News from the community and beyond

Check out what's happening within the ItsTheDJ community and the rest of the music world.

That's Melanie abobe from NJ who came for DJ lessons last Spring. She's been practicing away on her XDJ RX2 mk2, and just played her friends birthday party. Go Mel!

There's Dean Zlato from Sydney rocking out a Thursday night party.  Dean has been consistently playing events and is a rising star down under.  You can catch his weekly radio show on soundcloud.

Mir. Z. Ali rocking a room in Los Angeles.  He's made a name for himself and is a frequent performer in the LA underground scene. 

Big News Coming from Jacki-e of "A Darker Wave"

Jacki runs a weekly radio show called "A Darker Wave" - we've been connected on FB for some time as I made a guest appearance on her show about 3 some years ago.  It's been over a year in the works, but Jacki's first track to be professionally released is coming out on a major Berlin dance label - more on that shortly, but artwork is complete as are 2 fine remixes.  Here's Jacki on soundcloud.

Agent Orange's Witch Doktor Edit finds a home on Drumcode Radio

Ara aka Agent Orange stopped by the blog last year.   His recent edit of the classic Armand Van Helden track Witch Doktor has been getting support from Carl Cox and Adam Beyer.  Catch it in this week's drum code radio - the 2nd song in

news worth checking out

New documentary called "The Sound of Berlin" is out now.

New York City based House Icon, David Morales calls out Kanye West for stealing one of his bass-lines.

In 1988, Acid House swept Britain - NYTimes w/ the story.

Psyk discusses new alias "MAAN"

"DJ Samuel" aka Sam Paganini shares an early mixtape from the 1990.  Listen on SC.

Young rising star Avision / Anthony Cardinale shares production tips --"His tracks and remixes have been released by such esteemed labels as Intec, On Edge Society, InMotion LTD and Mark Broom's Beardman Records, and supported by the likes of Chris Liebing, Pan-Pot, Joseph Capriati, Ben Sims, Paco Osuna and many more."

And in other news Pioneer and Native Instruments have dropped new stuff.

Competition is always good.  Pioneers release isn't such a big deal - yet another controller in the XDJ line.  This time it's a less costly version of their XDJ-RX.

Native Instruments drops a ton of stuff w/ Traktor 3 coming soon along with updated S2 and S4 controllers.  The S4 comes in at $899 which is less that Pioneers DDJ 1000 and new XDJ RR.  Between these 3 offerings there's a good amount to choose from for the serious DJ who doesn't want to shell out big bucks.

The Traktor S4 MK3 looks interesting!  While full details are limited it looks like it can run as a stand alone mixer which is a win for anyone with a turntable and it can play from IOS with the Traktor DJ app.  However the app has collected dust for a while - to me the question is if you can run 4 tracks with the controller playing from the Traktor DJ app.

Im sure Traktor users are psyched for Traktor 3.0.  I'm more of a Maschine user so I'm hoping a big Maschine update is coming soon.

Finish Faster – Luca Agnelli “Voltumna” Analysis and Mock Arrangement in Ableton

Free Ableton Arrangement Template Based on Voltumna by Luca Agnelli

I listened to this tune in great detail, jotting notes down below and making a template to arrange from in Ableton. Shorten your production time when you study the masters and take the guesswork out of arranging.

The screenshot above isn't the real working session of the tune, but a template I made in Ableton using silent “dummy” midi &audio clips.

Studying other people’s music is a great way to improve your own productions. This way the process becomes internalized and you’re no longer guessing how to finish a track.

Today we’re taking a look at Luca Agnelli's Voltumna - the original mix. 

Here Are Some High Level Notes And Key Takeaways

The structure is quite typical.  Lots of 16 bar patterns, the main drop is at bar 145 which I've seen in other tracks. On a macro level there's 3 main sections.  Intro, middle section, and conclusion.  This is a great example of less is more.  I don't think there's too many individual sounds used in this tune but the ones picked are very good and well used.

Also a good example of varying these parts over time to increase energy and attention.  
Listen to the open hi hats, there are points where they shuffle through out the tune.  The chord stab sound also has varying energy levels through out.
What I've done in this file is label the different patterns when I heard changes.  For example the ride cymbals wash out with a hi pass filter.  

Bar 1-8  Track opens with a pounding kick, hi hats and percussion pattern. There’s a pumping airy sound you can tell is side chained to the kick.  The congas are mixed low in the mix, I almost didn’t hear them.  The other percussion part is more prominent 

Bar 9-16  More of the same only the kick is hi passed for a the last 2 beats of bar 16 and some delay is applied to the conga 

Bar 17-32 Another distorted “clank” kind of percussion sound is added, the kick is hi passed for 4 beats of bar 32 or the 16 part pattern  making it sound like it’s not there - the percussion is delayed.  At Bar 17 there are some very very subtle shakers in the mix panned a bit left.   

