Wednesday, November 11, 2015

9 Reasons Why "Turntablism is Dead" is a Myth

When ever I see articles posted, along a theme or title that says, "turntablism is dead", I can't help but always question the evidence behind the opinion. Because when you look at it from an economical and social growth standpoints, the facts and evidnence tell a different story. Which I argue the idea, "turntablism is dead", is a false one.
1. 2006 to 2008 was one of the lowest prices Technics turntables sold brand new for. A MK5 could be purchased at Guitar Center for $399 and a flagship M5G for $650. Today, the price for brand new ones of the versions could be up to their 2006 to 2008 prices. The prices inflated especially because of Technics' discontinuation of the SL-1200, heightening the demand for them, as well as proving it existed.

2. Being the leader of digital DJ technology, a future looking company like Pioneer DJ wouldn't invest in R&D to develop a new turntable if the demands were not there. Hence why we now have the PLX-1000. While they are arguably the new standard for turntables, they weren't fitted with new technology like MIDI buttons or line outputs. The demand for traditional styled turntables are being answered by the leading company in DJ technology.

3. There are more DJ and music production centered schools than ten years ago. Not to mention some universities have courses for DJs. Many of these programs include special interest in teaching students how to scratch and juggle. Some of these schools include the Scratch Academy, Dubspot, Full Sail, and Berkley School of Music.

4. Twenty years ago, the audience at DJ battles like DMC were filled with a mix of DJs and non-DJs. Today, almost everyone in a DMC audience are DJs and most likely turntablists.

5. Equipment manufacturers have almost made curve control on crossfaders to a be standard feature with the expectation that some performers will want to scratch. This is not just exclusive to mixers, but includes just about all top of the line controllers.

6. Vinyl sales have surprisingly gone up since 2008. All though this may not be for turntablism use, the interest for vinyl has not diminished.

7. Some turntablism communities often blame the rise of producer-cetric DJs as the reason for the loss of interest in turntablism. First off, nobody who shows good scratching and juggling skills ever gets booed off a stage. In fact there are plenty of names where the artist are both good producers and skilled turntablists. To name a few, guys like A-Trak, Laidback Luke, DJ Craze, DJ Flipside from Jumpsmokers, DJ Godfather, Juicy M, Terrance Parker, Jeff Mills, and James Zabeila. The truth is, some turntablist communities have this expectation that producer/DJs are obliged to take interest and achieve the same proficiency as they have, when the reality of it is, their main interests are in making music.

8. While controllers are an easier and efficient way to DJ, there are a handful of individuals who have a self expectation to "upgrade" to turntables. While technologically this is going backwards, and sometimes fueled by traditional influences of older DJs, some guys truly see controllers as a stepping stone to their ambitions to learn how to use traditional equipment adequately.

9. Youtube alone accounts for countless DJs who have embarked on turntablism with massive amounts of tutorials and routines. How to scratch videos are among the most visited DJ tutorial videos on Youtube along with how to beatmatch. Among known Youtube communities, one of the agreed upon ways to get many video views, is to make fundamental tutorial videos on how to scratch.

My speculation is this, as to why some think turntablism is dead. Ten to twenty years ago, all the attendees of DJ battles who were inspired, are probably DJs today. And a closed community of artist began to form. The first DJ battles from New York to Philli were conducted to impress the "regular folk". Because of the closed community of some turntablists, it is no longer the case. It got to the point that routines and techniques became so complex, that it wouldn't be understood or appreciated by the "regular folk".

Imagine a scientist that writes a science book that can only be understood by other scientists. No matter how great the message is, it would have no way to spread because it's written in way that the regular person couldn't understand. I think that is how turntablism is today. And the exceptions, like the names I mentioned above, are because the individuals understand how to take turntablism and bring it back down to earth. There is nothing wrong with pushing the complexities of the techniques, but if you have a desire to expand interest on an art form, and connect with more people, you have to package your performance in a way that sparks the interests of regular people.

Regular people have favorite bands and favorite songs. It's rare non-guitar players look up guitarists based on shredding skills alone. Neither do regular people favor DJs in the same manner.

