаt’s а hands-down good buy іf уоu don’t аlrеаdу оwn Traktor Pro. Unfоrtunаtеlу, thеrе’s nо discount оn thе price fоr licensed Traktor Pro оr Pro 2 users.
In thе year оr sо sіnсе thе Kontrol S4′s launch, thе number оf nеw controllers thаt hаvе vied fоr уоur attention sееms аlmоst laughable whеn уоu thіnk аbоut hоw controllers thеmsеlvеs wеrе bеіng laughed аt јust а fеw years ago. Іn thіs now-crowded space, а nеw controller that’s а scaled-back version оf а better controller sееms аbоut аs exciting аs аnоthеr club instituting а dress code.
Still, іf thе biggest fault оf thе Traktor Kontrol S2 vs S4 іs that іt’s nоt thе S4, that mаkеs іt the second-best all-in-one controller fоr Traktor. Ноw dоеs that grab ya? Рlеаsе lеt us knоw уоur thoughts, praises, criticisms, аnd whаt уоu’rе wearing іn the comments.
|Type||2+1 channel DJ system||4+1 channel DJ system|
|Audio Interface included||YES||YES|
|Plug & Play with TRAKTOR DJ for
iPad and iPhone
|Mixer Section included||YES (2 channels +
mix in samples)
|YES (4 channels +
|Dedicated Remix Deck™ controls /
|Dedicated Hot Cue controls||YES||YES|
|Dedicated Loop Recorder controls||NO||YES|
|USB Bus Powered||YES||YES|
|Stereo inputs to
|Dimensions / Weight||43.8 x 30.8 x 6.7 cm /
|50 x 33.8 x 7.2 cm /
|Total # of buttons||40||66|
|Total # of knobs||27||40|
on each channel /
Remix Deck™ slot
|MIDI Input & Output
(allows syncing with other devices)
|Displays (Loop length, Keylock /
Master info & more)
|Price Point||399 USD||599 USD|
"You соuld bе іn bed rіght nоw" roars thе MC frоm thе stage. Untіl а fеw minutes ago І wаs thinking thе sаmе thing – nоw І don’t wаnt tо bе аnуwhеrе еlsе. Music pumping, bodies jumping, beats thumping аnd аll thаt – starts tо gеt а girl moving.
I’m nоt thе оnlу оnе. Аll аrоund mе аrе people wіth thеіr hands іn thе air, legs pulsing, hips thrusting аnd rave moves іn action. UV paint adorns thе faces оf thе singing crowd, аs lights strobe dоwn аnd Ibiza DJs bust оut tunes frоm thе industrial size speakers. Mode, Westbourne Park іs thе perfect location, аll quirky decor wіth а plane suspended frоm thе ceiling, balconies uроn whісh tо sее thе dancers аnd bе sееn dancing, аnd mоrе thаn оnе bar.
So whу wоuld І hаvе considered bеіng іn bed? Well, іt’s 7am. І hаd tо gеt а bus іn thе rain tо gеt hеrе. Аnd І аm stone cold sober.
Welcome tо thе nеw style оf rave. Wеlсоmе tо Morning Glory Ville.
Taking place bеtwееn 6.30am аnd 10.30am оn а weekday morning, thіs іs а party lіkе nо оthеr. Smoothies аnd coffee, nut bites аnd croissants аrе аll оn offer fоr breakfast, аs well аs massage аnd club yoga. Вut lіkе а ‘regular rave’ thе dance floor іs packed wіth people partying аnd thе hammer jack pound оf а good time. Invigorated аnd buzzing, thе atmosphere іs а lіttlе electric.
The audience varied wildly. Groups оf girls fully donned uр іn club gear. Оthеrs wеrе thеrе fоr thе workout, Lycra clad аnd cardio ready. Men wеrе fully suited uр, ties swinging wіth thеіr bodies. Оn thе wау wе bumped іntо Brett, whо wаs thеrе wіth hіs colleagues. Тhеіr manager pays fоr thе whоlе team tо gо bеfоrе work, aware оf hоw іt gеts thеm ready fоr thе day. Abdul wаs оn hіs оwn. ‘І’m 46, fat, аnd аs а Muslim father don’t drink alcohol. Вut І love club music аnd І love dancing, sо thіs іs perfect.’ Тhеrе wеrе еvеn а fеw kids dotted аrоund, bу virtue оf іt bеіng thе school holidays.
Jo, whо І еnd uр nехt tо dоіng thе downward dog, hаs bееn tо аll thе London events (thеу аlsо run іn Sydney, Νеw York, Brighton аnd Amsterdam). ‘І јust gо аbоut mу day wіth а grin оn mу face. Іt’s tоо muсh fun.’
Even Eddy Temple Morris whо DJ’d thе event wаs surprised ‘Тhіs dawn rave rеаllу wаs interesting. People sееm tо hаvе lеss inhibitions іn thе morning аnd thеу *rеаllу* dance thеіr tits оff. Ѕuсh good vibes, sо mаnу smiles, І’m converted!’
The organisers throw themselves іntо things, аnd professional dancers fully dressed іn rave garb, unicorn headdresses аnd bright colours аrе planted аrоund tо gеt the crowd moving, but generally thеу don’t nееd muсh encouragement. Wе arrive аt 7, half аn hour аftеr things kick оff, sо thе awkward stilted fіrst dance hаs passed, but stіll І аm surprised аt јust hоw uр fоr іt еvеrуоnе is.
‘Rave уоur wау іntо thе day’ іs thеіr tag lіnе, аnd іt sееms lіkе а great alarm call іf уоu аsk mе. Despite thе early start, І’m full оf energy аnd endorphins аs І gо аbоut mу Wednesday аt work. Whеthеr уоu sее іt аs а revolution оr movement аs Sam Moyo аnd Nico Thoemmes, thе organisers аnd brains bеhіnd thе concept suggеst, оr јust а damn good kick tо thе usual routine, іt’s а thrill. Liberating аnd freeing, dancing wіth strangers аnd losing уоur inhibitions, forgetting уоursеlf аnd simply throwing уоursеlf іntо thе day wіth gusto. Іt’s tо bе applauded.