By Andrew Flanagan and Marc Schneider
As we’ve pointed out, there’s a lack of scientific consensus that even the most trained ears are capable of appreciating the kind of hi-res digital audio found on pricey players like Neil Young’s Pono. Young begs to differ, obviously, and has spent a considerable amount of time knocking lower-res formats. But what’s this… now he’s even taking some digs at vinyl?
‘High-Definition’ Music Explained: Can You Really Tell the Difference?
In an interview with the Frame radio show, Young calls the uptick in vinyl sales the product of a clever switcheroo by labels cashing in on the latest “fashion statement.”
“A lot of people that buy vinyl today don’t realize that they’re listening to CD masters on vinyl and that’s because the record companies have figured out that people want vinyl,” Young said. “And they’re only making CD masters in digital, so all the new products that come out on vinyl are actually CDs on vinyl, which is really nothing but a fashion statement.”
Vinyl is definitely in fashion. Sales of the format were actually one of the biggest bright spots in an otherwise bleak sales year in 2014. Sales of vinyl albums grew by 52 percent in 2014 to 9.2 million copies, up from 6.1 million in 2013. One can go back and forth on the merits and myths of vinyl until the sun sets, but there’s a point to be made that — fashion statement or no — getting consumers puchasing music, and enjoying it, is a net positive for everyone.
Young has made much of his crusade against low-quality recordings, telling a packed room at SXSW last year: “When all the artists and engineers, all the arrangers and musicians that played on giant tracks by people like Phil Spector, with 12 tambourines and two pianos… all of [that] started to die — it was the most amazing thing, this vibrant creative culture started to go away. And it was because of the MP3 and the cheapening of the quality to the point where it was practically unrecognizable.”
Yahoo columnist David Pogue recently conducted a blind experiment pitting the Pono against an iPhone, with both playing the same songs, and found his test subjects actually preferred the phone. Young responded to Pogue’s test by citing his own.
Pono Rumored to Secure Hi-Def Beatles Catalog
“Of approximately 100 top-seed artists who compared Pono to low resolution MP3s, all of them heard and felt the Pono difference, rewarding to the human senses, and is what Pono thinks you deserve to hear,” he said.
“The issue isn’t about Pono versus any particular columnist, this is about high-resolution audio generally. Some will appreciate it, and if they can’t tell the difference, they shouldn’t buy it,” Phil Baker, vp of product development and operations at Pono, tells Billboard.
What Young fails to mention is that most people don’t listen to “low resolution MP3s” anymore — Apple’s iTunes files come in 16-bit/256Kbps AAC format. Pono songs go as high as 24 bit/192kHz.
MusicTech – The magazine for producers, engineers and recording musicians…
Musictech has always been a favorite source of mine over the years and yes I do still run out to the magazine shop on the odd occasion to pick up a paper copy but I a can honestly admit that I am truly loving the convenience of being able to download all issues to my iPad and iPhone 6 Plus.
MusicTech is the magazine for producers, engineers and recording musicians. Every issue is packed with hands-on features written by professional producers and engineers. There are software workshops for every major DAW, interviews with top named producers, artists and engineers, plus reviews of the latest studio hardware and software. With a DVD packed with samples, tutorial videos and software, MusicTech is the ultimate package for today’s studio user.
This is a free app download with paid content within. The current issue, back issues and future issues can be purchased within the app.
Subscriptions are also available within the application. When a recurring subscription is purchased the latest issue will become available to download immediately.
Available subscriptions are:
1 month: £2.49/ US$ 3.99 [1 issue]
6 months: £16.99/ US$ 23.99 [6 issues]
12 months: £27.99/ US$39.99 [12 issues]
-The subscription will renew automatically unless cancelled more than 24 hours before the end of the current period, you will be charged for renewal within 24 hours of the end of the current period, for the same duration and at the current subscription rate for the product.
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Bundles of single issues can be also be bought within the application. To use purchased credits, simply click on the issue price and select ‘use credit’. This allows you to purchase back issues at reduced prices.
