You need a lot of little tools to setup, play, organize your various musical activities. Here are some of my favorites, they are all great pieces of software that do the job well, and in an elegant way. Best of all, they are free!
There is a variety of way to get music nowadays, but you probably still have the need to rip songs from CD. A good ripper is essential, and not all are created equal. You sure can rip your CDs with iTunes, but if you want to have the best ripper there is around for Mac, and hence the best sound quality, you should use Max or any other software that implements cdparanoia. Simply enable ‘cdparanoia’ as the ripper in the ‘Ripper’ tab of Max prefs.
You may think that this is too much of an hassle, if so, go read this. As a DJ, I’m assuming that you want to get the best sound you can, and this is how.
I’m trying to get all my music in Apple Lossless format. This has several advantages, notably allowing a seamless interaction with Mixed in Key and Platinum Notes (from the good folks at mixedinkey.com).
XLD is a simple but powerful and efficient converter. It takes any file you drop in it and convert it to the desired file format. It is also multithreaded, so you can easily have four or five conversions going on at the same time, which speeds things up a lot. Just select which output format you want in the prefs, and drop those files in the XLD icon in the dock.
Even the music I got in MP3 ends up in Apple Lossless, since I’m running it through Platinum Notes. I recommend that if you somehow remaster your music you should stay lossless. If you got music in MP3 format and don’t touch it, then of course, there is no need for conversion.
Ok, so you have ripped your music, tagged it, remastered it, and it is all ready to play. What do you do now? Drop it into your collection? Hell no.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Traktor browser, apart from the fact that it is trying to reinvent the wheel. You just can’t beat the Finder for viewing, ordering, accessing files. If you are running 10.5, you also have Cover Flow. You will never have a broken link.
Here is how I see it: The file is the record. You add album art to it (Google Images is your friend), you polish the filename, so it has all the relevant informations, like key and BPM and whatever you care to add. You move that record from crate to crate (folder). Just like in the good old days.
Use apple-Tab to switch between Finder And Traktor, you can then grab a record, press apple-tab again, and drop it in the Traktor deck.
You need a search tool if you want to use the Finder, and Spotlight just doesn’t cut it, it is slow, and returns way too much irrelevant results. EasyFind is an old school search app. It is incredibly fast, it doesn’t eat up CPU, it does real realtime search, meaning it doesn’t rely on an index, and it can use regular expressions.
Let’s say you want to search for ‘Samin’ and want only music files to show:
You use ‘Wildcards’ as the operator, ‘*’ means ‘anything, including nothing’, ‘?’ means ‘any single letter or number’. The ‘*samin*.m??’ then means: Look for any file that has a filename that has ‘samin’ somewhere in it, and that ends up by .m and two letters and numbers. Since both .mp3 and .m4a files fits in, you will find only those.
Of course, you don’t have to retype this everytime, just use the little magnifier pop up to get back your latest search and edit them.
Since you’ve tagged your files directly in the filename, it is then easy to look for say ‘4A’ or ‘Housez’ (yes, don’t use common words as tags, or if you must, just add a ‘z’ or a special character at the end of the word).
Really? Select your finder window and then Finder>View>as List. Is that what you were looking for?
[quote comment=""][quote comment=""]
If you are talking about the coverfolw, it doesn't exist in 10.4. Everything else is the same. Does that answer your question?[/quote]
Hi, thanks , but no, was not even talking about coverflow… can'0t really gest a lsit like this on finder under Tiger…
Still on 10.4, and a question, probably stupid, how to use the finder the way you mention ?[/quote]
If you are talking about the coverfolw, it doesn’t exist in 10.4. Everything else is the same. Does that answer your question?
Still on 10.4, and a question, probably stupid, how to use the finder the way you mention ?
Besides, iTunes has a magic feature: as long as they stay on the same disk, it will play your music files in its collection even if you moved them in the Finder, so no need for having the songs twice. They don't need to be in the iTunes music folder either…
Hi all, thanks for all the comments and the kind words!
I'm awesomely bad at music theory, and was quite amazed when I discovered that there was actually a way to predict which track would fit with another 🙂 .
I just used to go by ear and, worse than that, I actually sang the pitched song in my head to know if it would fit… Must have had learnt all that more or less subconsciously. I was really glad to get the master tempo feature, so I would be able to get rid of the chipmunk voices on some mixes, but then suddenly, it looked like my mixes didn't fit together as they used to, so I stopped using it, lol 🙂
Anyway, mik is great, works really well, and the camelot circle is perfect for someone like me who doesn't know what a proper circle of fifths looks like. I tried RE, but it assume that you know what you are doing, which I clearly don't in this case.
