I’ve been using Traktor for years, ever since Final Scratch 2, and have had a very deep love/hate relationship with the app.  While I’ve been generally disappointed with Native Instrument’s feature support of the application over the last few years, there has always been a robust community trying to figure out how to hack together their robust MIDI engine to make Traktor, well, better.  There was Xtreme Mapping back in the day (woefully Mac only), and the amazing Traktor Bible, which helped actually explain all of the features of the software NI never felt it necessary to explain.  What does Send Monitor Output do?  Oh, well, it sends the monitor output.  Isn’t that clear?  No, no it is not.

Yet another tool for controlling Traktor has fallen to the community to build, and this time I’m actually very excited.  There was a lot of coverage of the Serato Remote app for the iPad when it came out as a really great modal controller to fill in almost any gap of your hardware, all straight from your iPad.  It has its limitations, but all in all it’s a very useful tool (still doesn’t have Flips built in, though).  Since Traktor has no official app to control their software remotely, it has fallen to the community and Nicolas Boileau of Traxus Interactive has taken up the call.  He has created a project called Traxus Control, which runs on the Lemur app on the iPad.  It is pretty much the most complete control scheme of any device ever, all wrapped into an elegant design, allowing the user to designate which features they want for their personal set up.  It also adds features we have been demanding of Traktor for a while.

Features

So what does the Traxus Control template do in Traktor?  Here’s a 17:01 long video, going over every single feature that is included, but instead of having you spend your precious time watching it I’m just going to do the hard work for you (cause I’m that nice) and list out all of the features.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpOJ_CgGRJE
  • File Navigation
    • Browse and search for files
    • Load files into decks
    • Select deck types (Live Input, Track Deck, Remix Deck
  • Platter Control
    • Jog and scratch with a virtual jog wheel
  • Hotcues
    • Trigger cue points
    • Create new hotcues
    • Edit hotcue types from any of Traktor’s 6 types
    • Delete hotcues
  • Pitch Control
    • Drag to feather the platter
    • Press buttons to speed it up and slow it down.
    • Manually adjust pitch using coarse and fine faders
    • Reset to 0% quickly and easily
    • Select your pitch range, from 2% to 100%
  • Deck Controls
    • Play/Pause
    • Set sync and master
  •  Looping
    • Set loop in, out and length
    • Activate and deactivate loops
  • Jump
    • Utilize any of Traktor’s beat jump types, set length and tie the jump length to the loop length
  • Remix Decks
    • Capture samples into empty cells from other decks
    • Trigger loaded cells
    • Set sample settings (reverse, one shot, etc.)
    • Set slot volume,  and filter
    • Set slot FX, cue, key lock, etc.
    • Slice any 16 beat segment from any loaded deck into an empty slot (!!!!!) (around 10:40)
    • Each slot has a 16 step sequencer, salved totraktor’s MIDI clock (!!!!)
      • Play back your sliced loop in any order
      • Initiate sample start, sample hold and sample stop
      • Set step volume and step filter frequency
  •  Mixer
    • Control Volume, EQ, filter from within the deck page OR the mixer page
  • Effects
    • Assign any of Traktor’s 44 Effects to any effect slot
    • Enable/disable effects
    • Manually adjust any effect parameter
    • “Release” any effect to fade out in sync with the deck’s tempo
    • Fade an effect in sync’d to the tempo
    • “Lock” the effect value and cancel any active fades
    • Select attack and release values to control the length of fades.
      • Ranges from 128 beats to 1 beat
The first thing you see

You can select which devices you see and need in your setup

So, there’s a whole lot there, right?  You can use this one template to control up to four decks, browse your collection and control effects pretty easily.  Using this in conjunction with DVS, or a basic controller like the S2 opens up a whole host of really useful features.  The template really shines as both a complete Traktor controller and an add on for any existing set up, able to fill almost every blank. I get really excited, though, when I see what was added to the remix decks to make them actually useful ion an improvisational setting.  Instead of needing to individually load entire remix kits manually, you can find the right loop, slice it into 16 cells and keep whatever you want.  You can then trigger that loop in any order, creating really interesting rhythms without needing all that much work.  Instead of dialing in the perfect gater, you can create live gates of popular sounds extremely quickly.

