First of all let me just say that this is not a tutorial or even the "right" way to get your music into Traktor. There are many different ways of using Traktor, no right way nor wrong way. Instead we can all find a way that fits us and our needs the best.
With this text I want to tell you how I use Traktor and hopefully provide some of you with tips or ideas.
When I receive new music the first thing I do is to pop the CD into my computer and give it a listen in iTunes (www.apple.com/itunes). iTunes have several advantages such as automatically inserting album, artist and track names by using CDDB if you have an active Internet connection and the CD is listed in CDDB (saves a lot of time), ease of use, Traktor integration allowing you for instance to create playlists in iTunes and then simply importing these playlists into Traktor.
One of my favorite features of iTunes is that it automatically keeps my music folder organized. Another good feature is that you can set iTunes to copy files to to your iTunes music folder when you add them to your music library. By using both these features I know exactly where on the computer all my music is at all times (the iTunes music folder) and if I need to I can manually find a track very quickly. However since I use iTunes to manage all my music there is never any need to manually manage my tracks.
Of course these features can be turned off or on as you desire by choosing Preferences - Advanced.
When I listen to the CD, I deselect the tracks that I do not want (all tracks are selected by default) and assign a genre to each track that I do want to keep since it helps me to keep my music organized and I can easily find a suitable track when I play.
I then rip the CD to mp3 with the iTunes-LAME Encoder. (http://blacktree.com/apps/iTunes-LAME/) Unfortunately this is not possible for Windows user since this is done with Applescript. However you can also use the iTunes built in encoder.
There has been many and long discussions at which quality you should rip your tracks. Personally I rip at 320 kbps for the simple reason that I want the highest possible quality and since harddrives are so cheap today I see no reason to comprimise quality just to save a bit of space. Then why not use wav files you might ask? Simple really, by using wav files I can't use Traktor and it's features to the fullest.
Once the tracks have been ripped into mp3's I start up Traktor. The first thing to do is to add the new tracks to the Traktor track collection. Due to the iTunes-Traktor integration this is a piece of cake. I simply go to the Browser tab in the set up window and press the Import Now button.
Once the tracks are in the collection it's time to have them analysed. To do so I click on the track collection in the Browser window. Note that I click on the actual name "Track Collection" and not on the folder symbol to expand the collection. By doing it this way I get a track list of the entire track collection in the Browser window.
One of the visible columns in the Browser window is the "Analysed (Peak, Perceived)" column and by clicking that column I sort the tracks in the collection so all tracks that hasn't been analysed are shown in the beginning on the list. (You can set which Browser columns are visible in the Browser window by going to the Browser tab in the Set Up window.)
Because all non-analysed tracks are shown in the top of the list it's easy to select them all, then click the analyse button and thus analysing all the new tracks in one go.
Ok, now that all new tracks are analysed it's time to get down and dirty with each track and place a beatgrid plus cue points. By using a beatgrid I make sure that Traktor knows the exact tempo of each track and thus making it easier to mix.
In the beginning it can be a bit tricky to place a correct beatgrid but with the help of some small tips and with practice and experience it takes less than a minute.
To place the beatgrid I place a cue point on the first clear beat AFTER the first beat. In most cases this means the second beat but sometimes due to other sounds in the track (bassline, lead melody, atmospheric sounds etc.) the second beat can't be seen or detected easily and then I place the cue point on the next clear beat.
After the cue point has been placed I bring up the edit cue point window and convert the cue point into a Beat Marker. Now a visible white grid. appear throughout the entire track.
(Note that I have "Highlight Beat Markers" unchecked in the Apperance tab in the Setup window since it makes it easier to see how the grid aligns with the actual beats.)
Now I bring up the Edit BPM window. During the analyse of the track Traktor has detected a BPM value for the track. However this is usually not correct but most of the time it is close to the actual tempo so I click the Round button and then the Lock button before I close the Edit BPM window.
Now I go back in the track and place a cue point on the first beat since most of the times this is where I want to start the track when I mix. By placing a cue point on the first beat I make sure that the track is already cued up whenever I want to use it.
In some extreme cases it's impossible to see a clear beat after the first beat. What I do then is to place the Beat Marker on the first beat, then put a new Beat Marker on the second beat and finally remove the first Beat Marker.
The reason why I don't want the beat marker on the first beat is because I might want to use the first cue point as a Deck Load or Fade In marker. Please note though that while in theory a Deck Load marker should tell Traktor to cue up to that marker when you load the track but in reality Traktor quite often doesn't.
Now it is time to check how the beatgrid aligns with the actual beats. The fastest and easiest way to do so I have found is to simply click on the stripe below the wave form of the track to the end of the breaks in the track. There it is very simple to see if the grid is correct since the first beat after a break usually can be seen very easily.
Another option is to jump forward through the track by using the move button set to 16 beats. This method is good to use if there is a drift in the grid since it makes it easy to see the shift when it starts. I usually do this after I have tried the first method and have found a drift or if there are no clear breaks in the track.
Yet another way to check the grid is to simply play the track and see how the grid aligns to the beat that you hear. I don't use this option very often since it takes a long time to listen though the entire track but is is useful in the cases where you have a track with a very "busy" wave form where it is impossible to see the beats. It can be a bit difficult though to see the grid properly as the wave form scrolls by. There is a small tip though to solve this problem. Simply decrease the tempo of the track down to a slower speed with the tempo slider. This does not effect the ACTUAL tempo of the track, just the play back tempo. At this slower speed it's usually easy to see the beatgrid while I hear the beats.
If I detect that the beatgrid drifts away from the actual beat by using any of the methods above I simply correct it in the Edit BPM window. A very easy rule of thumb is that if the grid drifts to the left then I click on the right button (-) to bring it back to the right and of course on the left button (+) if the grids drift to the right.
It is important to check the entire track to the end since any drift will be more severe the further into the track you get.
Finally I place another cue point on the last beat of the track. That way I have a visual indication as to where the end of the beat in the track is. The stripe isn't a reliable way to tell the end of the track since sometimes there are many other sounds effecting the wave form.
Puh! That was a long explanation as to how to use beatgrids and even though it may sound like a lot of work it's not and it goes really quickly after some practice. I usually place a beatgrid and the other cue points in a track in 30 seconds. Time well spend considering that now Traktor knows the exact tempo of the track and it has the necessary cue points.
The last thing to do with the track is to write this information to the track. Sure Traktor keep track of all the track information in the collection.nml file but if this file get corrupted then all info is lost. Personally I have had my collection.nml file corrupted on several occasions.
By writing the info to the track itself I make sure that the info is always there. This is also handy if you move tracks to a different computer.
To write the info to the track you can either right click on the track in the browser window and select "Write File Tag (ID3)" or you can bring up the edit window by clicking the edit button in the Browser window and then click the Write ID3 Tag. The first method is handy to write the tags to several tracks at once while the second method is good if there is any additional info you want to add.
Note that you have to have "Extended Tags & Stripe" button selected in the Browser tab in the Setup window for this to work.
Done! Almost... The thing is that even though you have instructed Traktor to write the tag info to the track sometimes Traktor doesn't.
In order to check it go back to iTunes, select the track and then display the info for the track. Now there should be a BPM value entered in the box under the info tab. If not then go back to Traktor and select write tag info again.
This is a simple way to see if everything is correct. Personally I have the BPM values visible in iTunes all the time. That way I can always see if a track has been prepared for use in Traktor or not.
Well, that is it and I hope this long (winded?) explanation can be of help or inspiration to some of you.