The sync button strikes again

Pioneer recently announced their new CDJ-2000nexus which, not only adds a lot of new (if not gimmicky) features to its industry standard player, but also adds the ever controversial sync button. CDJs have now officially bridged the gap between traditional hardware technology and current DJ software and controller technology.

To sync or not to something something

For those of you living under a rock, one of the biggest beefs CD-jockeys have towards software/laptop-jockeys is the availability of the sync button which allows for one-click beat matching. CD-jockeys cite (often unknowingly ironically) that they are keeping it ‘real’ by not using this automation and relying on skill and art to mix tracks. Meanwhile software-jockeys claim (ignorantly so) that beat matching isn’t really a skill, that the sync button is just a tool that opens them up to be more artistic in other areas that actually matter, and that if you don’t like it don’t use it. Vinyl-jockeys just shake their heads at everyone. So who is right?

First, I think it is important to clarify the huge difference between getting two songs to be at the same tempo for a 16 count transition and riding the pitch in order to keep two or more songs sync’d up for several minutes. The latter takes a tremendous amount of skill and practice over the former. Not to mention the fact that how the artist approaches this task will give create a unique sound and style. Automating this process removes the human element and creates a more sterile feel and experience. Proponents of the sync button argue that beat matching isn’t really an art to begin with and is only a minor part of the DJ process at best, citing that selection, presentation, and other qualities are the true art form. This isn’t quite correct as they are all components of a bigger picture. You can pull out and focus on several aspects of DJing and defy that they have any artistic quality when in actuality it’s how they all fit together as a whole. It’s like saying the stroke of a paintbrush is just a quantifiable ratio of force and requires no real skill and has no real bearing on a painting. If we were to automate the brush stroke process of a painter we would reduce the artistic quality considerably, despite the fact the artist still having to know the placement and kinds of paints used.

Yes, automating the beat matching process saves time and can allow one to focus on other forms of expression, but at what cost? If someone is doing their own beat matching and are able to do these other tasks, isn’t there a higher artistic value? Does a painting with automated brush strokes have a higher or lower artistic value than a hand painted one? There is value in effort alone, the doing something in a way that is the unique result of that manual labor itself.

The “don’t like it then don’t use it” argument

“Keep up with the times, besides, if you don’t like the sync button you don’t have to use it.”  A common argument that sounds fairly straight forward, but like much else in life, there is a deeper issue.  DJing and dance culture as a whole are already saturated fields where quality is being replaced by quantity in every aspect. Making tasks easier at the expense of artistic expression and skill only makes things worse. There isn’t much quality control going on to begin with, so how many more overpriced headliners that are faking their way on stage do we have to endure? Why are we making it easier to flood our lives with the mediocre? I’ve always been a proponent of art over convenience and this is no different. Even acknowledging that a some people will use the sync button to expand other artistic areas (and I suspect people profoundly overestimate this number) the flood of people using the sync button to achieve status as bookable is just not worth it. Even those of you concerned with money over art should at the very least be concerned for this reason alone as a flooded market drives prices down.

Realistically, love it or hate it, it seems the sync button is here to stay. With any luck however, we can shame people away from using it and keep the art alive and well in what we do.

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108 thoughts on “The sync button strikes again

    • Spot on.

      Further to that I, personally use the sync button on my omni control but also a vinyl deck connected via a 2 channel mixer and regularly mix between the 2 …

      How would I be judged?

      Also I know people who can beat match but have no idea of bar structure etc and their mixes sound mediocre.
      I also have friends who admittedly cannot beat match and use the sync button but understand bar structure and mix really well.

      What would you prefer?

      The sync button argument always seems a bit of a bitter one most of the time.

      I will always take a DJ/person who can mix and understands music structure over someone who can gbeatmatch but just can’t put 2 tunes together right. or simply have poor selection skills.

      David

  1. DJ = Disc Jockey
    …akin to a horse jockey. One can allow a living breathing creature to run on its own or with a living breathing jockey, pacing and encouraging the beast to victory. If you’re syncing, then don’t call yourself a DJ…for you no longer fall under the definition of the craft, disc jockey.

    • Actually your definition is incorrect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disc_jockey
      “A disc jockey, also known as DJ, is a person who plays recorded music for an audience. Originally, “disc” (sometimes spelled “disk”, although this is now uncommon) referred to phonograph records, not the later Compact Discs. Today, the term includes all forms of music playback, no matter the medium.”

      Further, “In reggae, the DJ (deejay) is a vocalist who raps, “toasts”, or chats over pre-recorded rhythm tracks while the individual choosing and playing them is referred to as a selector.”

      1.) please note “pre-recorded” means automated
      2.) also this was well before turntables had pitch faders so beat matching didn’t even occur at the time.
      3.) The disc jokey was originally the “rapper” because he “rode” the music with his voice. So your metaphor is incorrect… Not to mention one could argue that the “disc” in the case of a computer dj is a “disc drive.” Regardless the disc merely referred to the medium….

      In terms of your argument of craft you obviously have never manually warped tunes in ableton live… there is tons of work & craft to it… I’m a professional recording engineer, work for huge pro audio company, am a professional DJ who can run 12’s, CDJ’s, ableton, Traktor & serrato. I run 2 inc tape, spring reverbs, plate reverbs, reverb chambers, optical compressors & more….

      I make ALL of my money off of pro adudio & you know how I have been able to be so successful? Being smart enough to learn how to use EVERYTHING. People hire me because I can work in any situation with any gear. have a 4 year degree in recording, starting with logarithmic math for DB scale, physics behind the electronics, an entire semester in only all analog gear (ie no computers or digital gear in a professional recording setting), & even classes like psycho acoustics & synthesis & signal processing…. I hate to say it but most DJ’s that play vinyl give themselves WAY too much credit & for your to try to discredit someone like me based on “craft” is a joke… Honestly compared to all the gear I run on a daily basis, two turntables is by far the easiest. So funny how much credit you want to give yourself… your just a fucking DJ my brother… try to diss me when you step your game up to my level! LOL

      • Prerecorded means Prerecorded. If you want to compare resumes that’s fine, I’ve been at this for nearly 20 years, producing, recording, on-air production, on-air talent, live shows, etc etc etc blah blah blah. Call an orange an apple as much as you want.

