Reader DJ Mustachio Nuts (great name!) writes: “I’ve been a musician, mostly bass, all my life which has definitely helped me understand the core job of a DJ – getting people to shake their asses! – which is what I loved about being a bass player. I played in rock bands and always considered it my job to get people’s heads nodding, no matter how heavy the music, so DJing seemed perfect for me.
“I bought a Numark Mixtrack, but found that although my DJ skills matched the controller perfectly, my producer / musician ear had already felt like I’d outgrown it. I wanted easier access to samples, and one shots, I wanted to run an acappella track and mix and cut together multiple music tracks underneath below to make live mashups.
“I got close using a reggae loop from a Bob Marley track and putting it under a vocal heavily ED’d track from Kanye, got it all beatsynced and was grooving, but I didn’t have a third spot to go for the next music track.
So I am still looking for the right entry to mid-level controller. I’m currently thinking the Novation Twitch might be the right controller for me to learn on, especially with that slicer, but am concerned about only having two tracks.
“I’ve also been reading through the mashup guide you have on your site and really think that is where I’m going to make my local name and find the most creative satisfaction. I already have a ton of ideas for unique pairings.
“For this I was thinking of the Novation Launchpad with Ableton bundle, but am curious what you think would be best. Scratching would be nice but isn’t too important, but I would like sample triggers, more cues, and splicing options. I also want to learn to beatmatch ‘properly’.”
Digital DJ Tips says:
We love the Novation Twitch, but even though you can trigger Serato ITCH’s sample decks from it now that ITCH has hit v2.1, we still think for mashups you’d find it limiting. Look at the Traktor Kontrol S4 – four decks or two decks and multiple sample slots, lots of “mashup flexibility”, but also the ability to DJ completely normally too.
You can learn beatmatching on it manually, and also move into creative jamming with samples and even record impromptu elements with microphone (or bass!) and throw them over your mix.
It is closer to traditional DJing so you can learn manual beatmatching on it, while still giving you the chance to get creative with samples and produce your own mashups, albeit mashups you’ll have to “perform” live every time you play them.
Ableton Live is a much steeper learning curve, and is a way removed from DJing as most people know it, being close to real music production with a jamming element thrown in. In this realm, if you go for the Novation Launchpad, you’ll want a DJ mixer-style Midi controller too, and the Novation Nocturn is a good pairing for it.
Otherwise, look at something like the Akai APC40 because it has pads for launching clips and scenes like the Launchpad, as well as analogue faders and knobs for other elements.
On the Ableton route, expect to spend at least a year of often steep learning before you’re happy enough to have a DJ set ready and a performance technique you can be confident about performingly live.
As you identify though, for a musician this is the route that holds the most potential for standing out from the crowd, as musical ability can shine through more clearly using a proper DAW than DJ software / hardware with samples tacked on.
However, for many DJs, Ableton Live is a step too far away from the “slam the right tune on at the right time” element of DJing.
Have you chosen to go down either the “DJ software” or “DAW” route for DJing? Are you an Ableton DJ and what do you use? Or do you do mashups using Traktor, and if so, on what gear? Please help out with your advice in the comments.