Disciplined preparation creates amazing performances. If you believe in this statement, then having a robust cue point strategy is a great way to start prepping for success. Often ignored, cue points can be used in a variety of ways that will enhance your ability to mix live on the fly. In this article, Ean walks through the two main uses: using specialized cue points to mark songs for reference, and using hot cues as creative tools to break up tracks from their linear constraints.
FLAGS: GET ORGANIZED
With 300 to 500 songs (minimum) in a digital DJ's regular rotation, it's almost impossible to remember every song's structure, but knowing your music remains one of the most important requirements for all DJs. Upon loading a new track, the most important things to know about:Where is the best place to start mixing? > Where does the vocal, bass line, or main part of the song begin? Where are the most natural mix out points in the song?
Fortunately most DJ software has a variety of cue points that can be used as flags to remind you of critical places in a track. Traktor has a set of cue points which are different colors and serves different purposes, so these are best suited for flagging the track. Here is my personal system for you to reference or adopt:
- Load Marker: Traktor has a dedicated "load marker" which is yellow. This visually marks the natural start point of the song, which is not always the first beat, but may be the same.
The Fade Out marker (flag pointing to the right) is always an indication of good places to mix out of the song and start my next track. There are several markers per track. In the image bellow, I have a mix out point where the drums drop out, providing convenient room for a new song.
Extra Functionality Alert ! Fade In / Out points also can be used to tell Traktor's cruise mode when starting to mix in the next track. If you have a mix out marked and loaded song in the opposite deck, then Traktor will automatically start that song at the right place.
HOT KEYS: PERFORM BETTER
It is important to understand one confusing part of Traktor: you can store < in> up to 32 cue points in the cue list of any song. These can be the standard light blue cue markers or the special flags we talked about above. Any of those 32 cue points can be mapped to the 8 hot keys which allow you to jump to them in real time using controllers or your computer keyboard. Ean's preference:
/ strong> I like to map 8 performance cue points to all 8 hot keys, while keeping the song flags in the wave form overview. This is the best of both worlds, clear marking and 8 unique places in the song to jump to!
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The final type of file you can store as a cue point (and jump directly to) are loops! They can be used really well in 3 ways:
1. Sample Jamming: Set a loop on a short phrase (1/2 beat to 1 beat) and play the loop as a cue point. This trick was critical to my Ozzy Osbornue routine.
2. Mix Out Reminders: Many songs often have brief moments that, if looped, make perfect mix out points. This is commonly a short phrase or fill that will pass by if you do not have them stored and ready to go. Ableton Style Loops:
3 Ableton Style Loops: If you like to play parts of song and drop them intentionally the loops (to the Ableton clip launching) then preset 32 count loops on all critical parts of the song. Map all 8 cue points to a grid and you have clip-launching style DJing in Traktor. I prefer this over remix sets because they're easier to manage.
What are your secrets to cue point while mixing, in Traktor or any DJ software? Share your systems in the comments below: