Best software for newbie DJ
May 26, 2008 7:52 PM   Subscribe

Best software to start mxing and creating my own dance tracks?

I've always been a fan of music especially downtempo/triophop/chill/trance and progressive house. I have some extra cash in my "hobbies" account and would love to start creating and mixing my own dance music and who knows where that will lead..

What is the best software/website/guide to start off with? The only stuff I've played around of the years was acid pro to fix mp3s that sounded a bit off.

All advice is welcome.

PS. one f my favorite dtemp hubs is "fat free"
posted by wildrain2008 to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
ableton live.
posted by JamesMCS at 8:42 PM on May 26, 2008

Fruity Loops!
posted by mjewkes at 8:45 PM on May 26, 2008

Different software supports different ways of thinking about music production, but in general you can't do much better than Ableton Live. It was designed as a DJ tool, and it does that really well: it beat-matches everything for you so your only responsibility is to pick things that sound good next to each other and drop them at the right time.

The production part of Ableton is great too. It's a sequencer that moves horizontally where you can drop in loops and single samples. Sounds you place snap to units that are appropriate to the zoom level, so you can move around whole bars as well as you can nudge hits slightly off beat. You can filter each channel with VST plugins.

You don't have to lay the whole song out in the sequencer either, you can make a bunch of loops of similar tempo and use the live DJ mode to compose them, bringing things in and out of the mix in real time, and tweak effects.

It's all pretty straightforward and you shouldn't need much more guidance than the included tutorials to get started with Ableton.

Some people prefer trackers to sequencers. To oversimplify a bit, they're slightly more technical and fiddly sequencers that progress vertically rather than horizontally. I prefer a tracker called Renoise to Ableton for recording VST instruments. It used to be cheap when the dollar was stronger. 50 euros doesn't sound like such a bargain anymore, but the demo is only lightly crippled, so it's worth seeing if it feels right to you.

Other solid choices:

Reaktor is a good choice if you want to create wildly different sounds and don't mind having to get into some fairly hardcore engineering to do so. (It involves wiring components of various abstraction levels all the way down to simple circuits together to create your own music machines)

A lot of people do great things with Reason as well, but I can't really comment on it. There are free demos of all these things that typically have saving disabled, so you should see what is most intuitive for you before you make any substantial investment.
posted by moift at 8:47 PM on May 26, 2008

posted by Mach5 at 8:52 PM on May 26, 2008

Fruity Loops (now called FL Studio) is the bog-standard for getting started. And it's actually an incredibly powerful tool--just make sure you ditch the preloaded samples, and spring for good VST instruments. (Vanguard is one of my absolute favourites). It will give you a really good introduction into the basics of how to sequence, with a very low barrier to entry in terms of mashing together some sounds that work well with each other.

Reason is light years more powerful. Runs on some similar principles, but you have a much greater latitude with signal (both audio and data) routing, which lets you do some seriously fucking cool stuff. Steeper learning curve, though.

Haven't played with Ableton, but my general understanding is that it's a bit better for smushing together sounds you have already created.

You'll also want a decent soundwave editing program for really tweaking any samples you use.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:58 PM on May 26, 2008

Reason is incredible... and just gets more incredible with each release...

Haters of Reason will say that all songs made with Reason sound like songs made with Reason.. this is only true if you limit yourself to the soundbanks and templates that Reason comes with to help you get started...

You can buy (some are also free) what are called "Refills", which are sound effect / instrument packages to use as instruments in Reason... When done well, songs don't have to sound like they were made in any given program... Definitely check out the link Mach5 provided... it's awesome..
posted by twiggy at 8:59 PM on May 26, 2008

Ableton Live is the standard for this sort of thing, with a much larger user base than Fruity Loops and, accordingly, a much larger group of people to share tips, ideas and questions with. Fruity Loops is also a bit of a toy, and for what you'll spend, you'll want a powerful app that will grow as your skills and library grow.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:14 AM on May 27, 2008

Seconding FL Studio and Ableton Live. I used FLS until I switched to a Mac, and now I'm getting started with Ableton. It feels like a "grown up" version of FLS, and the new drum rack lets me create rhythm tracks intuitively in the same way that FLS did.

I'm a Hater of Reason, but only because I find the UI incomprehensible. Some people like it, though. Demo versions are your friend. Figure out what works in the style you're comfortable with.

Both FL Studio and Ableton come with the basics for creating the style of music you're talking about - some basic synthesizers and rhythm parts - and you can get free or cheap VST plug-in instruments and effects all over the place for either one. With the built-in stuff and a few cheap Audio Damage plug-ins, you'll be in downtempo heaven.
posted by mmoncur at 12:15 AM on May 27, 2008

Fruity Loops is also a bit of a toy

"A poor craftsman blames his tools". FL is brilliant. it may not provide the insane level of control of a Cubase or Logic, but it's a solid program.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:23 AM on May 27, 2008

Ableton Live. I also like that it's cheap enough to not feel guilty about if it turns out not be the right hobby for you. That's what happened to me, though I still use it to make mixes and "DJ."
posted by miniminimarket at 12:30 PM on May 27, 2008

Logic Studio – but the learning curve is harder than Reason.
posted by fantasticninety at 7:12 PM on May 27, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice guys.. I'm grabbing version of FL Studio and Reason as I'm writing this should be fun to mess around with.
posted by wildrain2008 at 8:10 PM on June 7, 2008

I find FLStudio's output quality to be quite poor compared to the audio quality of tracks made by its competitors. That being said, its ease of use is ridiculous. If I want to throw something together I cut up a track with Cooledit Pro then splice it all down with FLStudio4. It's like having a party with yourself.

Reason is a mammoth of a program that terrifies me but is what I'm learning now.

I find Logic to be weak and Ableton seems like cheating.
posted by ageispolis at 7:22 AM on June 13, 2008

Reaper is awesome (and free for personal non commmercial use). It can make use of the plugin effects from other programs (like Reason and Ableton); it's easy to learn, and quite powerful.
posted by acro at 11:54 AM on July 22, 2008

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