There are no tools in the market that do what this does right now, and while we’re all hoping that Traktor Pro 3 fills in a lot of these gaps, until then we all need something to get us excited about using Traktor again.

Funding

And it's funded!

And it’s funded!

Traxus Interactive has put up an Indiegogo campaign to fund a psuedo open source project.  It has already successfully funded, and while the indiegogo campaign is just about finished that doesn’t mean all is lost.  There will be a donate button, and for a measly $12USD you can also have access to a fully editable Lemur project.  If you want to add a little extra to it (like I did because I’m considered something of a crazy MIDI nerd), for $75USD you can get help from Nicolas directly to learn how to code using the Lemur app to both edit the template and create your own.  Instead of going into detail to explain this I’ll let the words from the campaign map everything out

Fueling The Touch Control Fire.

  • Traxus Interactive is a small LLC that specializes in user interface design, particularly in regards to music software MIDI controllers.
  • Recently, we finished and leaked a template for Liine’s iPad App Lemur that controls Native Instrument’s Traktor Pro 2 DJ software.
  • For perspective, Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music coined it The Most Complete iPad Control of Traktor Yet.
  • The internal development of the template saw over 250 pre release versions coded over 12 months encompassing hundreds of hours of testing, debugging, and adjusting for software updates.
  • With previous projects, we’ve tried to let some people have the code, and keep it from others, charging admittance and closely guarding our work. We are tired of that.
  • We want to take this one public; let the community gut it and reformat it to their tastes, learn from our strokes and our mistakes, and we want to show other coders of our caliber that there is a better way to make that extra mile of thought and effort worth their while.

What Am I Paying For, What do You Need?

  • We don’t *need* anything, per say, This project is as much about inspiring other developers as it is monetizing the template.
  • Truth be told, there is no reasonable price that we can set on this template to recuperate the hours spent in development. Traxus Interactive is not intended to be a full time job but rather an umbrella and safety net for our hobbies.
  • What we can do is hope for a new iPad (see funding specifics), and hope to show other developers that there may be some new gear involved when they finally complete the template they’ve been slaving away at for several months.

Back Story, and What it Could Mean for Other Developers

  • Traxus Control: Traktor is a user created template built in the DIY iPad Midi app Lemur for controlling nearly every aspect of Traktor Scratch Pro. It is the most complete touch screen midi controller for Traktor to date.
  • At the expense of tactile feedback, it attempts to challenge the marriage and reliance on traditional controller hardware by offering more accurate visual feedback, smoother user interface, un-paralleled control over the software, and unprecedented flexibility in the face of software updates that would typically render traditional MIDI hardware obsolete.
  • Currently, we have over a dozen obfuscated copies floating around in the hands of other Lemur and Traktor users.
  • We have been fielding their feedback to make a more ergonomic interface and mitigate any bugs that present themselves.
  • The template was spawned from a similar interface used to control Serato Scratch live, known as Traxus Scratch Live.
  • Traxus Scratch Live was distributed for $10 a copy, the source code for the template was obfuscated per customer to help mitigate pirating and reverse engineering.
  • Using some of the sales profits, we purchased our copy of Traktor, and began development on the current template.
  • The aforementioned distribution method is similar to the path that many other experienced developers take to reward their hard spent time, prices have ranged from $10 to $100, if not more.
  • Unfortunately, it is time consuming and arguably detrimental for both the developer and the end user.
  • Through crowd funding, we hope to introduce an alternate and more transparent means of incentivizing developers in the community.
  • We hope to illustrate that spending countelssof hours in development and testing a template can earn money towards new gear whilst also educating the community by bringing the code open source.
  • Rather than attempting to set a per copy price on a template, whilst managing distribution and plagiarism, why not set a funding goal and take the code open source for others to learn from.

