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YouTube Has Shaped Controllerism – For the Better?

The art of manipulating and interacting with music through controllers has come a long way in the past 10 years.  Today’s dynamic internet has proven to be an excellent delivery medium for new ideas and DJ focused videos have flourished with each new development in hardware and software technology. The area in which we have not seen such a renaissance however, is on stage. While much of the material produced over the past year is undoubtedly impressive and innovative, very little of it seems to translate that well in front of larger crowds. Why is that? Well, there might be unlikely cuplrit- the medium of delivery, YouTube.

LOST IN TRANSLATION

In the video below, David Byrne provides a fascinating look into why various music styles work on certain kinds of stages and historically, why most music is actually written and produced for that context.

In case you were too lazy or too busy to watch the full video, I will summarize:

Due to the constraints and behaviors of rooms (reverb, delay in sound arriving and shapes) the context that you hear music in has a tremendous effect on your experience with that music. Everyone knows there are bands that sound amazing on CD and then fall apart on a big stage. Ignoring technical and creative limitations, the reason is often simple:

  • You are used to hearing them at home over speakers or on your iPod, which is a very different listening environment than a big concert.
  • It is my assertion that controllerism adoption into clubs and venues, presently “suffers” from that fundamental issue. To further clarify, let me break it down into three steps:

CREATION


  • Today’s laptop performers (including myself) are developing techniques, sounds, tools and methods in home studios or at home, experiencing them and fine tuning the results either through near-field monitors or in headphones.
  • In those environments, the level of detail and nuance that can be heard and created is very wide- so the sonic palette that is chosen directly reflects the listening environment.

DELIVERY

These ideas, once hashed out, are then delivered for your enjoyment and dissection via YouTube and other digital mediums. YouTube in particular is a remarkably unique delivery tool, in that you not only get a reasonably high quality audio picture (compared to hyped low end club in mono) but you also get impossible views into the performance. Imagine all the details that you can see in a great performance that would be impossible in a live setting:

  • Screen captures
  • Overhead shots
  • Rear shots
  • Tight cut-ins to the knob or button being used

This format allows you to appreciate and enjoy a significantly more complex and nuanced performance that might fall flat on its face in a large stadium or even a club.

CONSUMPTION

For most people, these videos are enjoyed using high quality home speakers, headphones or ear buds. In all examples, the subtle variations and texture that the performer intended are effectively transfered to the listener.

Changes in tone, effects sweeps, rapid fire re-triggers and all the trappings are both expressed and usually appreciated.

WHERE DOES IT FALL SHORT?

Live. Many of the “routines” I work on for this blog fall into the following categories:

So how can we fix that? Well, here are a few changes I have been making lately to develop a sound that is better suited for a live audience.

  • Practice on larger speaker systems.
  • Set up a weekly “jam” session in a club where experimentation is encouraged and expected in a safe format.
  • Play out more!
  • Start more contests and competitions where the techniques have to translate to an audience on a system.
  • Develop standards for expression that can truly be mastered and understood by performer and observer alike.

A WORD OF MEASURE

This is not a knock on controllerism, just a honest assessment of the shortcomings I have been noticing lately in my live shows. Where does it excel? As an amazing fun musical experience that can be quickly picked up and effectively shared via the internet to people around the world. While it still has a long way to go before more live adoption, what we do have right now is actually kind of cool:

  • a new musical form of expression born out of blogs and tailor made for the YouTube/Vimeo communication platforms. That’s fresh!
  • keep it simple

  • Smegma-Head

    The sets of Craze, Shiftee and/or Rafik are Showcase/Battle routines based on turntablism. The controller bits are just an addition (to some of you it must be the icing of the cake), but are not too impresive unlike the turntablism aspect of their sets. And a routine needs good composition skills and/or producing skills (which that controllerism battle lacked to the fullest as well as the showcases)…

  • DiscoDraft

    For the most part, I do not post much on this website, but
    when I think I have something to contribute I’m always happy to help enhance
    this community.

     

    I’ve been involved with sound for a long time, I voice
    high-end audio systems for people, I also voice car audio systems, my goal is
    to reproduce exactly what was on the recording.

     

    What David Byrne has to say is significant, and it has to
    do with the development of music throughout the ages.

     

    Initially, he speaks about West African music, which was
    typically practiced in the open spaces without any reverberant times or
    significant sonic reflections. Of course, because of the way sound propagates,
    the volume of sound falls off quickly as distance increases. Also due to
    weather constraints, some places some places had to have music performed
    indoors–you certainly couldn’t get the animal hides on your drums wet, or any
    strings made from animal intestines. When music moved indoors people
    immediately became aware of the acoustics of the space. Certainly what makes
    for a good concert hall does not necessarily make for a good dance venue. Prior
    to the invention of electronically amplified music, we had to acoustically
    boost the volume of music, there were several ways to do this.