Bar 33-48 The melody or hook appears it’s the flute like sound, we also hear some rides which are hi passed as the pattern evolves.    The rides have a hi pass filter where the cut off is increased so as bar 49 approaches the rides “wash out.”   At Bar 41 the kick is severely hi passed meaning the lows are removed.  This is a little 8 bar break down

Bar 49-65  Here’s the first little drop where we hear kind of a vocal drone sound.  This gets used throughout the track typically every 8-16 bars.  When the energy of the song is highest it’s used more frequently The melody or hook is fully present in the mix.  At bar 57 the chords start fading in so by bar 65 both the hook and chords are at full volume.  There’s also a more open hi hat that starts at bar 49

Bar 57-89 Here’s a typical 32 bar section often found in many techno tracks.  At Bar 57 the chords fade in by bar 73 all sounds are present in the mix.  The riff or hook and the chords plus all the percussive parts.  So far this is where energy is highest in the tune.  At bar 73 we here some subtle variations to the chords and the hi hats.  

At Bar 85 the Kick is hi passed so it sounds like it’s not in the mix for 4 bars.

Bar 89-112 .  This is another drop in the tune where the melody has been removed and the chords are mostly faded out at the start of Bar 89. They fade back in and in this section the chords kinda get wild as do the hi hats.  At bar 112 the kicks are reversed for a subtle effect. 

Bar 113 - Here’s we’re moving towards the main break down of the track.   The melodic part that sounds like a flute returns at bar 121 the kick is hi passed.  The Rides come back in and “wash out” with the hi pass filter like we heard previously.  The drone sound repeats to give some sense of repeating patterns. 

Bar 129 - the chords come back and slowly fade in.  All percussion is out of the mix.  The kick is out for 8 bars.  

Bar 137, A hi passed kick returns along w/ some cymbals to build energy -  The “clank” percussion sound is there but low passed so it’s not super present in the mix.  Just enough to build  energy for the drop at Bar 145.   Bar 145 is a typical spot to end a break down. 

Bar 145 -160 Typical 16 bar pattern where all elements are playing together.  At the end of bar 160 the kick is hi passed for 2 beats.

Bar 161-176 - another 16 bar section.  At the beginning of the measure list to the hi hats they shuffle and have some repeated notes which vary the energy of the track.  The keys also go crazy for 8 bars and then wind down as bar 177 approaches.  Also the kick is hi passed for the last 4 beats of bar 176.

Bar 177 - the chords are removed as energy is removed from the song.  The melodic part fades out over the next 8 bars.

Bar 185 This is the DJ outtro or conclusion of the tune identical to the intro of the song.  Just kick, hats and percussion.

Bar 209 is it and the song is over. 

Dance Music Production Production Tip: Layering

I've always liked classic rock and have a new found appreciation for how it's produced and mixed.

In this post I'm referring to the use of layers.

My older cousins Mike and Tony are purely rock fans - they never "got" the DJ stuff I do. To them it's all noise, lol.

As they say an "Apple doesn't fall far from the tree" so their kids dig Led Zeppelin and what not.

After seeing my cousin Taylor make a few appearances w her Dads cover band I asked if she wanted to collaborate so long story short she picked Fleetwood Mac's Dreams to so an interpretation of.

With rock layering is used a ton - especially on vocals and guitars.

We ended up with a total of 5 vocal tracks - 2 takes for the lead and 3 background vocal tracks.

That ear candy and airy sparkle we seek to add in our own productions really isn't anything new and is an age old way of adding interesting content to a mix.

Listen to Stevie Nicks vocals in the original version of "Dreams" - the song itself is a master lesson in simplicity and less is more.

But the various vocal parts all work together in complimentary ways to sound big and lush.

Leading into the chorus there's some single word backing parts "stillness" "heartbeat"

Have a watch of this in-depth video where I play you all of the parts where I used layering.  Lead vocals, back ground vocals, rhythm and lead guitar.  And yes all that guitar works in this cover - it's still very much house.  

Stream "Dreams" by Eric Louis & Taylor Paige

Also available for purchase on places like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play

So, Berlin happened...

Hey readers,

I know I've been a little quite. This past April I started a new 9-5 job and 2 weeks later had my 2nd kid.  So the company I work for is German, and they've sent me there 2 times now.  The first was mostly work, the most recent trip was mostly party.

I think smarter companies are realizing it's a better trip when employees can mix and mingle rather than spend too much time in meetings fighting off hangovers.

I knew this was going to be a good trip because I saw US House Maestro Todd Terry in the airport.  I travel out of Newark most of the time and saw who i thought was Todd sitting at CBGB. It was his signature backwards NY Yankee hat that made me realize it was him.

