Studio mixing vs. live mixing

I have been doing a few interesting DJing experiments in the last few weeks. Working with a music production software instead of my usual DJ setup, I created a first mix that is different from what I have done before – at least in the way that it was made.

I have written about how DJs normally work already. This is also how I created most of the mixes that you can listen to here. However, I found out that I can not only use my music production software (Ableton Live) for producing new tracks, but also for making DJ sets that I could not do in a live session.

I would like to share this approach with you here, and as always I appreciate feedback and input on this.

How to do a studio mix

I think it’s probably best to describe my approach by explaining how I did my last mix.

First, I selected a couple of tracks that I liked and that musically fit together. In this case, these were a couple of Electro/Tech House tracks. This is what I would normally do before recording a mix anyway.

I then imported all those tracks in Ableton Live. Ableton Live has a feature that automatically beatmatches every piece of audio material, so that I don’t have to worry about that any more.

After that, I arrange all the tracks after each other in the order that I want them to play. I had to make some adjustments here so that the transitions between the tracks were as smooth as they should be.

If I wanted to create a normal DJ mix, I could have stopped at this point. However, this took about 15 minutes and seemed so easy that I would be ashamed to publish it. Instead, I thought about what else I could do with this approach that I couldn’t do if I did a live mix.

So I simply took a couple of tracks from my music collection that were not necessarily dance tracks. Those were a couple of party/pop classics and also a couple of cheesy songs that I normally don’t listen listen to. I looped some parts of these songs and put them on top of the tracks. This required some tweaking, a few effects (auto filter and delay) and a lot of cutting and looping, but in the end, it worked – and from the feedback that I got, it seems like a lot of you also liked this mix.

No more limits

It might be hard to understand, but I am very excited about this approach.It’s not easy to explain why: This is completely different from what you do when you play a live set, it’s more work and in the end, it’s just a DJ mix. I wouldn’t even be able to do this live (yet). It is a valid question why a DJ should bother with this.

For me, this approach has one huge advantage: I can use a much bigger part of my music collection now. When I create a “normal” DJ mix, I am more or less restricted to electronic dance music. It’s very hard to mix non-electronic styles with electronic music in a way that meets the high standards that I have when listenting to a DJ mix. I just expect smooth transitions and a coherent flow through the entire set.

I love electronic music, but I also have quite a few Rock, Jazz, Funk and HipHop records. All this music is part of my musical identity, and to me as a DJ, it means a lot to be able to present great music from various genres and open people’s ears and hearts to music that they haven’t heard before.

From the studio to the stage

As I mentioned before, I am not yet able to do this live on stage. Right now, I am in the process of learning what this approach to DJing could mean to me and what I can do with it.

However, I am quite optimistic that I will be able to do this live on stage in the not-too-distant future. In theory, this would simply require me to prepare loops in a way that I can use them in a mix. This is also doable with Ableton Live.

I guess this is just a matter of practice. It took me months to master beatmatching and years to learn enough about music so that I could play a good set. I don’t think it’s going to take that long again.

About marvis (209 Articles)
Marvis is the founder of Sweet Headache. He lives in Cologne (Germany) and has been a music nerd for a long, long time.

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