     

    In ancient Greece times, the Greek amphitheater came to
    be. Voices were amplified because the Greek amphitheater works sort of like a
    megaphone, and as a horn with the speakers at the center it was easier to
    address large numbers of people. We see a similar but different form of
    amplification happening in modern-day churches. Reverberant times help add to
    the volume of the notes. Singers learn to adapt as well as composers to compose
    music for churches and perform it to take advantage of the church acoustics.
    Certainly if you were to clap your hands inside a church, you would hear a
    return of the sound sonic clap–but if you were to go into a modern-day
    recording studio that was acoustically treated most of that sound would be
    absorbed.

     

    Prior to the advent of amplified music, you could do one
    of several things to increase the volume. You could bring the subject closer to
    the music, you could use all hornlike device to amplify the music, or you could
    simply radically increase the number of musicians playing at one time with the
    same instrument using the same piece of music.

     

    As you can see in the development of some concert halls,
    balconies, tiered levels, and other techniques allow for the positioning of
    more people closer to the music. Certainly, a full symphony orchestra is
    capable of producing a tremendous amount of sound if placed in a concert hall
    with great acoustics.

     

    And indeed, David Byrne traces the development of music
    which is written to take full advantage of the given acoustics of the concert
    halls of its time. Music is written to take advantage of the reverberant times,
    the acoustic decay, and the delay which has to be dealt with as sound returns.

     

    Thomas Alva Edison helped create recorded music. He did
    this by gathering the analog sound pressure waves with a horn microphone and said
    that signal to an electric transducer which scribed a single continuous groove
    on a cylinder. When the needle was placed in that same continuous groove the
    needle bounced around in that physical energy was coupled to a large horn for
    playback. This used traditional acoustic amplification–and was called a
    gramophone.

     

    There were limits to the gramophone, bass frequencies were
    severely truncated, and the high frequencies were also abrasive. The mid range
    for the most part made its way through, making the gramophone more suited to
    playback compositions which focused on the human voice.

     

    Of course, if you’re a musical composer, and you happen to
    like using timpani drums a lot, records are played back through the gramophone
    are not going to be musically satisfying. They will lack the slam and impact
    and low-frequency reverberation of the timpani drum. Of course, someone who
    sings within the midrange frequencies is going to get a lot more out of the
    reproduction of the gramophone and consequently his recordings will sound
    closer to the original sound and be more sonically pleasing.

     

    And you’ll see, that the more popular albums of those
    times were not drum solos.

     

    In the beginning we have a continuous spiral groove which
    was etched into a metal cylinder, the next major jump was recording a
    continuous spiral groove on a disc made of shellac–in order to get enough
    energy into the system and to help increase fidelity these played at 78 RPM–and
    because they required a different needle, and because the material was not very
    resilient, these tended to wear out quickly. Vinyl records were great step
    forward for number of reasons, they could be stamped in large quantities, the
    material was not as delicate and didn’t shatter as readily, they were lighter
    weight for shipping, they can hold a lot more music, and with the advent of
    RIAA equalization curves we were able to fit a lot more music on the same disk.
    Using equalization we reduce the volume of bass frequencies–this made it easier
    to record a lot of music on the same album because the groove was narrower and
    swayed left and right less. There was also easier for the needle to track the
    lower frequencies particularly as they were louder–better cartridges, and
    better tone arms helped with this.

     

    Of course, there were limitations to this playback system
    just like with the gramophone. In this case acoustic feedback through the base
    of the turntable through the platter and back into the needle was a major
    problem. Particularly with wooden floors, which were common construction at the
    time. Even the dancing was less vigorous, in part because a lot of stomping
    around would tend to skip the jukebox.

     

    The turntable continued to evolve and became more immune
    over time acoustic feedback.

     

    But other things were going on as well the same time.

     

    Initially the gramophone used no electronic amplification.
    But with the advent of electronic amplification composers could take advantage
    of this. Certainly there have been good uses of basic, and bad uses of music.
    Germany’s Third Reich used music for war rallies. Because electronic
    amplification was extremely expensive at the time, and because bass frequencies
    use up so much wattage, a lot of the music that was written during that time
    period did not focus on bass frequencies, but instead used long throw midrange
    horns and high-frequency drivers.

     

    During the war, radio was an important part of
    communications. And after the war, many of the radio operators brought home
    some of the amplifiers that were used during the war.