Funding Specifics, What Am I Paying For?

  • Currently we are developing on an iPad 2 which is starting to feel it’s age as far as hardware capabilities go.
  • The funding goal is set with the purchase of an iPad Air, 16GB wifi in mind, leaving a bit of leeway for payment processors surcharges.
  • If the funding goal is met, we will purchase said iPad, and provide an evergreen link on djtrax.us to download the un-obfuscated copy of Traxus Control for Traktor absolutely free to the public (barring any form of commercial redistribution).
  • If the funding goal is exceeded in minor amounts, we will probably purchase some alcohol and cheers you all through social media via said iPad.
  • Should the funding goal be exceed in notable amounts, we would like to hold a contest (or several) that challenges developers to build a purpose suited template(s).
  • If the funding goal is not met, all contributors of $12 or more will receive an obfuscated copy of the template in its current state; we will attempt to keep up with updates and distribution however this has proven difficult in the past.

Risks & Challenges

  • Lemur Templates are gloried .xml files.
  • Attempting to sell and distribute them on a per licence basis, whilst minimizing pirating is possible but time consuming; failing to meet the funding goal could leave no other avenue for distribution.
  • Both Lemur and Traktor are bound to be updated, breaking some features; taking the code open source will allow the community to not only address these issues much faster than we could, but also branch the template to their own tastes.
  • We sometimes fear that companies in the industry who have an interest in MIDI hardware manufacturing will try to sweep the standalone, re-purpose-able touch screen interface under the rug. Our desire is to preemptively sidestep this potential threat by helping to incentivize other talented developers to produce similar quality templates, on all platforms, as to inch towards a critical mass.

An Interview

So, obviously, this kind of product has me very excited.  The implications are vast for my personal workflow, and it opens up a lot of controls that I’ve wished I could have at my finger tips easily, which NI never seems to find important.  For example, I might drop a loop one beat off and I just want to move it back that one beat.  I can’t do that on the X1Mk2’s, but I can with this.  It just adds those little details to make any workflow more efficient.  Nicolas Boileau put some time aside to answer some questions from me about the product, his use cases and his experience with the industry in general.

What kind of DJ should consider using Traxus Control: Traktor?

My intention was to leave this as open ended as possible; however it will naturally favor my tastes of the long-mix electronic music DJ, versus someone who is a scratch DJ perhaps. That is not to say a scratch DJ wouldn’t find use in the template as well, perhaps for the file navigation or EFX control but I would say out right that the latency on the platters and mixer is going to be ever so slightly too much for a scratch DJ to find useful. DJ’s who like to use a lot of the finer track deck controls of Traktor, such as the looping, cueing, beat jumping and so on will find the layout especially refreshing. These are all very powerful features that don’t typically have very fluid on the fly control.

Is Traxus Control: Traktor best suited to be used stand-alone or alongside external gear (DVS/Controllers?)

I really hope to have skirted this duality; a user has the option to disable any of the pages to suit their tastes. So, for instance, you could disable Deck A and B in setup if you wanted to use your turntables to control those two, and then maybe set Deck C and D to remix decks and control them with the template. I personally really like to use an analog mixer so often I will disable that when I’m really getting down to business. Alternately, sometimes I’ll just have a few friends over for some drinks and it’s nice to be able to stream my monitor output to my TV, load up all four decks and step away from the booth for 15 minutes or so to socialize while still having control over the mix.

Naturally, you can use Traxus Control: Traktor as a stand-alone but I foresee most users working it into an existing setup. The intention was to provide the opportunity for a completely stand-alone work flow, but not demand the user take that route.

What features does Traxus Control: Traktor add to the established Traktor workflow?  Do you foresee Native Instruments adding these features into the official release in the future?

