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MIDI-Mapped Tone Play Cue Points: A Powerful Turntablism Technique

In the turntablism world, it’s always exciting when a new technique gets invented or popularized. In the last month, we’ve seen a new tool for turntablists make a splash on the scene: MIDI-mapped tone play cue points. Championed by turntable-focused artists like A-Trak, DJ Craze, Four Color Zach, and Teeko, this technique is fun, easy to map, and quickly becoming all the rage in the DJ community. Read on for video examples and to learn how to do it yourself.

What’s The Technique?

The basic idea is that instead of mapping out 8 cue points across a set of MIDI pads or buttons, map a single cue point and then the pads around it as increasing or decreasing the key shift knob and triggering that same cue point at the same time. This allows a DJ to take a single cue point and play it up or down in semi-tones.

Watch as a group of well-known DJs figure out how to map this concept and immediately start having fun with it (warning, explicit language):

The moment when…The exact moment when we figured out I could map the key-shift. Whoa. Minds blown DJ CRAZE Four Color Zack Teeko

Posted by A-Trak on Wednesday, May 25, 2016

This naturally leads into more advanced tone play routines (tone play is when you use notes from the song you’re mixing out of to play out a melody from a second song you’re mixing into) – but instead of trying to find notes that match up naturally, you can pitch-shift a single note and play the melody of your choice.

How This Technique Works

You need to do a bit of MIDI mapping to get this to work. Watch this video from DJ 69Beats that explains the concept in full:

In Traktor, the key knob needs to be mapped out to the right amount to equal semitones – as explained in this classic video we last saw on the DJTT forums back in 2010:

With Serato DJ, it’s also not hard to modify an XML file to do the same thing. We recommend starting with an XML mapping file already made by Radikarl for the DJM-S9 and modifying it to your own controller – watch this video from DJ City if you need a walk through of how this can be done.

Why Are MIDI-Mapped Tone Play Cue Points Popular Right Now?

Conceptually, all the elements used in this technique aren’t anything new – but the combination of a few factors have given rise to this recent wave of turntablists embracing the idea:

  • The Pioneer DJM-S9 mixer is rapidly becoming a favorite for turntablists – with 16 pads (8 per deck) right on the mixer. This means that there are great pads right there on the mixer, with enough to reasonably move across an entire octave
  • The Vestax Controller One turntable (still highly desired by turntablists but out of production for years) had a feature that allowed DJs to re-pitch playing tracks on the fly. DJs have been doing this for years, and Teeko’s been prominently using the feature since 2008, watch him explain it in our own video below

  • DJ Rafik’s 2016 Red Bull Thre3Style set – which unfortunately had to be scrapped due to major humidity issues with his Kontrol Z2 during the competition – was a major source of inspiration for a lot of turntablists. If it weren’t for the equipment issues, he easily would have been a contender for first place – watch it below, he switches into the MIDI-mapped tone play cue points at about 5:15:

Rafik: Red Bull Thre3style 2016 SetThis is my set for the 2016 Red Bull Thre3Style competition. I do want to take the opportunity to give you the set how it’s intended to be, since luck did not have much in store for me that night.

I need to thank a number of people for their incredible input and help: Mom and Dad of course, AZAD & Xatar for the crazy exclusives, LE JAD and Drunken Masters for actual production help (!), Jonny Santos and his golden voice, GWA, Andre Wallukat, Roger Rekless , Sophie Traverse, Kid Fresh, INFINIT and Yarnstudios I fucking love all of u.

Regardless of what happened, I need to give a big shout out to Thre3style too. While I hope this may never happen to anyone ever again, I am stupid happy to see an organization grow that is so up to date, full of passion and run by the right peeps. I don’t blame anyone and have nothing but <3.

Posted by Dj Rafik on Sunday, May 8, 2016

Roots In A 2010 DJ Techtools Contest?

As is often the case with many “new advances” in DJ technology, a DJ Techtools reader already thought of this concept years ago. We actually found evidence that one of the first videos ever published to the internet that used this technique was in a submission to a 2010 contest on DJ Techtools – where LVO submitted a routine that uses pitched cue points:

Editor’s Note: We know a lot of different DJs who have helped craft and refine this technique for a while – if you know of someone (including yourself!) who has a great routine or performance video that uses this technique, share it in the comments below so we can make sure they get proper credit! 

