Sunday, December 18, 2016

Reader Submitted: "How To DJ The DJ Tantari Way - Preface and Chapter One Part One"


By Tantari Kim

Preface

Who am I? I’m DJ Tantari, famous DJ in a tiny corner of a tiny corner of Second Life which is a tiny cornerof the Internet.  That’s who I am!  What, you still haven’t heard of me?  Well okay, I guess I’m not that famous after all.

I do four DJ sets at three different clubs on Second Life.  I’ve performed at Second Life’s 13th Birthday celebration and numerous other special events.  I've published 75 live sets, each exploring a different theme.  People come to my events every week and seem to enjoy my sets, so I guess I must be doing something right.

This is my guide for how to go from a newbie to a moderately successful DJ on Second Life.  If you’re an experienced DJ, I’m sure you have mastered these technical skills and have gone on to more advanced techniques like beat matching, looping, live mixing, and beyond.  That’s great!  Even then, you might learn benefit from a different perspective on how to put together a set, how to do branding and promotion, how to deal with clubs and crowds, or other things.  If you do read it and have comments or corrections, I’d love to hear them.  (Mail me at tantari.kim at gmail.com.)

First, let me say that this is by no means the only way to DJ or the best way to DJ.  This is the system that works for me.  As I continue to grow as a DJ, I’m sure that I’ll move on to other techniques and methods, and so will you if you pursue it that far.  With that said, if you want to learn How to DJ the DJ Tantari Way,then read on!

To set the ground rules, I'm going to assume that you are reasonably skilled at using your computer and operating system of choice.  I also assume that you know your way around Second Life, know how to use your client of choice, and feel comfortable in that environment.  Lastly, I’m going to assume that you have little or no money to buy anything, so we’ll try to make do with things you probably already own.  Where we do buy things, we’ll try to make them as general-purpose as possible so you can use them for lots of other things.

What do I get out of this?  I’m writing this because many people have asked how they can do what I do.  I enjoy DJing.  It’s a creative and expressive outlet for me.  There are so many things out there in the modern world that are soul-grinding.   This enriches my soul and makes me feel alive.  Maybe it can do these things for you too.  I hope that more DJs mean that more people will enjoy themselves, both listening to and playing music, and will make the world a tiny bit better of a place to live in.

Chapter One, Part One: How to Get Started the DJ Tantari Way

What You Need:

1) A reasonably powerful computer running Windows, Mac OS, or Linux

It needs to be powerful enough to run DJing software and a graphical Second Life client at the same time.  I recommend at least 4 real cores (not 2 cores with 4 threads).  This will give your Second Life client a full two cores with at least one free core for your DJing software.  You want at least 8 GB of RAM, with 16 being ideal.  Of course more is better.  The last thing you want is dropouts or hiccups in your stream because you ran out of CPU power or memory.  If you don’t have these things, you might consider an upgrade.  It’ll make everything you do with your computer faster and better.  I'm running Windows 10 Home 64 bit on an i7-4790K with 16 GB of RAM.

2) Dual monitors

I use two screens, one dedicated to the Second Life client and one dedicated to the DJing software and notes.  I suppose you could get by with one, but it would really cramp your style.  I have one 1080p monitor that I use for Second Life and an older, smaller 1280 by 1024 monitor for MIXXX and my notes.

3) Lots of storage for your music collection with a way to back it up

I recommend at least 1 TB.  As a DJ, your collection is your personal collection of style.  I use mine heavily.  You also need a way to back it up.  If you lose your collection, you can’t DJ!  I don’t want to get into all the details of backup regiments, but at a minimum, you should have a second drive that you can synchronize your music to once a month and then disconnect and put on a a shelf.  If it’s connected all the time, it doesn’t count as a backup!  My personal rig is probably overkill.  I use a Drobo FS 5 bay NAS with 12.66 TB of storage to hold my music collection and other household data.  I have four external 6 TB drives encrypted with Veracrypt for all of my backups, two of which are kept on-site in a fire safe and two which rotate to an off-site backup location (a relative that lives several hours away).