Users can register for/ login to a pocketmags account in-app. This will protect their issues in the case of a lost device and allow browsing of purchases on multiple platforms. Existing pocketmags users can retrieve their purchases by logging into their account.
We recommend loading the app for the first time in a wi-fi area so that all issue data is retrieved.
If your app will not load past the splash page after a first install or an update please delete and reinstall the app from the App Store
In How To Move Past Select-Sync DJing last week, we looked at a common dead-end that novice digital DJs sometimes find themselves in, caused by trying to DJ with massive, poorly-chosen music collections, and leaning so heavily on the sync function of their software that they end up missing a lot of what DJing is really about.
As I said in that piece, though, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the sync button. Sure, it’s a great idea to learn all the manual skills of DJing (and we mentioned learning to scratch as a fun way to do that “by the back door”). But meanwhile, if you understand the shortcuts you’re taking, you can produce great DJ sets with nothing more than a well-chosen, sensibly sized music collection and careful sync-based mixing. So today, I’m going to give you five tips for beatmatching using the sync button.
1. Understand what your sync button is doing
At its most basic, sync matches the tempo of the new track to that of the old one (“tempo sync”). Most nowadays move past that, by also locking the kick drums (“thud”, “thud”, “thud”) together so you don’t have to manually “nudge” the tracks or keep pressing the button to keep them in time. Sometimes, sync will also attempt to lock whole musical bars together. (A bar of music is, 99% of the time, four beats – eg “thud”, “thud”, “thud”, thud” in house music).
At its very basic, sync matches the tempo of the new track to that of the old one.
It’s worth taking the time to read up in your software manual what options are available for your particular sync button, and consciously making those settings so you’re sure as to exactly what’s happening when you press it. This will give you confidence, and allow you to troubleshoot sync if things end up not sounding like you think they should.
It’s also worth understanding what “beatgridding” is and does (basically, it allows you to “tell” the software about the beats in hard-to-sync songs, meaning they’ll always sync up right with fewer undesired mismatches), again as it will give you more confidence, as well as allowing you to mix with a wider selection of material.
2. Always be counting!
All good DJs count. Counting is actually more important than mixing. If you can drop the next song in on the right beat, even if you just stop the old one and start the new one with no mix at all, you can DJ in front of a dancefloor and keep them happy. But if you can’t count beats and bars, no amount of fancy mixing is going to make your DJ sets acceptable.
If you’re not counting beats and bars, you’re doing it wrong: That’s how essential this is to mixing.
You’ve already learned what a bar is (usually, four beats). The important next number is eight. Most dance music is built up of eight-bar musical phrases. Try it – try counting eight sets of four beats while listening to any dance track, and you’ll hear that melodies repeat, elements appear and leave the mix, breaks start and beats return and so on, nearly always on the first beat of the next eight-bar phrase.
Of course, all rules are made to be broken, but every dance track that breaks these rules does so knowingly. Once the novice DJ realises the importance of this, and starts to adjust the way he mixes accordingly, his mixes always improve immeasurably.
3. Choose your moment wisely
One step up from recognising that music tends to be built in eight-bar phrases is understanding the way these phrases fit together to construct the whole. On a very basic level, elements arrive in a track, they are woven together in the middle, and towards the end, they are removed.
Often with house, the start and end of a track has a few eight-bar phrases where not so much is going on, and these are natural places to mix. The idea is to avoid mixing clashing elements over each other. That means no duplication of basslines, vocals, melodies that don’t match and so on.
Only by knowing your tracks well will you learn without thinking where elements arrive and leave the mix, and eventually, which tracks mix well and which not so well…
The obvious exception to this rule is kick drums. Generally, lining up kick drums is what keeps the dancefloor happy, and forms the basis of beatmatching. But even then, it can be a great move to only have one kick drum “going” at once, by turning the bass fully down on the other.
You can use this technique to “switch” kick drums from the outgoing track to the incoming one, simply by turning the bass all the way down on the outgoing track, then either immediately (or eight bars later for dramatic effect), turning the previously-turned-down bass of the incoming track back up again. You’ve probably guessed that this is usually beat done at the start of an eight-bar phrase.
