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The B&H Pro Audio Staff Weighs in on the Future of DJ'ing

The B&H Pro Audio Staff Weighs in on the Future of DJ'ing

By Jon Swackhamer

A wide variety of formats are available to work with in today's DJ scene. You can mix and match a system using vinyl, CD's, or computer-based DJ'ing software. Despite all of the technological advances, plenty of DJ's are more than happy just spinning wax, often relying solely on tried-and-true pieces of equipment such as Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables and Rane TTM-56 mixers.

Technics SL-1200MK2

For those who choose to embrace the new technology, the possibilities are limitless. A number of years ago saw the introduction of the CD turntable, like the popular Pioneer CDJ1000MK3. DJ's could finally achieve that old-school vinyl feel with a CD player. This opened the door for a lot of people interested in DJ'ing. Music is more readily available on CD and it's significantly less expensive to purchase or download.

The newest and biggest thing to hit the DJ market is the software-based program. With products like Rane Serato Scratch, DJ's can now use hard drives to store mass amounts of music. DJ'ing software programs work in two ways:

1) Standalone (Traktor DJ Studio, Ableton Live)

2) Hardware Based (Traktor Scratch, Rane Serato Scratch)

Standalone software allows you to mix and play music files through your computer. Often, DJ's will simply connect the headphone output of their computer into the club's sound system. Another way to use standalone software is to utilize a control surface. This allows DJ's to control the software with faders and knobs instead of having to use a mouse. For more information on popular control surfaces for DJ'ing, check out this past Pro Audio Update article. DJ's who demand the highest quality of sound will frequently use a computer audio interface to connect to the club's sound system. This yields a much better quality audio than their computer's headphone jack can provide.

Hardware-based digital DJ'ing systems allow the user to get the exact same feeling of mixing vinyl records and CD decks –while playing music files from a hard drive. Hardware based systems can integrate into numerous types of DJ'ing set ups. You can connect CD or vinyl turntables and a DJ mixer to the components of the hardware-based system. This gives you the ability to mix and manipulate the music files in your hard drive by controlling them with your regular DJ equipment. Timecode vinyl LP's and CD's are provided with the systems, so you can literally scratch the timecode disc on your turntable, and the DJ'ing software will match your motions by scratching the digital file you are playing.

Today's DJ's are presented with many of options for system setups. The variety of equipment enables a creative DJ to build a performance system to suit his needs, and most importantly, to keep the music playing.

The DJ's of B&H Share Their Thoughts on the State of the Craft

B&H is located in the heart of New York City and is staffed by a team of seasoned audio professionals. If you put two and two together, it's not surprising to find that a number of our employees are also professional DJ's. The collective enthusiasm for the art of DJ'ing among the staff here at B&H has spurred us to expand our stock of DJ'ing products and service.

What name do you use when you DJ?

Joe Nassar – DJ Dirty

Keith Tsunami - DJ Kinetic

Conrado Martinez - My DJ name is Conrado Martinez

Darryll Adams – sugarhead

Tyler Gusich – (Tyler Elliott Gusich Gaston de Foix as Lotus-Born) Red Monk

Jon Swackhamer - DJ Swackhamer

Do you have a favorite moment from your DJ'ing past?

Joe Nassar - Playing on the beach in the Dominican Republic from dusk till dawn.

Keith Tsunami - Doing a tag-team set with DJ Gonzo at Club Speed in Manhattan.

Conrado Martinez – I can't pinpoint a favorite moment. But If I had to it would have to be Taste the Jam at Webster Hall with the Riddler and the entire Taste the Jam crew. That was an amazing night, with a lot of great friends and a very memorable set.

Darryll Adams – Could never choose just one.

Jon Swackhamer - I was DJ'ing at Club 658 in Buffalo New York. I had 1000 people dancing and it was the best feeling in the world.

Do you have any advice for a new DJ, such as things to avoid?

Joe Nassar - Avoid putting a label on what you play or what you are capable of. Why limit yourself?

Keith Tsunami - Do what you feel. DJ'ing is an expression just like being a musician. And practice, practice, practice.

Conrado Martinez – My advice to new DJ's would be to enjoy what you're doing and protect your hearing.

Darryll Adams – Don't overanalyze things. The brain has a funny way of getting in the way of creativity. And try not to let the ENTIRE record play!!!

Tyler Gusich – I would advise them to become audio engineers in conjunction with their DJ'ing. If you want to stand out, you will need to know how to engineer/"produce"your own tracks. Furthermore, having a background in audio engineering is becoming even more useful – almost necessary – as DJ'ing continues its transition into the domain of the laptop. I would finally add that pursuing audio engineering will take your ears to "the next level."I remember starting out as a DJ some years ago and noticing how my DJing had refined my critical listening capabilities. Becoming a studio engineer, however, blew even that out of the water. I soon found myself sensitive to entire sonic realms I'd never noticed – even in tracks I had already listened to ad-nauseum. These gains, most immediately, translated into my DJ'ing in a more refined approach to EQ'ing, and better execution of set-dynamics (volume).

Jon Swackhamer - Don't listen to other people about how you should or shouldn't play your stuff.

What gear do you use?

Joe Nassar - Technics 1200's, Allen & Heath XONE 62, Rane Serato Scratch, Red Sound Cycloops, Ableton Live 6 and my 12"PowerBook.