     

    These tube amplifiers used glass tubes to produce sound.
    The speakers at the time were not bass reflex speakers as we know them, but
    they were very efficient speakers that could produce a large amount of sound
    for a small amount of watts. Many of them used a single driver. Because of this
    there were limitations on that single driver. If you made the driver very large
    midrange and high frequency suffered. If you made the driver to small, low
    frequencies rolled off very quickly. So it was a compromise. Line transmission
    drivers, and horn loaded loudspeakers were best suited to these low wattage low
    current amplifiers.

     

    So what does that mean? It means once again that midrange
    frequencies were produced best by this particular sound system. So instruments
    to take best advantage of the midrange tended to sound the best and more
    musically the most involving. Composers that wrote to take advantage of this
    tended to sell more music.

     

    The 1970s inexpensive Japanese electronics started to
    surge into the United States. Prior to this only people with a tremendous
    amount of money could afford a sound system that actually played loud to dance
    levels that we are used to today. A lot of people had transistor radios, and
    boomboxes, and console stereos.

     

    With the inexpensive new high wattage amplification, music
    began to change to take advantage of the new medium.

     

    In the old medium, the human voice, xylophones, piano,
    flute, violin, and other string and woodwind instruments sounded great. So did
    great vocal groups like the Beatles.

     

    But the Japanese electronics were not as easy on the ears
    as the old tube amplification. In particular violin sounded strident, the
    xylophone lost its glow and shimmer, and the piano lost a lot of its overtones.
    But the electric guitar, which took advantage of its high distortion, phase
    shifts, and distortion pedals did not seem out of place distorting through
    Japanese electronics, rather.. they sounded fantastic and ear bleedingly loud
    as compared to low powered tube electronics through single driver speakers.
    Cheap Japanese solid state amps could drive larger bass reflex enclosures with
    two or three-way, sometimes four way loudspeakers with complex and often
    inefficient crossover networks.

     

    Artists like the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Led Zeppelin
    all sounded terrific through Japanese electronics, Americans began producing
    their own inexpensive high wattage amplifiers–Dynaco and Heathkit were popular
    home built amplifiers. Companies like Haffler, emerged fed with cheap parts.

     

    This was the era of the baby boomers..Kids living in their
    own apartments and houses- whose main interest was music. As these boomers got
    careers and families- the wives rebelled against the large format systems. And
    new software programs like Blaubox allowed for seemingly efficient smaller
    loudspeakers.

     

    The bookshelf speaker was born – and so with so many
    smaller loudspeakers with crossover frequencies in the 1.2kHz -1.5kHz range
    female vocalists suffered less than Male vocalists in these small two way
    systems. Woman vocalists became very popular as did folk music which did not
    have low bass. Bands like Dave Matthews suffered the least on these bass light
    designs with ported one note bass.

     

    With the advent of Home theatre and the desire for tiny
    little speakers in the 5.1 sub satellite 
    designs… music that worked well in these designs ..music with distortion
    and limited dynamic range.. (grunge) came into being. Later Hip Hop would take
    advantage of the bass output of the home subwoofer and car audio would also use
    its sub sat arrangement for heavy bass lines. Cars became the place to play
    your music loudly.

     

    But what about urbanites in small apartments, who don’t
    own cars. Surely Headphones won’t provide the same tactile experience. In fact
    their systems are limited in terms of space and the ability to play them
    loudly. But people want to hear music loudly! And those urbanites could embrace
    Techno- and trance …hear them loudly in nightclubs…and their very small low
    quality computer based sound systems would not completely kill techno and
    trance as it was pretty much the only music that was at all listenable on low
    computer desk speakers… even if they had a small…crappy sub.

     

    You see… I understand this..I have some songs that only
    sound great on my Ultrasone Edition 9 Headphones with S-logic  (like live large stadium recordings and
    anything with drums – these are unusual headphones- not like typical
    headphones- powered by high current tubes)… I have music that only sounds good
    on my Infinity Reference Standards with Solid State amps (rock, classical, Jazz
    fusion) and music that sounds best in my car system hip Hop techno.

     

    You see… venues are like a part of the musical instrument.
    If your music and musical instruments sound best with long reverb times a
    church is a good venue..along with an organ, Lots of percussion… ??

    Open air  with
    no echo is the best venue.

     

    And the Sound System is ALSO a part of the musical
    experience. Listening to Jazz ensembles – hear them through Quad ESL 62’s
    electrostatic speakers with tube electronics.

     

    Listening to Pink Floyd??  use large format Line source speakers  or Magneplanar Tympanis or Infinity
    reference Standards.

     

    So your monitors should give you some insight into the
    sound you want to reproduce at the venue you are play. For instance… if the
    system is not detailed… forget using Monitors with ribbons like Genelec S30d’s
    or Adam Audio A7’s… instead use a classic Bozak or Urei 1620 mixer (if you were
    mixing vinyl) and Old JBLs with 375 midranges… If the system is real crap use
    Yamaha NS10’s (which truly suck….if you can make it sound good on them… it will
    even sound ok in a Toyota Camry stock system).