      • Exactly! DJ’s play pre-recorded & automated muisc no matter what they method of playback ya dig? So by your own definition DJ’s are not artists!

      • You are the one saying prerecorded music is equivalent to automation, not me. But yes, just playing a song is not art, nor is that what a common definition of what a modern DJ does. Anyone JUST playing music is not an artist.

        So, you are inadvertently proving my point once again, a DJ (a good, artistic DJ) does a lot more than just play a prerecorded song. One of those thing is beat matching, if you automate that, you are getting closer to the just playing a song spectrum and thus less of an artist.

      • Plus, no matter how much you want to call my comparisons apples to oranges… You can’t deny the fact that running audio through a mixer is a common practive between tracking, mixing, producing & DJing… All of them involve running an electrical signal through a mixer & using transducers to turn that electrical signal into acoustic energy… So don’t give me that apples to oranges BS… No matter how hard to try to discredit my comparisons, you can’t deny the similarities… C’mon man you “play pre-recorded” music as a DJ no matter what you say….

      • Yes and everything is atoms and vibration. You’re points don’t fit the argument. Just because the music relies on electricity doesn’t mean there isn’t art. Electricity doesn’t equal automation.

      • LOL I just love how you skirt around everything Sean… You are playing “pre-recorded” music as a DJ. Bottom line, even with “manual beat matching” by your own definition, you are cheating by automating the process of playing music by recorded music that has been PRE-RECORDED rather than playing the music live, included in that pre-recorded information is automation. This is my last post on your wack ass blog… Bottom line you are picking & choosing your definitions at your convince. You are a massive hypocrite to be playing pre-recorded music yet acting like others are cheating.

        Since you keep bringing up language & the term automation. This is the direct definition of automation via mariam webster.

        “Automation: automatically controlled operation of an apparatus, process, or system by mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human labor”

        You have automated the process of playing an instrument such as a guitar by playing a pre-recorded selection of music. Hence by your own argument DJing is by nature not art, cheating & automated.

      • You keep supporting my point without even realizing it. There is no skirting going on. You keep failing to see that the term artist is relative the medium used. What makes a DJ an artist is different than what makes a painter, or a guitar player, or a writer and artist. Prerecorded music is the medium of the DJ, just as the guitar is the medium of the guitarist.

        A DJ who just presses play is not a DJ who is an artist, just as is the case when you automate the labor of the DJ/artist; you are removing the intention and efforts which are necessary to create art, as I’ve said before, and as your definition points out.

      • LOL not true at all… For starters, a guitar is not a medium, it’s an instrument… & what is your point? To say that my Ableton DJ sets aren’t art? does that make you feel better about yourself? Am I an artist when I use vinyl but not when I use Ableton simply to sync technology? Like all the rest of my skills simply disappear because there is no way independently control tempo per tune while djing? Or am I just an artist in general because I am mulch-disciplinary? & really who are you to say who is & is not an artist anyways? No matter how much you try to narrow the definition, it is constantly expanding. No offense but from your post & replies, it seems like you are not capable of abstract thought or thinking outside the box…

        You keep acting like I am supporting it but ignoring how I have disproved it… No matter what the method, a DJ plays pre-recorded music, thus automating the process actually playing music with an instrument & other band members… So no matter what you say, when comparing djing to being in a band, you are cheating & not being artistic but your own definition. I’m not mad at all, I simply feel that if you are going to create these definitions & point the finger at others, then your ideas need to be scrutinized as well. In this case, I’m sorry to say it but by your own definition playing pre-recorded music, rather than actually playing music live is not artistic.

      • You just aren’t getting it, I don’t know how to make it any simpler or clearer for you. First of all a musical instrument is absolutely the medium to which a musician/artist of that instrument uses to create art. A guitar is most definitely the medium of the guitarist. Secondly, automation is not art. That isn’t to say that there are not other aspects to a process that have artistic qualities, but anything that is automated isn’t art. Art requires labor, as you yourself even pointed out. You haven’t disproved anything, I’ve concurred that just playing a prerecorded song isn’t art, but just playing a prerecorded song is not how the artistic value of a DJ is defined. Let me try to put it this final way, take two DJs, doing everything the same, the same songs, the same timing, everything is the same except one uses the sync button and one does not. The one who does not use the sync button has a higher artistic value than the one who does. It is not rocket science, it is not a matter of me creating definitions or judging or any other attack on my person that you try to make, it is just the way it is by the very nature of the elements we are discussing.

        If you still don’t get it, if you still think automation is art or that you have some how proved me wrong or think that I am making up my own definitions, I’m afraid you just aren’t ever going to get it. Have a nice day.

      • LOL YOU will NEVER get it… You are a “know it all” & act like your logic is completely infallible, when in fact you have contradicted yourself throughout this conversation. I’m sure your the same person in life who just can’t admit they are wrong ever… Shit even in terms of history you are wrong because dj’s like larry levan didn’t even have turntables with pitch faders, so they couldn’t possibly beatmatch like modern djs do. As a dj you are playing “pre-recorded” records… instead of playing an instrument… bottom line by your own definition you are not an artist when you DJ because playing a record is the automated process of playing in a band…

      • & you don’t have to make shit clear for me… I have taken hardcore classes from a plethora of true old school & grammy award winning engineers & musicians… I’m a grown man… 30 years old, a professional & been at this for 15 years… I love how you think that you somehow can “make things clear” for me… What you are missing is you are not god or all knowing & you don’t need to clarify anything for me… I see clearly & am totally educated & experienced, which qualifies me to disagree with your opinion. peace out brotha

      • What makes an engineer an artist is different than what makes a DJ an artist, even though the word ‘mixing’ is used for both. But good luck with that.

      • Well Sir, I’d happily take you on and step up to your ‘level’. Read a book and easily understand musical structure – especially dance-floor oriented musical structure; however, will that same book teach you how to beat-mix? Nope. And note the term: beat-mix. Somewhere along way beat-matching became the term but it’s incorrect to call it so. Reading that book would teach you how to beat-mix – only hands-on practice and lots of it will accomplish that. Slamming the synch button will accomplish the same result I’m told (I’ve never used it but I imagine it’ll do it and with some serious sterility as well) but that too will not mean you can beat-mix. A musician is said to feel the music for a reason. What if Jimi Hendrix had auto-pic for his guitar? There are no shortcuts. Learn the skills and then call yourself a DJ.

