Thursday, December 14, 2006

Digital DJ's

You may have been dancing at a club recently and noticed that the DJ was using CD's and a Laptop instead of vinyl. What was once taboo has now become commonplace in many clubs around the world. The popularity (and cheapness) of digital files have pushed more and more DJ's into the digital realm. Software programs like Traktor, Serato Scratch, and Ableton Live allow DJ's to do away with lugging around heavy record bags and also open up a host of creative options for those looking to make an artistic statement with their sets. With Ableton Live ( the program I use), you can create loops in real time, add effects, and layer several different tracks all at once. The program keeps the tempo locked, allowing for more control over cutting up tracks, setting EQ parameters, and adding in live instrumentation or scratching. You don't use turntables in Ableton, everything is controlled through the program. Serato Scratch emulates a traditional vinyl setup, the program comes with two specially encoded pieces of vinyl that allow users to manipulate the digital files with a turntable. Sound quality isn't a problem in either of the programs if you use Wav files instead of MP3's.

There are many DJ's who believe that using anything besides vinyl records consitutes "fake" DJing and are openly hostile to those who choose to play with digital formats. Critics point out that some of the programs (Traktor and Ableton) auto-beatmatch tracks, a feature they feel takes away a lot of the skill involved in playing a good DJ set. Many DJ's simply love the tactile feel of manipulating a vinyl record and are uncomfortable moving on to a more cerebral set up like Ableton Live. Others love the "warm" sound of vinyl and insist that nothing sounds better.

I have decided to cross the digital divide and couldn't be happier. Vinyl is expensive, a pain in the ass to store, and limiting. I respect people that still use it, but am getting annoyed by trash-talking purists who refuse to accept or try out new ways of doing things. Using Ableton Live has allowed me to get much more creative with my mixing and I can focus more programming a good set and playing good music... which is what really matters on a dancefloor.

Check out some of these programs:

Serato Scratch
Traktor DJ

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the sound quality is just not as good as vinyl..