     

    Of course the reverse is true… if you are playing at Space
    in Ibiza  don’t use Yamaha NS10’s
    to do your home mixes… use a ribbon tweeter and a detailed midrange like  a 
    Genelec s30d (the s30d is a Genelec that doesn’t sound like a Genelec)
    or use a Gryphon ribbon hybrid.

     

     

    Take this as advice…have fun with what you mix with…even
    if it is an old pair of Bose 301’s- or a water damaged set of old 1970’s
    Advents…. You don’t need the best to have fun, but to deliver the best… it
    helps to use quality gear….or you won’t hear what you can do- and you may loose
    control of nuances.

     

    New gear is not always the best gear..  Amplifiers, pre-amplifiers, mixers and
    speakers… are not unlike musical instruments… the newest violins are not the
    best.

     

    Controllerism gives us so much control over the music our
    use of effects can tailor the sound to the way we like it… just make sure that
    what ends up on the dance floor works for he acoustics of the venue and the
    sound system.

     

    I’ve seen people grooving to really high quality sound…. Talking
    about how much they love a song. And I have heard the same people in a  club complaining about the same bring
    song …BUT THIS TIME it is in a clubwith a crappy system and DJ that can’t
    produce a good output with bad use of gain stages  he makes that same song sound like a tired out old top 40
    song from 30 years ago…  sounding
    like its coming out of a train platform PA.

    A ridiculously long post… I doubt anyone read it all.

  • OK, I agree with what you guys are saying. i appreciate what Ean shows us. I’ve learned so much over the past two years from this site, alone. I don’t know how many of you DJ in bars/clubs, but i do every week.(3-4 times a week) I’m a Hip-Hop DJ @ heart but what I’ve learned since I’ve got into controllers (first controller i had..Hercules rmx..which i still rock some nights) has helped me tremendously! I have an S4 + T2 and I use many of the techniques I’ve learned here EVERY TIME I DJ! It’s not all about.. button mashing & effects, it’s about playing the music and bringing you’re own personal flavor into your set.. trust me i do it all the time. Just because we see crazy controllerism routines here, doesn’t mean thats how we should be djing.. it’s just tips.. knowledge ! I see what Ean is doing, he’s on his own shit.. it may not be what people are ready for yet.. but i’m taking what i’ve learned and making my set stand out .. nothing crazy as far as effects go.. but i know i have my own sound. Thank you DJTT. This is just the start of amazing things!
      

  • Alexander Wong

    I, while not actively performing currently, have found the techniques of controllerism to be a great way to keep my dj-ing fresh and keep me in it.  I think that the article is spot on about the true-to-life applications of controllerism though.  It is really hard to put together a set that can keep people dancing and entertain people too.  In my live sets that I have done, I find myself turning not to my planed controllerist set but just keeping it free and going with the flow.  I try to improvise and incorporate controllerism techniques into this flow.  It is difficult though for the crowd to truly appreciate the amount of finger work and technical skills needed to put together and perform a controllerism set.
     

  • Mojaxx

    Controllerism = Turntablism

    DJing with a controller = DJing with decks

    I don’t wanna hear extended DMC routines in a club, with vinyl or buttons.

    Doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the artform, and enjoy watching video routines.

    I’m not really sure why any of that is a difficult concept to grasp, really.

  • I have had that same problem playing in clubs. People weren’t able to understand what was happening, all the changes, variations, etc.
    I realized, my performance wasn’t just an audio experience, but a visual one too. You confirm that by saying that youtube is a great way to see the controllerist in action.

    My solution to do controllerism performances was to play in small venues at the same level of the audience, that way they could see what I was doing… That kind of worked, but still.. not quite enough. So, what I did was connect 2 cameras pointing to my hardware, and project the video behind me. That way, people would understand a little bit more what was going on, and get them to be more engaged, so they knew this was being mixed live.

    Nowadays i only use one camera, and mix the video feed with other clips that I have made at home, that gives a richer, greater experience. I recently saw Girl Talk doing the same thing and I was blown away. Gaslamp Killer points his iPad to the people, at eye level, so they can see he’s pushing some buttons… That might sound a little bit cheesy, but it works, people get it when they can see it.

    I think controllerists have to translate their art in a visual way too. If people can’t see what you’re doing, they’re gonna think you just have a broken CD up there… Come down to the people, you’re not a DJ, you’re a live performer. Imagine if you went to a rock concert but you couldn’t see the band playing their instruments, that there was a wall in front of the guitar blocking your view? You would be like “wtf?… I want to see them in action”.

