We launched a new online community and this space is now closed. This community will be available as a read-only resources until further notice.

How to prepare music for use in Traktor

Discussion in 'General DJ Forum' started by pixeltrance, Dec 4, 2004.

  1. pixeltrance

    pixeltrance Forum Member

    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.
  2. kimhill

    kimhill NI Product Owner

    Thanks for the excellent post. For some reason, my BPMs don't show up in iTunes, even after I analyze, though.

    edit: went back & read about the round button & lock button. Is rounding really reliable for House, Trance, & other electronic music? I haven't used the lock button yet. Using beat markers, I have seen how an incorrect tempo value can screw things up- I guess I still worry about a manually locked tempo possibly being less accurate than a real-time Traktor analysis.
  3. pixeltrance

    pixeltrance Forum Member

    @ kimhill

    Just anylysing the tracks will not make the BPM value show up in iTunes.
    In order for iTunes to "see" the BPM value the BPM detection quality value must be at 100% and the only way to get that is by manually go to the Edit BPM window in Traktor and click the Lock button.

    House, trance and other forms of electronic music is almost always made with computers and software or with other hardware such as sequencers, synths, effect boxes etc.
    This means that each track almost always has a BPM value that is xxx.00 BPM.

    The automatic beat detection in Traktor on the other hand hardly ever detects the beats to be xxx.00 BPM. Instead you usually get something like xxx.89 or xxx.17 after analysing a track.
    By clicking the Round button you force Traktor to round off the BPM value to the nearest xxx.00 value, which in most cases is the correct one.
    Then by clicking the Lock button you tell Traktor to not change the BPM value by itself.
    Of course you shouldn't do this unless you check the beatgrid manually afterward to see that it really is correct.

    In reality, to use the Round button, the Lock button and a properly placed beatgrid is more accurate than allowing Traktor to do the beat detection by itself.
    Also I imagine that by freeing Traktor from constantly detecting the beats you reduce the CPU load. This is just an educated guess though and I might very well be wrong.

    Almost all my music has an BPM value of xxx.00 but sometimes I get tracks that are xxx.01 or xxx.99. I suspect that has to do with older hardware/software that doesn't keep the time exactly.

    However keep in mind that if your music originated on vinyl then it's rather likely that you won't have a xxx.00 BPM value but hopefully it will still have a constant tempo.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  4. djHSL

    djHSL Forum Member

    Pixeltrance, do you have access to Sony ACID?

    Run a few of the tracks for which you rounded the BPM through its beat mapper wizard, and see what value you get. I think you'll be surprised to learn that your rounded value is often very wrong.

    I've had Traktor give BPM estimates varying by up to 10bpm (rare), but often out by almost 1bpm. That is enough to totally screw up any mid-track synchronisation you might wish to perform, even if it accidentally coincides at the end of the track.
  5. Dj Hobbes

    Dj Hobbes NI Product Owner


    Do you manually enter the BPM value that you get in ACID into the BPM field for Traktor, and then lock it? Or do you enter it into the comments field so that its something for you to be able to see?

  6. pixeltrance

    pixeltrance Forum Member

    @ djHSL

    As we both know I'm a die hard Mac fan ;) and since Sony ACID doesn't run on the Mac I haven't tried it.
    Sure, I can run Virtual PC (http://www.microsoft.com/mac/products/virtualpc/virtualpc.aspx?pid=virtualpc) and then run Sony ACID but since my harddrive is pretty full of music I don't have the space for a Windows system as well. However I am getting a new computer in a couple of weeks with more than enough space to have Virtual PC.

    Anyway, I have to question your results since by using the method I described above I NEVER have any problems during mixing with drifting. Not in the beginning, the end nor in the middle. Once the tracks has been pitch bended into place they can run and stay in sync for 7-8 mintes until the tracks end.
    Most of my mixes are well above one minute and many times several minutes and I never have to pitch bend the tracks again once they are in sync.

