my 1210Mk2, she's looking a bit worse for wear but at the time she was mechanically sound.
 
 
DJ mix culture within the context of a progressive blended constructed DJ set

I grew up at a time when DJ culture was all about two turntables and a mixer as far as the tools for mixing was concerned.  But ultimately it was the easiest way at the time to mix and blend music into a continuous cohesive listening experience to allow people to dance for hours at a time with the technology that was available at the time. The DJ style immerged because certain DJ's figured out that it helped to enhance the dance floor and listening experience for people to hold them there for hours without having to talk in between each track to move between them.  

I never really understood the what the deal was with the whole superstar DJ thing until I went to my first none mainstream  style  dance music club. I didn't move from the same spot I stood in the whole entire night as the DJ bombarded us with sonic oddities and sounds that I'd never heard before as my neurons were being tantalized and teased  with the stream of mixed blended "music".  We didn't tell the DJ what to do or where to go as the DJ just put the sounds down for us to hear and dance to trying… no not trying, was succeeding in making a packed floor of 1200 to 1500 (it was a 1000 capacity floor) people go absolutely crazy begging for more. We always knew when 3 am (the closing time of this particular club) was rolling on because the "end of night" theme tune for the event that was being hosted at the this particular club always used to drop to let us know at which point the whole crowd went even more mental knowing that the night was going to finish. But when the lights came up and the bouncers were telling us to get out and go home no one wanted to go whilst chanting for the DJ just to play one more tune and if we were lucky we'd get an extra track from the DJ or sometimes even an extra half hour. 

Now this wasn't true of all DJ's that played the event, although they were playing a similar style they just seemed to be lacking something (or even a number of things) within their individual DJ style and sound that just wasn't making the crowd as wanting or as excited. In such instances no one really stayed at the end of the night and a large proportion of the crowd were either just sat down or just not dancing at all. There was just not the same kind of excitement and responsiveness from the crowd. 

Now in the instances where the DJ was able to make the stream of sound work it was just crazy watching how they were able to hold down 1200 to 1500 people for hours whilst they just wanted to hear more and more to generally  make the crowd very happy and evidently very excited too. In essence a happy crowd (ecstatic with the better DJ's) left on the dance floor wanting more at the end of the night pretty much suggests that you'd probably have a very happy DJ too in the knowledge that they were able to do what they set out to do as a DJ. 



The romanticism of DJ culture

Some people are obsessed with cars,  others bikes, for some people their vice might be custom built computers. I guess it could be a bit like that once you first get in to DJing and cross a certain threshold. But just as guitarists wants to rock a crowd and generally obsesses over their axe like it were their own flesh and blood baby, genuine hardened DJ's ultimately dream about having the ability to move dance floors and rock a crowd whilst also having our own sentimental attachments to certain bits of equipment. I guess things were generally a lot more simpler when it almost used to be a case of Technics or nothing (up until the point Vestex came along) if you were serious about it. But that's only because they were proven to be accurate and reliable instrumental pieces of equipment that allowed for the art of vinyl mixing with the least complication within the technological means they had then for seamless dance floor orientated audio mixing. My turntables were nothing like how you'd find the Technics turntables in clubs which were obviously all beat up  and generally a little worse for wear. So back then the DJ's skill often relied on their ability to use turntables that might have been heavily miss-calibrated with a vastly different handling dynamic then their own perfectly performing Technics they near religiously maintained to almost perfection. Unless that is you played the bigger clubs who generally serviced their turntables more regularly or you brought your own turntables to a gig. But having saved up for them doing some job that you didn't particularly like just to be able to buy your turntables and mixer (as well the records to actually mix on them) made you even more over protective of them like some oversized metal child that was just awkward to move anywhere. Sure there were cheaper options but to my mind the Kam, Soundlab, Numark, Stanton (although Stanton managed to re-position themselves in a better place just as the use of Vinyl turntables were dying out) alternatives just didn't cut it. I wasn't a scratch DJ so I didn't really consider Vestex, it was Technics with direct drive motors or nothing, plus pro scratch DJ's still used Technics anyway despite the specialty turntables that Vestex were producing for scratch mixing. Even the DJ Mix Championships  still required you to use regulation Technics turntables to even compete.   