  2. While I agree with the arguments against the Sync button, the concept of “Shaming people away from it” is something I strongly disagree with. It says something about the fragile ego of the DJ scene…and this disturbs me greatly.

  3. While I agree with all the points against the Sync button, and don’t really care to use it myself… the idea of willfully shaming people who do choose to use it is something I have a big problem with. It speaks volumes of the fragile ego of many in the DJ scene, and that’s just sad.

  4. Who cares about sync? If it provides the option for more people to start to experiment and showcase their taste in music, why not? I mean, we already have terrible musicians and DJs, would the few extra really hurt that bad? Even so, this is a piece of equipment over 2k Euros. It’s not like your typical dubstep 14 year old is going to pick it up.

  5. …i will be the fisrt “Synk Jockey”… the evolution of djs… ihihi…
    Man, keep it easy!!! The future can’t wait! Evolve your self or be estinguished!

  6. LOL
    U mad because of the sync button, ermagerd…
    Also we no longer use “discs” for the most part anymore, it’s mp3’s and wav’s.
    The ONLY thing anyone should trip out about is pre-recorded sets.
    Do the mixing live, rock the party, everyone is happy.
    And to anyone who doesn’t know how to manually beatmatch,
    here’s the Contra code: 1, 2, 3, 4, – 2, 2, 3, 4, – 3, 2, 3, 4, – 4, 2, 3, 4…

  7. I think as technology opens up more and more possibilities with DJs, there will always be those who resist these changes and cling to what they already know and use. Technology has changed art in many ways – and this will continue. I don’t think this can be objectively “good” or “bad” – it just is. Some people might think that anything that saves time on a task “good.” Others may not. But, really, use of the sync button has no bearing on how good a set will be or how good a DJ is.

    And the auto-tune is a false equivalency to the sync button. Whereas auto-sync is a minor function in DJing, auto-tune takes the MAJOR function of singing (100% of the output) and alters it. Not the same thing.

  8. Musically, it does not matter if you are beat matching manually or automatically as long as the beats are synched. And visually, manual beat matching is not much of a spectacle anyways, it’s not like you are doing beat juggles or old school body tricks that will wow the audiences.
    So it only boils down to technicality, in which I prefer to use maths as comparison. Using calculator is much faster and efficient for calculating things, but you should learn to do it manually first. Or else you would look really really stupid when your calculator malfunctioned.

      • I think people got it wrong as if beat matching is the only weapon a dj have.. beat matching is only the brush not the strokes. if you play a preset playlist / mixtape for your set, THEN it’s an automated brush strokes

      • This is the problem with arguing by analogy. The point is you are automating a process in the art form, translate that to automating any part of the process of a painter and the value of that art declines.

      • Are you seriously comparing beatmatching to painting with a brush??? Automated brush strokes?
        This is, hands down, the most self indulgent thing I’ve read on the internet in ages mr dj. You should be ashamed of yourself. Please, try and pick up a real instrument for once and try to learn its basics. As many others, you’re just frustrated since the most cumbersome part of creating transitions between records is being made redundant by technology. Get a life.

      • You are clearly missing the point of the analogy. It’s about automation vs manual labor in the art process. Pick any instrument and automated any part of the process, does it still have the same artistic value as someone one doing it manually? No.

    • Allowing myself to take the moment and take a closer look at your general rhetoric I don’t think I am.
      Face it – beatmatching is dead simple, anyone with gear and without an impaired sense of rhythm can learn it in a week max and defending it using such argumentation just makes you look silly. Yet it is the part that requires most training and it’s the only place things can go really wrong when you’re inexperienced and in front of a crowd. It’s within the best interest of those who don’t have much more to try and make it seem as something more than it really is and it slowly becomes common knowledge. Majority of those who talk the most about “room reading” or “taking people on a journey” are basically “creatively crossfading” between tracks they bought in a shop for money at best, which is a performance art much closer to juggling or riding a unicycle than to performing music on stage.
      Also FYI, the uniform trend in all music production technology since before computers were introduced into the process is about simplifying, automating and streamlining the process (instruments, samplers, sequencers… all of it) and has been the primary driver of success of, for example, Ableton Live since it’s release in 2001. I’m sure there are many artists you follow whose musical existence was developed and established this way.
      Long time ago, I’ve been making my living dj’ing vinyl. That was before I turned 20 and I dropped it couple of years later to focus on what the realm of music truly has to offer from the creative perspective. I’d recommend all the life long djs, experts on all things music to at least give it a try. You’ll be in for a serious shock and there is no way you’ll continue defending this silliness anymore.
      Why none of the big name producers who dj globally rant about nexus and those who cry the loudest are the 100%-REAL-DJ djs? Go figure.

      • Learning how to mix two or more tracks for longer than a few bars takes a lot longer than a week. Clearly you aren’t getting the difference between mixing the tracks for an extended period of time and lining the bpm accurately enough for a short transition.

        I do produce and play instruments, but that doesn’t change the value of DJing as an art form.

      • of course I do get the difference but how many of those of the realest super OG vinyl purists are really are going further beyond 16 bars while constantly controlling EQ and FX? What’s a short and what’s a long transition to you?
        Silly silliness.

      • This isn’t a “vinyl purist” issue. There are plenty of artists that match and mix their own beats for an extended period of time while using all the other bells and whistles.

    • It’ll matter a LOT if a CDJ goes on the fritz, or you lose your memory stick, or your laptop won’t boot up and then YOU think the party’s over but the other DJ says “nah, we can still rock a party. We’ve got a pair of Tech 12’s / CDJ1000’s and I’ve got two crates of records / CD wallets in my trunk so we can hook those up”

      So Mr. Synch Button? What are you gonna say? “Sorry, I can’t play your music because I only play tunes I know.”? Or would ya come right out and say it? “I can’t play on 1200’s or 1000 MKIII’s because there are no synch buttons and, well, I can’t beat-mix”

      Aaaaaand you’ll feel shame.

