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View Full Version : Standard Mixing is getting boring - Thoughts on live mixing (APC + Ableton)



Mephs
08-21-2013, 12:40 PM
To be fairly honest, when I first picked this craft up, I thought it was just that: live mixing of new music. I was sorely dissapointed, but still enjoy playing two records at the same speed as much as the rest of you. It's just fun to mess around with the music and "mini-edit" it on the fly, but the amount of editting you can do on the fly with a traditional setup (two decks, serato, etc.) -- it's sorely limited.

I saw a few videos of people "live mixing" with an APC and ableton. I wanted to know what DJF thinks of this, either from experience doing it or from experiencing it live. I haven't played out in 4 years but I really dislike the game behind it, and don't really care enough to do it for the ego stroke.

I just wanna throw together my own mashups of sound from various tracks I like, and weave them together in some sort of improvised mix. But before I go out and buy Ableton Live and an APC I need some input. What do you guys think of this new improv jam theme both DJs and musicians are taking on for the live music scene? Do you prefer someone who busts out creative improv mixes or do you prefer to just hear track-to-track mixing with some little flairs thrown in at most?

DJ'ing itself as an art is growing stagnant to me so I want to take it to another level. I know several people in the music industry do this already so it's obviously not a new concept. I just want to know if it's viable (obviously a lot of practice and polish would be involved before I'd take it out live.)

Ryan Ruel
08-21-2013, 01:57 PM
I use Ableton for production, but also had a brief stint with it as a DJ'ing platform. I even went so far as to pick up an Allen and Heath Xone 3D back when those were popular.

For me, I found that Ableton requires a LOT of studio time to use effectively out Live. You will spent an insane amount of time getting tracks warped, cut up and organized, and in geting your mappings and layouts and general workflow all sorted out. Some people thrive on that sort of thing, for me, I found it tedious (after a day at work programming, I really didn't want to sit on the computer for hours at night). In the end, for the type of music I play and my style, it was a more difficult means to the same end.

A nice balance for me is Traktor. I can still play on my 1200's and CDJ's using a traditional workflow, but I have the ability to use 4-decks at once and sync'ing as needed. The remix decks offer some of what Ableton can do, with a friendlier DJ interface.

That said, Ableton can do amazing things, and isn't constrained. If you can think it, you can mostly do it. If you aren't already familiar with Live, grab the demo before you go out and purchase it. Try to get going with that to see if you like the workflow for mixing tracks. Remember, it's a production and live performance application, not a DJ/Mixing application.

Very different paradigms...

Mephs
08-21-2013, 02:17 PM
Yeah I figured to get a real immersive toolkit together it takes a lot of editting and pre-planning (warping, engineering) -- I'm okay with that if it means more creative freedom. I had a vision of setting it up in a way that I can still do a standard track roll (full track mixing) - with a cut-up library of samples I collect and aggregate over time (drum loops, leads, synths from tracks I like, acappella/vocal samples) - and finally a synth track where I can improv entire loops on the fly (with a keyboard or something)

I'm willing to make that progression if it means more freedom of expression, and again, if I'm feeling lazy I can always just mix in full tracks on the track channel. I have the ideas in mind, and I also do programming as a job so I'm not afraid of the technical aspect. It may be a while before I'm dropping live synth improv but I wanted to make a slow move up to that point. It's just more fun (for me) to do it, especially if I can make it sound good. Thanks for the input.

For a synth track, is it possible to pre-engineer a sound and then play it like on a keyboard? I can always add sounds to my arsenal over time, I'm not in a rush or anything. Just tinkering with potentials.

Sigma
08-21-2013, 04:50 PM
I think what Ryan said is the most important thing to consider: -


You will spent an insane amount of time getting tracks warped, cut up and organized, and in geting your mappings and layouts and general workflow all sorted out. Some people thrive on that sort of thing, for me, I found it tedious (after a day at work programming, I really didn't want to sit on the computer for hours at night). In the end, for the type of music I play and my style, it was a more difficult means to the same end.
A friend of mine uses an APC-40 and Ableton now. He will spend several weeks editing and chopping up tracks, sourcing samples etc. and once he's done he'll have a mix that he can perform live, but it'll be a bit different each time he performs it. Over time, he's built up a small selection of these mixes that he can perform whenever he wants. He works full time and has a family, so he doesn't have tons of free time to devote to making his mixes, which is why they take weeks to put together.

Personally, I'm kind of in 2 minds about the end result. Sometimes I think these sorts of mixes can be chopped up too much and while I can appreciate that from a technical point of view, I find myself thinking "I'd rather hear a DJ play these tracks in a traditional way". But when the balance is right, I think it can sound great.

Mephs
08-22-2013, 01:26 AM
After a bit more research I've got a lot clearer of a vision. This seems like what I want to do at the moment...

I don't expect to be ninja mixing within a few months of starting this endeavor. That will give me the time to learn the interface more first, learn how to use ableton to just mix 2 tracks, then I can start chopping up tracks when I'm bored and start building a small arsenal of noise. I had a vision of building my template around being able to accomodate live synthing, sample mixing, and being able to transition to full tracks like I'm spinning 2 decks traditional. The point being that I can take the traditional approach and add this new dimension to it and have more fun with it. "It's a lot of work" isn't daunting. If nothing else it might help my production skills out to play with sound splicing like that as well. Also the prospect I can develop my own library management plugin is intriguing since I do that for a living.

