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.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My thoughts on the possiblity that Pioneer is working on a DJ turntable

Well after explaining why I don't think Pioneer will ever produce a turntable, I find my own foot in my mouth when a few fellows tell me about Qbert's slip of the tongue regarding his secret project with Pioneer. While I am surprised Pioneer would do this, since they've held true to their revolutionary jog wheel for 14 years; I am not surprised that Pioneer is making this move at this specific time. For the longest time turntables barely evolved and companies like Stanton, Numark, and Vestax didn't do much upgrades to their decks to catch up with the digital age.

The Pioneer CDJ competed directly with the Technics during th first few years due to the fact you can now scratch and mix your own music you produced without needed to press it on vinyl. However, the introduction of Digital Vinyl Systems like Final Scratch and Serato Scratch Live gave traditional DJ's the option to preserve their turntables. Two markets separated in this and the majority of Hip Hop and Open format DJ's stayed with the Technics while the majority of EDM DJ's of the time went with the CDJ. Over the years the most advanced turntables were custom modified Technics, with built in Dicers. Every turntable company had it's strengths in each deck. Numark and Technics both had a digital pitch control; Numark had selectable torque as well as interchangeable tonearms; Stanton and Numark had one of the heaviest and strongest motors; and Vestax had the most advanced tone arm, as well as a MIDI controller turntable.

However, with the discontinuation of the Technics, and not much upgrades to the big three, Numark, Stanton, and Vestax, a European company called Reloop comes out of nowhere and introduces a turntable, with selectable torque like the Numark, and MIDI buttons like the customized Technics with Dicers. This was the first time a turntable producer, took the demands of working DJ's and applied it to their deck.

Where does Pioneer fit in this? Well they know the CDJ never truly replaced the turntable. It was a nice competition for a while, especially when the Technics really lowered its price in 2005 when you could buy a MK5 for $399 and an M5G for $699; which today you can find a used one for. However Pioneer traditional as a business in the DJ market, are never the first ones to ever introduce anything. There are very few things Pioneer DJ ever introduces, and most of the time, it is an improvement to a current type of product. The only thing off the top of my head Pioneer ever introduced into the market, was a tabletop, turntable-like, CD player, the first CDJ-300 back in 1994. Since then, Pioneer was kind of the company that lurked and waited for other developers to create a demand for a product type. Before they introduced the fully vinyl emulatable CDJ-1000, Numark and a few other Super OEM companies were already releasing vinyl "scratchable" CD players. They weren't the best nor did they satisfy the turntable DJ's needs. Once that interest was sparked, Pioneer comes into the market with a bang with the CDJ-1000, the first CD player that you can manipulate like vinyl.

Fast forward a few years, if you pay attention to Pioneer, they are always the last to apply new technology to their line of products. For example, MP3 capable decks were already available during the release of the CDJ-1000MK2, and by the time MK3 came out that was MP3 capable with CD's, decks with hard drive or flash drive were already available. In fact it took Pioneer all the way to 2009 to apply flash drive capabilities to the CDJ line with the introduction of the CDJ-2000.

This is not to say Pioneer is behind. It's similar to Apple and their Mac line. It took so long for them to apply USB 3.0 on their computers. The similarity is that Pioneer waits for technology to mature, and for the market demand to mature, before they introduce their new product. I actually like this because you're not getting experimental technology. This isn't saying Pioneer doesn't come up with new developments applied to their products, but they are never the first ones to introduce the general product type, whether it's a deck, mixer, or media player. However there are times they also came in too late, like with their DVJ decks. The price of those decks and the investment in DVD's, as well as the movement into HD technology, but most especially because Serato Video and Virtual DJ was a far more affordable and efficient option, the DVJ's lived a short market life.

Now, the Tecnhics are discontinued and Numark, Stanton, and Vestax are barely moving with their turntable lines into the digital DJ age, so Reloop steps to the spotlight with their brand new turntable. Like I said, Pioneer never makes the first move. But the fact that someone made a forward looking move, it's not unbelievable that Pioneer has taken interests and began developing something new. Their famed jog wheel had a great 14 year run and may now stand along side with this new turntable they're developing with Qbert. Or maybe who knows, maybe Qbert isn't working on a turntable. But for Pioneer, with all it's gear from the controllers, the CDJ's, the mixers, and the effects boxes, as well as it's partnership with all major DVS software developers, stepping into the turntable market is their move to complete their monopoly empire.

At the same time, would love other developers compete with Pioneer, because their products are pretty expensive and this high end monopoly needs a little shaking.

   A couple guesses on the model name.


Maybe there will be a super advanced version that can take a USB stick with an LCD screen and Ethernet connection.


Anyways, I'm going to the next NAMM show, end of story.

Here's the article from DJ Techtools

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Serato DJ 1.6 DVS Report

After using Serato DJ Thursday night, I report that the software is still buggy. I used it in timecode mode, with 1 MIDI controller. Here's my current analysis.

Computer specs:
Mid 2011 Apple MacBook Pro 15 inch
2.4 Ghz Quad Core
Mavericks OSX
750 GB 7200rpm HHD (200 GB used)
1 TB Lacie Thunderbolt HHD (for Serato Library)

Hardware tested on:
Rane SL3
Rane 62

Tenth of a decimal BPM read out. Awesome for blends and quick mixing without headphones. Awesome for digitally accurate CDJ's but I would imagine it being jumpy on turntables.

8 hot cues.

Bigger color code section. No more color confusion.

4 deck use; awesome for 3 decks using SL3.

