DJ iPad
December 2, 2010 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Help me learn deejaying basics to use iPad + djay app at low-key friend gig. Long rambling interpretive snowflake dance inside.

backstory: I am a club fiend, music aficionado, dance / triphop / house / techno maven and occasional raver since my teens, have a huge affinity for dance/DJ stuff, but always as a consumer, never as an actual DJ. I have a decent collection of stuff already living in my iTunes library, which coincidentally all got synched to my iPad yesterday.

This app was just released today. Yes, it's expensive (for an app, though keep in mind I've dropped hundreds of bucks on photography software I don't use all that often, yet still brings me joy). I'm tempted to buy it and try to learn how to use it. But OMG where to even begin?! Trust me, I get it, learning to deejay is frigging COMPLICATED. I grabbed a demo of something akin to Ableton (might have even been it) a couple years ago for my old laptop, dabbled with it some, got overwhelmed/discouraged, then sort of forgot about it until now.

One of my very best friends turns 30 a couple weeks from Saturday, and we're having a party at his place. It's a single family residence with a big yard yes, the neighbours are tolerant, before you ask; it's a college town I typically run the music at their parties anyway. Where "running the music" generally equals "bring the macbook over and stream playlists over wifi... oh and while we're at it you gotta check out Lady Gaga's latest video on Youtube OMGLOL wtf is she WEARING!!?" These are your garden variety informal parties full of youngish, hipsterish types where people tend to wander around in robes drinking white russians, have lightsaber battles and office chair races, and spontaneously dance to a variety of thumpy dancey stuff. (this was a ginormous hit at their last party...)

I am attracted to the idea of learning how to at least semi-capably mix and spin short sets for these sorts of low-key gigs. I know my friends - they'd love it, especially if I could pull it off with at least a basic level of competence. I wouldn't dream of trying to do this for cash or compete with a professional DJ; 6+ hours of standing at the decks doesn't appeal for starters.

The sound quality concerns posted in that Macrumors thread are the furthest thing from my mind. They're not going to hear the difference between mp3s and lossless, mono or stereo, and hell anyways it's all getting broadcast via a stoutly crappy set of cheap speakers. Besides, they'll mostly be too drunk to care, and I don't really want a "better" system since then it would be too tempting to turn it up loud enough to interest the cops, and who wants to have to continually yell over the music at a party, anyhow?

I'm thinking short sets of dancey stuff, interspersed with longer quieter trancey intervals where I can just let iTunes playlist along in the background while I mingle.

tl;dr: what I want to know is as follows:

a) Philosophically, is this a terrible idea?

b) Logistically, is 2 weeks enough time to pull it off semi-competently, and if so, what should I concentrate on learning?

c) Technical Considerations: I already have a decent set of wired headphones. I can pick up a splitter, or bluetooth headphones to monitor if need be. What other bits do I need? We usually just stream iTunes on their wifi, but I don't think Airplay is an option here (yet), so I'm assuming I'll need to bring some kind of line out jack to run to the stereo system? Blah, I admit I'm sort of clueless with sound engineering crap :P Dude lives a block away so I can always do a test run on their sound system (such as it is).

I have never before used any kind of DJ rig. I have GarageBand, but not Ableton (whatever that does), and don't have the foggiest clue how to splice stuff together / edit tracks if I must. I've not the faintest idea how to to synch / fade / mix tracks either. BUT!! what I do have is a great ear, good relative pitch sense, a strong sense of rhythm (classically voice trained), and a pretty thorough knowledge of my music library. I have always enjoyed running music for these shindigs before (and people compliment my choices) but I've always kind of wanted to have a tad more control beyond just track order and the iTunes crossfade.

Hope me musical deejay geek types!
posted by lonefrontranger to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hi... techno DJ with lots of experience here.

It takes 3 months, minimum, to learn how to competently beatmatch using turntables, and that's with pretty constant practice.

I haven't used that app, but the chances of you doing anything remotely like DJing on it in 2 weeks are pretty slim, if it's possible at all, unless it beatmatches for you like ableton(which I doubt it does very well). Latency is a problem with much faster computers than the ipad. I just don't see how that app is supposed to work.

If you want to do a beatmatched set in two weeks time, your best bet is to get a warezed copy of ableton, go through the tutorials and learn how to use it. You'll also want to get a mixer like an APC-40 to control it, or, since you already have an ipad, there are a ton of touch screen midi controllers for the ipad you can download.