Turntablism isn't dead. It's just that some of it's artists have lost their connection with regular people. And the people who reserve that opinion are sometimes the ones discouraged by the fact it's not a people friendly art form. In the words of Jazzy Jeff, "DJs who DJ for other DJs, are DJing for the wrong people."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My thought's on DJ Craze's Slave Routine

Took me a night to gather my thoughts on this, but I have a few things to share after watching DJ Craze's Slave Routine video that the general DJ community might not even agree on me on. Before I begin, let's get this out of the way, I totally love this routine. I think it's awesome he's using advances in software to sprinkle new techniques that are impossible to do on vinyl alone. The auto-transformer is one thing that most DJs would consider cheating until someone they look up to starts using it. I also get the humor, taking little pokes at Pauly D, Paris, and Aoki's cake antics.

So what I really have a little conflict with is the fact that Craze is using a subjective idea like "#realdjing" to further segregate the creative differences between the different "kinds" of DJs. The way I look at it is just because someone is great at shredding on an electric guitar, it does not make them superior to a song writer playing a acoustic. However in teh DJ world, there is this mentality amongst turntablists that they are the superior ones over the producers who make music, and play music in their sets.

On the surface this video is promoting the idea about being a leader, but I don't think it's teaching it's viewers how to think like one. Instead, it seems to me it has a subliminal message that says, "instead of following them, follow me." While Craze himself is clearly showing creativity and innovation as he always has, the average aspiring turntablist is not getting the encouragement to explore their creativity, rather to adapt in the already growing mentality amongst the general DJs of "us versus them".

Now I am not saying Craze did this intentionally, but for me, the fact that I view this as an art form, I reserve my judgements to the different variations within this art form. We laugh and shake our heads when Aoki throws a cake, but we cheer when our favorite rockstar throws his guitar into the air. I might not agree with the cake, but when did #realdjing mean you had to stop having fun with your crowd? In fact when exactly did it become wrong to have fun with people who are there to have fun? When did #realdjing mean you had to follow a set of rules accepted by other "real DJs"? When did the art form become conformity akin to religious fundamentalism?

What I am getting at is the criticism against the producer/DJs by the turntablists is a real apples and oranges scenario. They're fundamentally two different things. The turntablists (the art form of maniuplating pre recorded sounds musically) are upset because the producers (the guys who make music and use DJing as an outlet to play what they made), are getting the attention. That "us versus them" mentality is what I believe slows down and holds back the turntablists from progressing in relating their art form to people who are not DJs. It seems like that community is upset at right that every human being has, and that is the right to choose what they want to like. Rather than continuing this "DJ segregation", why not find ways to work together or even borrow effective ideas from each others art form to create something new and fresh?

And who exactly is leading the way to working together? Let's not get the facts twisted. While Craze pokes fun at Guetta and Aoki; Craze himself, along with his buddy A-Trak, are both music festival performing DJs as well. In fact, Hip Hop founder, Grand Master Flash, has been making appearances in European EDM festivals as well. The three of them all play a little bit of house and big room with their own way of delivering it. Sure, they're probably the few guys still using 1200s, but what I'm getting at is; the turntablist community seems to adapt the attitude of, "we are too good to be involved with that scene". On one hand, they believe people aren't educated enough about the art form and don't notice them. On the other hand, they feel too good to do what it takes to showcase what they can do in front of an already large and growing audience. Sure you have to deal with music industry politics, but that's reality for you outside the DJ battle world.

I just believe at the end of the day, DJs just need to stop getting worked up about other DJs are doing and what other DJs think about them. How can you truly create something if you are inhibiting yourself with the thoughts and opinions of other DJs? And yes I agree with the surface message about being a leader, and it's in my hope that more individuals adapt that mentality; as opposed to doing things to impress their OG mentors.

Much respect to DJ Craze for this awesome video.

Monday, September 22, 2014

4 Reasons Why Big DJs Playing Pre-recorded Sets Doesn't Bother Me

Reasons why I don't cry like DJs do when a big DJ/producers play pre-recorded sets at music festivals:

1. I have fully accepted that the people who attend these events do not buy the tickets for good DJing, they buy tickets for a good time. Everything is one big show, and I don't mean just the lights, sound, and special effects. I am talking about the marketing, the hype, and the press. People will only feel cheated if they are failed on to have a good time. So you think they're lying to the audience? Everything in the music industry is a big "show" of lying to the audience. I for one speculate that not all the controversial encounters with Deadmau5 were not artificially created. It is a festival, not a nightclub. There is nothing you can play that will make you lose your dance floor. Any DJ who claims they read the crowd at festivals is full of shit because there is no way to lose them. So whether you wing a set, prepare a playlist, or play something prerecorded, it does not change the affect on the floor. You're not worrying about birthdays, and VIPs, and God forsaken requests. My take on it, play what you want, and how you want. It is not my business to be upset because people like something in a way I do not agree with. Has the status quo of the DJ community gotten down as low as judging if people are liking something the "right way"?

