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

  1. #1
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    Standard Mixing is getting boring - Thoughts on live mixing (APC + Ableton)

    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.)

  2. #2
    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...
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    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.

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    I think what Ryan said is the most important thing to consider: -

    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan Ruel
    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.

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    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.

  6. #6
    The cost of entry is relatively low, so you might as well try it. You will learn something new either way.
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    Thanks. Rep all around.

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    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.

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    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?

  10. #10
    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.
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