      Also remind me again please. Hitting the synch button saves time to allow more artistic creativity to do what? Wank the EQ even more? Squeeze every last bit ya can out of the effects? Claim to be the first DJ to have 11 tracks going at once?

      Again, no shortcuts. Take the time to learn the base skills of the craft to then call yourself a beat-mixing DJ. I suspect it’s mainly those who haven’t done so who proudly press Synch – because if you’ve really put in the time to build the skill, to appreciate the skill…how could you ever NOT want to beat-mix without a button?

  9. I’m okay with the sync Button. I know how to beatmatch and it took me a while to get it down. I think people are upset because something that they had to learn and take time to do is just now given to someone without having to learn it. I learned beatmatching not to bring into songs but to understand song structure better. That still has to be learned and if they next dj can’t beatmatch and can only use sync but his sets are more diverse and better than mines…well I need to stop whining and step my game up.

  10. Man I don’t usually jump in on these pseudo-debates…but I can’t resist.
    I can probably lock a beat match manually faster than I could find the sync button on the new CDJs. But really…who cares.
    The fact of the matter is simple…life goes on. Art goes on. Both talent and non-talent will always rise and fall. A sync button will not a DJ make nor ruin.
    See what I’m saying here?
    DJs aren’t painters. We play other peoples (or our own previously produced) music. It’s a LOT different than a paintbrush. No insult intended, but that’s part of the delusion of our importance.
    Bottom line is put yourself in the headset of your own average club/party goer. Very different expectations exist for every DJ at every venue on any given night. Your one focus as a DJ is to fulfill the greatest expectation of your given crowd. If you are playing an underground party, that’s very different than then playing a bottle service club or a turntablist competition.
    The great irony is that ‘art’ can’t be ruined. It’s impossible by definition. Many claimed Warhol was ‘ruining’ art and now he is regarded as a pioneer and a highly respected artist.
    Critics and other DJs can dissect for sport as much as they want, but, unless you exist in a vacuum, the only true gauge is if your crowd enjoys itself…sync button or not.
    Can you exceed their expectations and redefine their perception of the craft?
    That is your one goal…how you get there is up to you.

    • Not caring is a problem within any market that leads to an over saturation of inferior quality goods that eventually drive people out of that market.

      Granted some DJs are artists, some are not, but automation should be left for jukeboxes. I’m not suggesting the sync button will ruin art, but by automating an aspect of art you are eliminating the artistic quality that came with the manual efforts of that aspect. This site is about maintaining art over convenience, especially in the dance community.

      • Question then. Should I go back to vinyl since carrying around mp3’s is easier than a crate of vinyls? With mp3’s I can improve a night easier and who knows what I might spin but vinyls I can’t bring them all so I had to plan my night and my songs. Some people say there is a lost art in moving from vinyl to mp3 (Wav, Flac, etc). I think it just improves my set.

        Wouldn’t the sync button become like this? The art of beatmatching is something when done right you have no idea and when done incorrect it ruins your night.

      • Sync is convenience which leads to pushing art. Some will be lazy and some will use that to bring us some styles they we never thought of. It shouldn’t be left out just because I want to churn butter the old fashion way 🙂

    • The crowd. Because technology can’t “read” the crowd and choose the appropriate next tune, and the DJ can! If the function of the DJ is taking the crowd on a journey, let’s say that using the sync button the DJ is using automatic gears instead of manual ones, but he still is the driver, the man in charge.

      I beatmatched for many years manually and when the sync button came up I became a fan. It gave me a lot of time to do other things.

  11. I am upset that this debate is still given traction. It certainly highlights the immaturity of many and the fragility of egos when sides must be taken on this ‘sync or no sync’ nonsense! Thankfully at this stage, people are free to choose whatever method they prefer to achieve the results they want. I would not tell you how to bring up your child, because it is YOUR child, only you know how you want that child brought up and rightly so. Is sending that child to a recognized school, similar to pressing the sync button, or would it be more artistic to home school the child, manually?
    Dear Everybody, I am grateful that there are different types of DJ’s out there, I am happy for technology, I am happy for evolution, I am not scared of change and I am very impressed by the creative talents of all DJ’s and musicians and am proud that you are all choosing to express yourself in whatever manner you wish. Continue with your chosen path and do not let anyone tell you that their way is the right way!
    The world will be a better place when we can all offer each other support and not judge others based on their own individual choices. Surround yourself with people who support you and send love to those that don’t!
    Happy DJ’ing – Enjoy the freedom of choice – while we still have it!

    • This is about DJing as an art. You are correct, there are many kinds of DJs, I’m voicing for those that want to keep
      it an art form instead of moving it to a state of over priced jukeboxes. Plain and simple, if you are automating something, it is no longer art. That’s it.

      • Where is the line then? Is pressing play on a pre-recorded song not art. Should I produce on the fly? Is using auto loop cheating? Out of all the things beatmatching in itself is not an art form. It is what had to be done and learned.

      • The line is, for DJing, mixing is the art, so automating any of the components of the mixing process is removing the art. Beat matching included.

      • Do you ever check the bpm readings on your cdjs, if you do then you are just a hypocrite…

      • I generally don’t use CDJs unless forced, so no, I don’t pay attention to the bpm counters. Still a huge difference from that and automating the syncing process.

      • Art is subjective. Placing a rock on a chair can be ‘Art’. What I will say in defence of the technology shy beat-grid haters out there is this: I see value in learning how to mix the old school way aswell as part of the process of becoming a DJ. You will learn more about the music and develop an ear for how things sound. Plus when some arrogant old school DJ criticizes you you can step onto his decks and prove a point! And then say, ‘now leave me alone, I can beat match, but chose not to.’

      • There is subjectiveness to art, but art is not purely subjective. Subjectiveness is primarily reserved for taste. You can’t accidentally knock a book on the ground and call it a painting. Again, automation is not art. That’s great, it supposedly opens you up to other things, so why can’t you do both? There are artists who can match their own beats and still do those other artistic things.