4) A stable Internet connection with at least 512 kbps uplink

You need a stable Internet connection with a fairly fast uplink to stream your music.  The stream itself will take at least 128 kbps, though I prefer going higher with 192 kbps.  You will also need some extra bandwidth for Second Life itself and any activity you want to do, like web searches for trivia or downloading music for song requests.  Having 512 kbps should give you that and a little bit of a margin. It’s important to note that I specified uplink, not downlink.  This is the rate that you can send stuff to the Internet.  Almost all residential connections in the USA are asymmetric, which means that your downlink tends to be an order or magnitude or two faster than your uplink.  Go to one of those speed testing websites (like www.speedtest.net) and measure your “Upload Speed”.  As for downlink, if it's fast enough to play Second Life, it's good enough.  My personal connection measures at about 116 Mbps down and 12 Mbps up.  This gives me the luxury of hosting my SHOUTcast server in my home and streaming directly.  This certainly isn't required.

5) Talent – None

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have any musical talent.  You don’t need any either.  I make a big distinction between talent and skill.  A talent is a natural ability.  A skill is something you can earn with hard work and study.  I have skill because I paid for it with hard work, and you can too.

6) Time – Lots!

You’re going to need lots of free time.  DJing eats time.  It’ll take time to get things set up, to learn the software, to learn your music, and so on.  Once you get started, actually being a DJ takes even more!  Hopefully it’s time well spent.  I enjoy my time listening to new music, composing sets, and performing infront of an audience.  Expect to spend 2.5 hours per live set just setting up and performing.  Composing aset varies a lot depending on the subject, how easy it is to find material, how much you want to polish it, and the level of your skill.

Personally, I perform 4 2-hour sets and usually write a new set every week.  I manage to do this on top ofworking a 40-hour a week job and being married with a child.  In all, I probably spend 20-25 hours a week on all the various DJ activities.  How do I manage it?  You have to give up on things you care less about.  I don’t spend time on Facebook or many other online sites.  I’ve mostly given up on TV and computer games.  What are you willing to sacrifice to be a DJ?

Setting Up Your DJ Station

First let’s start with software.  I mostly use open source software because it’s free and high quality.  All the tools feel solid and professional to me, and it’s a great way to get started without spending a lot of cash.  They will run on all major operating systems, including various flavors of Linux.

Download and install all the software listed below.  I haven’t gone into the details of how to do this, as they are all reasonably well documented.  I use Windows 10 Home 64 bit.  If you’re using something different, the instructions will vary somewhat.

1) Your favorite Second Life client

I use the Firestorm viewer (http://www.firestormviewer.org/downloads/).  It's available for Windows, Mac and Linux.  You can use others.

2) MIXXX version 2 from http://mixxx.org

Follow the instructions on the website.  Install it for your platform of choice.  Make sure you at least skim the introduction sections of the manual (http://mixxx.org/manual/latest/), and the part about Live Broadcasting (http://mixxx.org/manual/latest/chapters/livebroadcasting.html#activate-mp3-streaming-support).  For Windows, I had to download a LAME MP3 DLL (http://www.rarewares.org/mp3-lame-libraries.php) and place a DLL in a specific directory. I imagine you’ll have to do the same with other operating systems.

3) WinAmp from http://www.winamp.com

This tool’s handling of playlists beats MIXXX into the ground.  So far, it’s the best playlist handling tool I’ve used.  It can read and write industry standard .m3u lists, so I can import/export them with MIXXX and even manipulate them in a standard text editor.  I also use it to check and modify MP3 metadata quickly without going through the bother (and loss of quality) of recoding the entire file.  It’s available for Windows and Mac, but not for Linux.  Some alternatives Linux alternatives are listed here (http://www.linuxalt.com/linux-alternatives-to/windows/winamp.html).  I don’t know which of these works well.  If you do, let me know and I’ll update this guide!

