Mixing by ear vs. Ableton

I’ve seen this question asked on a number of forums and having learned what I would term a very Chicago-style of mixing, I was curious to see what everybody’s response is here.

I have an opinion on this but don’t want to sway people’s votes one way or the other until we have a good number of people weighing in on the matter.

Hmm…my description seems to have been cut-off.

It basically says, “When you go to hear a DJ does it matter if they mix by ear or use software like Ableton to beat-match for them?”


my personal opinion is that a dj should posses djing skills. i do think that you can tell the difference between an ableton dj set and what i class as a true dj set, although both have +&-

when it comes to ableton, its a great program for making really complicated mixes and showboating effects however if im truly honest i would rather listen to the james zabiela style mixes on cd at home. when i wanna get my groove on lol i’d rather have a good dj playing from cd’s or vinyl and building his set on the fly according to the dance floor.

i also feel that dj’s that perform standard mixes using ableton really are very bad dj’s.

i have just recently moved onto a vci-100 and traktor pro but i really can’t stand using the sync function, i personally end up turning all the help functions off to mix.

For someone to go up and place one track after another via Ableton and class themselves as a ‘DJ’ is an absolute JOKE.

HOWEVER if they’re using Ableton to do LIVE sets, using effects, loops, samples, and basically making music on the fly, showcasing their music like a live performance, via controllers and synths then that is a completely different story, that is perfectly acceptable but i dont class that as ‘DJing’, its live performance.


Otherwise it’s like using a motored propellor and calling yourself a swimmer.

Roben wins analogy of the year.

I agree, if you rock up and stand in front of a computer letting it mix for you then you’re not a dj, you’re a techie. I’m an old skool, turntables and beatmatching DJ.

Again, what roben said - if you’re using ableton it’s great if it’s for a Live set, rather than for traditional Djing

my personal opinion is that a mix should be something like a trip…i dont really care if a dj can play with 3 or 4 or 5 turntables or using ableton or other software since he performs a decent mixing.

i use to judge a dj by the selection of the tracks and the atmosphere that his mix creates…

Alright everyone… I remember about 8 years ago, everyone I talked to said that using CDJ’s to mix rather than vinyl was “cheating” or it wasn’t right. We are in an age where technology is being developed to add view and perspective to mixing, as well as remixing live. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what they use to DJ. You could be the dopest beat matcher in the world but have no clue on how to rock a crowd. I personally know a DJ that is world renowned that produces via Ableton (he is even on their website as an Ableton artist) and DJ’s his sets via Ableton. He make a shitload of money doing it and he rocks the crowd.

What does it matter? Regardless of whether you DJ with ableton, Technic’s, CDJ’s, or anything else, rocking the crowd is all that matters. Deadmau5 doesn’t DJ when he performs, and he is probably the hottest performer/producer touring right now… Did I mention that he blows up a crowd when he plays?

We will see things that will come out that might make DJing easier, but it will expand the possibilities of what a live performer can do. Because if I DJ, I will use Ableton and I will mix other producer’s tracks in with my own using Ableton.

I don’t like swimming anyways… :smiley:

I think it really doesn’t matter at all how you do it if it sounds good. Ive heard some DJs with amazing technical skills that wouldn’t have the first clue about programming a good two hour set but at the same time have heard DJs that struggle to beat match but play the right tune at the right time and judge the crowd perfectly. How many people on an average dancefloor even really know what the DJ is doing and more importantly even care? They react purely to what they hear and if they like it they dance. I’d happily go see a DJ that didn’t even mix, just played one tune after the other if he was playing music I really liked.

Two Cents,

Two things I noticed about this thread that I think are being overlooked.

1.) if you have an audio card with more than one output, you can use it as a monitor and still dj live with ableton. meaning that you can pick the tracks as you go like if you were on turntables. this still beatmatches it for you though, which brings me to my second cent.

2.) Traktor, Serato, Torq: every one of these has a function were you can sync your beatmatch. it just requires you to warp your tracks to the right markers in advance. sound familiar?

with that being said, i think that we have met a great divide. there is no longer the typical dj. there are now two types.

