What is Djing?
In its most general definition DJing is simply selecting musical tunes and playing them in succession. As such, some DJs (let’s call them that for a second) do little more than what can be accomplished by clicking the randomize button in your iTunes library or on your iPad. But at the other end of the spectrum, the best DJs possess an uncanny ability to select the tunes in such a way that takes the unsuspecting audience on an emotional and physical journey. They string the individual songs together like movements in a symphony and creating a performance that becomes more than the simple sum of its parts. This seamless combination of songs that were written by different artists in different times, requires refined skills and technical ability that is the result of patient practice. Like musicians on their instruments DJs practice on their decks. Some might say that it is easy to make a drunk and drugged up crowd dance. But try it and if you clear the floor you’ll know……
Traditionally DJs used turntables with vinyl records. A lot of DJs who started on vinyl stayed with that format because they believe it sounds better than CDs or mp3s and the physical ritual of taking a record out of its sleeve and cuing it up on the turntable is undoubtedly enjoyable. A drawback is that playing a song is inherently linear: you start in the beginning and play toward the end, but there is no way to jump around in the song or to loop a part. Also, the tunes musical key is intimately connected to the speed at which it is played. So if you speed one tune up to match the tempo of another you will also make that record sound like a chipmunk. Most importantly however, releases are now digital, seldom vinyl, and few record shops exist nowadays where you could buy them. Building a record collection was never easy but it is almost an impossible task today. Although it must be said that with vinyl records one was more selective, buying quality music rather than downloading terabytes of tunes that are never listened to or played out. The mindless consumption of available music is not what we advocate here!
Digital formats, like for example playing CDs on Pioneer decks or files directly from a laptop using a software DJing program remedy all the above limitations. On CDs it may still be difficult to take a large collection with you on the road but it is definitely possible on a laptop or on a USB stick that you can insert into the latest Pioneer decks. Also, when a song is played on a computer or on a CDJ it is loaded into RAM (Random Access Memory – NOT the Daft Punk album) and thus it is possible to jump from one part of the song to the other seamlessly and accurately. Further, the songs musical key can be made independent from the speed it’s played at. Finally, the abundance of music and its immediate availability in digital format allows for preparing for any gig. And that’s just the beginning…
DJing with Traktor™
Think of the advantages WORD (the text editing program from Microsoft) offers in comparison to a manual type writer and you get an idea of what it is like to use a software DJing program or a the latest Pioneer decks compared to turntables. Companies that produced software DJ applications were founded in the 90s. Traktor™ is one of the most widely used DJing software made by Native Instruments (Berlin, Germany). It runs both on Mac and Windows computers and in principle can be operated with a mouse or the computer keyboard. However, over the years the software has grown to include 4 decks and a rich set of functionality. For best effect, external hardware controllers can be used (via USB) to unlock all this functionality. Traktor™ is used by amateur as well as professional, internationally known, DJs alike. It is a favorite of beginners because its clean interface and stable operation allows learning without hindrance and interruption. Professionals favor this software because they can forge their own style and perform unique sets that are admired the world over by millions of fans!
However, the ease with which a software program, such as Traktor™, allows a beginner to start with DJing should not be confused to mean an easy path to becoming a skilled and respected DJ. Those that simply use the software to hide their own inadequacies are hardly DJs. If you allow the software or Pioneer decks to beatmatch tunes (via the synch button) while you sit back and wave your arms, that’s a serious disrespect to those craftsmen who spent years practicing to do this with vinyl. With more possibilities in the modern equipment comes the responsibility that the audience and your peers expect more from you. So if you decide on digital DJing instead of vinyl the road to respectful performances will be equally long and hard earned.
So? Are you ready? If you want to learn, Become a DJ will be holding two Traktor™ Workshops on the 19th and 20th of October. The 1st of these workshops will be aimed at total beginners while the 2nd will explore advanced topics. Come join us!