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  • Adam Majoros

    I wonder how could I use PitchPlay in serato on my SN7 II….. This feature is not available for my controller (Bought P’n’T), and I can NOT locate any XML files on my PC (no NS7 or Denon .xml files anywhere)

    any idea how to unlock it?
    SDJ forum not responding.

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  • Shalom Marinho Azevedo

    Rafik Dj mui loko

  • Bill Ierardi

    YOU KNOW THIS WAS MY IDEA RIGHT?!?!??!

  • DJ LIL OR

    check out this routine I did, using only 2 cues (a bassline and a guitar) and a drum loop with Pitch ‘n Time:

    https://www.facebook.com/djlilor/videos/1042254702477014/

  • cut

    Does somebody know a midi template for the cue point tone play like the one rafik uses? Traktor with Z2 and Native Maschine. Couldn’t find one on djtt Midimaps or in the net, thx

  • Fernando Midi

    Recently I started to develop some ideas that focus ..

  • Prechewed Ferengi Buffet

    The Ferengi males do not chew their meals. They let their females do the job. This blog is kinda the Ferengi-View on DJ-ing. Exept for Ean who with his One-Take-Tracks is revolutionizing the DJ-World and makes guys like DJ Craze shy away from him (cause he’s so Ill on them buttons).

  • bla

    very old, figured this out myself years ago

  • Tin Tote

    A routine i done last year mapping the oxygene25 to the key of B and using reverse function.
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B9ZQ1883uweycHdNVDZ3RUZjVU0

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  • My Numark HDX has this function, you can hook up a midi device straight to it and play it chromatically, way ahead of it’s time 🙂

  • VanGogo

    Happy to see my old mapping tutorial in a DJTT article 😀

    • Spacecamp

      Gotta give credit where it’s due!

  • Dubby Labby

    Well around 2008 I was doing something similar with padkontrol xy midi control of roland variOS pitch and time and live looping techniques. There are videos at youtube if anyone has interest on it.
    The point is this isn’t new (left aside all the mesh with turntablism or controllerism conception) Djs have used samplers for years and that’s what is it: a monophonic sampler with manual control of playhead, also with pseudo poliphony (through sample itself).
    Tonal scratching is being more popular thanks to these implementation of techniques and the fretless fader concept/c-one which is also great for musicality and instrumentalism recognition of turntable. The keyturntables are also helping in this.
    Next step could be turntable groovebox. Something in between turntable, mpc and tr all in one standalone and scratchable for loops and tones. The most near to this is NI remix decks/stems and serato flip/the brigde but as this is only understood by/ relevant to… Few.

    Lately I found funnier to play keytar and have drop some ideas (and gear related) collecting dust in the basement…

    • Do you mean something like this?

      • Dubby Labby

        Not really. I know this and I prefer the shape of NS7mk2/3 with 8 pads near the platter. I imagine rgb tr step sequencer around the moving platter and realtime recording of the sequence ala electribe. Softpot for pitching (like Pioneer ToRaiz) Also mixer with pad xy (like kaoss mixer) with pitchshifting/cut like cdx “cheat” cut (or the vestax samurai) with audio looping and faders (like rc505) with scratch of course!

        If ToRaiz permits control from turntable/cdj could be the kind of maschine deck I’m describing… But all of these is only a “toy” nothing with bigger marker than the same without turntable control and cheap, it seems by brands innovation focus.

  • Ben W

    I’m really interested in getting this set up for Rekordbox DJ. I’m making a dicers mapping I hope to incorporate it into. Hope Pioneer allows some more advanced mapping soon but I might be able to pull this off how it is currently.

  • D.N.A.

    The Denon DJ MCX8000 was the first controller to come out with this feature and it is more robust than the user mappings.

    • Dante Dora

      +1 MCX8000 is sick! I hope they come out with just a single controller minus the mixer ….think of how much money you could save not buying over priced pioneer gear. Word is Native instruments sold a warehouse full of D2’s when they were $299. If these came out at around $400 that would kill Pioneers reign. Before you start hating poi boys, your to young to remember Denon was the standard up until about 5-6 years ago. My prediction Rane will be the next Standard DJ mixer..Agian! Now you EDM kids get off my lawn!