The most obvious is the addition of the Remix Deck Sequencers. These are a very powerful concept that Tomash presented some time ago and I am very excited to see where people go with them given the more detailed visual feedback and control of the Traxus Control: Traktor interface. They were a challenge to incorporate, especially from an ergonomic standpoint (tough to fit all that in one iPad screen), and perhaps need some fine tuning but most agree that there is some serious potential there. The entire notion of these sequencers is a bit of a childhood dream come true for me. I’ve always been looking for an ergonomic way, with visual feedback, to rearrange an incoming track on the fly to better match what I’m mixing out of, or maybe just completely surprise the audience…

I believe the success of this template and other remix deck solutions will determine whether Native Instruments incorporates such a feature. History has shown that they are not afraid to borrow a good idea.

The other unique feature that comes to mind, and that really brings the remix deck sequencer to life is the SLICE feature. It allows you to select a target track deck, and grab 16 consecutive 1 beat samples into a remix deck slot, much the way Ableton Live allows you to convert a drum loop clip into a drum kit. This is a feature that seems to be sorely missing from Traktor and I can’t quite figure out why it hasn’t been added already; it is nice to be able to fill that void but it would certainly be faster and more reliable if it came prepackaged with the software. There are certain concepts that, if Native Instruments were to blatantly rip off from the template, I might be upset or even cry foul. This is not one of them (albeit I myself borrowed the notion from Live).

What features do you think are most sorely missing from Traktor, and how does Traxus Control: Traktor fill that void?

Spare the SLICE function mentioned above, I have generally found Traktor to be incredibly full featured. There are some features I wish NI would add, however those are centered on making the template better, rather than something it would be able to work around. As stated, the remix deck sequencers really attempt to permit the mixing of tracks that might otherwise need an entirely separate song to bridge them together, and even allow the DJ to fall off the deep end (in a good way) and come up with an entirely new track in the process.

I guess what I find lacking is not the software itself, but rather in the adequate, on the fly control of these great features. I’ve always found classic MIDI hardware to be a bit limiting, especially in the realm of corresponding visual feedback for the exact state of an exact feature in the software. This problem has diminished quite a bit in the last couple of years but most controllers still feel very cumbersome to me, especially when they try to repurpose a knob or some other component to control several features it just never feels as fluid as I’d like. Very frequently, you are caught working around the limitations of a hardware layout that is set in stone in accordance to software that was relevant 6 to 12 months ago but has since been updated. This, more than anything is the void I want to fill… that knob is for the filter, period. That array of buttons is for loop length, period.

We believe that a new full release of Traktor Pro 3 is right around the corner.  Can we expect future versions of Traxus Control: Traktor to take advantage of Traktor Pro 3 as well?

Spare anything catastrophic, absolutely. We will have to see the extent of the changes and determine whether reusing the current template, in part or in whole is viable or whether we want to start from the ground up. Of course, there is also the monumental task of the midi mappings. Traxus Control: Traktor currently has over 1500 individual midi mappings that had to be selected from the Controller Managers drop down boxes by hand. Hopefully NI migrates to something like a human readable .xml file for the actual mappings but I tend to think that would disallow their obfuscation of proprietary features (such as outputting the color of a remix deck cell) so I’m not holding my breath. Perhaps version three will be a community effort this time around.

We are living in a world of high technology for DJs.  What features of hardware and/or software do you find lacking?  What would you want to see added to products that would make you excited?

I’m a web developer by trade, and the first thing that comes to mind is APIs. MIDI in and out is great but it would be awesome if Traktor and other software permitted communication and control the way you can tunnel into Ableton Live with Python or something. I’d love to extend the file navigation control to actually output the file names and info on the iPad, or yank the waveform data into a Canvas object in Lemur. This is a bit of a pipe dream considering most companies in the industry would seemingly prefer to keep all of that proprietary for their own controllers however it seems more and more reasonable to expect avenues like this given the nature of software (on the whole, not just music software) today versus five or ten years ago.