    The only problem that I have encountered is that some tracks (very few, I think I have less than 10 of these tracks) have a break that has a length that isn't an even value. For instance, instead of a break being 32 beat it is 31,5 beats.
    To solve this I have to place a new beatmarker on the first beat after the break. In order to do so I turn off the snap to grid and then manually place the beatmarker on the first beat. This is a situation where leaving "Highlight Beat Markers" unchecked really helps.

    Maybe our different experiences has something to do with the music we spin. As for myself I spin psy-trance. This music always has a steady tempo and the tracks are rather long 7-9 minutes.
    Also many of the psy-trance CD's already have the BPM value written on the sleeve. So if the CD says that the BPM is 145 and Traktor (after rounding, locking and beatgridding) also says it's 145, well then I'm willing to bet that it is 145 even though Sony ACID might say something different.

    DOH! I just read your post a little more carefully and you wrote "I've had Traktor give BPM estimates varying by up to 10bpm (rare), but often out by almost 1bpm."
    This I do not doubt since Traktors beat estimation is almost always off by some degree. From time to time I even encounter tracks that Traktor thinks has half of the actual BPM value. For instance 71 BPM instead of 142.
    However by using round, lock and beatgrids you set the Tempo and not Traktor so if you do it properly then the tempo will be exact.
  7. djHSL

    djHSL Forum Member


    I'm really anal about this process, so what I do is probably overkill for most users.

    Every track I acquire gets loaded into ACID. I edit to make sure there is a good intro/outro, fill or remove any boring bits, and edit to somewhere between 3:30 and 4:30 duration.

    (pixeltrance, don't puke, I'm playing for a different audience with a limited attention span *grin*)

    I then write the edit at a fixed BPM. This addresses Pixeltrance's issue of BPM rounding. For example, a track which was analysed by ACID at 132.07bpm will be written at 132bpm.

    I then analyse the track, set my beat marker in a manner similar to that recommended earlier in this thread, and validate that the BPM is correct through visual alignment.

    As noted earlier, Traktor sometimes gets it wrong by a weird value - not only a multiplier of the bpm. In these cases I fall back to the value at which I wrote the track from ACID, and then make the occasional 0.01 adjustment for visual alignment of the grid.

    I don't know why, but I've never actually though of just entering the ACID value directly into the beat editor. I must think about that, because it could make the whole job a lot faster. Thanks, Hobbes, you've sparked a new idea :)
  8. Dj Hobbes

    Dj Hobbes NI Product Owner

    I sparked a new idea?? Uh oh, we're all in for it now! :thumb:

  9. pixeltrance

    pixeltrance Forum Member

    @ djHSL

    Tracks with a 3:30 and 4:30 duration???
    Heck, I have tracks with longer intros than that! :D
  10. RoxyDJJulio_Tf

    RoxyDJJulio_Tf Forum Member

    This Should Be Must Reading For All New And Some Old Traktor User's!!!!

    Thank You
  11. dj-dragon

    dj-dragon New Member

    This tip should be a PDF. ;)
  12. pixeltrance

    pixeltrance Forum Member

    @ RoxyDJJulio and dj-dragon

    Glad to hear that you enjoyed it :)
  13. djhighgloss

    djhighgloss New Member

    Ok Smarty Trance,
    So I've been doing the things you've described and everything is tight. Just one question. After updating things in itunes, say genres, how do you get Traktor to rcognize these changes? Trash the tks.nml and then reimport? I'm to terrified to just start trashing things, but if its all in the tags then why not....
    tanks, highgloss
  14. pixeltrance

    pixeltrance Forum Member

    @ djhighgloss

    Congratulations! You have found one of the things that is a bit screwed up in Traktor ;)

    The thing is that it seems like Traktor read the information for each track from the collection.nml file and not from the actual ID tags in the track even though you have written the tags directly to the track.
    Therefore Traktor won't "see" any changes you have made to the ID tags with another application such as iTunes unless you manually instruct Traktor to read the ID tags. To do so so you either have to right click the track in the Browser window and the select "Read File Tag (ID3)" or by clicking the "Read ID3 Tag" in the Track Edit window.

    iTunes on the other hand see changes to the ID3 tags as soon as you play the track or if you view the track info.
    Therefore it's better if you edit you ID3 tags in Traktor than in iTunes.

