Traktor debut the F1, part of Traktor 2.5′s Traktor Remix
Native Instruments were not present on the floor at NAMM this year. One might have thought Native were taking a too cool, “we’ll see you at Musikmesse or something” approach. Instead, Native were having a 10th anniversary party on Saturday. It really was a pretty slick approach; avoid the trade show where every competitor has three devices taking aim at your flagship hardware. Let’s not forget that all of these competitors are boasting compatibility with your software product that might as well be the center of the universe right now. Call up everyone who you know is going to be there, saying “oh, we’re just having a modest little informal thing, 10 years in the biz, etc. It’s invite only, you know, so we’d love to see you.” Once you get a few drinks in everyone, casually step up to say a few words. Then, with everyone’s attention, change the whole damn game. We’ll get into it in a second, but in the John Hughes, Cameron Crowe, 80s movie of trade shows; Native Instruments went all out to be the guy who gets the girl by the end of the crazy week long party. I’m giving them the first annual Cusack Award.
After having done a few victory laps in the past month, not only watching itself cloned by every manufacturer in or coming onto the market, but collecting awards on best of lists all over the place, the Traktor S4 has had a good life so far. It was declared a genuine musical instrument by Electronic Musician and has been the kind of device that causes a whole market to change for the better. DJs are in the fortunate position of being more prone to evolution than everyone else.
The hardest thing a DJ faces in a world where the hardware road is constantly rising to meet you, is how to know what you are. Part of that dilemma is knowing how to do what you do when there’s a million ways to do what you do, or maybe even do it differently just a little bit. For example, at present a budding DJ faces the question(s):
- Buy some turntables? Get my street cred on?
- Bring the science? Is it possible to wire Ableton into my guitar and/or wire my cat into a step sequencer? Is there a way to perform using electrified corn with a LaunchPad?
- Buy myself a digital death star looking DJ controller? Should I take advantage of technology and enjoy the spontaneous freedom to read the crowd and bring them what they want from my easy to tap into hard drive library and travel comfortably and lightly on the roads to superstardom?
- Do every single thing ever? Should I interface my turntables with Serato or Traktor Scratch? What’s the best way to sync with Ableton? Does anyone know how to fix the glitch between my 8 different systems and all this hardware? What’s the best way to get my Ableton wired kitty to sit still?
Ok, admittedly I might have weighted the awesome a bit heavily on option three, but part of the Cusack award is getting to know the hero and his rivals. I just want to highlight the increased appeal of the Traktor system in the world of new DJ controllers and software combos. It certainly isn’t the only kid in town either, with Serato and Ableton being the upper tier of an endless world of options for everyone from the simplest of DJs to the most complex of controllerists.
The heartbreak of this world of options is that that being live without a net is best accompanied with a stable system. As DJs, producers, musician hybrids, whatever we become; we often have to choose between things we love to make things rock solid in the live environment. For my part, I know that I learned I really hated using live to drive a DJ set. It’s a lot cooler to see girls dancing than it is to watch three interested fellow tweakers scrutinize my rig with their arms folded and their feet still. So the cooler things one can do with Ableton, for me, have been relegated to the studio. I went to an S4 based system because the stability and flexibility of Traktor support just enough of that technical world of tricks and triggers I love about using Ableton.
However, I find that I still look back. The sample decks are cool, but there aren’t enough of them to bring over my own stuff with the flexibility I’d like. I find myself still basically doing my edits in Ableton and then just bringing things over and playing/mixing them like I would any other track. I really would like my grid back so that I can bring a little science in between the part of the night where my focus is more on to that tall girl with the pink top and the other part where the club owner is drunk and isn’t going to leave the booth until they hear some James Brown.
It isn’t like there haven’t been ways to sync Ableton with Traktor. Serato have, for their part, introduced The Bridge. So solutions abound, but I sure would like an alternative method that seems to already be staring me in the face from right inside Traktor. Well, April 1st Traktor are confirming that I am not alone and giving us all what we want with the new F1 controller and Traktor 2.5′s Traktor Remix.
Images and details have been surfacing on the device and it looks beautiful. A 4×4 grid of buttons (that Phil from Digital DJ Tips was telling us had a layered functionality) instantly sets the mind racing with the kind of workflow improvements this thing will set into motion. The new controller will give fast, top level access to an improved loop matrix, with Traktor 2.5 reportedly boasting improved loop sync functionality. This is all good news to the frustrated Ableton producer giving up some luxuries between the studio and the stage. With the layered functionality,it is also easy to imagine the F1, or even multiples F1′s, being mapped to access Traktor on a whole new level. This is some pretty serious news for a “.5″ in my humble opinion. I also just want to point out that, at this point, John Cusack is in the yard with the boombox, winning the hearts and minds of troubled girls and cheerleaders everywhere. You also just got those tools to keep those same girls dancing and bring back a little bit of that science.
So, I feel like we’re seeing a game changing, competitive product. Yet again, it’s good news for the DJ. I hardly think clip launching in Traktor is meant to replace Ableton. In fact, I think that in my own studio, this kind of enhancement to functionality only will open up a new kind of dialogue between the two programs and change my own relationship with both of them. I also think it will open up Traktor to a more spontaneously creative sort of editing. I am not going to start throwing around phrases like “Golden Age,” or start talking about how it wasn’t always this good.