@ATP, I've dropped iTunes too. I just use ToolPlayer, it is lightweight, and read absolutely any file you throw at it ( http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/audio/toolp… ). I have set in the Finder all my music files types to open with it (apple – I on a music file, then choose Toolplayer in 'open with' and then 'change all'). When I play out, I first launch Toolplayer and drop the volume to zero, so if I double click a music file by mistake, it starts to play in Toolplayer but with no volume, so I can just quit it without any embarrassing moment. Also, you avoid to launch iTunes in the middle of a set this way, which, if you are tight on processor, can cause dropouts.
My PC broke at the weekend, I was on my way out to buy a MAC when my bro fixed it. Damn him!! :p
Also, @ilo, I've used RE on the mac. It's a pain in the arse. Beyond that, it never actually wrote the keys it discovered to the file tags…thereby making it useless to me. (Maybe I did it wrong, help me is I did, please.) I want something to key my music, write the keys to the file tags, and stay out of my way. I want to be able to just key my music all at once, and worry about playing it and finding it all within one interface. I might try the "record bin" method with folders in the Finder now…but that will wait for the day when I have enough hard drive space to host my regular music collection for iTunes listening AND all of the same chopped up and moved around in Finder – on the same computer.
Anybody know a good, smooth workflow that involves simple browsers and tags? I'm a big fan of the iTunes style of organisation. I just use the playlists and the main browser and make sure all my tags are accurate (spent a summer going over them).
I, for one, think the list of programs written about in the article are quite great. I used to use Max all the time when I was in high school, and as far as MixedInKey goes, I am unsure of the quality of its work…but I sure as hell would appreciate any program that can key my tracks for me (I don't have the time to key 5000 tracks, especially since I am JUST learning piano and related music theory). I want to mix harmonically, but that is very hard just guessing by what I hear and using Traktor's key up/down button (which, as far as I can tell is kinda BS).
Rapid Evolution !!!
nice article, I'm definitely re-organizing my music to use finder, it makes so much sense I can't believe I didn't use it before.
mixedinkey is kind of a larf though, I wouldn't recommend anyone use it as it really doesn't do anything a guitar tuner couldn't. and the "camelot sound easymix? system" is just a chart with the circle of fifths on it. I'm not saying every DJ should have perfect pitch (I sure as hell don't) or even know what the circle of fifths is; but they should be able to hear when something is clashing without the computer telling them it is.
First of all, there is nothing to prevent you from using the Traktor browser at the same time! it sure does have its advantages. I guess it comes down to how you play. Some people play short sets, have a playlist of maybe 30-40 tracks, and pretty much play them in the same order every time. They slowly evolve their playlist over time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and for them, the Traktor browser fits the bill perfectly.
Personally, I've long given up organizing my music into categories or playlist. I play anything after anything, usually on the spur of the moment, and I used to play really long sets, like 8-10 hours. I sure do have my favorite mixs, groups of 3-5 songs that really goes well together, those would be grouped together in a folder, or tagged in the name so I could find all of them easily with a search.
What I really hate with the Traktor browser is the broken links. Since I tend to rearrange the files themselves, I always end up with broken links, and my collection is useless.
If you want best of both worlds, then you can create your playlists in the Finder, create a playlist in Traktor, and drop all the files from your folder to the Traktor playlist before you go out to play.
As for speed to get to the tracks and load them, the apple-tab shortcut is your friend, just have a full finder window opened, and quickly switch between T3 and the Finder with apple-tab. Grab a file and start to move it, hit apple-tab again and drop it in T3. You can also drag files directly from EasyFind to Traktor, or hit apple-r to reveal them in the Finder.
One big caveat would be loading of the internal T3 cue points, beatgrids, etc. I don't beatgrid or cue anything, so this isn't a problem for me. (I know I should, but I really don't feel the need). If when you drop a track from the Finder, T3 automatically read all those infos (as it logically should), then everything is peachy. If it doesn't… 🙂
Good news. There is a cousin of The Finder for Vista…it’s called Harmony. http://www.thirteen23.com/labs/winfx/harmony/
What I wanted to know from Nico is, how are you using it with Traktor? Be a specific as possible. Yes, I know you can drag a track into Traktor from virtually anywhere on your computer but aside from looking good, I’m concerned about speed. When we setup playlists, crates & so on in Traktor, the speed advantages speak from themselves. If I were to use Harmony or The Finder, are there some tricks or suggestions to keeping those load speed advantages? Any certain screen configuration? Just curious. I like the concept of The Finder & Harmony but in certain settings, getting the next song in the deck quickly for cuing and playing is extra important. I look forward to your response and tips!
