7 Beginner Tips For Using Traktor DJ

Traktor DJ

Traktor DJ is a great way to get started in DJing – if you know some basics. Here, we go over seven of the most commonly asked questions about this successful iPad and iPhone DJ app.

Traktor DJ – the DJing app for iPhone and iPad, that has been a runaway success for Native Instruments – has been excellently received in the pro DJ community: Always a sure sign that a company has done something right, especially in the iPad world where any DJ apps are regularly rounded on if they get the slightest thing wrong. However, with loads of “non-pros” getting their first taste of DJing with Traktor DJ, due in no small part to its being giveaway for free as part of Apple’s fifth anniversary celebrations of the App Store, many users are getting confused over the basics.

Even with its innovative “alert”-based help system, Traktor DJ is not always straightforward to work out. So if you’ve downloaded Traktor DJ for your first taste of DJing, and are stuck as to what to do next, fear not! Here are our answers to seven of the beginner questions we are asked regularly. At the end of the piece is a video going over the same stuff, so be sure to watch that too.

  1. How do I get music into it? – Any music you have on your iPhone’s Music app (ie synced from iTunes on your laptop/main computer, or bought on iTunes on your phone) should be usable in Traktor DJ. One of the smartest ways to start is to use iTunes on your “big” computer to organise your music into two or three simple playlists (you know, “chill”, “house party”, “club bangers” etc), which you can then easily access in the app
  2. Should I use Traktor DJ on the iPhone or the iPad? – Well, if you got it when it was in its “free” period, you probably grabbed both anyway, so the answer is: Use the one you’ve got with you! Honestly, it is incredible how usable the iPhone version is and it’s really not much different to the “big” version. Sync both of your units to iTunes so you’ve got all your music with you whichever you use, and just get on with it – results will be pretty much equally as good whichever you use
  3. Why are my tunes speeded up or slowed down? And why don’t they start when I press play, instead starting a few moments later sometimes? – Traktor DJ is optimised for playing electronic music, and it assumed the music you’re playing is going to be roughly the same tempo. That’s how it can make even beginners sound really good, really quickly! It does this by automatically making your tunes the same “speed”, and by guessing the best play for them to start playing so the beats line up well. All of this goodness is enabled by default – that’s why the green “sync” button is telling you. But if you just want to use Traktor as a music player, so you can play lots of types of music at a party for instance, and you don’t want it to adjust song speeds for you and all that stuff, after loading a tune, touch its green “sync” button, and it’ll “return” to its normal speed, and it’ll start playing the second you touch “play”
  4. How can I decide what to play next? – Of course, this is what DJing is all about, but when you’re propping your iPad on your knee at a BBQ with a load of friends, just using it to provide some background music, you don’t really want to find yourself spending all your time leafing through your tunes collection wondering what a good next fit is. (You don’t, right?) That’s where the Traktor DJ recommendations come in. Basically, the tunes towards the top of the list it suggests when you go looking for a next tune to play are most likely to be good fits. The app has been designed to be fun to use and makes no apologies about giving you these “shortcuts” – my advice is definitely to use them! I have top be honest, I’ve started missing this feature in my “big” DJ software!
  5. I’m using it over AirPlay/Bluetooth, and there’s a gap between what I do and it coming out of the speakers! What can I do? – Yup, you’re right, and there’s not much you can do about this; it’s a current limitation of the iOS wireless set-up. Best bet is to use a cable to connect your iPad or iPhone to your speaker; if you have small portable speakers they probably came with one, but if not, chances are you need either a “stereo minijack to stereo minijack” or a “stereo minijack to 2 x RCA” cable Check your particular speakers – and buy one that’s maybe 3 to 5 metres long, giving you a little room to move around when using it
  6. How can I hear the next tune in my headphones? – When you want to start serious mixing, you’re going to want to be able to listen to the “next” tune in your headphones to get it ready, see if it’s in time and so on, before moving the crossfader to mix it in. And for that you’re going to need some headphones. A cheap and easy way to do this is to use a “DJ mono splitter cable”. This plugs into your iDevice’s headphones output and gives you two sockets: One for the speakers and one for your headphones
  7. I’m loving this! What’s the next step? – If you can seriously see yourself getting into DJing with Traktor DJ, the next step is definitely to buy the Traktor Kontrol Z1 mixer/audio interface. It’s going to set you back US$199, but for the money you’ll get a real DJ mixer, with a physical crossfader, volume controls, tone controls an more. Also, you’ll get a pro-grade “audio interface”. That means a loud, clean, stereo signal going to your headphones and to your speakers. While certainly not cheap compared to the app itself, this box will completely change the way you use Traktor DJ, and is good enough to play from in public, even at a pinch in clubs – that’s how great it sounds. Plus it’ll charge your iDevice while it’s all plugged together, too. The combination of an iPad or iPhone, Traktor DJ and the Traktor Kontrol Z1 is the most integrated take on iOS DJing to date and will give you loads more fun than just using the iPad/iPhone – good though that option is