I like to configure WinAmp to have a 2 second fade between tracks to better match what I typically do during live sets.  To set this, open the Preferences with Control-P.  Then go to  Plugins -> Nullsoft Direct Output Settings and click Configure.  On the Buffering tab, set the Buffer length to 2000 ms (or higher).  On the Fading tab, set the Default Fade Length to 2000 ms (or 2 seconds).  Of course, if you prefer a different default fade length, change this accordingly.

4) Audacity from http://www.audacityteam.org

This is an amazingly powerful multitrack sound editor.  I use it for trimming source files, converting sound from one format to another, and cleaning up my live recordings to post online.  There is so much that this tool can do, and I am only scratching the surface.  If there’s any offline editing you need to do of an audio file, this is the place to go.  I had to install the same LAME MP3 DLL that I needed for MIXXX to enable MP3 support.  See the manual
(http://manual.audacityteam.org/man/faq_installation_and_plug_ins.html#lame) for detailed instructions.

5)SHOUTcast DNAS from https://www.shoutcast.com/BroadcastNow

This is the SHOUTcast Server.  This is also known by its executable name, sc_serv or sc_serv.exe.  While it is not required for live broadcasting, it is required to learn how broadcasting works and to test your station.  You can obtain the server at the SHOUTcast website (https://www.shoutcast.com/BroadcastNow), though they will require that you create a free account to download it.  They support Windows, Linux, Linux on ARM (for Raspberry Pi and others), and I believe they also support the Mac.  However you get it, make sure you get sure you’re using version 2.  Right now, I’m using v2.4.7, but a newer version should work just as well.  The installation for this is a little complicated, so I've included detailed instructions for it later.

6) VLC Player from https://www.videolan.org/vlc/

This player works on all OSes and is a straightforward way to listen to your stream for testing purposes. Installation should be pretty straightforward.

7) Optional: Linux or Bash for Windows 10

There are some tedious text file manipulations that I do on a regular basis.  I find that pushing them to Linux and processing them with grep and awk really speeds them.  You don’t need them if you’re willing to do it all by hand.  If you have access to a Linux system or are willing to install Bash for Windows 10 (http://www.windowscentral.com/how-install-bash-shell-command-line-windows-10), you can automate these.  I believe that the underlying Unix style utilities in the Mac will also do this.

Setting Up Your Music Library

I recommend having a single folder somewhere for all your music and nothing else.  For me, that’s w:\music.  Inside there I have a folder for each artist as well as a few major styles and a “DJ Sets” folder.  Having it scattered all over the place won’t make MIXXX happy.  I keep all my music as high quality MP3 files because it works well with everything, though I’ve also had good luck with FLAC files.  Having good metadata in all your files is important, because you’ll be searching across it often.  Don’t skip it.

Getting to Know MIXXX

MIXXX is an incredibly powerful, professional DJing package.  It has far more features than I use.  You’ll need to spend some time with it and the manuals to know how to use it.  The more you read the manuals and work with it, the better you will get.  I'm going to introduce you to the things that I think are most important to DJing the DJ Tantari Way.

The first thing you’ll want to do after installing MIXXX and the LAME MP3 DLL is to run it.  It will ask for the location of your music library.  Give it the location you chose in “Setting Up Your Music Library”.  (Thisis also located in the Preferences, on the Library tab, under Music Directories.)  For me this is w:\music.  It will take a long while as it is reading the metadata from every music file and storing that in its local database.  The more music you have, the longer this will take.  Be patient!  (If you change the music directory or change the files in it, you can force it to re-read this with the menu item Library -> Rescan Library.)

Second, you’ll want to set up your audio outputs (http://mixxx.org/manual/latest/chapters/configuration.html).  For the API, I used the Windows DirectSound audio.  It should work for almost everyone and it works well enough for online streaming.  I set the Master output to my “Speakers” on “Channels 1-2” and left all the other outputs as “None”.  You’ll want to spend some time with this chapter.  While you might want to use a different API for a set in front of an in-person audience, I couldn't get anything working except the ASIO API and for that I had to load a third party driver that did all sorts of strange things to my system.  In the end, it wasn't worth it.

