Who Cares what a DJ performs with?

Chris Macom —  April 27, 2010 — 4 Comments

I’m on a mission to find out if it really matters what a DJ spins with. This topic has been going on every since I have been involved in the DJ scene in Detroit. Ten years ago the argument was about turntables vs. cd players, and now it has shifted to digital vinyl systems vs. midi controllers. With the portability and stability of digital vinyl solutions, actual vinyl recordings have found their place in home collections and only being rarely spun at underground events by local die-hards. New technology has made it so a turntable can control music on a laptop in real time. Perfect for scratch DJs that prefer the feel of vinyl. So why carry all those records right? Well now DJs are saying, why carry those turntables also? With a new portable midi controller coming out every few months, DJs have the ability to fit all their music and gear in one bag. Not using turntables is also way cheaper. No needles and less cables also. Amazing right? Here comes the argument. If you don’t use turntables in some way or fashion then you are not a real DJ and cannot mix without pushing the magical DJ button that mixes for you, hence making you a “microwave DJ”. Although it is true that new software will match BPMs for you if you prepare your tracks beforehand, it will not pick songs or mix them at the right point in the song for you. It also will not apply effects, adjust levels, fix itself when it decides to suck, or be creative. Being a good DJ requires way more then what type of equipment you have. If you can do all the things I described then you can be a great DJ no matter what you use. When it comes down to it the only people who care about the equipment are other DJs and older audiophiles. I DJ for young people all the time and the youth definitely couldn’t care less about what I’m using. The key with a laptop system is to not look like your checking your e-mail. In my opinion I think it is wise to use multiple types of systems to be able to adapt to any environment. I might want to use vinyl records at a smaller local venue, or use a midi controller at larger out of town gigs. No matter what you use just keep it creative and practice. Here’s two videos from opposite sides of the issue. The first is of Terrence Parker using vinyl and the scond is of Ean Golden of DJ Tech Tools with the Korg Nano Pad and Traktor.

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Chris Macom

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Chris Macom is a DJ, producer, and writer in the Detroit Metro area. Growing up in the 90's, Chris grew fond of electronic music and started collecting vinyl and DJing. Now, as a founder of both Detroit Techno House and Lost Science, Chris hopes to share with the world his experiences through music and writing.
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4 responses to Who Cares what a DJ performs with?

  1. Sorry, but call me a ludite. I learned on turntables and vinyl and still spin to this day. digital DJing is good only if the DJ has skill; same with CD DJs. I've never encountered satisfactory laptop DJ via Serato. The levels suck, the bass is muted and the treble off the map. Going to DEMF you will notice the difference between a vinyl DJ vs. a digital DJ. Sure you don't have to carry a ton of equipment and vinyl, but more often than not, their sets suck, there are compatibility issues (remember last years DEMF and how many windows and mac booting problems arose?), and not to mention weak bodied DJs that can carry no more than a laptop and a harddrive. The best sets and DJs keep it real, and that's with vinyl. Detroit Techno Militia, Bang Tech, and Underground Resistance keep this tradition alive. All others are purely fronting and lazy.

  2. The old dog here is just barking from his porch creating cultural divide. Sure there are some problems with digital djing. It is at it's infancy still. Computers will get better, memory will get cheaper, and more people will be playing high quality files. Which all means less tech issues or fucked up levels from douches playing low quality files. This anti-digital movement is nothing more than a manufactured "edge" these vinyl purists use to sell themselves to the market. It's just hype. Face it, you are not going to get rid of digital! I have heard some seriously shitty sets from people playing on vinyl. In the end, WHAT MATTERS is the vibe coming out of the speakers. When I go to a party, I just accept my environment and HAVE FUN WITH IT. I believe that the more hard working a dj is, the more fun I will have and leave it at that. I don't give a shit if someone uses sync, but I hope if they are using sync they are being creative with the mixing and the filters taking more of a producers approach to a dj set.

  3. Vinyl performance just sounds and feels so much better. Many times I have attempted to hear the digital mix and it just bores me. I would definately rather hear vinyl. The Terrence mix sounded so much better. U can feel his custom touch throughout his mix and his sounds so good and soulful. U can tell he put in his work. Just my opinion, gimme vinyl mixes anyday, small/big performance.

  4. sounds better? This wav/flac/aiff file that I got directly from the producers studio will sound better once pressed on vinyl? Really? I thought my file represented exactly what that producer was hearing in the studio and I got it cheaper which helps me because I am broke. I understand where you are coming from enjoying the more raw, loose, pitchy, warm sound of a vinyl set. That is cool. To state that it sounds better is different from stating what you prefer. You can't state something is better when it is subjective.

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