  12. Pingback: My Reaction to the Sync Debate Nonsense | Traktor Tips

  13. This is quite entertaining to say the least. I find it disturbing that people don’t get the point as to why the sync button lessens the value of the skill every DJ should fundamentally posses.There’s no telling how many people have tried to start DJ’ing, when 1200’s reigned supreme and vinyl was the only real option, quit due to the difficulty in learning how to really do it properly. The DEDICATION and DISCIPLINE it takes to learn the “Art” of matching a beat, this is the difference and this is why it matters. What we have now is an instrument that literally allows anyone with a music collection and a dream of being a DJ to do it with almost zero learning curve. It’s really just another product of the instant gratification generation. The “I want and need that now” attitude has slowly chopped away at any culture that was still left in our society and DJ’s that still beat match manually are now the next victim (photographers were just before us). The sync button represents a big giant bitch slap to all of us who have dedicated hours upon hours to perfect… something that evokes a feeling satisfaction when done right. There is ZERO satisfaction in hitting sync. You didn’t do shit but hit buttons so don’t act like you have any DJ skills at all. At best, you are a PROGRAMMER.

    • I thought J. Patrick said that very well…maybe leave off the ‘at best…’ part because I’m sure the EQ knobs might be worn out at the end of night with all the extra time available – oh and, of course, the crowd would have been thoroughly studied as well – not too mention all the extra time auto-synch frees up to spend choosing jusssst the right track every time…

  14. I try not to get dragged into these debates, but I’ll wtf, this should be fun. I’m going to try and focus on the meta arguments since getting dragged down into the specific details is mind numbingly boring. Technology will march on, improving your own understanding is what is going to keep you dominant in your field, not trying to shame people into staying stagnant.

    Go read Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano: Technology marches on. It won’t stop, and part of the forward march of technology is that it sometimes makes whole professions and whole areas of research obsolete. Thousands of assembly line workers have lost their job to robots that largely build cars on their own. No programmer starts a project in FORTRAN because higher level languages like Ruby and Python have been created. Kodak, once the largest supplier of film is in bankrupsy. Someone somewhere is writing algorithms to use an Xbox Kinect to read a crowd and totally replace the DJ.

    In the modern world of technology you need to adapt and learn new things in order to maintain your relevance. We get it, you spent hundreds of hours learning to beatmatch and invested thousands of dollars in vinyl records. DJing is not unique in it’s position of being run over by technology. I spent hundreds of hours learning the nuances of fortran in college only to spend hundreds of more hours learning Ruby when that became the hot new programing language. I spent thousands of dollars on film cameras and lenses only to have to replace them all when digital came around. In most technological fields you are going to have to learn new things continuously and invest in new technology to stay relevant. This is the rule, not the exception. Notice this doesn’t mean that you can’t do things the retro way for the sake of art, but you are going to be Retro.

    Technology builds on itself. It starts with low level building blocks (electrons, materials, notes, photons) and works it’s way up to high level concepts (websites, cars, dj sets and photographs). The whole of each of these stacks is so ridiculously complex that there is no hope that anyone is going to master the whole stack. You don’t need take classes algorathms to write code to build a website. You don’t need to understand material latices structures to design parts for a car. You don’t need to understand photon’s or refraction to take a picture. You don’t need to have a degree in sound engineering to DJ a stadium concert with 100,000 watt sound system. And now due to the very nature of technology you don’t need to know how to beatmatch to be a DJ (Although sooner or later you are going to have to mix into someone’s vinal only set).

    This isn’t to say that understanding the lower levels of a technology doesn’t help. Actually the better your understanding of it building blocks the better you will be at your level of the stack. Understanding algorithms makes you a much better programmer, making a pin hole camera and understanding refraction will make you a better photographer, knowing how to beatmatch will make you a better DJ or producer.

    Art can be whatever the fuck you want it to be. It can be simple and easy like splattering paint on a canvas or taking a photograph. There are entire websites dedicated to “Accidental Art”. In a lot of these cases the artistic value of this simple art comes from all the underlying knowledge that theses artists have about composition.

    Art can also be incredibly complex (and impressive) at any level of a technology stack. It can be a drawing with a pencil that looks like a photograph. It can be rebuilding a classic car. It can be a photograph taken with an old film camera or It can be a 7 exposure HDR picture. It can be beat matching with vinyl or it can be beat juggling on four decks with tracktor. Take a look at some of the advanced stuff people are doing on DJTechTools and tell me it isn’t impressive. It can even be an entire prerecorded production (like a movie or one of Daft Punks sets). To your point about an automated paint bursh… I’d be fully impressed with anyone who could create such a machine. Excluding art at any level in a technology stack is stagnant and naive. Your idea of shaming people into limiting them selves has only limited my view on how I think of you as a producer and DJ.

    • Even forgetting for a second that you don’t DJ or produce:

      This isn’t about being anti-tech or keeping people stagnant, it’s about keeping people from being lazy. There are limits to art, art requires intent and representation. Art isn’t accidental. That is not to say there isn’t value or beauty in accidents. Most of what you speak of is on the taste side art, which yes, is primarily subjective.

      Again, this isn’t about stagnation or limiting people, this is quite the opposite. To just press a button to perform a task that is fundamentally a part of an art form is lazy and removes any artistic aspect from that action. It is now an automated function, there is no art present. Pressing that sync button doesn’t save so much time that all of a sudden there is this whole new magical world available to an artist.

      You said it best, excluding art at any level in a technology stack is stagnant and naive, pressing that sync button excludes art. I want people to express themselves, push the limits, grow, expand. Automating a basic function of an art form is not doing that.

      • “Hundreds of hours learning to beatmatch”??!! It didn’t take me that long… Sean – I agree with you 100% – there are some of us who appreciate those who sing without Autotune, play a real instrument, create art with actual physical medium (instead of a computer), and beatmatch two songs manually. The human element is something that cannot be replaced by machines and/or computers. Imperfection is what makes art wonderful. At least to me…

      • Watch this hour of greatness with James and Pete – there is a hidden old vs new debate in here, but they courteously skirt the debate somewhat and allow the the other person the freedom to be expressive in their own ways….. I would recommend you stay away from ‘shaming’ people who use it. I have not ‘taken-sides’ and never will, everyone should be allowed their freedom of choice without the risk of being shamed for their choices. http://traktortips.com/2012/09/11/getting-technical-with-james-zabiela-pete-tong/

      • People always have a choice, just like I have a choice to not support laziness or bypassing one of the fundamental pieces of the art form. I represent those that pursue art over convenience. Focusing on the humor I was using in respect to ‘shaming people’ doesn’t change that. But still, if shaming people pushes them to new levels, so be it.