Since I’m jumping back and forth between Second Life chats and MIXXX, I will sometimes start typing text while leaving my focus on MIXXX.  This can be catastrophic!  To get around this, I recommend that you disable the hotkeys with Options -> Disable Keyboard Shortcuts.  It still responds to the space bar by maximizing and minimizing the library.  If you do that, just hit space again to get back the regular display.

Next you’ll want to spend some time playing around with the interface (http://mixxx.org/manual/latest/chapters/user_interface.html).  In the Preferences in the Interface tab, I chose the LateNight skin, but you can pick anything you want.  On the top of MIXXX's main menu, dead center, are a number of boxes you can click to turn thins on and off.  I turned on “Mixer” and “Preview” and turned off everything else.  This gives me two decks, as that is all I need without any other stuff.  As you get more skilled in MIXXX, you'll tune it to your tastes.  You can see what my default MIXXX screen looks like below.


My Default MIXXX Screen

On the bottom you can see a left panel to select a topic and a right panel.  Click the Library and your music library will be displayed on the right side (http://mixxx.org/manual/latest/chapters/library.html).  You can search in all sorts of ways by using the search box.  For example, “title: car” will show you all your music tracks that have “car” anywhere in the title.  You can then either double click the desired track or click and drag them to one of the two mixers up top to load it.  You can play them by hitting the play buttons.  Read this section and play around with it until you start to feel comfortable.

The idea is that you have two tape decks.  One is playing while the other is loading the next song.  When you get close to the end, they both play, allowing you to fade to the next song using the horizontal slider. The first stops and loads the next song.  Then the process repeats.  That’s basically what you do to play a set.  But that’s hard to do smoothly.  Isn’t there an easier way?  Yes there is!  It’s called Auto DJ.

Getting to Know Auto DJ

Auto DJ is something that a beginning DJ will use a lot.  It is a powerful tool that you’ll want to familiarizeyourself with (http://mixxx.org/manual/latest/chapters/library.html#auto-dj-automate-your-mix).  This tool allows you to set up a playlist.  The songs are automatically loaded into the decks and played with fades of your choosing.

In your Library, highlight a block of songs.  Right-click your mouse and click “Add to Auto DJ Queue (Bottom)”.   Then click on Auto DJ on the left side of the window.  You’ll see a list of the music you just added.  In this view, you can remove them or re-arrange them as you see fit.  This is your live playlist.  Now hit the “Enable Auto DJ” button.  You’ll see that your first two selections are loaded into the decks and the first one starts playing.  The first song is removed from the list.  Go to the “Transition Time” box; it will have a number and the word “seconds”.  Enter 2 second either by typing it in or using the up/down arrows.  Keep listening and watching.  2 seconds before the end of the currently playing song, the second song will start playing and the horizontal slider will glide from left to right, fading from the old to the new smoothly.  As soon as it’s over, the right track will be playing and the next track will be loaded into the first deck.

This is the process I use while performing my DJ sets, but there is a little more to it.  First I create a playlist ahead of time and load it into Auto DJ, though I will often alter it during a live set.  I’ll vary the Transition Time, though I find that 2 seconds works well most of the time.  I’ll set a cue point to the songs so they start where I want, not necessarily the beginning of the track (more on that soon).  And most importantly, I’ll trigger the song transitions manually when it sounds right to me using the “Fade Now” button.

Play around with the Auto DJ for a while to get comfortable.  Notice how when a song is played, it is removed from the Auto DJ list.  Auto DJ will stop when it runs out of songs or you hit the “Disable Auto DJ” button.

When one song is playing, you will notice that the other deck is loaded and waiting.  Many of your songs will have silence at the beginning.  You can use your mouse to drag that window left or right until the green line (representing the current time) is where you want to start.  If this is where you want the song to start by default when loaded, click the blinking “Cue” button on that deck.  It will turn a solid red.  Thisis how you can always get your songs to cue up to where you want them to be.

Congratulations!  You can now play simple ad-hoc sets.  But you’re the only one who can hear them.  The next step is to broadcast.

Continued in Chapter One Part Two

Tantari Kim

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