Spice up your original
music by processing
tracks in DJ software
Even if you’re not a DJ, the effects within
many DJing programs can lend your own
music—either individual tracks or full
mixes—some finishing touches that you may
not find in your regular DAW and plug-ins
(see Figure 1). Almost all of the programs
offer uncompressed audio recording, so you
can record your effects and bring the audio back into an editor. Native Instruments’
Traktor Pro (see Figure 2) sets the gold
standard for DJ effects, but there are also very
valuable effects in Serato’s various iterations,
MixVibes Virtual DJ and Cross, One DJ, etc.
You may have a limited version of one of
these lying around from a MIDI controller
you purchased, or you can often try a demo
version before buying.
|Fig. 1. Image Line Deckadance 2 works as a VST instrument
within a DAW, but its other advantages include the ability to
effect the high, mid, and low frequencies independently. A
demo version is available.
Fun With Torque Even digital-age kids
know the sound of a song slowly coming to
a stop as a turntable winds down. It’s been
used on plenty of popular productions, and in
many DJ programs, it’s available as an effect.
For example, in MixVibes Cross 2.6 and
Virtual DJ, it’s called Brake (see Figure 3), and
Braker in Serato DJ. Turn the effect on, and
the song comes to a “stop” as if it were being
played on a turntable. However, the song
doesn’t actually stop. It’s still playing in what
some software calls “slip mode,” meaning that when an effect or other performance
technique is applied, the song continues to
play in the background. So when you turn off
the Brake effect, the song resumes play in
the position it would be in if the effect was
|Fig. 2. Traktor Pro 2 offers all the basics, as well as wild,
professional sound-design-grade effects. In Single effect mode,
they offer the most variety of any DJ software and are amazing for
remixes or transforming any song into usable but unrecognizable
samples. A demo version runs for 30 minutes at a time.
A knob controls the length of the Brake
effect, ranging from a few seconds to near-instant.
You could of course use this effect
simply as a different kind of fade-out to end
a song, but in combination with slip mode in
DJ software, you can get a lot more creative
with it. By playing with the effect length and
engaging/disengaging the effect rhythmically,
you can use Brake as a sound effect to give
vocals or instruments an alien, paranormal
sound, enhance the lead-up to transitions
within a full mix, or add a twist to part of
a drum loop. While mastery of the effect is
rather simple, it holds plenty of potential.
|Fig. 3. The Turntable Braker, or Brake
Effect, as seen here in MixVibes Virtual
DJ, works great for creative pitching,
transitions, censoring words, and
more. The free Virtual DJ Home version
Brake could also be used to censor words if
you’re creating a clean version of a vocal. You
can hear an example of this effect on the vocal
of Will.I.am’s 2012 single “Scream & Shout.”
Traktor Pro’s version of this effect, called
Turntable FX, includes the option to add
back-and-forth record scratching with
variable speed, or to do a simulated quick
record rewind with the touch of a button.
Did I Stutter? Let’s have some more fun
with slip mode. Another common DJ software
effect is call Roll in Cross (see Figure 4), Repeater in Serato DJ, or Stutter
in One DJ. When engaged, the song plays in
a repeated loop of varying length, and when
disengaged, the song resumes playback in the
position it would have been in without the
effect. An effect amount control will vary the length of the continuous loop. Loop length
usually ranges from 1 bar to 1/32nd note.
|Fig. 4. DJ software offers simple effect interfaces, like the Roll stutter effect in MixVibes Cross 2.6, and uncompressed
audio recording so you can bring the results back into a DAW. The Cross DJ Free version includes effects.
For incorporating into full mixes or
individual tracks of a song, the stutter
effect tends to work best in the shorter loop
lengths. Engage/disengage the effect quickly
at loop lengths of 1/16 or 1/32 to add quick
fills to drums, stutter effects to vocals, or
again as a creative way to censor lyrics for
radio-friendly versions. With the effect
engaged, play with the loop lengths going
from slower-to-faster or faster-to-slower
to create dramatic build-ups or transitions.
If your software allows you to turn off slip
mode, you may enjoy this even more as a
tool for inserting build-ups. In any case, try
combining this effect with other tempo-synced
effects like a flanger or LFO filter.
With Traktor Pro’s Beatmasher 2 stutter
effect, you have the added abilities for slices
to loop in reverse playback, to warp the
timing of the stutters, and to mix in gated
playback of the track while the effect is on.
Effects for Sound Design Many DJ
programs have effects that will allow you
to mangle either your music or any music
you choose into unrecognizably twisted raw
sound material that you can record and pump
back into your own productions. However,
Traktor Pro gets a special shout out here
for having the most creative and infinitely
tweakable palette. Try the Reverse Grain
effect, where every bar of a track can be instantly transformed into a granularly psychedelic copy
of itself, or reversed and inverted so heavily it
can become a new glitch-hop loop guaranteed
to evade the ear of sample trainspotters. Use
Transpose Stretch to turn source material into perfect fodder for dub or downbeat remixes.
Traktor Pro’s macro effects, like Laser Slicer,
Bass-o-Matic, Event Horizon, and others,
combine different tempo-synced effects into
one-knob wonders that sound like magic even to those who think they’ve heard it all.
Markkus Rovito is a frequent contributor to
DJTechTools.com, and a drummer, electronic
musician, and DJ.