But it had to move on

Even I very reluctantly moved onto a digital platform but only because I was still caught up in the whole bravado of trying to be taken seriously as someone who could really DJ which was highly tied up in being able to use vinyl on turntables. But in real terms what was DJing actually about beyond the ability to beat match? People "in love" with DJ culture of my generation have a strong synonymous association of Technics turntables, vinyl records, and a multi channel mixer of some sort with being able to DJ. Beyond that as a DJ championing a certain genres you were heavily judged on your skill and ability to seamlessly  mix and beat match records. Strangely some of the most harshest critics were people who couldn't even manually mix a record to save their life even if it depended on it and if they detected so much as the slightest hint of beat clutter or a poorly executed kills and breakdown blends you could be certain they let everyone in club land know about it which generally resulted in a tarnished professional DJ reputation for years, (it was even worse if you were a big name DJ at the time specifically known for packing clubs out where ever you played) . In fact some of the crowd was so scrutinizing and good at networking that people who hadn't even heard a DJ play would also be criticized by them too for poor DJ skills! That’s how much it apparently mattered. 

At the time if you took on trying to become a DJ no one would really take you seriously unless you knew how to mix using vinyl records on industry standard Technics turntables. 


Picture: Technics 1210 Mark5

Before learning how to mix with vinyl on Technics I never actually used to criticize mixing ability using such equipment so harshly. But it wasn't until I'd become proficient at progressive set building myself that it bothered me much more that someone who was actually being paid to mix records in a club could still sound  rough when there were so many itching for a chance. Even worse for some of these DJ's it was like the task of beat matching was stretching their mental faculties so thinly that they hadn't had the time to learn how to EQ properly which generally has the result of tracks just obscenely booming in unintentionally to make it all sound wrong.


Have you noticed how the default colour scheme in Ableton uses orange and green for numerous elements over the work space? 
 
Granted there are certain contexts where you can actually intentionally just drop a heavier beat with some very light EQing to bring up the excitement level/rush again when you're rinsing a particular repetitive track that might be sapping the energy of the floor for the sake of holding down a groove you want to work, but they generally have to be well placed and used sparingly because it can be viewed that you're just being lazy or just don't know how to EQ properly beyond actually maybe intentionally using it for effect.
 





*Palm face*  - Today pioneer CDJ's are the industry standard, I've never actually used them but from what I hear they're infinitely easier to beat match and blend tracks on compared to using vinyl on turntables. They even have accurate built in instant looping features of 4.8 or 16 beats with an accurate BPM count display readout. With Technics there was no BPM counter, no track time count, or track progression meter display/readout. We did it all by ear and had to figure out the BPMs in our heads. I have no problems with people using CDJ's and I'm certainly not one of these elitists who look down on CDJ users that don't know how to mix using vinyl for lacking pure beat matching skill. If I had a pair of CDJ's I would certainly use them more often then a pair of Technics for progressive blended DJ set styles.  I personally believe it’s a natural progression given that we live in a technological age. From what I can gather they're also very reliable given the industry wide adoption and if anything it also helps the DJ to work better by giving them more time to think about the actual music whilst also allowing them to potentially create a better dance floor experience for rocking capacity crowds. But whenever I hear a paid DJ screw up beat matching or unintentionally crashing a none EQ'd track completely out of context whilst using CDJ 1000's or CDJ2000's I can't figure out if I'm pissed off or if I should just pity them, so I just palm face, definitely in my head if not literally.



 

Progressive mixing and beat matching on vinyl turntables is a bit like….



I once had a Rubik's magic puzzle. Once I solved it I could complete it in under 2 to 3 seconds. In fact there were two main methods by which it could be solved very quickly. Using the alternative solution took me a little longer at around 5 to 8 seconds. 







When it broke I wanted to buy another one but they had stopped producing it a long time ago. But I was lucky to have a friend at the time that just happened to have one that they didn't use who also offered to sell it to me. The strings on it eventually broke too whilst trying to do it faster. But I always get very nostalgic when I come across a working example of one. It wasn't actually that challenging when I knew how to do it. But it took me a year or so to figure it out in the first place. Plus I used to use a much slower alternate solution before working out the faster methods. There are also far more challenging Rubik's puzzles that can also be bought.