Video tutorial

Are you one of the DJs who’s getting their first taste of iOS DJing (or DJing in general) via this app? How are you finding it? What’s your biggest love / hate / problem? Please let us know in the comments.

Comments

  1. Picked this pu for my ipad mini when it was free for the App Stores 5th anniversary. Was the first app I played around with on it..

    Gotta say, even though I had watched the tutorials prior to playing with it, it is extremely easy to use, and has 16 ‘How to’ tips when you first start it up that check off as you do them.

    I enjoy the amount of flexibility in this app, from the FX selection, to the easy of transition from PC mixing software to tablet.

    That being said I do hope that in further updates they do add some more features, Key detection and maybe easier to access volume controls would be great, but Id still feel fully comfortable dropping a mini set on this if I had to

  2. Also works great as back up if your laptop craps out.

    • Yes, it’s a fantastic backup to have, especially if you use iTunes for your library organisation anyway, and the DropBox sync for your data from “big” Traktor.

  3. awesome video! thanks!

  4. Bryan Singleton says:

    Thanks for tips Phil,tried this app out about 10 days ago and it is awesome could use it to play music during a wedding for example if you have to provide ceremony music in a separate room from where to reception will be held.NI hit a home run on this one…..Thanks

  5. Hi,

    About question 3.

    I still fail to understand the reasoning behind play not being instant when pushed. I know it is because of sync, but i only see this feature as really annoying thing.

    Can someone help me by explaining what is the purpose for this? Is it just bad code, or can it actually be used to something?

    I cant come up any reason why that feature would be handy, and it certainly does not work like that in traktor pro either. Am i missing something important here?

    This is by far the biggest grief for me in traktor DJ currently.

    Thanks in advance,

    • Shenoizy says:

      I sort of agree with you. Point 3 doesn’t fully explain why the app delays the start of play on occasion. Yes Traktor DJ relies on SYNC to make the tracks play at the same speed (or tempo) but this doesn’t necessarily make them play in phase i.e. with the beats lined up correctly.

      The delay that you sometimes get in the app is when it tries to match the phase of each track’s respective beat grid. It’s the grids that it is trying to match up. The settings for quantisation can help but the most important aspect is to ensure that the track has its beat grid correct. Often the delay is up to four beats because the grid is a bar behind.

      For a new comer this can be a bit of a pain to understand. Although the app allows you to adjust the grid I don’t find the controls and granularity to be sufficient to do a precise job so I end up setting the beat grids in Trakor Pro 2 and synchronising them across to Traktor DJ.

