Diary of A Novice Midi Mapper, Part 1 – Getting Started

Read time: 4 mins
Last updated 11 April, 2018

Midi Fighter
The Midi Fighter is one of the options available to DJs wanting to add more buttons to better control aspects of their DJ software.

If you are going to really take control of your music and deliver a DJ set that’s entirely unique, you are going to want to access all the capabilities of your chosen digital mixing platform provides – at least, that was my thinking when I decided to roll my sleeves up and have a go myself, and write a series of piece on my experiences of Midi mapping.

Over the next few articles in this series, I will share my trials, successes and failures as a semi-proficient DJ looking to unravel those black arts of audio plumbing that separate the digital Gods from people like me.

The hope is that along the way will be able to share a few beginners’ tips that might prevent you from introducing your equipment to open windows, flights of stairs or oncoming buses.

The kit

  • Native Instruments Kontrol S4
  • DJ Tech Tools Midi Fighter Classic
  • Traktor Scratch Pro 2
  • 2 Numark TTX turntables
  • Samsung RF-510 S02 Laptop (i7/8G RAM) running Windows 7 Ultimate

Firstly, people have asked me why I added another controller (the Midi Fighter) to my set-up given I already had the S4. The S4 is certainly an advanced controller but it does rather limit the user in terms of which buttons can be mapped. The S4 enables the user to add Midi controls “alongside” the default mapping but it is somewhat limited and can get complicated quickly.

There is an option to switch to pure-play Midi mode with the S4 but that means mapping the entire controller from scratch and frankly, I am not man enough for that.

Why the Midi Fighter?
I chose the DJ Tech Tools Midi Fighter because I liked the idea of a rugged controller with arcade-style buttons. There are of course many controllers that cost far less (check out Korg’s Nano range) and those which are more expensive but deliver more features. Native Instruments’ Maschine was an option I was looking at for some time but using it solely as a Midi controller seemed like overkill.

(If you’re looking to do something similar, there are countless controllers on the market today so it should be straightforward to find a unit that provides you with what you need at a cost you can afford.)

My goals

Given that I am writing this as a diary (rather than retrospectively) these goals may change or fall off the table altogether. But as of now I would like to:

  • Create a simple hot cue mapping that will allow me slice up and rearrange tracks on the fly
  • Use the same or similar mapping as above to create a virtual drum kit (yes I know the Midi Fighter doesn’t have velocity sensitive buttons…)
  • Automate some of the transport and management functions that I feel are a little clumsy on the S4
  • See what effects I can come up with that will accentuate (rather than overshadow) the music
  • Initially avoid the available pre-configured maps I could easily download and have up and running in minutes. I will however be checking some of these mappings out later

The prep

I had to wait for nearly eight weeks to take delivery of the Kontrol S4. During those miserable winter evenings I spent hour after hour devouring every YouTube video I could find on the S4. I signed up on a host of user forums and read all the documentation I could lay my hands on. There was a lot of content for me consume. By the time my shiny box of delights showed up, I was only half incompetent.

Vextax Pad One Review Buttons
The Vestax Pad One is another choice for DJs needing more buttons to hit.

My experience with Midi mapping content has not been so easy. There is certainly a good deal of content out there and countless tutorials exist on how to achieve specific settings. What I haven’t been successful in sourcing is information that breaks down Traktor’s Controller Manager in sufficient detail as to learn what each setting and its associated possible values do.

I am told that Rainer G. Haselier’s Traktor 2 Bible has everything I might need but this wasn’t an option at the time of writing this. If I do manage to get hold of a copy I will let you know. For now I am working with snippets of information assembled from all the sources mentioned above.

Next time

So with all the gear in place and at least half an idea of where this is going to go, it’s time to get my sleeves rolled up and do some mapping. In the next part, I’ll be turning my hand to creating a baby basic hot cue mapping. Hope to see you then!

• SmiTTTen is a writer and DJ based in the US. Check out his Facebook Page for technical DJ articles, interviews, mixes and updates, and follow him on Twitter.

Check out the other parts in this series:

Have you been tempted to try your hand at your own Midi mappings? Will you be following this series closely to see how SmiTTTen gets on? Or are you a “plug it in and use what’s given to me” type of DJ? Love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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