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October 20, 2011

[Tutorial Thursday] Learn to Live Vol 3 Ep2: My DJ setup

Welcome back! Clint, aka DJvsComputer, of Bachelor Machines here.

For those of you who are following along, we are in week 2 of the saga entitled “Clint Learns To Be a Laptop DJ OR ELSE” due to my impulsive and possibly insane entry into a local DJing competition despite my lack of any DJing experience.

As you may remember, last week I was frantically watching and rewatching DJ tutorials from Abletonlife.com. UPDATE: At this point I feel like I am ready to perform, the internet saved the day again! YAY CLOUD

I wanted to discuss my DJ setup a bit. I’m using a PC laptop and an Akai APC40 controller… I’ve taken on a lot of the points that Ryan from Abletonlife recommended, and I’ve also gone and created my own custom DJ FX rack for this performance. Check out the video below (18 min) to see how it all works:

One of the things I was particularly interested in was which of the two library tracks was the “good one” that I ended up using when things were rocking. The answer is: the one that groups tracks by type is the one I use exclusively. If I were recreating this set I wouldn’t even bother with sorting them by key. In my opinion, the best way to sort them would be by type and THEN by key.

On that topic, one of the things that was recommended in the Abletonlife tutorials was to assign these kind of goofy 1A, 2B signifiers for musical keys to the tracks instead of just saying what key they are in. Two points about that:

  • It is most DEFINITELY a useful thing to put clips’ keys into their clip names. It’s a huge help in making a great sounding mix.
  • I think that if I used a crutch like that 1a, 2b thing to relate keys together, my music theory professor would burst through the wall of my studio like Kool Aid Man, revoke my degree, and possibly end my life.

Music theory is fun, guys! It’s not that hard to understand what keys work well together.

Another thing that AbletonLife discusses which I took issue with was this notion of putting in a warp marker every 4 bars. That, friends, is crazy talk. I’ll go into more detail next week about how I warp tracks for DJing – I found a useful tip that will help you if you’re a DJ.

EDIT (10/27/2011): I reread this and I think I come off like I think you need to learn a ton of music theory to be a good DJ. I definitely don’t think that’s required. All I’m trying to say is, I think exploring a bit about the relationships between keys will help make more cohesive mixes and will be fun at the same time.