    • scooterADAM says:

      on point 3:

      why does it not alway play immediately?
      TDJ seems to default to ‘beat sync’ which matches the BPM and phase. If it is out of phase it will wait until the correct phase comes around again then start. This might not sound great if you beatgrids are not set to start from the real downbeat.
      http://www.djtechtools.com/2011/10/23/looking-into-sync-power-functions-in-traktor-2/

      and as to why it sounds slowed down or sped up (in case it shouldn’t be…)?
      its probably trying to sync when the beat grid is not set right or perhaps the songs beat isn’t consistent ie. non quantized or the beat restarts disrupting the original BG

      • Exactly, that’s my point. Also, if you try to play an 80bpm tune after a 120bpm, you probably don’t want the 80bpm speeded up – but with sync on, that will happen, assuming that’s where master tempo is set, of course.

    • Thanks for the replies guys, interesting points of views there!

      I use traktor pro to beatgrid and cue point all of my tracks, and sync the metadata over dropbox, so the grids should be quite tight. At least a lot tighter than the automatic beat recognizion algorithm can do.

      Still, every time, it waits 4 beats before it starts, which frustrates me a lot, as i am so used to instant play from traktor DJ. I remember being able to enable instant play by using a cue point instead of play button, but for some reason that does not seem to work anymore in my traktor DJ for iphone. (have not tested with the ipad app for a while)

      Should i start pressing play 4 beats in advance or something? I really feel this makes using the app a bit more awkward than it should be.

      When synced through dropbox, the beatgrids look 100% correct in the traktor DJ waveform view, but still i need to press play way early to get the track to start where i want it from.

      I just cant get my head around this.

      • Shenoizy says:

        Does this happen with all tracks or just some? If the latter, try moving the primary beat marker to a bar later in the track.

        One of the things I noticed is that Traktor DJ tends to prefer to anticipate the sync before a beat rather than afterwards i.e. it doesn’t like to ‘catch up’ if you press play after the start of the bar you’re trying to mix from. I’ve had to re-train the way I start a track so that I hit play or the cue point just before the beat I want it to start from. If I don’t, then it often delays the track by four beats before starting and synchronising.

      • Hey guys,

        are you really sure it always waits 4 bars? what if you hit play a little ahead? That’s what I do and I don’t recall having to wait 4 bars. So, you hit play just after the 4, and it will start playing at the next ‘one’.
        I think the iPhone is a little to slow, so when you hit play exactly on the ‘one’, it actually registers your play a little after the ‘one’ and then waits for the next ‘one’. The easy way around it is to hit play before the ‘one’. It’s actually much like you’d do on Ableton Live.
        This off course does mean that you can’t hit play on an upbeat, which sometimes is a pity, especially on anything else then straight forward 4×4 dance beats.

      • Hi. I took out my iphone traktor Dj, and played an 1 hour mix while sitting in a bus. You were completely right. I am not sure why i did not realise this earlier, seems like i just need to pay a bit more attention on pressing the play just before the beat. So far, ive used cuepoints as instant start and kept it pressed while reaching to press play, but this makes it a lot less awkward. Thanks for the help guys.

        (first posted to wrong discussion)

      • Being a Traktor Pro 2 user and switching to Traktor DJ as well, I found that I have to “change” the way I mix. By this I mean that in TP2 I use a F1 to cue all of my tracks right when I want them to start, in TDJ I cue the track 2 or 3 beats before I want the track to begin. This ensures that my tracks will start at the beginning of the next 4 beat phrase. When trying to cue on the beat, I found myself being slightly late due some latency and awkwardness of pressing an iPad screen rather than a button. This often lead to being late a phrase and throwing everything off.

        Although this seems like kind of a “noob” method of mixing, I found that I could mix much more cleanly without worries of being off a phrase.

        Also you might want to check where the beginning of the each phrase is. Beat grids in TP2 don’t take into account where the phrases start and sometimes will be off. I normally check each time I load a track and make sure the phrase starts on the first drop. If not a quick adjustment in the app fixes this.

  6. Shenoizy says:

    Something I would add as a ‘warning’ if you also use Traktor Pro 2 and synchronise your metadata is that all songs on your iPad or iPhone will be added to your Traktor Collection automatically once you open the app as it scans and analyses every track on your device. Sure, you can choose to sync specific playlists just for DJing but other tracks will also be added. This might come as a surprise if you have playlists on your device which you listen to but don’t want to DJ with them and find the tracks suddenly appear in your collection.