Keith Tsunami - Technics 1200's, Rane TTM 54

Conrado Martinez – I presently use 3 Technics SL 1200MK turntables, 1 Pioneer CDJ1000MK3, a Denon DNS-S3500, Pioneer EFX500 and a Rane MP2016a.

Darryll Adams – DJ'ing and producing have become a single activity for me now, so I'm all about Ableton Live, Faderfox Mods, Reason, Allen & Heath mixers, and some secret weapons. Also, the Mini Moog will NEVER leave the studio so I have a bank of custom "noise”with me at all times.

Tyler Gusich – I have been using two Numark TTX1s and one Technics 1200 (with Ortofone Pro S needles) running through an Allen & Heath Xone 62 mixer for the past 6 years. I am, however, currently transitioning from vinyl to laptop. My new setup is Ableton Live on a Mac Book Pro (and a Glyph hard drive) out of an Apogee Ensemble, into my Allen and Heath Xone 62 mixer, augmented by an Evolution UC-33E USB controller.

Jon Swackhamer - I use two Denon 3500 CD decks and a Denon 300 mixer.

Allen & Heath - Xone 62

What's your favorite piece of equipment?

Joe Nassar - My turntables.

Keith Tsunami - Technics 1200's

Conrado Martinez – My favorite pieces of equipment are my Pioneer CDJ1000MK3 and my G5.

Darryll Adams – Today, the Mini Moog, tomorrow???

Tyler Gusich – Allen and Heath Xone 62. This is a top-shelf analog 6-channel mixer with loads of flexibility and two of the most beautiful, assignable, filters you've ever heard. I also like how the EQ section is split into 4 bands – low, low-mid, high-mid and high (as opposed to the traditional 3 bands).

Jon Swackhamer - The Denon 3500. I also love the Pioneer EFX500.

Who are your favorite DJs?

Joe Nassar - Booka Shade, David Caretta, Tiga.

Keith Tsunami - Chris Liberator, Dave the Drummer, DJ Gonzo

Conrado Martinez – My favorite DJ's are Carl Cox, Jeff Mills, Erick Morillo and Havana Funk.

Darryll Adams - Lee Burridge has been NASTY lately. Paul Johnson, Mistress Barbara, Donald Glaude, Danny T, just to name a few.

Tyler Gusich – I got into dance music, some years ago, by way of The Chemical Brothers and Carl Cox. Felix da Housecat also influenced me deeply. Since then, my ear has been interested in a wide variety of styles and DJ's – far too many to recount here. I will say, however, that my two favorite recent DJ artist-albums (as opposed to mixes) have been Gui Boratto's "Chromophobia,"and Matthew Dear's unexpectedly-pop "Asa Breed.”

Jon Swackhamer - Tiesto, Armen Van Buuren, and Freaky Flow.

Do you consider DJ's who have never mixed on vinyl, who have only used DJ'ing software to be somehow inferior?

Joe Nassar - No, but I am still a purist, so I kinda like the vinyl thing.

Keith Tsunami - No, because the end result is still the same. You're either good or your not!

Conrado Martinez – Nowadays it really doesn't matter what DJ setup you use. As long as you achieve your goal which may be rocking a party, playing lounge or background music. If you're playing at clubs, most of the time the DJ equipment won't be visible so use what's comfortable for you and have a good time.

Darryll Adams - Not inferior, but a bit crazy. I think you really learn the art of mixing on vinyl, and that can't be duplicated with software. Technology is great, we're lucky to have so much available, but pick up some records and you'll understand.

Tyler Gusich – Not at all. I would first point out that, only a few years ago, this same allegation was being leveled at DJ's using CDJ's. CDJ's are now the industry standard. Laptops aren't far behind. I would additionally offer that technology is not the origin of creativity. People are. Just because a computer now beat matches for you doesn't mean metaphysical skill – i.e. an artistic vision, the ability to read a dance floor, etc. – isn't still mandatory. It undoubtedly takes a lot more than two songs played in synch to get a crowd going.

Jon Swackhamer - No.

What is the future of DJ'ing?

Joe Nassar - If I could predict the future I'd be in stocks. I'm just having fun.

Keith Tsunami - I think the future is here. The integration of vinyl, CD, and computers. By combining all the gear available the possibilities are endless. You're only limited by your imagination.

Conrado Martinez – The future of DJ'ing looks very promising. CD turntables have become more advanced and the world of Computer DJ'ing has just begun. Now you have programs like Serato, Traktor Scratch, and Ableton Live, to name a few that offer more capability and experimentation. We are also seeing more "video jockey"capability being fused together with the traditional DJ equipment. The use of these methods is beginning to be more accepted, and dance clubs worldwide are building DJ booths that are compatible with the new trends.

Darryll Adams - The near future is probably more integration of video into DJ sets. What I'd really like to see is better, more involved interfaces for things like Live. The ability to play a set that simply can't be duplicated is amazing, but right now it's still a bit uncomfortable.

Tyler Gusich – More change.

Jon Swackhamer - Well, it's become one of the most popular things to do. It's the fastest-growing musical career people are going with.

If you have any questions about DJ'ing, we encourage you to contact us on the phone, online, or in person at our SuperStore in New York City. 1-800-947-9923

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