2. We can talk all we want at what we would do and would not do, but the point is we are not in their position. In fact, many of us do not know what it takes to get to that position, otherwise, there would not be so many complaining. You do not know what difficult positions that we are unaware of inside agreements of the management. For instance, let's say some festivals make require a performer to provide a pre-recorded set because their show wants a completely synced pyro.  They offer you $10k to play and this festival clearly will get you booked more from its exposure. You know as a DJ you are capable of doing it live, but in order to do this show, they require you to create and submit a pre-recorded mix. Your agency and management is pressuring you because they know, that this one gig's exposure is going to guarantee you longevity in your career. With that kind of situation, I think it is a possibility as to the pressures that are put on actual capable DJs who are caught playing prerecorded sets. It does not bother me at all because they did it for the show, and it does not make them any less capable as a DJ. It is my optimistic guess that no one who has ever played a pre-recorded set, ever did so without hesitation. Sometimes, pride and validation from peer DJs is what keeps someone from moving forward with their career.

3. When big DJs play pre-recorded sets, it does not make me feel discredited, rather, it's my chance to shine. People are not that stupid where they cannot see the difference between Mix Master Mike and David Guetta. I look at this in two poles. If my set is so boring that it sounds clean and pre-recorded on Ableton, then I deserve to be discredited. Or, if my set is so good that I am accused of pre-recording it, then I take it as a compliment. The truth is, I love producing and playing dance music, with a little bit of a turntalism background. I think generally people can clearly see the difference between my set and a big festival headliner's set. It does not make me mad one bit if their set is pre-recorded because I know my live set is clearly different. The trick is, figuring out a way to get the people to see, through your performance, that it is different, and that can be a powerful tool for getting booked. It is a balancing act between having skill and making sure it does not go over the average person's head. Many DJs see EDM DJs as discrediting them, but I honestly see this is an a great opportunity. I would also like to point out, guy's like DJ Craze and DJ A-Trak have found a balanced at showing skill and making/playing music that fits the festival. I would love to see these guys on the Top 100 soon to show that turntablists can make it.

4. It does not make the DJ incapable. As I mention in reason 2,  a DJ can have the rest of his or her to show what they can do. The status quo community of DJs have this black and white mentality that if a performer is caught playing a pre-recorded set, that automatically means they do not know how to DJ. Firstly, I highly doubt anyone would ever be discovered at the clubs and raves, faking the funk. But thats how the general DJ community thinks. Take Juicy M for example. She has a video on her Facebook that shows all the CDJs off, but none of the DJs scoffing her give any regard to her "DJing without headphones" tutorial video where she CLEARLY can play on ACTUAL vinyl, AND SCRATCH. Most pre-recorded sets make no difference to how many headliners sound when they play live anyways. But in Juicy M set, she is one where she could have actually don't a more epic job, LIVE. Michael Jackson many times at his concert, lip synced through certain songs. Does that discredit all other singers? Does that make his whole dancing and performing one big fake scam? Does that mean he is incapable as a singer? Are his recordings faked too? Of course not, it is a show. These festivals are a show. And they are not always a "show" about "DJing".

Juicy M with CDJs all turned off

Juicy M on REAL VINYL AND SCRATCHING, as well as on Serato and CDJs

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Serato DJ 1.7 First Test Drive

I did a test drive with Serato DJ 1.7.

-Rane SL3
-Late 2013 Macbook Pro Retina 2.3ghz with 16GB RAM

 Serato drivers for Pioneer DJM-900SRT, Rane SL3 and Rane 62 installed.

So far, so good. I listed my computer type because there are isolated issues with the Retina MBPs compared to previous generation MBPs.

Improvements I noticed:
 - Latency issues with timecode are gone, and timecode responds just like SSL which I can now scratch properly.

- Left deck does not start a milisecond off from the cue like it did with 1.6.

A few things I also noticed:
-SL3 driver for Mac no longer has the buffer control. I don't know if this is a good thing or not, but I will say the buffer did very weird things with setting it lower and the latency would increase, and setting it higher, would make the latency go way off the charts, like 1 to 2 seconds off. Whatever the case is, timecode is responsive now.