    There is one potential problem with this though and that is that Traktor does not change the physical track name or track location while iTunes does. (If you have iTunes set to manage your track collection that is).
    This means that if you change the track name, the name of the artist or the name of the album in Traktor then iTunes will change the physical track name and/or location when iTunes read the track.
    This will of course mean that the Traktor can't find the track next time and it will show up with a broken link indication in the browser window and you have to manually track down the track and re-link it or to delete the track from the collection and then do a new import. This is easier to do if you have several track with broken links.

    My workaround is to to make sure I enter all key information such as track name, artist and album in iTunes BEFORE I even import a track in Traktor and then do all other ID tag editing in Traktor.
  15. DJ Finalee

    DJ Finalee Forum Member

    Let me know if you like doing it this way. I have thought about this just a couple of weeks ago due to the fact the record pool Im in doesnt always give you the BPM's and when I analyz I often get the wrong bpms. I also did a few and I had issues reconizing the sond after I beat mapped it and save threw aAcid and SoundForge. I figure maybe the only way to do this is figure the bpm threw Acid/SF and manually edit bpm in Traktor

    To be honest with every one I am still adjustin on the fly with traktor when I mix. I get 30-40 demos twice a month "never mind other music" and I would be 4 ever preparing music. I would like to get it to the point where I can prepare a song on the fly before the 1st time I play it. That would be a huge time saver. Currently my music collection is growing out of control witch is good for me !
  16. rocdollar

    rocdollar NI Product Owner

    Interesting post, thanks Pixeltrance. As mentioned and also in my experience rounding and beatgrids only work for digitally mastered/recorded tracks. Anything ripped from vinyl I leave just with Traktors analysis grid because it sticks to the the beat. Beat grids on vinyl rips do not work because of minute variations in the mechanical decks speed. Same applies to rounding.

    Although vinyl rips will eventually die out and be replaced by fully digital tracks, it would still be nice to be able to 'peg out' a variable beat grid i.e. place 'beat hints' - like you get in Macromedia Flash (used for tweening rather than beats!) This would allow you to tell Traktor where to restart the grid from, each time one is encountered.

    On SYNCing, rather than Traktor moving the track to the closest actual marker, why not move it to the closest 'virtual' marker? (ie one that is not visible but Traktor has undesrtood would be there - even in parts of the track with no beats). At least, clarify it so that the user can tell Traktor to sync to the nearest marker or sync to true BPM - markers or no.
  17. pixeltrance

    pixeltrance Forum Member

    I only have a few tracks that originated on vinyl but all of them do have a constant tempo so the beatgrid works without any problems.
    All of these tracks has been recorded using a good turntable though. I guess that is the key if you want to use vinyl tracks in Traktor.
  18. RoxyDJJulio_Tf

    RoxyDJJulio_Tf Forum Member

    I Have alot of Classic tracks riped from vinyl that work just fine for me in traktor. I don't ever bother with rounding and hardly ever use beatgrids. I have found that with accurate BPM's you can mix anything with traktor even Ballads!
  19. kaaos

    kaaos Forum Member

    its kind of funny that now we worry about proper tags with BPMs. when in the old vinyl days we did not have that info anywhere on the label (maybe a few did). Some of the records I would black out entirely, if I did not want any one else to know what the name & artist was. I used a set of symbols and fake names to remember them ..lol:p
  20. kaaos

    kaaos Forum Member


    Do you have any Old Classic Chicago House on MP3 or WAV? If so, where did you buy it from or where can I get it from