August 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Do DJs Really Just ‘Press Play?’ 8 iOS Apps Help You Find Out

deadmau5 dj apps

Deadmau5 incited all sorts of controversy in electronic music circles with his admission that many artists, himself included, simply press play and nod their heads at their live shows, rather than actually making any musical decisions, in a widely-circulated blog post called “We All Press Play.”

Several responses soon followed, both positive and negative, from DJs, producers, and critics. Of these, we found A-Trak’s Huffington Post article the most brutally honest. In it, he addressed the chief problems with new DJing methods, including bland song selection and faux showmanship. Acknowledging that the distinctions between live mixing, producing, and DJing is blurring, the DJ blasted “false” DJs — the ones who press play and perform the same tracks on a nightly basis.

“Crowds used to come see DJs for a musical journey,” wrote the award-winning turntablist. “Now they expect to hear specific songs and furthermore, they want to see a show.”

Yes, the times are changing, especially as EDM (electronic dance music) penetrates the mainstream. A-Trak admitted that he too participates in showmanship some might call shallow, but he’s an immensely skilled artist at the decks and in the studio because he “practiced daily for years with monastic discipline, learning and creating intricate patterns of scratching, beat juggling and trick mixing.” That stands in a stark contrast to Deadmau5′s assertion that artists can just press play in Ableton Live and call themselves “performers,” which can be annoying, regardless of how amazing their studio work might be.

To me, A-Trak is right to ask that DJs and fans challenge each other with open minds, as we all grapple with these new issues. With that in mind, we present the following apps for mixing, remixing, and DJing with iOS, so you can practice the basics as you create your own brand of EDM, whether for fun or more serious purposes. To make things more interesting, we’ve broken them down by which EDM artist you wish you could be.

Be the next A-Trak

Beat Rock (iOS) brings the functionality of traditional vinyl and CDJ decks into one app allowing for portable AirPlay-enabled mixing with the effects and sounds that traditional methods offer.

Algoriddim Djay (iPad) is one of the most popular DJ deck apps for the iPad. The clean user interface emulates the traditional vinyl set-up, minus the effects unit. If you’re looking to have a house party, can’t find a DJ, and you have an iPad, this is probably your best best (especially with this cable).

TrakProDJ – Deluxe Edition takes the need to have a controller when using Traktor at your club, home, or local house party. TrakProDJ transforms your iPad into a touchable version of the program via Core Midi Wifi, enabling wireless DJing.

If you’re over the whole “hey this app sort of looks like turntables” thing, Touch DJ Evolution brings a unique waveform interface to the table, designed to make mixing simpler and more intuitive. It lets you actually touch the sound (or come as close to that as possible) rather than graphical representations of things that used to hold sound.

Be the next Deadmau5

Lemur by Liine lets you to control a wide array of aspects of your digital performance, ranging from lights to the music itself, via MIDI. Its touch interface was once highly-sought-after, but too expensive for most musicians. It’s much cheaper now, if you already have an iPad: $50.

Be the next Flying Lotus or Pretty Lights

The SoundYeah iPad app emulates the APC set-up popularized by Flying Lotus and Pretty Lights, offering a colorful grid for recording and triggering samples, and manipulating them with multi-touch commands.

Be the next Girl Talk

MiniMash is an innovative mash-up/DJ deck that makes mash-ups with the touch of a finger, or helps you control the crowd at a house party with its DJ capabilities. The user interface could not be simpler, allowing first timers to step up and mix in a totally unique interface.

Be the next DJ Spooky

DJ Spooky uses his own version of DJ Mixer Pro (iOS) when he DJs, so it’s probably safe for you to use. The app includes a unique blend of effects unit and turntable emulators. (Spooky predominately uses it as an effects unit in his sets.)

Photo: Flickr/Hyunji Choi

  • Dominic Son

    In the end, all that mattered was that the fans saw their fav DJ. i bet if @PaulOakenfold came out and just pressed a big gigantic space bar, and just stood there, people would still go nuts, vs another equally big DJ who brought out their studio to recreate the tracks live. (Crystal Method, BT used to do it live, they all just DJ now)