Native Instruments has changed the DJ Game once again with Traktor 2.5 and their brand new controller, the Traktor Kontrol F1.
In past versions of Traktor you could use the sample decks to create and play one shots and loops in Traktor’s dedicated sample decks. Now in Traktor 2.5, you can take playing and creating samples to a whole new level with Traktor’s brand new Remix Decks.
The Traktor Kontrol F1 controller was made to have total control over Traktor’s remix decks. Whether you’re a producer looking for new ways to play your tracks and stems live, or if you’re a loopoholic DJ who likes to cut the best parts out of their tracks and remix them live, or a turntablist who wants to trigger and scratch their samples live, the F1 is ready to meet all of your needs. The controller itself is the same size as the Traktor Kontrol X1 and will make for a nice add on controller in your DJ setup.
The new Remix Decks in Traktor 2.5 allow you to store up to 64 samples, whether they are Loops, One shots or even whole tracks into one deck! To take things even further, you can now save what are called “Remix Sets” so you can quickly and easily save and recall your groups of samples. You can also obtain or buy Remix Sets to add to your DJ arsenal.
Here’s a first look at how to use the Traktor Kontrol F1 and the Remix Decks.
In Traktor 2.5, you can easily turn any deck into a Remix Deck by clicking on the arrow inside the deck header near the Deck’s letter and choosing “Remix Deck”
When you plug in the F1 controller, Traktor will auto identify the controller and if a remix deck is selected, you’ll notice 4 of the pads will be blinking in the pad section of the controller. These are the quadrants in the pad section that let you choose which remix deck you want to control. If you want, you can control all 4 remix decks with one F1!
You can select the deck you want to control by turning the encoder on the F1 and the LED’s in the LED display will tell you which deck you’re going to control (ex. dC refers to deck C). You can change the deck your controlling at any time by holding shift and turning the encoder on the F1.
Loading Samples on the F1 is very fast and easy. If you want to load samples in the software, you would just select the sample you want to load and drag it into a sample slot in the remix deck.
If you want to Load samples with the F1 hardware, simply click the Browse button and turn the encoder to scroll through your samples, and then click the pad on the F1 that corresponds to the sample slot you want to load into. The 4×4 pad grid on the controller corresponds to the 4×16 sample grid in the Remix Deck. Each “Page” of the sample grid contains a 4×4 grid of samples. If you want to quickly load groups of samples in an ordered list, you can hold down the browse button and each time you load a sample, the browser will skip to the next sample in the list and you can click on the next pad to load the next sample into the next available sample slot.
With the new Remix Decks, You can load up to 64 samples into one deck. In the Remix Decks you can only see 16 samples at a time and you can only play 4 samples at a time. This group of 16 samples is called a Page. In each Page you have 4 columns of samples that can be played in what’s called the “Sample Slot” in that column. You can change pages by turning off browse mode and turning the encoder. Even though a sample is on a different page, you can still combine it with samples from other pages.
Each DJ might have their own way of using the F1. My personal preference is to have each sample in loop mode, sync’d to the Decks Master Tempo, which is sync’d to Traktor’s Master tempo, and Quantized to a ¼ note value. This brings up a few things worth discussing.
The first thing is, the Remix Deck behaves just like a regular deck, meaning you can use timecode to control it, you can scratch it, you can beatmatch it manually, or you can have it be sync’d to whatever deck is selected as the master clock in Traktor. You can also use the transport buttons such as CUP and Play to retrigger the deck and samples from the top or play / pause the deck. The Remix deck also can be used as a master tempo for each sample slot to sync (or not sync) to. So for each sample, you have loaded in the remix deck you can choose if it is going to sync to the Remix Decks master tempo or not. You can set each sample to be either a loop or one shot. You can also choose if you want to play the sample in Gated Mode, Latched Mode or Gate Override Mode. Also, the remix has its own independent Quantize Mode, which means when you trigger a sample in the remix Deck, its going to wait for the next musical interval that you set in the deck before starting playback of that sample in the sample slot.
With all of that said, this is how I use the Remix Decks. First I make sure that Traktor’s sync mode is in “Beat Sync” mode to ensure perfect syncing of my Samples.
This can be set in the Traktor Preferences under the “transport” section. The next thing I do is turn on the “Sync” button on the controller so that every sample I play is sync’d to whatever deck is playing or Traktor’s master tempo.
Then I turn on the Quantize button on the controller, and set the quantize value to “1” by holding the quantize button and pushing the pad that corresponds to the “1” beat value. This will insure that no sample starts playing until the next ¼ note. When you push the Quantize button on the controller, the quantize button in the remix deck will light up and the quantize value will be shown.
Then to start playing samples I have to turn on the play button on the Remix Deck
To play a sample I’ll press a pad that corresponds to the sample that I want to play. Traktor will wait for the next beat, and it will start playing. To hear the sample that’s playing, I’ll turn up the volume fader for that sample slot, and the Volume fader in the Remix deck will rise. You can see in the picture below there is a volume fader, and also a filter display.
You can play one sample in each sample slot, and you can play up to 4 sample slots in each remix deck.