    Just sharing my two cents <3

  • Hi Ean.

    Really REALLY interesting article, i would never have thought there would be such innate complexities by simply performing controllerist routines live.

    I have a question regarding the above (and if anyone else could answer that would be great). You said………..

    “WHERE DOES IT FALL SHORT?
    Live. Many of the “routines” I work on for this blog fall into the following categories:

    Too many technical set up details to pull off in a set (Phenomenom video).

    Too nuanced in their effects to be clearly heard on a large system (Midi Fighter Pro video).

    “You said you could not pull off the 2 videos above live for the reasons you said but….its still unclear….The phenomenom video for example has alot of technical details but….so does a drummer who’s playing a kick drum with one foot and then a hi hat and drum with his hands…..And for the 2nd point….why couldn’t it be pulled off live too? As the effects would be picked up on a large system i would of thought…..If you Ean or anyone could answer the above that would be great as until now i never thought barriers like this existed for controllerists .

  • its funny, but I’ve also felt it in the other direction.  
    I had a friend after my show say “Wow, I love how you cut up and mangled that Lady Gaga track”, to which my response was, “thanks, but I played the Skrillex remix, straight through.”  Imagine if I could recreate what Skrillex can produce LIVE?  now that would be controllerism.
    I even remember dancing next to a guy in Austin in 1998, and the music had a long deadspot and the guy yelled to the dj booth “what are you doing!?!”  like the dj had direct control over in real time over the individual elements of the song, and took out the kick drum because he felt like it.  I wanted to say “um… he is playing the song, what do you think he’s doing?”
    There are people in the crowd (I’ve met probably 5) that don’t understand the basics of DJing and think there is way more live manipulation going on than is/was technically possible.
    Back to the topic at hand, I’d love to see videos not based on 10 minute ‘routines’ but about things that will work live in the club setting.  like dropping an acapella over the outtro of the last track and the intro of the next track without any prep whatsoever.  Its something a 3 turntable guy would do, by just knowing the records really well.  We’ve got the tools now to make that process a lot faster.  I drop the pella for Mousse T “Horny” this way all the time in 3 decks, but I could be better at it.

  • If you ever thought that controllerism would work great in clubs, you’re just naive. In the end, it’s about the flow of the sounds that counts, everything else is just bullshit.

    Let me give you an example. Few weeks ago I watched the big James Zabiela doing his controllerism trick in Amsterdam. While his performance was nice and certainly entertaining to watch, the general consensus in the venue was that a locally famous DJ (Dimitri Kneppers), who was just playing with CDJ’s after him, did a way better job of moving the crowd.

    • Devlar

      Dude, I have to disagree. I saw Zabiela when he came to Macau (where I spin as well), and he rocked the crowd with one of the best performances I’ve seen in a while. He seamlessly was jumping from CDJs to Live, and also  using technology like the iPad that people can relate to and hear the result of what he’s doing as he’s holding it up in front of them. Really knew how to work the crowd, and his skill is unbelievable.

      As to your other point, I agree that the flow is everything, and you can’t just pound out effects drenched music that’s cut up so much you don’t know what was there to begin with. I think learning to DJ on “industry standard” equipment is the best way because you learn all the fundamentals and you don’t give yourself any crutches. Without a sync button and all these effects you have to layer music together how it should be done or it sounds like shit. Plus, what happens if everything crashes? Backup is everything..

  • Guest…?/?

    This is the kind of thing that makes you stop and watch in awe, but not dance (IMHO)

  • Guest…?/?

    I personally think stuff like this would be good for the beginning of a set, or in the middle (when people are tired and might be getting drinks or w/e) or at the end of a set. I’m not sure an entire controllerist set could work.

  • DeekMacrae

    some fans also dig the skills,if they are interested enough, but most mainstream musics lovers dont have a clue, so its only relevant to a minority of peeps, however, its rise in popularity IS due to utube and a few other sites like this, midi controllers and thier manipulation into a creative musical instrument has grown rapidly, with the ultimate goal of producing live, which is what i do with ableton, if i cant play it live, then its binned, it might take a few yrs to master, and the learning curve is steep, but once there, your the master of all you survey, look how the uk scene exploded circa 1990 with all these live dance acts, who used synths/ drum machines etc on stage, chemical brothers, prodigy, future sound of london etc to name but a few, the sound was huge and infectious, and it was all performed live using studio equipement, our generation is trying to recreate that using midi controllers, vst’s and dj programs, cause we aint got the $£ for a 3k synth with outboard,or the means to carry it all about, controllerism is still in its infancy though, and it will be an exciting journey, the future looks bright!