-Recording channel is default to Channel 1, when I think it should be default to Channel 3 since it is the aux. Nothing more embarrassing than have a timecode signal recorded as opposed to your set. I did that when I made this video.

-When the line/phono switch is set to phono and you input it with a line timecode signal, unlike SSL where it gives you a red signal but will still play, Serato DJ will play at +230% forcing the DJ to check for something wrong. I think this is awesome because many DJs forget to switch back to line from phono simply because it "works" in SSL. It's not good to load your inputs with a line level signal. From what I read, the overload could actually destroy your channel inputs to your interface or mixer.

Still have to do further long term tests to see if it can be used live. Will also try HID mode with Pioneer CDJs to see if they improved the known latency issue with HID. Will be doing further tests with a Rane 62 real soon, and the 900SRT sometime this month.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The DJ Myth about Going Into the Red (truth about 0dB)

I keep seeing a lot of DJs on my newsfeed post about how they view "going into to the red" equivalent to distortion. While it is great practice to keep the gain levels under the red, what many DJs don't understand, is how a mixer works, and that there is a certain generous level of "red" that actually doesn't cause any distortion, despite their belief in that myth. This belief has caused many DJs to meme pics of major headliners slightly or moderately into the red and troll them for poor DJ technique. Here was my response to one of those memes. I tried to be more concise than I used to be on this subject.

Redlining = Distortion

In high quality analog and digital mixers, going above 0dB DOES NOT immediately clip the signal. In older and some cheaper equipment it may be the case, especially with cheaper analog gear. However, one of the reasons why 96khz is such a big deal despite digital files played back are only 44.1khz, is because of the "headroom" it provides. And high quality analog circuitry also provides good analog "headroom" as well.

Unless you are actually way past the mixer channel's distortion threshold which is way above 0dB; above the mixer's master output which is usually past 80% on the master knob; overdriving the amplifier; OR driving the speakers beyond their power capacity,  YOU WILL NOT CLIP WITH MOST MODERN MIXERS.

Lets say you mix two tracks and they both peak at 0dB, your overall master signal should red line since two signals will cause the overall signal to expand. Notice it doesn't clip? Also, notice how some mixers can be "louder" than others? And sometimes 0dB is labeled as red but the yellow way before the red?

It is a guide to be used to properly "balance" your signal. If it is into the solid red, it is hard to gauge how much louder one side is from the other. Keeping your levels at a point where the meters are flowing freely helps you keep your levels in shape.

Not every mixer is built the same.  Sometimes there can even be sonic differences in mixers of the same model, simply because they upgraded the internal circuitry during production. This will also lead you to discover that it is easier the clip some mixers over others. Use your ears to judge distortion, and don't force distortion just because the meters tell you that you are safely in the green.

The following article explains a bit more on the subject.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Quincy Jones Cries About EDM

I may agree, I'm not a fan of Lil Wayne. But for a person who is a big icon in music history, this was a boldly ignorant statement. If you read it, he calls it "techno" which reveals he knows nothing of the music. I have no problem with some one not liking something. Individual tastes makes us unique. But I would expect more from an iconic musician than to be a bitter old man being a  cry baby about the money others make doing what they love; and furthermore being bitter because people like something different from what they used to do.

Do typist cry because computer word processors replaced the typewriter? Maybe they did, but in the overall spectrum, being a good writer doesn't mean you have to be a good typist. Just like being a good song writer or producer no longer means you have to be a good musician. There's new things that one can work hard on and what's important is more people can express music from the heart, rather than being limited by their tools.

Sorry Quincy, you have an awesome history, and you're a legend, but once a tomato decides he is ripe, the only thing left is to rot. And I'm sure for one not going to join the bandwagon who's backing you up on this.

Original Article

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thought's on the movie, "Rush"

I was really inspired by the movie, "Rush". It had an awesome motif of the two types of champions, a technically disciplined champion versus a confident instinctive champion. Knowledge versus Confidence, Fear versus Ego. My favorite quote is Niki Lauda's line to James Hunt, "You should try [flying]. It's good for discipline. You have to stay within the rules, stick with regulations, suppress the ego. It helps with the racing." I feel more relatable to Lauda's character, but can't deny the temptations of a suppressed persona like Hunt's. I think this motif in the movie isn't about two types of people, but more of the dual personas a single individual can take. Both aren't necessarily wrong and the truth is, there is a balance to be discovered from recognizing how to accept characteristics of both.