I'll be talking about Traktor in my next few posts, so now is a good time to list my current settings so you can keep up.
My settings are different that those you'll find on sites like DJ Tech Tools because I focus primarily on classic song-to-song mixing rather than controllerism techniques. For example, I actually use cue points as markers, instead of loop points, to make my sets tighter and stronger. Furthermore, my settings are also effective for a large, frequently updated library shared between multiple computers.
Many of these settings may already be defaults. It's been so long since I set some of these I don't remember. Some of these are also to fix a lot of outdated paradigms (like burning mixes to CD).
- Sync Mode: Tempo Sync
- Only On-Air Decks can be Tempo Master: OFF
I keep Sync on 99% of the time in Traktor. I only turn it off if I'm making a big jump in tempo between tracks. Tempo Sync makes sure that the currently playing track sets the master tempo, instead of the application's background beat clock.
If On-Air Decks as Tempo Master is on, your song actually has to be playing live (crossfader is over and volume level is more than 0) before it can be the master tempo. It's not very useful and only gets in the way, so turn it off.
- Grid Mode: Ticks
- Show Minute Markers: ON
- Color Mode: Spectrum
Grid mode is really helpful, but the full lines tend to get in the way of seeing the soundwave, so all you really need are the ticks. Minute markers are also critical, otherwise a 3 minute song and a 12 minute song look the same!
Spectrum color mode simply kicks ass. Everyone asks me where the setting is, so here it is.
Instead of listing everything out, here's a screenshot of my Deck Header arrangement:
Resulting in this:
With this view, what's playing is emphasized (title, remaining time & current BPM), yet all information is grouped together effectively: BPMs & tempo shift, remaining time & total time, and comments & keys.
- Set Autogain When Loading Track: ON
- Enable Limiter: OFF
- Headroom: -3dB
What's gain? Most tracks are engineered at different volume & compression levels so they end up significantly louder or quieter that each other. Gain is used on mixers to balance out the volume in each channel before it gets to the faders, so faders change the volume equally. Traktor usually checks the songs volume level and remembers how much gain it needs to sound even to other tracks.
Autogain basically resets the song's volume for you. In most cases you'll see the autogain knob turned down because most mp3s are actually over-compressed to sound louder for tiny computer speakers.
The limiter is designed to keep tracks from getting too loud, particularly in the middle of a mix when you have two playing on top of each other. If you're a total noob, turn this on. But if you're experienced enough to be able to watch your levels, turn it off. The audio quality of the limiter is pretty bad.
Headroom reduces the max volume of the mix recorder. You can do more, but if you know what you're doing -3dB is the best mix of sound quality and safety.
- Split File Size: 2048MB (i.e. 2GB)
I set this to 2GB so I don't have to rejoin files back together. The other settings are pretty useless, unless you're planning to put all of your raw mixes on CD.
- Import Music Folders on Start-Up: ON
- Analyze new imported tracks: OFF
- Analyze new tracks when loading into deck: ON
- Root Directory: I use Dropbox /dropbox/NativeInstruments/Traktor x.x/
- Enable metadata sync via Dropbox: ON
These are important for the next post (prepping & playing new tracks in Traktor). You want Traktor to look for iTunes, but not load everything right away. You only want Traktor to analyze tracks as you need them, not in the background. Traktor isn't smart about prioritizing loaded tracks: you could end up waiting minutes / hours for Traktor to get to the track you want to play.
I also keep all of my Traktor files in Dropbox. This makes it easy for me to use Traktor on different computers. Traktor introduced Dropbox sync in 2.6.1. I'm not sure what that does yet - I was already doing it prior...
- Set Beat-grid when detecting BPM: OFF
- Store Beatmarker as Hotcue: OFF
These are also important settings for the next post, which is all about how (and why) to set your beat-grid manually for best accuracy.
Basically, Traktor is kind of dumb when it comes to beat detection so you end up with nasty phase shifting: the beats don't hit at the same time so one sounds a little late or early. The problem seems to be that Traktor sets the grid at the peak of the wave instead of the base of the wave, so it shifts around depending on the size and width of the note / drop.
Hotcue beatmarker is outdated. You only have four hotcues on your S4 and this will permanently use one of them. Worse, you could accidentally lose your beatgrid if you remove the cuepoint which happens a lot.
Traktor Kontrol S4
- Loop Buttons: Manual Looping
- Tempo Faders: Relative
- Load Button: Load Track
- Disable Job Wheel Push: ON
These are basic settings I use for the S4. Many of the alternatives are for controllerism, which I don't do. The jog wheel one is really useful simply for avoiding accidental "full stops" in the middle of a set.
All good? Great. Next post is time for fun!