Firstly, a quick recap, my DJ laptop hard drive had failed and I’d replaced it with a new one. I was unable to clone the failed hard drive and so I loaded a fresh install of Windows – I only had a copy of Windows 10 Creative Edition which I was able to download from Microsoft. After a fresh Windows install and re-installing all my software including Traktor and all my preferences I thought I was ready to go. I only use Rekordbox to manage my USBs and when I came to syncing my tracks over to my USBs it crashed each time.
Checking Pioneer’s site, it informed me that I shouldn’t upgrade to Windows 10 Creative edition just yet – this wasn’t helpful in the slightest. I Googled and checked forums, I tried everything suggested from re-installing Rekordbox, changing the power settings, looking for damaged music files and even formatting my USBs – nothing worked.
I can’t remember how I came about the solution and it was the simplest thing - I’m just kicking myself that I didn’t try this first. It was simply updating the drivers on my laptop. I did try to update the drivers in the Device Manager but I found that using a program called ‘Driver Booster’ received the best results.
So far Rekordbox has only crashed once since I updated the drivers nearly two months, I have three 64GB USB sticks, I fully reloaded all three and I routinely update them every week. In addition, my DJ laptop is running better than it ever has, I’m quite techy but it never occurred to me update my drivers in this way. If I come across any issues I’ll post an update - fingers crossed it’ll all be fine.
DISCLAIMER/WARNING - There are other programs that update your Windows drivers, I chose Driver Booster after viewing a few on Download.com. The Helpful Djs take no responsibility for which program you use, it’s your choice and responsibility on which program you use.
Here are some of the key features:
Independent Send & Return
Professional Sound Quality
Smooth EQs & Faders
Rekordbox DVS Bundled
Sound Colour FX
All the usual Inputs and Outputs plus USB
This weekend for a little variety I decided to swap bars with another DJ and instead of my usual funk and soul, I did a RnB & hip-hop night. Now I’m no stranger to hip-hop nights, over the years I’ve done plenty of these nights and I know what works. Anyway, what made me decide to write this blog was that during the night I was asked by a customer “ What’s on your hip-hop playlist tonight? ” to which my response was “ I don’t use playlists and I’m just going to wing it”. To my surprise the customer looked a little put-out and walked off – this isn’t the first time this has happened to me recently either.
Now, perhaps saying I’m just going to wing it wasn’t the best way to phrase it but saying “ I don’t use pre-made playlists and I’ll use my years of experience to read the crowd and play the right tracks that fit the genre for the bar” would have been a little bit of mouth full but at the same time I wasn’t prepared to reel off a list of artists which I may or not play. As it turned out Drake, Rihanna & Chris Brown didn’t go down very well and the classics like Blackstreet, Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. were the floor fillers – so it ended up being a hip-hop classics night.
Now the question is, is it good to use pre-made playlists and my first response would be no. With pre-made playlists, your sets are going to be the same pretty much every time which will quickly make you bored and the crowd also - they will pick up on this if you play the same tracks week in week out. With sticking to a pre-made playlist you can’t adapt to the dance floor, the crowd may not be the same or in the same mood each week. You don’t want to be continuing with a playlist of tracks that is killing the mood and nobody can predict the night ahead!
For a few weeks now my DJ laptop had run a little peculiar and this should have been a warning for what was to happen. At the start of the week, my laptop died and I had to reload Windows, Traktor and Rekordbox but this was only the start of my troubles. The Windows reload meant that my laptop was now running the new version of Windows and the same new version Pioneer said not to install. I had no way to revert back, I could no longer sync up my USB sticks for my CDJs and in the process, I had wiped one USB stick trying to sync. I thought this wasn’t too much of an issue though as I could still use CDs, this was until one CDJ decided it wasn’t going to play CDs anymore.
During the week my newly reloaded laptop was still being a little peculiar and later on, the day of a gig my laptop died again. The hard drive failed and needed replacing. So now I had no laptop, one working USB stick and one CDJ. I needed my gear working and I needed it working soon.
Luckily I had a few backup plans, firstly, all my music is stored on an external hard drive and my iTunes playlists also exported and saved; this makes any reboot a little easier to complete. I have a second backup with all my purchased tracks on another hard drive and a spare laptop. The second laptop has a lower spec, not ideal but it gets the job done. With time, I was able to load my playlists for Rekordbox on to the wiped USB stick using this spare laptop. Windows hadn’t been updated yet and iTunes was loaded with the playlists. One problem fixed.
I put a new hard drive in my main DJ laptop and started to reload Windows again. I was pretty lucky on this as I had a spare hard drive which wasn’t being used. I keep all my DJ software, serials and driver CDs in a box with my spare gear so they are easy to find, this was a life saver. As quickly as possible I reloaded Traktor and the required drivers onto the laptop. As this was loading I gathered my stuff, by this point, it was getting close to the line. I have a few older CDJs knocking about, these aren’t USB CDJs but I was able to grab one and a wallet of emergency MP3 CDs. At this point, I wasn’t sure if my reloaded Windows and Traktor would be work so taking down a third CDJ as a safety net.
With seconds to spare before I had to leave for my gig, my laptop finished installing iTunes, the playlists and Traktor. I had no time to analyse the tracks but I never analyse my tracks anyway as I flip between the laptop and CDJs, I rarely mix with the sync button. I wouldn’t recommend using an untested machine for a gig but it was something I was going to risk. I did have my spare second laptop with me but the specs are too low and I’m not comfortable solely relying on it.
Now many might be thinking I’m going to go down the road of vinyl is king, digital DJs are just button pushers, it's about beatmatching blah blah but no. I like to DJ with all sorts of different mediums including vinyl but I also DJ with CDs, USBs and Traktor with controllers and DVS and I’m not going to get into which is best and this post is just about the music. But why should you buy hard copies from a record store? From a DJ point of view, there are just some tracks that you can’t buy on a download like limited editions, old obscure records, remixes on older pressings or maybe the odd old DJ Promo. Searching around for these tracks which will, in turn, make you stand out from the vast crowds of DJs and the usual Beatport 100 DJs.
Buying from a record store you get the advice and opinions of the staff who could point you in another direction, again making you stand out. There may be the soul enthusiast who could point out a record with an obscure hip-hop sample that would go with the old skool hip-hop record you just picked up or the disco enthusiast pointing out a record to go with that house record. We’ve all seen the film Human Traffic with Koop the vinyl pusher and the record store scene right? If not id suggest some homework and go and watch it but in the scene, people are asking his opinion and advice. With record stores you’re getting a personal service and hopefully honest opinions and who would work in a music store if you hated music? Not many. Buying those records keeps this personal service going for other DJs and music lovers in the future and the creativity going. Record stores are closing because of technology and it’s a shame it needs something like this to try and keep them going, however vinyl sales are on the up (even if it was just for Christmas) so fingers crossed it keeps getting better.
When downloading new tracks online, you don’t really get a warm personal service, it’s cold and emotionless and this can be an uncreative process by simply downloading the Beatport Top 100. When downloading music you may see star ratings or the faceless keyboard troll leaving negative feedback just because and would you click on a low rated track? Would it even appear in your search? Probably not as it’s just text on a screen with a star rating and rankings. Everybody is going to be playing the same stuff this way, an example would be Boiler Room. I’ve listened to quite a few and recently came across 3 sets which were all very similar and playing the same tracks and if all local DJs are playing the Beatport Top 100 then it’s all a little bit boring really.
For International Women's Day here are 5 awesome mixes we enjoy listening to from 5 female DJs in the industry. We particularly like the one by Little Boots for its track selection and we have this on repeat here at THDJs.