The thing about Ableton is that it does a LOT of stuff it can be very complex, but the stuff that you need to do to perform a gig is simple, and you can understand it in just a few hours, as long as you 'get' dance music. And the best part is that you can do most of the hard work ahead of time and the actual gig can be very drag and drop and press play and go if that's how you want to do it.

If you have questions about how to use ableton (or learn how to beatmatch on turntables), feel free to shoot me an email and I can talk you through the process.

Basic DJing isn't hard to understand, it just takes practice.

That said, if you're just playing to a house party full of drunk friends, I don't think that using that app is a terrible idea. But honestly, if it were me and my choice were between being a fakey dj with a gimmicky program that may or may not work well, and just playing itunes, I'd go with itunes, since you won't be building up any expectation that you're going to do anything special. I've been an itunes DJ myself from time to time.
posted by empath at 1:56 PM on December 2, 2010

Disclosure: I'm not a DJ (although I understand and appreciate good turntable skills) and I'm also not sure I'll ever be convinced that a DJing app is remotely a good idea.

From the video, that app looks terrible to mix on and even with multitouch, I don't see how you will make decent mixes with that, even if you shell out for some sort of "headphone converter" which somehow lets you cue. If any of your friends give a crap about a half-decent beatmatched mix, just use automatic tools on Traktor or Ableton or, if you have longer than two weeks, buy some CDJs or a MIDI controller.
posted by turkeyphant at 2:05 PM on December 2, 2010

Yeah, just watched the video. I would never use that app, unless i was on a train or something and wanted to play around with mixing.
posted by empath at 2:08 PM on December 2, 2010

Best answer: I'm a huge electronic/ "dance" music fan, radio DJ for a while now, but an idiot when it comes to using a mixer. Beat-matching is only one part of being a good DJ. The other major part is song selection. If you know your music collection, and you know how songs begin and end, you'll be fine with this for a backyard party. But if you're trying to sort through tracks you got that day, or you're trying to be a professional DJ, you'll need a LOT more than two weeks to be able to do a great job with this.

In two weeks, you can play around with this, learn the interface and have a good grasp of the music to play for the party. And according to this review, you can let AutoMix shuffle through your collection and segue tracks on it's own (not sure how well it works keeping the mood going, if you have a variety of happy and downer tracks that might have a similar beat).

This other review makes it sound like you can use an iPhone/iPad + a Mac for enhanced options, though the Mac program costs $49.99 (plus $4.99 for the iPhone app).

Remember that this is a backyard party, and you'd be there to play fun music for people who want to be at this party, instead of trying to keep the dancefloor filled where club-goers could hop to the next club for a different DJ.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:21 PM on December 2, 2010

Addendum: I've thought of having two boomboxes and cross-fading CDs as a valid (and amusing) alternative to a proper DJ set-up with a mixer. My mentality might not be what you're looking for =)
posted by filthy light thief at 2:22 PM on December 2, 2010

And really, the worst thing that can happen is that the music doesn't blend as well as you and/or the party-goers would like, and you're out $20. You're not looking to quit your day job based on this product (but if you do, congrats =)
posted by filthy light thief at 5:08 PM on December 2, 2010

Response by poster: If you know your music collection, and you know how songs begin and end, you'll be fine with this for a backyard party. But if you're trying to sort through tracks you got that day, or you're trying to be a professional DJ, you'll need a LOT more than two weeks to be able to do a great job with this.

Thanks filthy, and you're dead wrong. Your mentality is EXACTLY what I, and the illustrious members of Chaos (rhymes with "house") are looking for :)

I think you've nicely cut through all my babble up there and get what I'm trying to accomplish. I know it's probably going to be rough, and potentially embarrassingly silly (random and/or silly could be a bonus actually) and I get that this is by NO means a professional... anything, really, but I also think you get the crowd this is for. This crew would not only enjoy your 2-boombox lo-fi hack, they'd be actively entertained by it.

I mean hell, if we wanted a REAL DJ we'd have my friend Ari come spin for us, cos he is the man.

If this can help me learn enough to enjoy hacking around with it, I may try to branch out / develop more skill with real equipment.
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:19 PM on December 2, 2010

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