      • I would ‘recommend’ all DJ’s learn the ‘original’ skill of DJ’ing, but I would not argue its necessity. Similarly, I would ‘recommend’ that all ‘old-school’ DJ’s learn how to use technology, but likewise, I would not argue it’s necessity. I understand the humour intended with your shaming, but the only way to push people to knew levels is to encourage and support. Often when people face challenges, it is a reflection of themselves. The laziness you speak of here, might be you experiencing laziness in learning new technology? Just a thought! I will take this opportunity to commend you on this article though, it has stirred up some great debate and hopefully inspired many people one way or another…….

      • I’ve been an early adopter of all kinds of tech, from cdjs, to software, to controllers. Again I am in no way anti-tech. I am pro-art, and automation isn’t art.

      • Looks like I will never change your stance on that, so good on ya for standing true to your beliefs. I will continue to enjoy your rants now I am subscribed to your blog! Take it easy, nice chattin, I am sure there will be more to come….. 😉

  15. Great points all, but… How many of the people that dances to our mixes, really care about the use of the sync button?. I think that the final goal is to make the people dance, and if we reach that goal, that is what we need to do.

    • Educating the crowd is part of the cause. We can allow ourselves to become jukeboxes, fully bending to the will of the crowd and be tools of the pop culture, or we can fight for art and be tastemakers. This site is dedicated to the tastemakers not the jukeboxes. It may not be a quick and easy path but good art generally isn’t found down those paths.

  16. To me, the art of a DJ is the sonic journey being created, the story the DJ tells over the course of their set, with highs, lows, tension, release etc. Not the method behind it.

    With that in mind, I have yet to see anyone make an argument as to why DJs should not use the sync button except “not using it is harder”. The article and comments make a lot of vague references to “art” and “brush strokes”, but is there really a discernible difference? One could even argue that a DJ who can beat match perfectly is one who can’t be distinguished from a computer. I want to know which “artistic quality” in the sounds being presented are lost through sync. If you sit down and listen to a series of mixes, can you tell which were done which way and explain why A sounds better than B?
    The only thing that matters here is what’s produced. That’s it. Did authors become any less authors once they started using typewriters instead of pencil and paper? No. They still created their products.
    At the end of the day, things aren’t automatically better simply by their virtue of being more difficult. If there is a tangible effect on the art being created then you would have a point. But if what you end up with is indistinguishable to the audience then it’s just a better way to get to the same place and the only reasons not to do it is some sort of throwback puritanism regarding suffering for the sake of suffering.

    • Again, the primary point of this article is that when something is automated it ceases to be art. If someone doesn’t care about an artistic aspect of something why would they care if it was automated?

      If the methods behind a goal don’t matter then why does a photo copy of a painting have little to no value of the actual painting itself? What has more value, a hand carved statue or one molded from a cast? You are correct in your assessment of included artistic elements, which makes it a little surprising that you fail to see the art in the act itself. Matching beats to a computer’s level, as you suggested, would take a considerable amount of skill and has an increased value because it is done manually. It isn’t just about the difficulty, which does add it’s own value, it’s also about the unique result of the efforts given in a moment of time. Human syncing provides a certain organic sound unique to the artist and unique to that moment in time which is what the DJ is providing to the crowd. Syncing by hand is unique to the artist and part of the art of the moment. Auto syncing isn’t.

      • More on this….

        I think that beat matching is not an ART, it’s a SKILL. Once you have learnt that SKILL, you are able to showcase your ART. Beat sync, simply removes one SKILL set that you are required to learn, but does not remove any of the ART.

      • You can isolate any component of DJing (or any art form for that matter), dissect it, label it a skill and say it is devoid of artistic value. Art comes into play from the overall experience, artistic value is a result of a sum of parts. Removing any ‘skill’ from the process removes artistic expression. And again, the true ‘skill’/art of syncing goes beyond being able to make two songs match bpms, but to maintain cohesion (or stay mixed) for extended periods of time.

      • In general I think that if you are this concerned about the sync button then you are missing the point & should be listening to the music. Also, it is progress… I learned to mix on 12’s for 10 years before I started using ableton which is synced no matter what you do by nature of the program. There are just certain things that are possible in Ableton that are not possible using 12’s & vinyl due to the limitatons of the physical media & playback method. As stated above, the sonic journey is the main point. Even more so, if you think that sync removes the art, then you may as well go stand over there with the dj haters in general. A person in a rock band or a classical musician would argue that you already took the art out of it by simply playing others recordings as a performance to begin with. By those terms, put down the home stereo equipment & go pick up a REAL instrument. It is the circle of hate & snobery that bothers me… Classical musicians hate on rockers, who hate on hip hoppers, who hate on DJ’s who hate on “syncers.” Yaaaaaawn, the whole idea of knocking others is tired & played out. So go do your thing but just remember as DJ’s there is always someone thinking that you took the art out of it no matter what method or media you choose to use.

      • The circle of hate you speak of results from the systematic removal of human and artistic components from music. Automation isn’t art, even if you try to package it as ‘progress’.

      • PS EVERY producer that you play the records of (especially in dance music) is using a computer, sync & AUTOMATION when they create & mix down the tunes, so your argument about automation & art is invalid & hypocritical. Further more in modern recording, & epically mixing down us engineers use automation the entire way through to ADD ARTISTIC touches & movement into our mix downs. So to say automation removes art just doesn’t add up.

      • Oh I see, so it is ok for the producers to use those technologies but not a DJ? Honestly, where do we draw the difference? Why is it a skill & art when producers use it but not when a DJ uses it?

      • First of all we aren’t talking about production or producers so I don’t know why you are trying to force a comparison that doesn’t equate. We are talking about mixing in a lens that is a fundamental process to the act of DJing. The art of mixing as a DJ and as a producer are very different things.

