Routine + Interview: Performing Live with Traktor’s Step Sequencer

The release of Traktor 2.11 last year brought a new step sequencer function. This update turned Remix Decks into powerful step sequencers, giving more creative control in how DJs use samples to build a routine. Venezuelan DJ and musician José Cabello unlocks the power of Traktor’s step sequencer in his series, TÉCNICA FUTURA, and we got a chance to talk to him about his workflow and how it turns Traktor into a more diverse tool for creating music.

In the first video of José’s series (embedded at the top of this article), he demonstrates the power behind Traktor’s step sequencer by using a Kontrol D2 to manipulate 10 patterns within four decks, each one used as a step sequencer. Effects, volume, and pitch are controlled via the Midi Fighter Twister.

On the left, he uses a Korg microKey and Kontour to play a haunting melody on top of it all. This setup is what turns Traktor into a live performance tool for DJs, which normally DJs would look towards a DAW like Ableton. The setup is meant to show how a DJ and a musician work in similar ways; building and manipulating sounds to evoke emotion in the audience. Whereas live performances are thought to incorporate rigid set lists and synced loops, José’s video shows us otherwise.

“Every routine can be arranged in a few minutes (or hours) because it is the way I play. However, the production procedure (recording and editing) is what represents the longest part of the activity; (That) could be hours or days, depending on what I am expecting to communicate.” – José Cabello

In Sequence #2, again, José shows the audience the versatility of using Traktor to create live performances. This time, we see an underutilized feature, live input, being used to route the audio from Korg Volca Keys into Traktor so that the sound from the mini synthesizer can be manipulated using Traktor effects.

The way José builds tension throughout the video is compelling because it shows that DJs can use their creativity to create a production live, even if they aren’t a finger drummer or native musician. This technique of using sequences gives DJs the power to produce new music live, being only limited by one’s own creativity:

“It is VERY versatile, there are almost no limits regarding what I can create live, and that is the beauty of everything. It is so flexible that I can decide if I play what I have prepared in the studio or just to improvise. Yet, the transition it is not so easy, that is why there is a difference between adding some parts such as claps, kick or voices to a loop, or a complete track, and transitioning from a track to a live performance (and back) for hours. The task is not to mess with the flow.” – José Cabello

The purpose of these videos goes show the world his DJ skills. José wants to show DJs that live performance is possible from a DJing background. There is a long-standing debate around whether or not DJ’s are musicians. Without getting into the middle of a firefight, the point of José’s series is to show the world that DJs can be musicians. Not every DJ will sing into a microphone or play a tropical riff on a piano at Ultra, but there is something to appreciate musically about DJs who use controllerism and software to manipulate loops, samples, and tracks to build something entirely new.

“I want to contribute to the global debate we are having right now: are DJs musicians? Can DJs be musicians? What is the DJ’s role today? Should DJs stay quiet and just play tracks? Those questions are defining us. I think we can be musicians if we use the tools that companies like Native Instruments, Korg, Roland, Pioneer and DJ TechTools are giving us right now.

I want people to know that Traktor, Remix Sets, and Step Sequencer can be used as a door to enter the production world, or that it is a powerful instrument to perform like musicians using DJ software. I want people to realize that controllers are not just buttons, faders and pretty lights, but capable musical instruments if we use it with creativity.” – José Cabello

We appreciate artists like José who share their skills and thoughts on creativity and what it means to be a DJ today. As the tools become increasingly accessible, the call for DJs to be more creative will be even greater and as the technology improves DJs will be given even more control in the booth. DJing is an art form that comes in many forms – and step sequencing is one way DJs can bring more of their creativity on stage.

Watch more inspiring DJ routines by clicking here and seeing every routine we’ve ever posted on DJTT

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