DJ = disc jockey

DJ = digital jockey


the future is now. i personally have no interest in lugging around vinyl, or burning cd’s for that matter when I could just take the computer that its all on, fire up my software, grab said controller, and rock the house. I agree with Graham. In my adventures I have noticed that the majority of people don’t have the slightest clue what the dj is doing up there, and if you ask me, if you explained to the common person how to dj with rekkids versus ableton(we don’t think this is true, but they do), they would think that djing is easy, and ableton is hard, just because most are scared of a computer. and we all know, if it requires a computer, it must take skill! :wink:


Every time someone asks me this question, which is quite often considering how many Ableton and DJing classes I’ve taken, I always equate it to the same thing. A guitar player that can play really fast is only impressive for a very short period of time, it’s whether they can write a good song/piece of music or not that defines them. Technical prowess is only impressive to a limited few for a limited time where as a good ear for music and a knack for engaging the crowd is endlessly impressive. If there is a way to free up the time “wasted” by beat matching to do something musically interesting instead then I’m all for that, whether it’s Ableton, Serato or whatever.

Thank you! It couldn’t have been said much better. :wink:

Hi guys,

My opinion is that if i was to go to a club and had a great night then i would’nt be bothered if the dj was using ableton, 1210’s or CDJ’S. At the end of the day if you have a good night out then whats the problem.

To me its more about building the set and ensuring that the tracks are played in the correct order depending on the time of night, how many are in the club and audience reaction. At the end of the day as long as the dancefloor is rammed the dj is doing his job.

I have dj’ed professionally all be it in local bars and clubs for over 5 years using 1210’s, CDJ and ableton. Yes any fool can seige two records togther in ableton but there are good ways and bad ways and as i mentioned earlier its more about structure.

You can have dj’s who can mix two records together but does it make them a good DJ - no it all depends on the set.

To me ableton takes away the hassle of beat matching and allows you to do something more creative which hopefully the DJ will do ie looping bits of tracks, adding say extra percusssion, filtering parts and throwing acapellas over the top.

These are just my thoughts :slight_smile:

ok, 2 more thoughts on this.

1.) the definition of DJ has nothing to do with beatmatching anyhow. its defined by someone that puts on song on after another. example, a radio dj, they play song after song, but none of it is beatmatched (in a typical scenario of course)

2.) part of being a true artist is the ability to not give a shit what others think about how or what you are doing. only that you are producing what YOU want, regardless of what joe schmoe says about your laptop. as long as your happy with it, and the way it sounds, then its perfect. if you’re concerned with what others might think, then you are no longer an artist, but merely an employee of the music industry pushing what THEY think you should be doing. :smiley:


primo example. this is why a good producer will tell you not to produce for a genre, but to produce for yourself. the masses will classify it for you once its done. its just your job to make the product!


^^^^ i know that i broke away from the dj thing. but its all relative if ya catch ma drift… ok, no more posts from me on this one! :stuck_out_tongue:


ok as far as djing goes…dj stands for disc jockey and if they where still using vinly all these new found djs would be just producing and not djing…so if you are not beatmatching you are not getting it…if your using auto sync then you are  just playing if your beatmatching you are performing…just my 2 cents :slight_smile:

I agree with a lot of the comments made, but we have to wonder when does it turn from being a skilled DJ art form that used to take many years to perfect into someone being pretty much a juke box?

Punter: “how long have you been DJing for?”

DJ: “10 mins ago! Just learnt how to drag and drop on ableton and vuala”

I’ve always preferered listening to DJ mixes than ‘digitally mixed’ album CDs because there is more character and personality in the mixes. I think if you’re letting the computer do all the worlk then there wont be that ‘human touch’ anymore and thus lose touch of that ‘human feel’.

Now don’t go throwing me some comments back about quantizing lol hehe :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t think the computer is doing all the work, it’s only beat matching the tunes, which in my opinion holds shows no character at all. If you are using a physical controller to DJ with you can demonstrate an equal amount of personal character in the mix when using Ableton as when using turntables albeit a slightly different angle.

[quote]graham ginty (6/3/2009)[hr] If you are using a physical controller to DJ with you can demonstrate an equal amount of personal character in the mix when using Ableton as when using turntables albeit a slightly different angle.[/quote]

Thats what I wanted to hear, thanks :slight_smile: