Video Tutorial: Using Traktor + Ableton to Beat Grid Disco, Live Drums (Unquantized Tracks)

As the art-form of DJing evolves, one of the biggest trends is using controllers rather than turntables to DJ “Internally.” Usually when a DJ says they are playing “internally” with Traktor they usually mean that they are using Traktor’s internal playback mode and are not using any timecode vinyl or timecode CDs to control their music, and are DJing using strictly controllers.

While Traktor allows you to DJ internally with little to no prep work, it’s highly recommended to beat grid your tracks ahead of time in Traktor using Traktor’s metronome before you play in internal mode. This will make it so you can use the sync button to perfectly beatmatch your tracks.

In Traktor Pro 2, beat gridding tracks that are recorded to a click track (quantized to a grid) is easier than ever. Most of the time, all you have to do is shift the grid over a little bit and round off the BPM reading to the nearest whole number (ex. 129.99 to 130 BPM). For more, please check out my previous article on how to beat grid in Traktor here. Also, here is a video I did on how to do beat grids in Traktor.

As a Traktor specialist, one of the most popular questions I’ve been getting lately is “How can I beat grid tracks that are recorded with a live drummer?” and “How can I beat grid my classic disco records or vinyl rips in Traktor?” Unfortunately the answer is as of now, it’s very difficult and almost impossible to beat grid these tracks only using Traktor. However, while doing a Traktor training with David Morales, I found a way to get these tracks perfectly quantized to a click track using Ableton Live 8’s warping engine, so you can bring the tracks back into Traktor and beat grid them perfectly. Here is a step by step method on how to do it:

1. Right click or CTRL Click on the track inside of Traktor’s browser and choose “Show In Finder.” This will find the file on your computer.

2. In Ableton Live, show the Arrange view by clicking Tab, and drag the song into a new audio track in Ableton.

Ableton will then analyze the file and place green warp markers above the transients (kicks, snares etc.), which can be double clicked on to set pseudo warp markers. If you don’t see the waveform view you can click on the black triangle in the lower right hand side of the screen to show the waveform view.

3. Find the first beat of the song and double click on the Warp Marker flag above the transient to set a new warp marker. You might have to click and drag the beginning (left side) of the clip in the arrange view to the left so you can play the beginning of the clip (see video on how to do this).

4. Right click or CTRL click on the new warp marker and choose “Set 1:1:1 Here.” This will tell Ableton this is the first beat of the track.

5. Right click or CTRL click on the warp marker you just set and choose “Warp From Here”. This will re-warp the track based on the first beat that you just set. This should put each beat that drifts off of the grid back onto the grid.

6. Now that you’ve lined up your track on the grid and told Ableton where the first beat is, click and drag the beginning of the clip in the arrange view to the beginning of a measure. This will align the measures of the clip with the measures on the grid of the arrange view so your metronome will be on beat when you turn it on.

7. To check that the track is matched to Ableton’s grid, turn on the Metronome in Ableton , and then play the track with the metronome on.

*Note – You might have to adjust your Audio preferences in Ableton Preferences – Audio – to hear the track (through the master output) and the metronome (in the Cue Output). If the Metronome lines up with the track (you hear a metronome tick on every beat of the track that is beatmatched to the track) then you are almost done in Ableton. If the beat drifts off of the grid, you might have to place a new warp marker where the track drifts off beat, then drag the warp marker onto the correct measure / beat, then CTRL click (or right click) on that warp marker and choose “Warp from Here”. You would repeat this process each time the track drifts off of the grid. Hopefully Ableton will eventually get smarter each time you do this and figure out where all the beats are throughout the song.

8. Now that you have your track perfectly warped, and each beat is lined up with Ableton’s grid, you are going to export the track to make a new version of this track that is perfectly quantized to a beat grid. Before exporting you first want to show the intro of the track by clicking on the left side of the clip in the arrange view and dragging it to the left. Be sure to drag it as far as you possibly can to get the intro and any dead air before the first beat. Dead air is important because currently in Traktor you cannot set a grid marker before 1.1.1 and if part of the first beat is chopped off you won’t be able to beat grid the track perfectly.

9. Now choose your warp mode in Ableton by going to the Sample Display window and click on the Warp Mode dropdown menu. There are six different warp modes. I would recommend using Complex Pro warping mode since that will usually give you the best sound quality. Other warping modes might work better for different tracks, so be sure to look into how to use the different warping modes. But for now just use Complex Pro mode if you’re unsure what to use.

10. The next thing you want to do is get your levels right in Ableton before bouncing the audio. I like to do this in the session view. Click Tab to toggle to the session view and then play the track at its loudest part. When the track is playing at the loudest part, raise the gain of the channel as high as it can go without the levels hitting the “red” (clipping). Do the same with the Master volume. Turn it up as loud as it can go without the Master volume going into the red (distorting).

11. Now that you have your levels right, you need to make your Ableton session the same BPM as the original track. You can either get the BPM from the “Segment BPM”  window in Ableton’s Sample Display window, or what I like to do is used Mixed in Key to find the average BPM of the track.

12. Once you know the average tempo of the track, I like to round that up to the nearest whole number and then type that BPM in Ableton’s Tempo window.

13. Before Bouncing the Audio, click on the Clip in the arrange view so the clip is highlighted. This will tell Ableton how much of the track you want to export (in this case you want to export it from the beginning to the end).

14. To bounce the track from Ableton, in the Ableton Context Menu choose File – Export Audio and Video. Then use the following settings when you get the “Export Audio / Video” window:

15. Now Ableton is going to ask you where you want to save the file. I would save the file to somewhere where you save all of your other music, so you won’t have to move the file after exporting. This will save you from the headache of having a missing file in Traktor / iTunes etc. The way I like to name these files is “ArtistTitleBPM.wav” so in this example my file would be called “PrinceControversy121.wav”. This will allow me to see the BPM once I import the file into Traktor.

16. Before importing the track into Traktor, I personally like to use a program called “Platinum Notes” which will take the wav file I created and raise the levels, fix any pitch discrepancies, improve the sound quality and “re-master” the file so it has a more modern sound to it, and it will clean up a lot of warping artifacts as well. It will also convert the wav to a 320 KBPS MP3 to save disk space. If you don’t have platinum notes, no problem. You can use any external audio editor to raise the levels, or you can just leave the file alone and play it as is, and use Traktor’s internal autogain to raise the levels for you.

17. Once you have your file exported and have done any necessary audio tweaks, you can now bring the track into Traktor. You can do this by dragging the file you just created into a deck in Traktor via your finder or explorer in Traktor. You might have to drag the file into the deck a second time after Traktor analyzes the track so that Traktor’s auto gain will update itself.

18. With the track loaded, make sure you can see Traktor’s advanced panel below the deck by clicking on the little arrow icon beneath the Active button. Now find the first beat of the track and set a Grid marker on the first beat using Traktor’s Grid Marker button.

19. Now type in the BPM of the track you warped in Ableton. If you named the track the way I suggested you should see the BPM in the file name of your track. Just type this BPM into the BPM Edit window in Traktor.

21. Now turn on Traktor’s Metronome by clicking on the Beat Tick button in Traktor’s Grid Panel.

To hear the Metronome you either need to be in External Mixing mode in Traktor Preferences – Output Routing, or you need to route the monitor output to an output you can listen to (such as the built in output on mac, or an output of your soundcard of choice).

*note – its always more accurate to do beat grids in your headphones, connected directly into your computers headphone output.

22. Once you’ve set your grid marker and turned the metronome on, play the track and use the “Move Grid” buttons to shift your beat grid left and right until the metronome is playing in perfect sync with your track.

23. Once your metronome and track in Traktor are in perfect sync, click the “Lock” icon in the grid panel to save your beat grid to the track.

Now you can play all of those timeless classics and all of your rock, funk and Vinyl rips in perfect sync with any other genre of choice without worrying about them ever missing a beat thanks to the magic of Ableton and Traktor. Happy Mixing!

Mike Henderson | DJ Endo | Twitter | Facebook | SoundCloud

If you want to learn more about Warping in Ableton be sure to check out Steve Nalepa’s video on Warping in Live 8.

Digital DJing with Traktor Pro 2 Program

The definition of DJing has changed dramatically in the last decade. Laptops, controllers, and software have emerged alongside more traditional turntables and CDJ’s, smashing the barrier to entry. In today’s digital age, anyone can become a DJ. To reflect this renaissance, Dubspot has created the Digital DJing with Traktor program. In both our physical and online schools, students will learn how to DJ entirely with Traktor’s cutting-edge technology. An emphasis will be placed on the concepts of DJing rather than simply learning how to use the software.

What’s Included:

  • Digital DJing w/ Traktor Pro 2 Level 1: Introduction to DJing
  • Digital DJing w/ Traktor Pro 2 Level 2: Phrase Mixing
  • Digital DJing w/ Traktor Pro 2 Level 3: Beyond The Beatmatch

Starting with a historical overview, students will learn the fundamental concepts of the DJ via Traktor’s intuitive interface. They will then begin to delve into the vast array of new possibilities offered by this groundbreaking software, presenting their work along the way. Students will leave with finished DJ mixes, a thorough exploration of DJing with Traktor, and a skill set and knowledge base perfect for further development.

DJ Extensive Program

Immerse yourself in the complete art of DJing from beatmatching to stage presence. Whether you’re a beginner in search of the fundamentals or a seasoned pro looking to take your talent to the next level, our curriculum is designed to accommodate all skill levels and styles of music. This comprehensive DJ program covers everything from basic mixing to advanced digital DJing. Learn more about our DJ courses and programs.

What’s Included:

  • DJ Level 1: Rookie Sessions | Essentials I
  • DJ Level 2: Phrase Mixing | Essentials II
  • DJ Level 3: Beyond The Blend | Intermediate Skills
  • DJ Level 4: Preparation | DJ Psychology
  • DJ Level 5: Classroom to the Club | Advanced Techniques I
  • DJ Level 6: Club to the World | Advanced Techniques II

“I love the class, and the content! Shiftee and Endo are very funny, and very clear, so the material is easy and fun to follow! I wish my college   teachers  were more like these two!” – Leandro Martinez, Chicago IL

Start dates and information about payment plans can be found here.

Or if you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.

Dubspot’s Digital DJing w/ Traktor: Course Overview – DJ Shiftee & DJ Endo

  • Yugen
  • 10/25/2011

I still think it’s easier to beat match manually. More fun, too.

  • dennis parrott
  • 10/25/2011

awwww yeah! (he said, channeling his inner Shiftee…)

clear, concise, direct, on-point… going to head off and find a copy of Live!

now i can go lay the grids down on my old school music and mix it.

many thanks Endo!!

  • Tim Maguire
  • 10/25/2011

Great tutorial – makes it quick too when you dont feel like gridding in traktor.

  • John Selway
  • 10/25/2011

Great tutorial! My students often come to me with questions about this process.

I have a couple of more Live tips to add from my own experience.

If you know an approximate BPM of the track, set Live’s tempo at or near that amount before you Warp. Live will do a more accurate job detecting the placement of Warp Markers. You might not even have to go through and adjust anything unless there are really extreme tempo changes.

If you don’t know the BPM, you can discover it using Tap Tempo. However it’s important to turn Warp off in the clip before you do it, otherwise the tempo of the clip will change while you tap, throwing you off beat.

  • Dubspot Tutorial – Using Beatgrids In Traktor And Ableton To Mix Disco | Nokturnalist
  • 10/25/2011

[...] Dubspot has a tutorial on their blog to help you get those disco mixes sounding flawless.  Check it out by clicking here. TechnologyAbleton, Dubspot, Traktor ← Bill Patrick’s Soundwall Podcast /* [...]

  • andrew
  • 10/25/2011

A million thumbs up on this! Thanks! Also Controversy, the best Prince song ever?

  • DJ Endo
  • 10/25/2011

@Yugen – I agree its very fun beatmatching manually but this tutorial is not about that

  • William Alvarez
  • 10/25/2011

WOW!! i followed your steps and all i gotta say is thank you so much! just finished gridding brown eyed girl by van morrison its nice how the song does not drift off any more. Dear Dubspot, 3 videos that have completely changed and elevated my “djing”……1. Dj Endo on MIK 2. Dj Endo on Traktor gridding 3. Dj Endo on live drummer gridding

……oh how i thank you

  • Dennis Zab
  • 10/25/2011

Thank you so much Endo!!!!!!!!