Since its inception,the art of music production and song operation has been defined by the originality and skill level of its creators. From the very first gramophone production in 1892 to the introduction of the term ‘disc jockey’ in 1935, the art form has evolved and expanded past the initial ‘discs’ that were used in its inception.
DJ’s today come in many forms: the radio Top 40 DJ, the mashup/remix DJ, and the producer who DJs…along with every permutation in between. As with all endeavors, new technologies inevitably come along with stubborn critics and eager adopters. The introduction of mixers and turntables allowed for more creative innovations such as slip-queing and the induction of the ‘break’.
Today, a DJ has access to a veritable treasure trove of mixing tools, all of which can interact with everything to a classic mixer to a laptop to an iPad or iPhone. Innovations like Ableton Live, Traktor Pro, Serato, and a plethora of other programs allow anyone with a laptop and the dedication to learn a chance to play music live to an audience. Arizona-based House producer Joshua Li, known as ‘DJ Secsay‘ explains that it has made his craft much more portable:
“They’re no hassle and its industry standard and easy to set up. I only bring 3 things with me when I play a show. My VMODAs, my USB and my back up USB. “-Joshua Li
Chicago native DJ/Producer Anthony Attalla, who started out DJing before taking to Logic for production, says that innovations such as Pro Tools and Logic allow him the flexibility he needs to give new tracks a ‘test run’ without being worried about sacrificing sound quality. However in terms of live performance, her prefer the more intuitive feel of using CDs:
“Regarding my live performance, I don’t use a laptop.. I still manually dj with cd’s. It’s a nice reprieve from being in front of a computer all day in my studio. I was a dj before I ever started producing, so I like holding on to that organic feeling.”-Anthony Attalla
Those who have adopted these mediums often tout the amount of flexibility and portability of using a laptop-based program as opposed to a more traditional approach. One major point of contention however is raised by detractors of the ‘sync’ button available on many of these programs. Zach Cwieka, a Philly-based producer known as ‘Sweekuh‘ says that this view is understandable, but unwarranted:
“If youre playing records out because you think its the only way to DJ
then you should be using a phonogram instead of turntables. These people who are anti traktor are anti sync, which i understand. Im against it too, unless its needed. At some points I have three songs playing on seperate decks and I need to throw an acapella over it (I got known through mashups and I like to play them out live) and that is impossible to beatmatch while mixing with an acapella that doesnt
start on the 1.”-Zach Cwieka
While admittedly, many newly-converted fans of EDM remain mostly unaware of the subtle differences in equipment, the ‘sync button’ snobbery can be attributed to many of the more negative instances where major celebrities have tried to ‘jump on the scene’ as DJs, often with very negative results. Most famously, the scene painfully remembers the fateful day in 2012 where Paris Hilton took to the booth in Brazil (she attempted a comeback which went sour, and took her ‘auditory car crash’ to Ibiza). In the wake of newer and more adaptable technology (such as Traktor releasing an app for iPhone) many more DJs have emerged from the woodwork, creating a stifling saturation of ‘talent’ across the country. But has this new accessibility crowded out the market of true innovators with over hyped imitators?
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