    • Hi. I took out my iphone traktor Dj, and played an 1 hour mix while sitting in a bus. You were completely right. I am not sure why i did not realise this earlier, seems like i just need to pay a bit more attention on pressing the play just before the beat. So far, ive used cuepoints as instant start and kept it pressed while reaching to press play, but this makes it a lot less awkward. Thanks for the help guys.

      • This was supposed to be reply for mark and phil above. On mobile, so messed it up as a reply to wrong conversation ;( sorry bout that.

  7. I’ll start off by saying that Traktor DJ for mobile is an excellent bit of software. Now..

    No professional DJ earning his keep should ever fear more DJs getting into the mix (no pun intended), but one unfortunate side effect of this wonderful program is that I fear newcomers might get the impression that DJing is about fancy effects and filters, which are all really easy to pull off in this app. And on the other end of that, the mixing, EQing, and programming aspect might be ignored or at least, glanced over, which would be the worst thing that could happen for a generation of new DJs.

    My advice is that if Traktor DJ piques your interest, then definitely get your hands on some full size gear–doesn’t have to be fancy or brand-spanking new. You have to get down with the fundamentals on those tools that a mobile app can’t teach you.

    Don’t get me wrong. Traktor DJ is a really fun and surprisingly powerful app. It’s a great back-up in a worst-case scenario for a professional, but also powerful enough to be the solution for a smaller gig. It fits great within the workflow if you’re on Team Traktor, since you can set your cues on the mobile app and sync them later to Pro. Even for a Serato guy like myself, I definitely use it when I’m on the go and have to test new ideas, sort of like a notepad for a DJ, but instead of waiting to get home, I can hear things right away.

  8. Dubalicious says:

    On my last gig I used traktor dj on an iPad 4. Coming from a technics mkII + analog Mixer setup I wanted to integrate mp3’s into my mix without having to take a controller or laptop with me. Playing around at home with the app I only had a minor issue not beeing able to change the bpm, but restart of the app solved the problem.
    Now I hooked the iPad up with a external soundcard using the cc kit and an USB hub to enable the external mixing mode. All went well and I really love the way it’s possible to search the tracks using my fingers instead of turning knobs. It comes a little bit closer to searching in a crate.
    Bad thing that happened then was that all of a suddetraktor dj shut down, no sound…
    A really bad feeling! So I continued with vinyl.
    Conclusion: Always have a backup plan.
    Greetings Dubalicious

  9. My question:
    Does anyone know if you can link an iPad (with traktor app) to a DJ controller (denon MC3000)? So you use the iPad to replace a laptop with music? Find this nowhere on the net.
    Thanks a lot.

  10. Laz Shamsudin says:

    Thanks Phil.
    Can the Traktor DJ do auto mixing?

  11. Up to how many midi controllers can I map to traktor

  12. Not mobile version

  13. Reuben Anderson says:

    I got TDJ for my phone after the article last week.
    I’ve found it great for just messing about, trying things out in my lunch break. The stripped down interface is helping me focus more on the tune and less on the mix.
    Can someone point to a dummies guide explaining the Dropbox sync to TP2 thing? That sounds handy.

  14. AHH!! is the best app for djing!!

    but why it doesnt display the time of song??

  15. I don’t know why, but I’ve seen a lot of Traktor DJ tutorials, and I still can’t get the hang of it!!!!!!!!! I’ve thought this might be e music I’ve got, so I’m just wondering if there’s any tracks you’d recommend??

  16. Has anyone figured out how to manually edit the BPM of a track? I have a handful of tracks where Traktor DJ doesn’t recognize the correct bpm (Reckordbox does) Ive tried the tap function too and that didn’t work too well. It would be great if I could just enter in the BPM.

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