  • in my eyes this is what set the club DJ’s / producers from the bed room guy in short a knowledge of acoustics is always a advantage in live performance, it also shows how to boost audio of different musical styles on a mixer not just how to have a flat sound but more dynamic this is where controllers have a little flaw, I always use traktor on a external mixer to get the max sound through  PA systems  and using the internals as i do some times id dont have that punch that is needed some times but have found running the audio through ableton usign the smart mixing technique and having certain effect such as gates and compressors (and other production effect) can combat this although my NI soundcard is great it’s not allways enough… 

  • Great article. I moved to the S4 and Maschine last year after several different setups – CDJ1000’s and a DJM800 from 1210’s and whatever mixer.

    It wasn’t so much the controller i was interested in but more, what if I could have all my music in one place, then not have to worry about keeping records in time.

    What has come from that is a much more thought out set, I use Mixed in key and Platinum notes to get the best possible sound and running order out of my ‘record box’. I can loop and re-edit on the fly – something you could never do with vinyl. I also don’t have to worry about burning CD’s or my back lugging records around.

    In relation to this article what I would say is ‘less is more’. You are right, completely destroying sounds, layering effects for long periods of time does not work (in my experience) on the dancefloor – it confuses people.

    I’ve found subtle use of Delay/Freeze, gater, beatmasher and filter work far more than trying to over kill it.

    Great read.

  • Anal0gK1LLER

    For me there is a clear analogy here with traditional musical instruments. While a pianist or an oboist will practice scales and techniques like trills or glissando, perfect dynamics and try to master the instrument through repetition of complex studies, no-one actually wants to go and listen to that. Other musicians may find it interesting or impressive but these aspects of musicianship are not intended to be performed in front of an audience. They are intended to give the musician the range of techniques, expression, and technical knowledge required to be able to call on their repertoire when a particular performance requires it. A classical musician, much like a DJ, will most often be performing someone elses music. It is their job to deliver their interpretation (and in the case of an orchestra this is a collective interpretation) of what the composer had originally intended and it is the individual’s technical and musical abilities that enable them to deliver something unique and magical.

    Of course Jazz is slightly different as there is a significant amount of improvisation involved and I suppose you could describe controllerism and turntablism as being the EDM equivalents of the Jazz scene. Is Jazz mainstream? No it’s not, and I consider the main reason for this to be because there is a significant element of self-indulgence in its performance. No-one enjoys a Jazz guitar solo more than the guitarist who’e performing it. It might be technically brilliant and to the initiated it will have a wow factor but to the uninitiated it’s just some guy getting off on his own with a guitar. You’ll notice that there are far more solos in Jazz music than in any other musical genre.

    It’s also worth pointing out that for a traditional musician there is usually a certain degree of crossover. Something which is less prevalent in the DJ community. A real musician doesn’t have a preference for a particular form of delivery or style of music. Sure there will be pieces of music that the individual doesn’t like or considers to be just plain bad the latter of which there is an incredible amount being produced these days.

    DMC and turntablism were never mainstream. Controllerism (as per the definition that has been applied in this article) never will be either.

    However, the technology and techniques behind controllerism will deliver to people who have never taken the time to learn a musical instrument to be able to access a form of musical expression and deliver unique performances in their own style. You certainly wouldn’t want to start remixing tracks live, layering your own beats and samples on the fly, and creating dynamic build ups and breakdowns that didn’t exist in the original material without first practicing some cue point juggling and effects routines but come one  : lets not start expecting people to pay to come and watch us practice!!

    • I shivered when you said controllerism was the jazz of DJ’ing.. but I hope you just mean by the standards of dj’ing it may be more difficult than normal dj’ing

      first thing: controllerism isn’t half as difficult as jazz. dj’ing isn’t half as difficult as playing any musical instrument either, on a reasonable level (let’s say the level when an instrumentalist goes playing at venues… a dj can do this almost at any point in his career)

      I’m learning to play jazz myself too, and I must say dj’ing doesn’t even compare to it a bit. that’s why I think DJ’s are way overrated and musicians sometimes underrated… and that dj’s are way overpaid…

      second: practicing scales and other techniques does pay off as a musician… musicians do that to make their technique better, not just for their own. even for classical pieces it’s good to know you scales well and be able to run through them easily. are you actually a musician?

      • Anal0gK1LLER

        Pieter, clearly you neither read nor understood anything that I wrote in my post. I assume that English is not your mother tongue so I will give you the benefit the doubt and refrain from responding to specific remarks in your reply but I would suggest that you reread my post and once you’ve understood it, remove your reply as it really doesn’t make sense at all. Essentially you have reiterated exactly what I said while presenting your response as if it’s a counter argument.

