JUGGLING ACT - EMusician

JUGGLING ACT

Read the Remix article on key-control commands for Native Instruments Traktor 3.2. Learn about the deck-duplicate feature and how to assign a single control to multiple parts of the program for better deck-juggling efficiency.
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It's no secret that the reputation of Native Instruments' popular DJ program, Traktor DJ Studio Pro (now officially renamed Traktor 3), has been on the ropes. Largely due to its now severed but highly publicized, abusive marriage to Stanton, Traktor's image as a stable and DJ-friendly product took a bit of a dive over the past year. Now that the Stanton partnership is dissolved, the diligent team at NI turned back to doing what they do best: making good software. The result was the latest update to one of the first and most forward-thinking digital-DJ products on the market. This strong update (Traktor 3.2) brought more stability and a few under-the-hood features that can really make your set shine.

DECK DUPLICATE

My personal favorite addition will not be found anywhere on the user interface. There is a slightly hidden hotkey and MIDI command to duplicate a playing deck into any other deck, instantly. This includes loops, position, timing and effects. Why would one want this, you might ask? Well as you know, Traktor has four decks, but having enough MIDI or key controls to control all four decks at once can be difficult. You can, however, effectively use all four decks with controls for only two using the duplicate feature. Imagine you are mixing out of deck A and into deck B: Deck A is at the end of the song where you set a loop on a breakdown to extend the outro. The two are working really well together, so you don't want to lose the loop, but you need to start mixing in the next song. No problem. With a single click, you can duplicate the loop into deck C or D and now layer a new song on top of both decks. As long as the loop was locked in the groove with deck B, you should not need to adjust its timing and can now blend it in or out as needed.

Deck duplicate is also a really cool way to do an extreme version of a common turntablist trick. The duplicate command can be customized to duplicate into any deck. So you will need to set three commands to duplicate deck A into B, C and D. Then, using the beat-jump tool, move deck B back a half beat, deck C back one beat and deck D back two beats. Crossfading rhythmically between deck A and B gives you the classic double-hit trick, but mixing in C and D adds a really cool dub twist. One specific suggestion for DJs who are using external mixers to mix: Modify your commands to duplicate both of your main decks to deck C. Then you need only three stereo outputs on your soundcard rather than four.

MULTIPLE MIDI MAPPING

Before Traktor 3, a MIDI knob or slider could be assigned only to one function. Now you can assign a single control to multiple parts of the program. There are some handy uses for that. First of all, there's the wet/dry effects blend. Rather than use a button to turn on an effect and a knob to change the blend, use a single knob for both. It makes sense that you would want the effect on or off depending on the mix amount. You can take that a step further and use a single knob for all four decks' mix knobs and power buttons. For instance, the large and playable modulation wheel of a keyboard makes a great effects-mix controller. Assuming that you will have a MIDI control that selects the effect for each deck in the software, double assign that control to make that deck the focused one as well. Program the modulation wheel to control the wet mix and on/off of any focused deck. Now when you put delay on deck A, the modulation wheel automatically turns that effect on and controls the mix.

Effects layering is also effective using this technique. Although possible only when mixing internally, you can have a deck effect and a master effect active at the same time. Then connect a slider to the wet/mix controls of both effects. This is particularly nice with a delay/reverb combination. As the delay gets more intense, it widens and becomes less in your face. Then when you turn the delay off, it punches in for a more dramatic effect.

MORE KONTROL

Although not unique to 3.2, here are a few MIDI tricks you can use to make controlling Traktor easier. The general concept is to deliberately limit the range of values a control sends out to make it do more specific things in Traktor. Normally, a MIDI knob or slider sends out a range of values from 0 to 127. The software then interprets these values as all the way off or all the way on. For instance, if you assign a slider to directly scroll between effects, it goes from the bottom effect (which is a blank slot) to the top effect (the T2 filter). Somewhere in the middle are delay, reverb, glitch and flange.

Using a MIDI monitor like “MIDI-PIPE,” you can determine that 77 is the value where the delay sits. Because I mainly like to use the delay and the filter, I have limited my MIDI slider to output only the values 77 to 127. Now the bottom of the slider selects a delay, and the top selects a filter. That is useful live when you need a clear visual reference of what effect is selected, and you can quickly choose the desired effect.

It is also possible to make buttons directly select an effect using this trick. Again, using a MIDI monitor, you would need to determine the range of values that the effect falls within. For instance, the delay falls within 77 to 95. So program the button to send a value only within that range, and every time you hit the button, it will directly select that effect. Use it for all your favorite effects, and you won't have to look at the screen at all. This technique is also great for effect settings like delay times and glitch lengths. Program four buttons to directly access the settings you use most often and then label them appropriately. It's just a few of many great ways you can program Traktor so you spend less time staring at a screen and more time rocking the club.