Importing Into Your DJ Software
When you visit a doctor for the first time, you know how they often give you a clipboard and a whole set of questions to fill in before treating you? They want to know all about your medical history, your allergies, and so on, in order that when you come back next time, you can waltz right in and they can treat you immediately with all of that vital information already on file about you.
When your DJ software sees your music files for the first time, it needs to do something similar. Nowadays, DJ software can help you to achieve some amazing things with your music, but only if it knows some pretty particular stuff about each and every music file first. Just like your doctor, it keeps this information in its own database.
And while you can wait until you actually play each song for this to happen (your software will analyse each track as part of loading it on to a deck in order to find out what it needs to know), it is usually better to bulk analyse new music at the point of importing it into your DJ software.
Why your DJ software needs a library
So what type of good things does your DJ software do for you when you introduce it to your music, and why? Well, boringly, it first makes a copy of a lot of the information already held in the files’ ID3 tags (track name, artist, genre, and so on) to allow its own search functions to work well, although it’s important to note that it never copies the actual file itself. This stays where you put it (hence the need to be organised). It often analyses the tracks’ volumes too to help you have them all the same volume when you’re DJing. It is likely to work out the musical key (in order to be able to show you songs that are likely to mix well together harmonically) and will even have a go at guessing where the musical bars or measures lie, along with the tempo, or ‘BPM’. All of this is ultimately designed to help you with your mixing.
Once your DJ software has a file entry for each track, it can also remember stuff that you have told it about your music. This is typically things like cue points and loops. For instance, if you tell your software a special place in a tune that you always like to start DJing from by setting a cue point, next time you load the track, you can have the software remember that cue point or load with the track ready to play right from that point. This will work even if you turn the software and computer off and on again.
Likewise, as you play more and more sets within your software, it’ll glean valuable history information about what you’ve played, in what order, and when. This is information that can be awesome to have for all types of reasons (there’s nothing like looking up what you played last New Year’s eve in your DJ software to give you inspiration for this year, for instance, or basing a DJ set for this week on the mixes that went well last week).
Why it’s good to analyse your music in advance
All of this analysing initially takes time and processor power. While DJ software can usually cope with seeing a track for the first time while you’re actually DJing with it, it puts a strain on your laptop that is inadvisable when performing. Also, analysing in advance gives you the chance to sort and filter your tunes by things like key or BPM before you’ve even played them in your DJ software. each type of software has a slightly different method for importing and analysing tracks, but it’s always simple to do; just be aware that for larger collections it can take quite a while, so it’s a good idea to do it well ahead of time, and keep up to date with it.
It’s best not to move your actual music files from where they are kept once you’ve done this. If you do, your DJ software may struggle to find those files because of the fact that it doesn’t actually make its own copy of them, just references them. Move the files, and you may find when you next load your software you have a whole list of red ‘can’t find this track!’ warnings. Not good ten minutes before a DJ set…
So when you’re ready, grab your particular program’s manual, find the section near the front where it talks about importing music, and analyse away.
Where your DJ software stores its information
It’s important to know where your DJ software stores all this info, because this is valuable stuff. If you lose the DJ software’s database, you won’t lose your actual audio files (because remember the DJ library software doesn’t actually copy your music files, it just remembers where on your system to find them), but you will lose all that analysed info, plus any playlists you’ve made within your DJ software, plus all that good stuff you’ve told the software about the tracks (cue points, loops, correcting its guesses as to where the beats and bars lie, and so on).
Furthermore, alongside all of this info about your tracks and those software-specific histories and playlists, your DJ software may indeed have actual audio somewhere in its own folders, despite the fact that the tunes are stored elsewhere. This could be the output created when you hit ‘record’ to save a DJ set as you played it, or it could be snippets of songs you’ve saved as samples within the software to use in your DJing. It could even be whole sample packs that came with your software of useful sounds for you to play with to add texture and excitement to DJ sets.
For all of these reasons, your DJ software’s folders are important. Take some time to check your DJ software’s manual to find out where it stores this information, and back it up regularly.
And that’s it for the music step. In the next section, we’ll cover all the DJing techniques you need to know in order to be able to use your gear properly.