Automatic or manual mixing

For several months, I have been using Traktor and the X1 controller for my DJ sets. I believe that these two products are a perfect match and provide the best solution for a mobile DJ. The setup is very reliable, the processing speed is equal to that of CDJ’s, they are both compact and easy to pack, and the setup can be tailored to any club booth.

Now the flip side to that argument is that many DJs, new and old, still prefer CDJs and/or Traktor connected to CDJ’s to have precise control over the beat-matching process. In my opinion, this is pointless. Traktor automatically beat matches, so my question is, why do we need CDJ’s?

I guess DJ’s will continue to search for the feeling like they are doing something other than letting software do all the hard work. I remember when I made the switch from CD’s to using Ableton Live, which does require offline work to time code your tracks correctly – it wasn’t a completely automated process especially when you are putting work into each track prior to playing it. Don’t get me wrong, it was very easy and fast to prep each track, but the thing that really got me and caught saying to myself, “I just prepped all these tracks in no time, the software is now mixing all these songs flawlessly for me, I have thousands of Dutch party people dancing, what the hell do I do now?”

For some the answer is easy, they want to feel like they’re actually doing something rather than mixing songs automatically. I understand this feeling given my history and experience as a DJ, however, nothing beats the feeling of thousands of people dancing to your music, traveling with a simple setup, and most of all, no time spent on burning CDs for each gig. The time spent prepping for a gig has decreased, while my creativity on making the best impact on the dance floor has increased.

Over time, I started to reflect on the advantages of my new unique setup:

-The mixes are seamless and flawless. The computer takes care of the mixes while I focus on volume control, equalization, overlap time, etc…

-Your ears suffer less because you don’t need to listen to the music in your headphones loudly or have the booth volume monitors turned all the way up. My ears no longer ring when I leave a club.

-I can observe the patrons and understand what they’re looking for. The extra time saved helps us to better understand the public reaction and decide which track to play next to keep the vibe and energy alive.

-I can communicate with the patrons. I have more time for visual and gestural communication, or simply to accommodate those who come to the booth to ask for a track title and/or to have a quick chat.

-You don’t have to waste time and money on burning CDs and dealing with customs issues while traveling. For example, while traveling to Tunisia for a gig, they thought I was selling pirated music via CDs.

-You have the ability to locate and organize your music in an efficient manner by genre, folder, names etc…

-Covers, covers, covers! It’s always been very difficult to remember and locate all the music by name, but with your computer you have the option to view the cover just like the vinyl days.

-Storage. This is unlimited with Traktor, but with CDs you have a physical limitation on how much you can fit into your case and your travel bag.

Even with all the reasons stated above, I am convinced that there will be DJs who believe that pitching vinyl, CDs, and/or controllers with wheels is more authentic and will always prefer to hand mix. All DJs enjoy playing music, but we should not lose sight of the real goal of our work – to rock the clubs and any booth we step into to keep the patrons happy.

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