The purchasable Pitch n Time DJ is much more awesome sounding than the standard key lock. So much cleaner.

I thought the Base Pack effects was limited compared to SSL effects but I found almost everything I needed in the free Wolf Pack. Still looking for a Roll Out type effect.

Rane 62 does not BPM sync effects to track. Must constantly use tap which takes too much time to get accurately.

Loop roll is not MIDI mappable. Go around is to use Serato Remote on the iPhone for loop rolls. Seems like loop roll is exclusive for purchased accessory hardware like the Pioneer DDJ-SP1.

Some BPM analysis off by 0.1

A few USB drop outs, but fixed when buffer moved from 2ms to 5ms.

Use of deck 1, deck 2, recorder, and sampler stuttered the buffer. Fixed when buffer moved from 2ms to 5ms.

MIDI settings did not save properly. All though I loaded the settings file, had to remap all the settings when going from an SL3 to a 62.

It may be a hardware issue but using Serato DJ seemingly robs more power from USB. I don't know how this is possible but my MIDI controller which is USB powered kept restarting, which never happened before.

Maximum pitch range limited to 50% as opposed to 100%. This may no affect practical mixing but limits my ability to do my MIDI drum pad scratch technique. I don't know how this affects HID mode. I speculate 100 is available in HID mode. Will do further testing.

Have not tried HID mode with Pioneer CDJ-2000Nexus since there were too many reports of bugs.

Have not listened to the recording files to see if the limiter problem in the Rane 62 has been solved that was present when recording on Scratch Live on a Rane 62.

Serato DJ still too buggy to be used. I would consider version 1.6 as to be treated as Beta. Serato seems to have neglected to fine tune important operational features. However, my understanding is Serato is low in engineering resources, hence why development can be slow and sometimes late. Which is why I believe Serato DJ was created as a more profitable system. Used TTM57's and SL1 boxes sold second hand do not make the company money for software use; so now they created DJ where not only does it support new hardware, but also has purchasable plugin upgrades. Serato has made a more efficient money making machine but has some bugs to work out for the program to be reliable.

I will be doing further testing in HID mode. I was supposed to do so last night but after all the bugs Thursday, I did not want to take a risk.

Currently I do not recommend Serato DJ for use, I tested it only in an opening slot situation and will not use it live until the next update.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Interpreting a Dream

So I have this reoccurring dream. For the majority of my life, I never had a dream happen so many times that it was clearly something to it. The dream is always either me in elementary, high school, or college. I'll be sitting in a class or walking in a hallway stressed because I skipped to many classes or failed some and didn't graduate.

Now on the surface, I was beginning to wonder if subconsciously regret not finishing college. Mind you, I never once regret leaving, or ever wondered if my life would be better if I submitted to the exact wishes of my parents and became an engineer as they wanted. I never looked back at that day with any remorse. So I investigated it further because I read once, dreams are messages from your subconscious that are not literally what they appear, but more symbolic about a current event in your life. So I had my friend's mom who was an expert on the subject help me interpret it.

From everything I told her, about how for the past year or two I have been experiencing this dream reoccurring to me and the specifics of the most recent one. Mind you, up until now, I looked at dreams as random thoughts in my head going off while I slept. Almost all the time they never make any sense. It's almost like ADHD isn't gone while you sleep. However, as vague as the interpretation was I felt like it hit the spot on something I was consciously dealing with in reality. She said, "your a prisoner of yourself. You have unfinished business. You're keeping yourself busy with things that seem important at the time but really lead to nothing. You're holding yourself back from doing what you need to do to achieve your bigger goal. You have to step by step set goals.

Might sound like a fortune cookie, and maybe it's just a coincidence, and maybe whether destiny is telling me so, or random chance just made me aware of it, there is something lingering in reality that I feel I have been holding myself on. Lately, my DJ/mix artistry career has been doing well. I can relax a bit, pick and choose when I work, and get to travel and explore cities. I don't have a weekly residency and for the past 6 months, I haven't needed it. Bookings throughout the month seem to be abundant enough that I can share them. My workload has been based on maintaining that consistency of gigs. Promotional video, recaps, and ads, as well as downloading tracks and keeping social media content fresh. However, what got me to this point was never because of how well I DJed or how my personality impressed upon people. My DJing can be good to some, and not to all, and my personality is not exactly the party animal.

At the very core of things, I got here because at some point, someone listened to music I made, actually liked it, and brought me over. Every successful DJ/mix artist/producer got to where they are because of the music they made. They have said that in interviews, and proved it on Forbes. A great night at the club is not a tangible item people become fans for. But a song is. It's something they can play over and over beyond the dancefloor. It's the extension of your brand.

This core principle about success in the DJ/producer/mix artist world is something I have been neglecting. I found excuses like, "my PC crashed and I don't know how to use the new programs on the Mac". I have no excuse, I have made my bedroom production ready with all the toys in the house interconnected with two USB hubs and 5 MIDI controllers. I learned how to use Adobe Premiere for my videos at satisfaction level in the span of 3 months. But for some reason, I have been laying off on learning Ableton Live. Deep down inside, it's already proven to me that this is the real key to my long term success and that I have been dabbling in trailer videos and keeping myself relevant for immediate reward in the nightlife; totally neglecting the one thing that would grow and secure long term success.

I think it's time I stop fooling myself. All the eggs are in place. Been eat healthier, cut back on bad habits, and improving relationships around me. While the immediate things are important, I can no longer be using them as an excuse. Like Will Smith said, "it's easier to be ready than to get ready." Here we go Ableton, for the next two months, let's sound like crap until I get it right.