        Second, I stand by my overall point, automation isn’t art. No matter what the subject matter is, if it is automated it is by definition, concept, and otherwise, void of art. Art fundamentally requires intent from an artist, automation contains no intent in the actual process being automated, hence ‘auto’-mated. The value of the art in question is determined by how the artist expresses that process through their own efforts, not through the efforts of a computer or other mechanical means.

      • First: There is a direct comparison as producers actually make the tunes that you are simply playing back as a DJ. Somehow you obviously equate art because you are playing them back as art & yes, the are ALL automated. I’m sure you are avoiding the fact that production & djing go hand in hand because you realize that it does make your argument invalid & shows how hypocritical it is. *** Please, don’t avoid… Answer the question! Production is 10 times more involved & requires 10 times more skill than DJing, so why is it ok for producers to use Automation but not DJ’s? ***

        Second: No where in the definition of automation does it separate automation from art. Once again, this exposes the inaccuracy of your argument. I have worked recording sessions with several grammy award wining engineers who have taught me the ART of automation in mixing. For you to say that automation isn’t art, then that would mean that almost all of modern mixes of tunes are not art. 90% of mix downs use automation back in the day, they used to have to have 4 people manually adjust levels on the fly, does that mean in it’s current state with pro-tools & automated boards that there is no longer an art to mixing? I’m sorry but if you are going to point the finger, you have to keep by your own definitions & standards & consider all of that music NOT art. This would include professional SSL boards that have automation built into the board which actually add potential for MORE artistic mix downs.

        Third: Once again by your own definition, Djing itself is not an art… “The value of the art in question is determined by how the artist expresses that process through their own efforts, not through the efforts of a computer or other mechanical means.” If I’m not mistaken a pitch fader on a 1200 or CDJ is a mechanical apparatus, is it not? Once again your point does not add up.

        Overall i thinking you are missing the point & further ignoring any excellent points & comparisons I have drawn. You want to say I can’t compare DJing to producing but I work as a professional as all of the above, tracking & mixing engineer for acts & bands. I run SSL, API, Calrec & Neve boards on the regular I am a beat producer & real producer as in I help bands tighten up their song writing & arrangements. I am also a DJ who knows how to run 1200’s, CDJ’s, Traktor, Serato & Ableton Live. **** That is my honest question which I hope you will actually answer… Why is it ok for me to use automation as an engineer & as a producer but not ok for me to use automation as a dj? (further, the ironic part is I have to sync my tunes when I dj with Ableton but don’t ever actually use the automation for a dj set) ****

        PS the funny thing about what you said about manually syncing above is that I actually manually set warp markers every 8 bars for every tune I dj with in Ableton.. so in fact I am uniquely programing the sync by hand & by your logic, that is indeed unique to me as an artist & the tunes I choose to mix are unique to the moment… Once again, your points do not add up. Don’t hate! Participate!

      • I produce so I am well versed in the differences between production and DJing. I am also versed in the differences between song writing, composing, production, recording, playing an instrument, and mastering. Just because production, recording, mastering, and DJing share the term ‘mixing’ it doesn’t mean they are using it the same way. Under the basic function, yes, you are mixing two or more sounds/tracks together. That’s about it, the how’s and why’s are very different, each of which are using different skill sets and falling under different artistic values. You keep trying to compare apples and oranges just because they are both fruit.

        You haven’t drawn any ‘excellent comparisons’, someone who does in the studio manually has a higher artistic value than someone who lets the automation do the work. The value of the outcome isn’t what is at issue. DJ A mixes by hand, DJ B uses automation (sync button), they both produce a mix that is audibly indistinguishable. DJ A has more artistic value than DJ B because he did it himself. Plug in any artist, producer, etc instead of DJ and it holds true. Singer A hits all of the notes with their own voice, Singer B uses automation (autotune). Who has more artistic value? DJ mixing in itself is an art, automating that process is mechanizing it, removing the art from the process.

        You seem to be under the false assumption that when someone uses the sync button I am saying they are fully devoid of artistic value. Not true, I’m saying that when it comes to that particular element they have now removed art. Nothing you’ve said has changed or challenged that.

      • Funny too by your definition of the circle of hate, please put down the home stereo equipment & start playing piano at all your gigs… By that argument you already removed the art by djing in the 1st place.

      • Again you are missing the point. Even forgiving your misguided attempts to incorrectly compare two things, DJing has its own set of artistic values and requirements. In the overall picture of music, a person that can play piano well does seem to have a higher artistic value than a DJ (especially one who syncs), but ultimately you are saying piano player is more artistic than a violin player. If you want your comparisons to resonate, maybe compare a person playing an actual piano versus a person sitting in front of a player piano pretending to play. That is more in line with what we are talking about here.

      • No that is not what I’m saying. I said by yiur defintion that piano has more artistic value than djing. You’re already “automating” the process of art by choosing to dj rather than play piano live by your own definition. By djing, even with 12’s you are using machinery (the record itself & the turntable) to automate the process of creating music for a live audience. There’s no denying that or taking around it. The most laughable part is you have the audacity to act like you can create your own stagnant definition of art when art like anything else is constantly evolving & different to everyone.

        There is a machine that snaps a photo, has a processor & a mechanical arm that draws very life like artistic pencil drawings on paper. What is art in this piece? The photo? The drawing? The machine itself? The answer is all of the above. A man created that machine & programmed the automation & that in itself is art but you can also frame that image & call it art as well. Bottom line no matter how hard you try to create or change a definition to cater to your argument, it is just plain wrong. Art is whatever the artist wants it to be so you will never define art for anyone else but yourself. Bottom line I will never feel shame no matter how much you want to shame me because I will never agree with your definition so you are undoubtedly fighting a losing battle.

      • No matter how bad you want a cat to be a cow, it will never be. Art has limitations, you can’t accidentally spill some water and call it a photograph. But you go have fun with your paint by numbers pieces and calling yourself an artist.

      • Finally we come to the main problem with your argument. There are no limitations on art sir. Thank you & good day 🙂

      • Yes, there are, paintings are paintings and music is music. Music has to have certain elements to make it music. How you feel about a piece of art is subjective, but art still has objective elements. For example, accidentally spilling water can never be a painting for several factors; intention, definition, representation, and a ton of other elements.