        • you are right about the practicing scales part, of the first paragraph I only read the beginning.

          further, I perfectly understood what you are saying about jazz, but the only thing I was saying is that imo a dj isn’t a real musician. I know you didn’t really point this out in your post, but I replied to your post, because I was going to comment it anyway.

          • bombast

            I agree with you, a Dj is definitely not a musician. I would call a dj more of an advanced music appreciator. I’ll be the first to admit that the physical act of djing is not exactly spectacular. However, you do have to have an understanding of music, pacing, basic crowd psychology etc. There’s a bit more to it than just pressing play.

            Mostly though I think you’re wrong when you say Djs are overpaid-they definitely aren’t. The only djs who are paid well at all produce their own music, music most people steal instead of buying. You want to say that these people don’t deserve good money for shows that tens (sometimes hundreds) of thousands of people want to go to? That’s plain ridiculous. You may not have respect for EDM, but don’t act like those big name DJs don’t work hard as fuck for their money, because their travel bills ALONE dispute THAT claim.

        • Anonymous

          Respectful reply. Well done poster.

    • Anonymous

      Nice comment and nice blog Ean. I agree with a comment above, sometimes controllerist get too much into their controlling and forget the actual crowd and the fact they just want to dance. When the “jazz” controllerist starts to go off and “do his own thing”, 90% of the crowd are then saying “WTF?” or “This is boooring” or even worse “This sucks!” and, if your lucky, 10% are fairly impressed with the improve mixing and slashing of the music. The percentages are actually probably even worse. Like 99% and 1%. In other words, who are the “jazzy” controllerists trying to impress with those wildly used and less understood techniques?

      It is when the controllerist DJ uses his or her learned and perfected techniques so the mix sounds “in place” and correct for “normal” people to dance to and enjoy. It is when the controllerist techniques are used for the greater purpose of mixing good dance music or sounds, that then and only then, is when the controllerist DJ is doing his job right!

      To continue the analogy, I think what Ean is suggesting and doing is perfecting how to better practice “the musical scales of a controllerist DJ” with the goal of perfecting the techniques, which makes the controllerist DJ different than other DJs and in turn, should make the listening and dance experience different/ unique and hopefully even better for the crowd.:)

      scamo

    • If this isn’t fairly said then what is?

      I have only recently learnt that my passion for musical expression using what ever technology my finger tips can reach is a form of self-indulgence that the regular punter will generally not even notice it which can be frustrating due to the amount of effort one might have put into orchestrating that performance.

      However, I do believe that controllerism will evolve and fit into the mainstream as a form of music delivery and not only as a performance art. It gives us the possibility to create techniques to create that standard formula music on the go. Who cares if they can’t see how you’re doing it… it’s the result that counts in venues.. are they dancing or not???

      So, as you said: The pianist or oboist might practice scales, trills or glissando.. that stuff is for youtube and for sharing with other musicians. It’s the technique. However, those scales, trills and glissandos, when wisely put into the context of a musical piece will make that piece all the more original and hence the more appreciative behaviour of a punter.

      Take Swedish House Mafia and their hit “One” as an example. It’s really far from my personal taste in music, but it definitely has adventured itself towards many ears and gained popularity for it’s composers. However, although not a new technique, the use of speeding up a kick drum to turn it into a synth line is quite a noticeable technique and one which, if the set is prepared correctly, can be performed on stage, bring the crowd into a frenzy and allowing the performer to avoid quite simply pressing play on their controller and letting the song play, which I personally find boring and any punter could do the same!

      The real issue that controllerism needs to consider is BALANCE. How can a performer deliver a consistent dance track, or several, while doing a set, without limiting the activity to pressing play and at the same time not scaring the crowd away with an onslaught of rhythmically advanced and confusing effects for 2 hours?

      I shall be sharing my discoveries, tips, techniques on my blog as soon as a find out how I can go about writing articles correctly on a blog.

      A huge thanks to Ean Golden and the DJTechtools team, Muldover and the many that share their techniques, inventions, opinions and passion online and to AnalogK1LLER for this great comment explaining something that I had not understood for years.

  • I think the thing to remember is that when you’re playing in a club, to ONLY thing that matters is the sound coming out of the speakers.  How it gets there is entirely irrelevant. If it sounds jumbled up and jumpy, or it breaks up the flow of the dance inappropriately, or just plain noisy and horrible; then it doesn’t matter how technically accomplished the means that of it getting to the speakers is; it doesn’t belong there.

    We play music.  Most of the time, we play other people’s music, deliberately produced to be entire, and already nuanced.  Very often, the best thing to do is to just let it play as it was made. Once you get into a club, playing for over an hour, rather than a few minutes on YouTube, then the tricks that we learn, routines we create need to take a back seat to the music, and to the dancefloor.

