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.
- 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
- 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
- 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”
- 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!
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.