Join J. Scott Giaquinta for an in-depth discussion in this video Traditional DJing vs. Ableton DJing, part of DJing with Ableton Live.
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- DJing definitely isn't a new concept. Since recorded music began in the early 1900's, people have been playing back music for entertainment purposes on radio stations, at house parties, and eventually at clubs and raves. Over time, the technology became more advanced, beginning with the era of vinyl records and tapes and eventually ending up almost entirely in the digital realm. Back when I started making electronic music in the early 90's, 12-inch vinyl records were the medium of choice for most people in the electronic music scene. It wasn't exactly easy to get your music on vinyl back then either, unless of course you got signed to a record label that pressed them for you.
Traditional DJing usually involved two Technics 1200 turntables and a DJ mixer and not much else. It took a lot more skill to DJ back then too because you not only had the daunting task of finding the music to begin with, but you also had to know how to beat match on two turntables, which only had plus or minus 8% pitch adjustability. To make matters worse, they had a slight electrical variance in the motor speed, which caused a bit of wow and flutter. Then, of course, you had to have enough dexterity and finesse so that you didn't skip the needle while making adjustments.
Nowadays, there are a wide variety of digital platforms that pretty much take the error and beat matching out of the equation entirely. Now, depending on what your preference is, you may actually want the challenge of beat matching. You're not alone, a lot of people still do. If this is the case, then DJing in Ableton Live might not be for you. Let me explain. As a long-time record producer and DJ, I've gotten to the point where I realize that A, vinyl is too heavy and cumbersome to carry around and it wears out over time with extended use. CDs get scratched and lost too easily, and when you're burning a lot of new music, they have a sizable carbon footprint to boot.
B, I have nothing to prove to anyone trying to beat match. Neither do you. Most importantly, C, I like the ability to concentrate on tricks and effects instead of spending most of my time getting the beats to match. After trying a variety of other platforms, like Serato and Traktor over the years, after ditching CDs and vinyl, I finally realized that the program I used to make records with was actually the best tool for DJing digitally, at least for me. The great thing about using Ableton Live is that once you have your pool of music warp markered, which is essentially the timing information that Live uses to track the beat of each song, you have the ability to play all the songs in perfect time with one another at any point and at any tempo, allowing you to mix and match parts and loops, as well as add all kinds of different effects, samples, a capellas, and so on, all on the fly.
So if that sounds like something you'd be into, then let's get started.
Scott next introduces some performance tricks to wow your audience, by integrating loops, samples, and FX. He also provides a demo of alternative controllers that can make your performances more dynamic, including a Wiimote, joystick, MIDI keyboard, and live vocoder. Finally, he discusses methods to record your live DJ set and fine-tune it after the fact.
- Setting hardware, software, and templates
- Configuring your MIDI controller
- Importing tracks
- Keying and warping tracks
- Cueing music
- Harmonic mixing
- Transposing tracks
- Changing tempo
- Working with alternative controllers
- Recording your set