This is turning into a little mad scientist project I guess. Might fail, might turn out awesome.

Ryan Ruel
08-22-2013, 10:02 AM
The cost of entry is relatively low, so you might as well try it. You will learn something new either way.

Mephs
08-22-2013, 11:56 AM
Thanks. Rep all around.

Buszaj
08-22-2013, 12:20 PM
I would recommend taking a look at a Traktor setup. Have a regular mixer with 2 decks, and then a controller or two for the live remixing. Look into the Kontrol F1, Maschine, or some of the Xone controllers.

Your "vision" reminds me a lot of what some techno acts are doing now. Chris Liebing, Dubfire, Hawtin.

Quick example: 2 channels on your mixer with CDJ/Tech 12s running timecode to Traktor. F1 for samples and loops (all in Traktor). Throw in a synth or Mashine onto a third channel on your mixer.

Mephs
08-22-2013, 02:36 PM
I am hearing a lot has changed in the DVS scene. It's been like 4 years. I just upgraded my Serato last night from a version that didn't even have auto-sync yet, and found the sp-6 sampler was lacking big time. Is Traktor really the new king?

Ryan Ruel
08-22-2013, 02:45 PM
Serato is still big as well, but Traktor is definitely more feature rich at this point for electronic music genres.

They have really added in a lot of features that are Ableton-esque. Like the Kontrol F1, and remix decks.

alazydj
08-22-2013, 02:57 PM
Serato is really great for tradition DJing.


Traktor has more innovations built into the software (remix decks, quantizing, loop recorder, etc) that make it more "live act" oriented.




If you're using Serato Scratch Live, you can use Ableton Bridge which allows you to do some really cool live remixing.

Mephs
08-22-2013, 11:37 PM
Noted. I wasn't about to give up Serato, but that intrigues me a lot since I can mix in the track roll with no pre-warping required. I very much dig.

Ultimately the dream setup would be SSL with 2 decks, my main mixer, ableton/APC40 and some kind of synthesizer for improv sounds. (This is more of a 5 year plan than a NOW plan).

Adzm00
08-23-2013, 08:30 AM
I was going to suggest just going with Traktor and use the sample decks.

Although if mixing 2 records is boring you why not try mix 4 and also bring samplers into the mix.

alazydj
08-23-2013, 09:47 AM
Ultimately the dream setup would be SSL with 2 decks, my main mixer, ableton/APC40 and some kind of synthesizer for improv sounds.

I have some what the same dream.


First step would be to get good at Ableton/Production, second step would be to save up for a Rane 62 (I've wanted one forever) and then to get an APC for bridge.

disparate
08-25-2013, 05:54 AM
If you're using Serato Scratch Live, you can use Ableton Bridge which allows you to do some really cool live remixing.

Yeah I think Bridge looks pretty cool, it's something I'm going to explore when I get the time.

I'm still nowhere near "bored" of traditional mixing after being into DJing for over a dozen years but I'm definitely into the idea of putting together a hybrid DJ/live set once I'm happy with my productions.

Mephs
09-04-2013, 12:33 PM
I'd think learning to mix in Ableton and slowly progressing out to production would be a more logical route. Though I suppose they're two different angles of it all, and compliment each other -- I'm kind of doing it the opposite direction, learning to live mix/remix first then producing.

Adzm00
09-04-2013, 12:51 PM
It's handy doing that though just so you get the interface down, and learn the basics like warping, sampling etc.

Skeyelab
09-04-2013, 12:55 PM
what about getting a looper or something like that pioneer remix station?

Mephs
09-04-2013, 01:58 PM
There's probably a dozen ways to crack this egg, I think I'm just set on the APC40 method. This is basically what I wanna do. Ultimately with many many more samples cut up to play with but same generic idea. Also, just cuz Prodigy samples everywhere.

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Mrspyaman
09-04-2013, 02:31 PM
I have to ask about the subject title. How is mixing with preset sampled out pieces of music already timed and cut more LIVE than actually mixing or remixing on the fly while performing?

Mephs
09-04-2013, 02:44 PM
Ultimately the vision of the setup I've got in my head is having chopped up samples (lots of them, eventually) on call through the APC40, a keyboard synthesizer for adding improv sounds, and maybe SSL just to do standard track mixing and control all through that whole setup. Idunno, it's not any more or less anything than any other approach I guess, just seems more "fun" to have that much control over the set. Maybe I've been going to too many EOTO shows and getting way too many ideas from their approach on performance. While this is nowhere near that level of complexity (who humanly could afford that much gear anyway?), it's still kind of where I got the idea and the push to change my style up a bit.

The nice thing is how powerful that setup would be for changing up genre and the feel as I go, I tend to be really erratic when I mix, often mixing 4-5 genres together (I used to play this way on Faderwave and it got really good feedback, using just 2 decks and SSL) -- As I said, standard mixing got boring. I just wanted to get some insight on whether I'm going down a horribly wrong path to achieve my vision.

If you don't know of EOTO yet, it's basically Michael Travis and Jason Hann (String Cheese Incident) creating an entire electronic music set live and improvised on the spot, 100%. They have a LOT of audio gear and shit set up to pull this off, but they're also doing every single synth, sound, and sample live. They're phenomenal live though, a little hit or miss since they're trying to create entire arrangements on the spot and human error is always there, but sometimes they really drop some hot shit.

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