Todd was cool enough to chat for a few minutes, he was coming into Newark from Pacha Ibiza and off to Atlanta.

Awesome guy!

Anyhow I arrived in Berlin quite sleep deprived, rested in a hotel for a few and had to do some meetings and stuff from 2-6pm.  Then it was dinner.

The next day I was off "the Castle," rather Schloss Beesenstadt.

It's more of a manor than a castle and about 3 hours from Berlin.   Many of the popular Berlin clubs have held off site parties there.

It was beautiful, strange, creepy, crazy and cool this place.  I'm actually really happy they booked it because the local people have  a lot of pride in it and booking it helps fund renovations.

The place was once a military spot where horses were raised, another time an elite boarding school, probably at some point was run by communists as there was a big mural of Karl Marx.  At another time maybe some Free Masons did stuff there.  Was taken over by Nazis for a time, then used as a party place for East German Gov, and definitely spent some years in an abandoned state prior to being bought by a private owner after the fall of the Berlin wall.

So that's that. I have plenty of crazy pics of the place.

My employer is cool as fuck so they had various workshops to choose from.  Music production, grafitti, volleyball or just chilling by a local lake.

You know what I chose to do.

My employer also has it's on DJ on retainer, Mr. Marvin Hey a Sisyphos mainstay.  This year he brought in 2 DJ pals, his Ableton tutor Ingo and Ingo's girlfriend Diana May. (all great people).

I had found out some little details about the work outing and messaged our event planner about playing in a couple songs or something. I asked her to put me in touch w/ the DJs so I could work out technical details.

(They rented 4 CDJ 2000 Nexus players, a DJM 900 and an Allen & Heath Zone 92) Ingo brought in a bunch of production stuff too.

The first night was a gala dinner and masquerade ball/techno party (some top 40 was played too) and the next day was a DJ and production work shop.

Anyhow at the beginning of Day 1 when our awesome event planner was saying a few words to the whole company, she spoke about how her team of DJs had been there 2 days earlier setting up. She mentioned Diana who joins the team as the first girl DJ and then announced me as guest DJ from NYC.

"Oh hey pressure now, thought I'd just play a few songs here and there didn't know I'd get proper announcement"

I curtailed my drinking during dinner a lot as to not mess up my set.  I played from 1am to 4am in this sexy library turned techno room.

I totally rocked it and it was HOT.  Germany had an unusual hot spell and there was no Air Conditioning up in there.

Anyhow really good time, great crowd as many of my European colleagues are totally up for the music.  Not like fucking Americans - I love Americans but not too many where I'm from understand electronic music.

Maybe you can relate, but I learned a while back it's better to not even mention the whole DJ thing at work.  No body gets it.

"Oh u dj like parties and weddings and stuff" - Nope.

"Then you must scratch like wika wika"  - Nope not that either.

"Oh so then like EDM big David Guetta DJing (Puts hands in air)"  Not not like that either just forget I said this.

So that's how it went a couple jobs ago so I don't mention it at all unless I know they "get it" first.

Anyhow, my coworkers thing Berlin DJs are like the worlds finest - they had no idea I could totally hold my own w/ them.

I made the switch to Rekordbox 2 years ago.  I also have the XDJ-RX at home which makes walking up to CDJs quite easy.

Good thing for hot cues because sometimes equipment is a little shoddy. One deck had a cue button that didn't work. I usually drop cue point A on beat 1 so that was an easy work around.

I finally called it a day(night) at about 8am. The party went strong for a while.


The next day was DJ/production workshops and as honorary member of "Team DJ" I ended up teaching the DJ workshops which was fun.  Didn't mind goofing off w/ a Nexus set up for a few hours.

Was fun teaching others how it all works.  We let them try and mix without training wheels (the sync button)

If you're in the Berlin area Diana May gives lessons on the regular in addition to club/festival appearances.

Speaking of Berlin - you must be wondering if I made it to Berghain.

I did but didn't get in.

I got back to Berlin Saturday afternoon but had to be back to the hotel by 6am so I could be ready to leave at 7am.  That made Berghain a tough one and when I got to the place the long line made it a no go.  12am-4am are peak entrance times so my chances were basically zero.

What I should have done was gone to Watergate - but we decided it was Berghain or bust.  So I had a bust of a night.

What you should know about Berlin is that there are too many patrons and not enough venues.  What this means is that Berghain isn't the only club in town that will deny you entrance.  Getting in during peak night time hours can be annoying.

However from what I'm seeing there's so much nightlife activity that you can go out in the afternoon and have a blast with no stress of lines or getting rejected.  There's enough people to have fun but still room to have plenty of space.

Hit up Reddit for advice about Berlin.

Here's links to the fine people I met

Marvin Hey made it all possible

Ingo Reiber is a teacher here.

Diana May