      • If you think this compares you are mistaken. Second, while others may appreciate end product, it is not art. The concept as a whole could be argued as art, but not the final “painting”. It is neat, but it is programmed based on motion detection, there is no intention. The art really is in the whole concept as a kind of active/interactive sculpture.

      • I think you are the one who is mistaken… Art is completely subjective, you cannot tell anyone what art is. Although you are entitled to your opinion, no matter how much you try to discredit my information or limit what art is, the beauty of art that it is different to everyone. No need to “forgive my misguided attempts” I have made several great comparisons that have shut down your invalid ideology so now you are backtracking to save face… I hate to say it but you are a extremely close minded & as much as you want to try to shame me for DJing using digital media & Ableton live, I think you are loosing out because I have gained more knowledge than you due to my open mindedness. I don’t rule anything out, therefore I learn something new every day. I’m going to be playing an all vinyl hip hop set tonight.. YAY! for art… but I’m playing a DJ set with ableton at a huge burning man party too.. both art… people will dance, people will enjoy themselves you are too focused on the means rather than the end… PS professional engineer, producer, DJ & work for a major pro audio company… I run analog & digital gear every day for a living… so the bottom line, when you want to act like I’m not making art when I DJ with ableton, it is complete & utter bullshit… Stop trying to force your beliefs on other people & do your thing! LIFE is ART & ART is LIFE!

      • Again what art is and how people react to it are different – art has limitations, how people respond to a piece doesn’t. You keep missing this fundamental point. You can spill water, call it a painting and think it is the most wonderful thing you’ve ever seen. It still won’t be a painting, but you go ahead and love that water.

      • You just don’t get it! One can spill water & call it art! Your defintion of art is incorrect! You go ahead & try to define art for other people but you will be incorrect no matter what you say becasue art is completely subjective & to me your defintion will ALWAYS be incorrect!

      • For something to be something (anything) it has to have qualities of that thing to which it is called. You call a dog a dog because it has the qualities and parameters of a dog. You call a painting a painting because it falls under those parameters to which a painting is defined. There is no subjectivity here, just pure language.

        Your appreciation of a painting is subjective, but ultimately irrelevant to the nature of that painting. You calling a painting something else doesn’t make that painting something else, it just means you are using language incorrectly.

        These aren’t my rules, this is the rules of language and reality.

      • Once again, art is subjective… You said it is not art… Then all of a sudden you keep brining up th definitions of a painting… ART is subjective & me DJing with Ableton is ART, beause me & millions of other people view it as art… bottom line.

      • This is a ridiculous claim. Aside from the fact that this would mean anyone could be an artist without actually doing anything other than looking at something, it would also be calling people who enjoy rape, murder, kicking babies for fun, etc artists.

      • Human beings value human achievements and do so relative to the context of the setting of the achievement. We love to hear a great set.

        Now DJ A spins a great set, via serato and CDJs and we all know it’s done by beat-mixing and with the ear. We hold DJ A in high regard for that fact.

        DJ B also spins a great set – and this is a real example – but he does it with no headphones. He does it by
        knowing his music really well, by well-made cue points and by synch or lining up his serato visuals…but it isnt done by ear. It’s a great sounding set but as a fellow DJ in the crowd, knowing what I knew, I left and walked up the hill to a different stage and watched a DJ drop down a wicked Techno set. And I watched and I listened and I knew. And he earned my full respect.

        When I play I play for those in the know. I play for the other DJs or aspiring ones out there in the crowd. I couldn’t give a rats ass about the unknowledgeables. I play for those in the fraternity of DJing – those who manually beat-mix – and when you can do that in top flight fashion then people will rarely if ever hear the seams of the mix, they won’t ever wonder how that mix happened while you had both your hands in the air (because with a beat-mixing DJ that mix doesn’t happen).

        If you beat-mix then you are a modern DJ of electronic music and I’ll stand up to preserve that designation for human achievement. If you don’t then you are a performer of electronic music but you ain’t know beat-mixing DJ. I’ve heard many fine sets by those individuals – but I know – and every DJ knows…

        And I value intentional human achievement produced from human effort…I don’t sit there and wonder about just how damn fine those beat-matching algorithms are that are found in that electronic music performer’s program or hardware. There might be one or two in the crowd thinking exactly that; however, wrong context. This isn’t an algorithm convention. And those aren’t the people I play for.

      • LOL this is funny too, who says automation & intention are mutually exclusive? Again by this definition 90% of modern professional (underground or above ground) recordings are not art becuase a good engineer uses automation to liven up the mix… bring parts to the foreground & backroudn etc.

  17. The best part of this bullshit ass opinion is that you are so focused on one minute portion of music that you are ignoring technological advances & TONS of room for progress… yawn, boring… At this point I am now just commenting to kill time & to fuck with you because I know you will never actually see what awesome artistic things I do with ableton live… have fun being ignorant… fuck your bullshit mission of shaming people for trying new things… You are missing the point of music in general… Try djing breakbeats with ableton live & you will learn really quick that nothing is automatic or automated… I’ve spent just as much time manually setting warp markers every 8 bars on tunes as I have learning to beat match on 12’s & they are both skills that require work to perfect… either way, fuck off with your tryin to shame anyone… if anything you should be ashamed of yourself for trying to judge other people based on their preferred medium of art… lolo peace out homie… For shaaaaaaame! LOL

  18. i just got my first controller (S2) literally 2 weeks ago. im the definition of newbie and i dont like the sync button ;/

    seems to be a lot of arguing and fighting over it though.

  19. Pingback: My Reaction to the Sync Debate Nonsense - Traktor Tips

  20. From a dj who, learned to spin in the early 90s on one 1200 and a belt drive Pioneer, I had to learn the art of beat matching or suffer the shame of non-rhythmic snares. By the year 2000, I’d gone from hip-hop to drum n bass and was able to leave the decks mid-mix to answer a phone or any other distraction and could come back to the mix when it was still perfectly in sync. I only mix for fun now, but if hitting “sync” to simply give me general bpm balance to bring a track in smoothly, than I’ll do it. I won’t use sync to maintain the mix, my speed +/- buttons will do that but if you can mix without it, no harm in utilizing it to one’s advantage. Oh, if you can’t already tell, I’m on a midi controller now. I don’t have my 12s anymore. 😥

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