First of all, I'm not affiliated in any way with mixedinkey.com. I'm beta testing their stuff and everything, and I think that an automatic tool to remaster, pitch and level your music is really a good idea. Of course, this is fraught with problems, and automating the mastering process isn't easy. I sincerely don't know exactly how they do stuff, I only know that they use Ozone from izotope, which is a great mastering plugin.
I'm guessing that they do the internal processing at 32 or 64 bits, so interpolation isn't too much of an issue in this case, you have ample space to get the bits as they are and then get back plenty more headroom to the processing you want. From what I saw at the forums, PN then use algorithms to control the plugin, it doesn't do a one size fits all processing, and I think it adjust dynamically the parameters of the plugin during the processing. They are really trying to automate the mastering process, which isn't an easy thing, and will never be as good as a real mastering engineer, but I think that the results are overall very good, usually better and more importantly faster and more consistent than what I can do at home.
The main problem that PN address is the loudness war. Most of the current music has squashed dynamics, this is obvious from looking at the waveform, it very often is completely 'full'. When ran through PN, it gets back some contrast, and is much more lively. This works very well for over compressed stuff (think too much L1), but of course on tracks that are not ruined, it just adds a little polish, adjust the level based on some LEQ or RMS calculation, so that all your music have the same apparent level, and that's it.
Some tracks are great but were butchered at the mastering stage, and I don't want to not play them just because of that.
I'm pretty anal when it comes to sound quality too, and while I run nearly all my tracks through PN, I sometimes don't like the result, so I just use the original. On about 80% of the recent music I have, PN works great and I like what it does. At the end, either your ears like what they hear or they don't, and I follow what my ears tell me.
Some tracks use clipping as artistic expression, that's true, but they are few, most clipped stuff I got obviously wasn't done on purpose.
Btw, I play any kind of music, mainly Disco, Rock, House, Techno, be it old stuff or new stuff.
Doing so actually implies a loss of information, as you have 20 bit per sample (on a CD), and by reducing the value of each sample by a – probably – different amount you have to do (a) some sort of interpolation and (b) you implicitly decrease the number of bits you have per sample. That again reduces the dynamic range (1 bit means by about 6 dB).
However I am not sure, whether or not Platinum Notes does any audible damage to tracks due to the magnitude of its changes and the idea of removing clipping is certainly worth it, but still: I’m a purist and I usually choose to change the samples I bought as few as possible 🙂
If an artist hands out clipped records, my chooice is to let it clip for the crowd (I believe the D/As and PAs in between matter as well 😉 or not to buy that guy…
What’s your favourite music (the one you dj with) by the way?
Hey Voff! Long time no see! How ya doing? Just sent you a mail.
Hotline, The Micro Groove, vinyl ripping strategies, audio remastering… ring a bell?
If so, contact me!
I’ve find that I don’t need tags… I just put all the infos I need into the filename. After that, it is simple to use EasyFind to get all the files that have the ‘tags’ I want.
As I said, there is no need to get those MP3 in m4a if you got them that way and don’t touch them. You are right, this would be a waste of space.
As for Platinum Notes, it doesn’t filter or compress, it starts by reducing the volume, then removing clipped peaks, then it expands back in an intelligent way the squashed parts of the song. It works really well on compressed to death tracks (that is, most of the current output). It also correct the pitch of the song, so if your song is a bit off key, it pitch it back where it should be and then you can do perfect harmonic mixing.
I agree with you that you can’t beat a real sound engineer, but the price ain’t the same 🙂 Also, good as they may be, most engineers falls victim to the loudness war.
Converting a file from a lossy format into a lossless format is rather useless, as no lost data (the parts mp3 cuts away) can be restored by any algorithm. So it is actually a waste of harddisk space to do this reconversion.
Still, using a lossless format from the beginning (ripping the CD) is a good idea.
My opinion on Platinum notes is that they chose “the wrong” approach to enhancing music quality.
You cannot remaster a bounced mix. All they do is filtering and compressing, which is not what you should do to a good track. The mixing engineers in the studios do a fulltime job getting the maximum quality out of their raw materials and i bet that they are way better and more experienced at that than any software could be.
Besides, there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for getting a good sound.
The only more or less interesting feature is the normalization (still, their approach is sort of brutal), but almost every sound processing software does that. Also, I don’t want to end up as a DJ, who only pushes one button every three minutes 🙂
Now, that was a lot of grumping, but not about the good article itself, only about two aspects, which deserved a comment.
So far so good, keep it up and cheers,
If only finder would show tag information..
for the coverflow under windows (in iTunes) i had a very big laught…
it needs directx9 for coverflow 😉
so i have one laptop without 😉
Very nice entry.
You know any windows-equivalents for the tools your presented.
And I wanted to remind you again that you wanted to release a windows-compatible version of your VCI-100 configuration 😉