DJ A-Trak breaks down Serato

Photo courtesy of Jacob Ganz

The Record had an outstanding piece yesterday recounting DJ A-Trak’s (Kanye West’s on-tour DJ) explanation and experience with modern programs designed to simulate traditional vinyl mixing, among them, Serato’s Scratch and Traktor. This was a great look into how modern technology has improved upon an older tradition:

“Everything that you do on a record is reflected the same way as if it were a real record. If you increase or decrease the pitch on the turntable, which is what you do when you mix records, that information gets transferred as well. The timecode that gets sent to the computer says, ‘I’m playing at pitch plus two percent.’ And the [computer] gets that information and produces the music accordingly. If you scratch a record, which just means that you’re moving a record back and forth, well, you’re moving the time code back and forth and that time code gets sent to the computer. And the timecode says, ‘On this specific part of the song, the record is going ‘Forward, backwards, forward, backwards.’ And it goes: ‘Chr-prt, chr-prt’ and it sounds like a real scratch.”

Serato Setup and Cop lights, source: King Fader

A-Trak’s recount of his mp3 swaps with fellow DJ’s allowed him to build genre acapella libraries extremely quickly, and definitely helped to circumvent some of the restrictions that vinyl DJing inherently has:

“Part of what made the switch to digital quicker and easier was I did a couple of big file trades with a couple of DJs. You would meet up with another DJ and you had a hard drive with a certain amount of gigs of mp3, and just swap. Then suddenly you’re like, ‘Whoa, this guy just gave me a folder of like 200 a capellas.’ That’s a great arsenal. And quickly one thing that became very apparent to me was that right as I started doing a couple of these trades that in a matter of moments would quadruple the size of my song library, I also started accumulating music in a lot of different genres.”

The Record is always on point with these process pieces. Although the analysis is not the deepest, creating a good conceptual framework of how DJing works in modern times demystifies some of the mysteries connected with the genre, while still keeping the traditional process alive.

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