    Your average punter wouldn’t want to hear a whole night of DMC Style turntablism, and probably not even a whole routine at once.  By the same token, they don’t want to hear a whole controllerism routine.  Once you get to playing a full set, it’s about enhancing and complementing the music that you’re playing, not showing how good your manipulation skills are.

    • Itsbentheboy

      You sir solved my constant problem. ive been focusing too hard on what “I” do and not focusing on how much it sounds. even if its only something small, it has to sound good, and tricks only look good on video. if im playing a club, most people wont even see the “trick” in the things i do, they only care about what i let them HEAR.

    • DJ Trajedias

      Totally !

  • I discovered controllerism a few years ago when I spotted a video of Moldover, mixing up stuff in his living room on an old M-audio keyboard.  Video is a great medium for this work, because it can provide lots of layers and context to the performance.

    No doubt these new tools are built for live performance, and I can easily see the difficulty of fitting controllerism’s “round peg” into the “square hole” of DJ/club culture.  Bottom line – if the music’s compelling enough, the scene will emerge of itself.  Be patient – Keep grinding!     

  •  I do controllerist performances in large night clubs, but have definitely found that I have to do what you said: “Develop standards for expression that can truly be mastered and understood by performer and observer alike” and obviously do what everyone here is saying “do less” so combined for me that translates into using a very small number of effects, that work well individually or in pairs (since I have 2 hands) and be very judicious in their use, after spending tons of time honing them to be part of my hands muscle memory, and part of my mind’s ability to pre-visualize sonically what I am going to get when I turn which knob or slider to what degree. I also spend a lot of time learning my material because just because you know exactly how to build up a great effects blast, does not mean that you know where to phrase it musically, and this comes from knowing the material deeply. I think if we consider how incredibly dull spinning 2 CDs, with what is still industry standard CDJ-1000mk3 effects, every once in a blue moon provides, we will realize quickly that even the most restrained controllerist will still be more entertaining than a highly experienced cd jock. The key is mastery and restraint.   😀

  • Kerry

    Agree on all those points – one more thing though – the ‘average’ doesn’t care / know what is going on up there anyhow.

    Testament to this is getting a request for a specific pop tune while i was standing in front of a 909, 808 and a pile of other hardware, or three deck mixing, or many other things. It almost needs to become a pantomime performance to translate…

  • Very well said…. I couldn’t agree more, these videos are SICK… but I know (from 1st hand experience)… you won’t be able to pull this off for a normal club… even if you are the headliner and everyone is there to see you. 

    You can pull these types of things off at shows (like the kind where you’re on stage and ppl buy tickets to see you). And maybe some 30-sec party break type stuff.

    But yea I agree w/ everything this column states… sometimes its just TOO much….

    But that doesn’t mean we gonna stop 🙂

  • Basically, the medium is the message.

  • stophittingbuttons

    “This is not a knock on controllerism, just a honest assessment of the shortcomings I have been noticing lately in my live shows.” 

    When you translate a true controllerist such as Ean down into your average 18 year old kid on this blog that wants to follow in Eans footsteps in this live show scenario, the “shortcomings” of controllerism become Exponentially worse to the point of catastrophe. and The Cataclysm that happens is the massive deepseeded and somewhat righteous hostility that exsists between Controllerists and “the industry standard”.

    Majority of the people who purchase an S4 or similar console controller are new people just starting, Which means most of the people YOU KNOW or have seen play LIVE on a console are almost garanteed to not be the greatest quality.

     

    • 4321djgear

      Wow, where did you get your information on “Majority of the people who purchase an S4 or similar console controller are new people just starting out”? And by your logic anyone I’ve seen live with a “console” are guaranteed not the best?

      • 4321djgear

        Actually seeing Deadmau5 on a controller has everything to do with what you said.
        1. He’s not a beginner. (“just starting out”)
        2. He’s one of the best at what he does. (“guaranteed not the best”)

        Deadmau5 is just one example, which you offered up, of why your comment is so wrong. When you make huge assumptions, anyone, any age, can easily point out how wrong you are.

        I suggest YOU re-read your ignorant comments, or at the very least don’t try to claim them as correct later.

        Your first paragraph was a quote. (no promlem)
        Your second paragraph is your opinion. (no ploblem)
        But your third paragraph is crap in every way. It comes off as immature BS to help solidify your opinion. You completely made all this up, no fact checking. Reminds me of Fox News to tell you the truth.

        By the way I’m 30 kiddo.

  • Great article. I suggest everyone check out the TED website and watch some of the other videos not just on music but on any and all topics they are so insightful much like this article. 

  • Great article… and this video of craze was awesome 😀