Your first gig in front of thousands is going to be nerve wracking enough. Now crank up the heat with going b2b for the first time. For all you Synch babies out there that means manually beat matching.
‘Oh why not just use Ableton Link?’
Ableton Link was only added as a Traktor feature in the Fall of 2016 for their 2.11 update. Both DJs need at least this version. Lo and behold my compatriot uses a controller that is not compatible with the most recent version of Mac OS. As a result he is stuck using a version of Traktor released well before 2016.
Luckily I had weeks to prepare for the gig. Ok cool, just practice, right? For some reason I have a hard time practicing for practicing’s sake. Even with the pressure of spinning in front of thousands. I crawl into a ball and find something else to do. Procrastinator 101. The next best thing that works for me is opening up a live stream online. Unless I’m sipping on a Bulleit & Coke and jamming out, DJing without eyeballs is something I struggle with.
But indeed, within my problem lied my solution. I had been so busy with gigs over that span of time that I was able to get in a couple hours of practice a week. I’d fit micro sessions in the few minutes between songs during low periods of activity.
Now, since you’ll be able to LAN hack and cheat off your friend’s screen, you’ll already know the exact tempo you need to mix in. All you need to do is work on your ‘beat-drop’ timing and adjust with your ear. Luckily you can practice this half a dozen times over a minute or two. That’s exactly what I did during gig downtime.
My issue was that I kept cheating. The phase meter is right there in Traktor. Every single time I would glance up and see how far off I was. Practice attempt ruined. The good news is that we can turn that off. For ease of practice I set up two identical layouts to cut between and left the phase meter off one of them. Here is how I set it up within Traktor:
B2B Manual Beatmatching Setup
- Layout Manager -> Add
- Select favorite mixing layout, rename to ‘Beatmatch Practice’
- Move Up/Down so it is right before/after your favorite layout
- With your new layout selected, go to ‘Deck Layout’ and uncheck ‘Phase Meter’
- Go to Controller Manager, add a new keyboard mapping to scroll up/down your layout list
- For Serato users: Try mixing in Library Mode
- Turn off your sync button
- Cue up a track of similar tempo
- Match your BPM (manually, this is important)
- Start dropping on the one in your headphones
- Adjust with your platter if it sounds off
You’ll suck at first but you’ll get better with time. Try not to overthink it, you’ll eventually develop an intuitive sense of being ahead or behind.
Think you’ve got it on target? Switch into your Phase Mater layout and see how far off you are. Immediate feedback! Once you’ve nailed mixing within headphones it’s time to up the ante. Listen to the live track only from your speakers with your cued track only in headphones. It’s a little harder but this is what you’re going to have to do in a live situation.
Agree that each of you will stick to round BPM numbers. 120, 110, 128, etc. It will be easier to set your tempo.
When mixing in pick a part of the song that is easy to identify, yet very basic like Hi-hats. Loop it. Once you think you’re matched in your headphones, creep the looped track into the master output in a little at a time. Drop 2-4 beat samples to see how close you are. Almost no one will notice if you’re off by a bit. Adjust your platters, bring in some more volume and check again. You can match up tracks as early as you want and leave it looping. As long as their tempo doesn’t change and their platters aren’t touched you’re golden. With ‘Snap’ & ‘Quantize’ activated you can jump around all you want and remain ‘in time’.
Furthermore you can side-step beat matching by using what I call drop-in tracks. Simulate a turntable stop with the outgoing track and drop into your next one if it’s conducive. A great example is at the beginning of ‘It Takes Two’ when he says ‘Hit it’.
How exactly did I get that festival gig?
It’s a long story, though my approach was very simple. It’s certainly possible to go from bedroom to festivals in just a year and a half. Subsequent posts are going to focus precisely on how I went from hardly any DJs in my network to getting leads left and right, including this gig, all in just 18 months time. Sign up for my newsletter and my guide will be sent straight to your inbox once released.