A quick update on the goings-on in my gigging life. A bit of a creative slump prompted me to return to vinyl from controllerism. Read on to find out!
I absolutely love playing on vinyl. It’s my preferred method; I’ll take beat up TT’s over new CDJs any day. Without sounding too snobby, it just feels better! The feeling of a moving platter under your hands is unmatched. Even when using a controller like the Numark NS7, it just feels weird. To be honest, since I’d bought my turntables a few years back (read about that situation here), I’d very rarely taken them out of the house. It was just a hassle, and they were heavy, and when you have a controller in a nice little backpack with your laptop, everything else seems inconvenient.
A good buddy of mine is in a similar situation. He owns CDJ2000’s in addition to his controller. Even though he bought used, he still ended up spending about $3,000 just to have them in his bedroom! He told me it got to the point where “I’m kind of sick of complaining. I want to get my money’s worth out of the damn things!” I can’t really disagree.
2017 has been a good year for me: I’ve gotten to hang out with some of the greatest DJ’s in the world, and spend time with them in and out of a gig environment. These guys are so passionate about what they do, that, to them, there is no downside to lugging around all the gear. They do it for the love of the craft. When it all comes down to it, I’ve gotta practice what I preach.
By no means am I controller bashing. I love the convenience of having a controller. When you go to clubs where knobs are literally falling off the mixers, having your own gear in your backpack is truly comforting. When I play on vinyl, though, I feel more invested in what I’m doing. It’s a weird, inexplicable sensaiton. Nowadays, I keep my trusty DDJ SR for mostly private parties, and rely on my TT’s at bars and longer events.
I’ve spent this summer upgrading my vinyl setup and making a more conscious effort to play on TT’s more frequently. One big thing that held me back was a lack of effects when I wasn’t on a controller. So, I made my first “big” purchase in years: I traded in my Numark M6 for a Pioneer DJM 450. This mixer is a hands-down game changer. The Magvel magnetic faders are the same ones as on the DJM S9, and the effects section is directly based on the DJM 900 Nexus. Pioneer took the best of both worlds, merged them, and scaled everything down into a wallet-friendly model. Even when I’m home, I have more fun on the 450 than I do on my DDJ SR.
When I played at Flattopps back in June, they had a vinyl system in-house. But, as excited as I was, I was still walking around with a full briefcase. Their normal mixer was in the shop, so I had to walk with my Rane SL1. My headphones, laptop, vinyls, and interface really packed my bag to the max. Replacing my mixer didn’t do very much to lessen my physical load, though. I’m not a fan of Rekordbox DJ – I’m not sure if my computer is too slow, or if it’s just not user friendly enough, or both – so I was still walking around with my SL1. If anything, trying to jam that box into my bag after gigs was making me less efficient. I bit the bullet again, and shelled out for a Denon DS1.
As much as it hurt my wallet, the DS1 ended up being a blessing in disguise. My MacBook’s hard drive was on its last legs, so when I swapped in a solid state replacement, I ended up losing compatibility with Serato Scratch Live. My SL1 became a big ol’ paperweight, and my whole setup would’ve been otherwise useless had I not gotten the DS1 eventually. Plus, I had been wanting new vinyls for a while, and the DS1 came with a pair of those – as well as CD’s! I still haven’t opened the new records. The tracking on my old ones is so tight with the DS1, that I feel more in tune than ever. To top it all off, the interface itself is literally smaller than my phone. I feel like – literally – a weight has been lifted from my shoulders when I pack my gig bag.
At the end of the day, I spent a lot more than I intended to, but I don’t regret it a bit. I was going through a bit of a gig slump. Things didn’t seem as exciting, and I didn’t feel as invested or passionate as I was a few months prior. Returning to vinyl really helped me rediscover why I fell in love with DJing in the first place – throwing myself into a crowd, playing give-and-take with the dancers, and the feeling of vinyl under my fingers.
DJ’s who play on vinyl, what say you? Let me know in the comments!
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