This is how mixing with vinyl records (that I've had chance to familiarize myself with) on turntables is to me. Once I learnt how to do it, it wasn't challenging  at all and the limitations of a two turntable metaphor for progressive DJ set building is very-very limiting compared to what alternate modern digital DJ solutions have to offer when creating a DJ set that give you greater space and time  to think about the music or even create something new in a real time live setting. I always get nostalgic when I get chance to get back on my turntables and I always check to see if I've "still got it", but it’s a bit like riding a bike. Obviously the main difference here is that the Technics turntables are built like tanks and are far less likely to break in the same way as the Rubik's puzzle.



The Pacemaker vs. a laptop  with Ableton? ( ….it’s a completely miss-guided comparison)



The Pacemaker should only be compared to other two turntable setups/metaphors, not a potentially broadly dynamic all in one hybrid digital audio production and DJ DAW that can be used in a studio or live performance setting.  The Pacemaker does in fact allow you to construct and record completely professional sounding DJ sets on a single pocket sized device within a two turntable metaphor despite some of the more obvious limitations when comparing to full sized industry standard alternatives. 



Hip-hop, scratch mix, and break beat styles 






Obviously it isn't literally talking about an actual mix tape, it just references being able to record a mix as a sequenced session to then later potentially be recorded as a post mix audio file. The beauty of Ableton's Bridge for Serato is that it allows you to record all your more human slights of vinyl like manipulations to a sequenced set too. But in the old-skool sense mix tapes are what we used to put together before CD's and digital music files were around. 

How does a scratch DJ work? Surely they have a set number of vinyl that they know inside out and move between? Isn't this how you could potentially use an Ableton work space? You set out all the samples and tracks that you know you're going to use within it, after which you can simply move between them as required whilst assigning them to be controlled via the DVS (digital vinyl system). At the same time you can record all the flaws and imperfections of a human controlling the samples and tracks like vinyl (that aren't noticeable to the ear) in the actual recorded sequencing. How is this cheating as far as scratch DJing is concerned? This feature could also be quite easily applied to other styles too. 

The bridge software allows the DJ to either control individual digital audio samples and tracks via a DVS like they were using vinyl, it also allows you to record all your human nuances and slights (even record warping!) to a sequenced set too. Alternately the bridge software plugin can also be used to control the MIDI clock transport of an entire Ableton session which essentially allows you to use a recorded sequenced session as if it was a track in itself which is perfect for trying out un-finalised pre-release creations/productions. The bridge software module is also free to download and use for people with Ableton 8 and a Serato DVS. As far as I'm aware it only works with Serato DVS.



As a DJ experience there is nothing that can replace the full sized two turntable equipment/metaphor (which will obviously include the more advance CDJ systems) for these styles just by sheer virtue of how these styles are played. I'm not a scratch DJ but when playing break beats (whether that be electro, progressive, nu-skool or oldskool etc)  and drum'n'bass it certainly makes for a more intuitive and engaging means of DJing these styles that makes it much more enjoyable as a DJ experience as well as a listening experience.




Maybe it kind of acted as a filtering process (for potential DJ's against the place and time)

Everyone wants to be a DJ and be "cool". But just wanting to be cool doesn't give you the kind of passion to stick at it, especially with the cost involved with buying original vinyl or digital releases as well as the equipment to begin with. Ok, fair enough, maybe if you're lucky enough to have lots of money things might be a little different, however it's generally not the case for many and like I said everyone wants to be a "cool DJ". But I'm inclined to think that those who'd be willing to spend that amount of time, effort and money on it whilst trying to hone their skills to perfection with certain traditional equipment (even before moving onto more advance methods that makes mixing easier to hopefully allow the DJ to focus more on the music) and their knowledge of the music might actually say how serious someone might be about it. You obviously have to know something about the music and how to use it, who makes it as well as being able to hunt down new sounds to keep it fresh and encourage new talent in order to construct cohesive sets of your own unique style that people would actually pay money on the door to see you perform and come back again for more. But even then you need to ask why do you want to DJ and what kind of DJ do you want to be just beyond the question of genre and style you might opt for? 



Completely unlinked professions but consider...

Take doctors for example, you might have two doctors that are both very good at what they do, but would you want to go to the doctor that was only in it for the money or the doctor that genuinely cared about peoples well being? Of course you'll have those who are in it for the money as well as peoples well being.