Being able to “choose your moment wisely” is why it’s so important to have fewer tracks in your collection, but to know them better: Only by knowing your tracks well will you learn without thinking where elements arrive and leave the mix, and eventually, which tracks mix well and which not so well with the others in your collection. There’s no substitute for knowing your tracks inside out when it comes to delivering great DJ mixes.
4. Mix decisively
Armed with the knowledge from the first three points (what your sync is actually doing, which bar of the current musical phrase you’re on, and what elements are arriving into or leaving the mix in each of the tunes you’re trying to mix), your next step is to mix convincingly. To do that you have to be decisive.
Think about it this way: Elements tend to arrive into and leave the mix suddenly. A vocal starts; a riff drops; the kick drum disappears at the beginning of a break; the main melody line arrives, and so on. Now this isn’t always the case (sometimes, a filtered riff slowly appears, for instance), but it is the case more often than not.
Slamming that crossfader in is often the best way to mix, rather than apologetically trying to introduce the next track and hoping nobody will notice.
So accordingly, you should be bold. Try dropping the next track at the start of a phrase at full volume. Try just plain switching from one track to the next, no mixing at all. Try having both tracks at full volume for eight bars, then immediately removing the first.
Basically, try to copy what the producers have done, which more often than not means decisively dropping elements in at a decent volume, right there on the first beat of an eight-bar musical phrase.
Because often the bolder you are, the less people will notice the mix!
What you shouldn’t do is be scared that you’re going to mess up, and so very carefully mix the next track in, real slowly, real quietly, hoping nothing will go wrong. You can produce OK mixes this way, but they’ll rarely be great.
(Of course, you can mix subtly at times. If you’re mixing a slowly developing riff in to an outgoing track you may decide to use your filter effect and do so very gradually, for instance. But you’ve still made the conscious decision to do so. You’ve still been decisive.)
5. Judge your mixes when you listen to the recording, not when you actually do them
You do record your mixes, don’t you? If not, you must start – now. It’s one of the fundamentals of improving your DJing.
When you listen back to your mixes, that’s the time to judge how well they went. It’s just like reading back over something you’ve written the next day – you always spot improvements, because you’re now in the mind of a reader, not a writer. It’s the same with DJ mixes – the next day, playing your mix back in your car or on your MP3 player, you’re listening like a non-DJ rather than like a DJ.
You do record your mixes, don’t you? If not, you must start – now. It’s one of the fundamentals of improving your DJing.
I promise you that when you do this you’ll be surprised; surprised by what you notice and what you don’t, surprised by the mixes that worked and that didn’t.
Often, the ones you were really pleased with when recording lose their shine the next day, and those that felt rushed, or that you didn’t think worked at all, sound great.
By doing this, you’ll learn what’s really important in mixing two records together, and in particular, you’ll start to realise that the points above – choosing your moment, being decisive, respecting beats and bars – are actually far more important than just trying to get fro one track to another without being noticed. All good DJs know this, and using these methods, it’s easy enough for you to learn too – with or without the sync button.
The TMA-1 Studio is the new addition to the acclaimed TMA-1 DJ headphones from AIAIAI. Through the addition of new features aimed at the contemporary DJ/producer, the TMA-1 Studio meets the requirements of the on-the-go musician and producer. Moreover, the nuanced, immersive sound experience is fully realized due to the development of new over-ear PU cushion that makes details stand out in full clarity. This is robust and thoroughly crafted audio technology for the frequently traveling, professional DJ/ producer who needs headphones that can perform while on the road, at the airport or in the air.
Driver Unit Size
20 to 20.000 Hz
Total Harmonic Distortion
6.3mm plug converter
• Protective carrying pouch
DJ Tech Tools have created this track preparation mapping for Kontrol S2 and S4, which comes in handy if you want to beatgrid tons of tracks. It also demonstrates how to align your beatgrids to the master “click”. Recommended!