The way I organize my samples is I put Kick Drum Loops and Basslines in Column 1, Percussion Loops in Column 2, Music Loops in Column 3 and Vocal Samples, FX and one shots in Column 4.
For each sample slot you have a dedicated volume and filter control on the F1 Hardware. The filter controls are at the top of the controller.
While the samples are playing you can temporarily play them in reverse by holding the reverse button and pushing the pad you want to play in reverse mode. The reverse button will turn on in the Remix Deck’s advanced panel.
As soon as you let go of the pad it will play back at the same time position it would be playing if it were playing forwards.
Another obvious great feature with the Remix Decks is the ability to color code each of your samples. You can do this in the software by ctrl (right) clicking on the sample and choosing a color, or by pressing Shift – Reverse (color) on the F1, then pressing the pad you want to change and pressing a color in the color grid.
The pads will then blink the color that you choose and the pad will change to the color you chose. This is a good way to organize your samples so you know what you’re triggering without looking at the screen.
One really cool feature on the F1 is you can actually mix your volume levels live. Native Instruments has come up with a really forward thinking and intuitive way to control your levels with the F1 controller. The goal of the Volume controls with the F1 is that you want the volume of all of your samples at the right level when the volume faders are at the TOP.
If the sample is too loud, you can turn the volume fader down until the sample is at the right level with everything else, then hold the shift button and move the volume fader to the top. You’ll notice while the shift button is held down, when you move the volume fader, the volume doesn’t change, but the gain knob in the Remix Decks’ advanced panel will be lowered. If the sample is too quiet, you can hold the shift button, move the volume fader down (and you’ll notice the volume doesn’t change but the gain rises), then let go of the shift button and turn the volume up until its at a good level with everything else then hold the shift button and move the volume fader to the top. Now everything is mixed properly with the faders at the top so you can slam those volume faders all day long without a care!
If you want to mute any of the columns you can press any of the “Mute” buttons on the F1 controller, which are the small pads at the bottom of each column. You can also stop the samples from playing by holding shift and pushing the mute buttons.
Pushing the Shift button on the F1 will open up a whole new layer of options to manipulate and control your sounds. If you hold shift and push any of the pads in the key lock row it will turn key lock on or off for each row. You can also assign each column to Traktor’s effects separately by pushing Shift and any of the pads in the FX row. If you want to turn each row on or off in the monitoring section, you can push shift and any of the pads in the “Monitor” Row. Also you can enable Punch mode for each column separately by pushing Shift and Punch for any of the columns. Punch Mode will make it so when you play a new sample in a Sample Slot Column, it will play the next sample at exactly the same playback position as the previous sample that was playing.
On top of being able to mess with the volume and filters for each column of samples, Traktor 2.5 has some more advanced features to help you edit and manipulate your samples.
If you have Key Lock enabled, you can edit the pitch of each sample by holding Shift and pushing Reverse to go into Pitch edit mode. When in pitch edit mode you can hold any pad and turn the encoder to change the pitch of any of your samples.
Also by holding shift you can go into Speed Edit mode where you can double or half the speed of the sample by pressing Shift & Size. If you push the size button by itself you can edit the size of the sample. Additionally The Remix Decks contain a section where you can edit the beatgrid for each sample to ensure perfect sync behavior for each sample.
One great feature in Traktor 2.5 and with the F1 controller is the ability to make your own homemade samples and loops. You can either do this in the software or on the hardware.
To make your own homemade sample in the software, play a track, preferably one that has been beatgridded correctly. While the track is playing (it doesn’t have to be playing necessarily), set a loop in the track. Once you have a loop set that you are happy with, you can click and drag the deck’s header to any sample slot in the remix deck. Once you play that sample a few times, Traktor will save it to the “All Samples” folder. It’s worth noting that you don’t have to have a loop set to save a sample. If a loop is not set, Traktor will make the loop starting from the play marker position at whatever length is selected in the loop panel. It is very important that you have the Snap button on at the top of the screen so Traktor snaps your loops to the nearest beat. If snap isn’t turned on while creating samples, you might have syncing problems.
To make your own homemade sample using the hardware, you will first click the “Capture Button”. After choosing “capture” the controller will let you select which deck you want to capture the sample from. Push the encoder to choose the deck. Then the LED will display a loop length. This is the length of the loop that you want to capture. Once you’ve set the length, click on the pad that you want to save the captured sample to and Traktor will copy that loop to the sample slot.
My favorite feature with Traktor 2.5 the ability to save your remix decks as “ Remix Sets”, so you can quickly recall your samples exactly how you organized and tweaked them. To save a Remix set you can first name the set directly inside of the Deck by double clicking in the deck header and typing the name. Then you can click and drag the remix set into the track collection window and it will be saved with each cell’s parameters. If you want to load that Remix Set later, you can find it under track collection / all sets. You can even put these Remix sets into playlists.
The Traktor Kontrol F1 controller and Traktor 2.5 is set to be released in Spring 2012, so start chopping up your tracks for samples and get ready for the next level of Traktor and the future of DJing!