I’d also really like to see more support for OSC. MIDI is great but the 128 step resolution is limiting, the work-arounds are cumbersome, and the number is hard to work with. Being able to specify that a volume fader is at 53.59123 whatever percent of its total range, versus just being on either step 64 or step 65 of 128 has huge potential.

As far as the hardware market is concerned, I would like to see more abstract MIDI controllers. Stuff like the monome or the Behringer BCF-2000 (if anyone remembers that). However, with either of those, I would like to see accompanying LCD readouts for each control as well the way that the Novation RemoteSL series. Rather than presuming a particular knob will always be for the Master EFX Dry/Wet, and printing that on the hardware as such, let the user map and name it as required. I was always a fan of the idea of motorized faders on the BCF; recognizing that I’ve already poo-pooed reusing one hardware component for  multiple mappings, sometimes it’s unavoidable and solutions like this are the way to go. The controller should completely represent what is happening in the software. I would love to see some highly customizable marriage between Novations RemoteSL’s LCD feedback and the Behringer BCF-2000 / BCA-2000 lines’ ability to make the actual component reflect the fader/knob in the software. A small controller that packed all of those features would be an awesome pairing with an iPad for when you really wanted the fast response time of a tactile fader… Most certainly another pipe dream but I guess I am perpetually frustrated with how rigid the most solutions on the market are.

What advantages are provided by making your template open source?

Before answering that I feel it’s only fair to clarify what I meant by my misinterpretation of open source, versus the true definition of open source. First and foremost Traxus Control: Traktor will be free for anyone to download, use, and modify in its non-obfuscated, human readable form. With that in mind, it will not truly be open source in that we will require anyone who wishes to redistribute to obtain the explicit consent of all prior contributors. I can explain the nuances later, but our basic intention with this is to prevent profiteering of the template and also, hopefully ensure that the internet doesn’t fill up with dozens of slightly modified templates that cease to function six months from now in the event of a software update to Traktor or Lemur. We could naturally fix the core template but each of these children would have to be manually updated accordingly by their respective developers so we would like to maintain a line of communication. For that reason, I think it is safer that we call it ‘Free Software’.

That said, I don’t intend to try and sustain an absolute death grip on the distribution of the templates the way some other developers, including myself, have done. I have thought a lot about the monetization of templates and the standard model is, you pay me anywhere from $5 to $100 and I will email you a copy. At this point, the developer is stuck hoping that the customer doesn’t upload it somewhere for anyone to download. Furthermore, if the developer needs to push out an update they are now tasked with sending the new files to each of these clients.

Having dealt with this run around following the release of my Serato Scratch Live template I can say outright that this setup is unfairly detrimental for the individual consumer, the developer, and the community as a whole. At the same time, the developer is sitting on something they have spent quite a bit of time on; and they want to see people use it, but if they release it for free they are quite often doing some Liine’s dirty work for them. That is to say, the notion that a developer should release a highly complex template for free is unintentionally exploitative as these templates often inspire people to purchase the parent framework, such as Lemur for $25 a copy.

That is not to insinuate that Liine is consciously exploiting its customers just that we are in a bit of a catch 22. This unintentional exploitation would be less of an issue if the app was free but that is an equally unfair demand to make; it is great software and they need to make a living. What we’re left with is an environment where people potentially have the tools and the talent to help usher in the greatest innovation in MIDI control since the standards’ inception in 1981, yet very little incentive to build the interfaces that could really propel the re-purpose-able touch screen MIDI controller into the spotlight.

Template developers want their cut, but as a result they are generally forced to try and withhold their code from the community, pre occupying them with distribution woes and hindering innovation as newcomers struggle to learn the ropes with less examples. For all of these reasons, I opted to crowd fund the Free Release of Traxus Control: Traktor. I want to see more developers put out more all-encompassing templates for music software. Not just Lemur templates but any open touch screen format. Even as the software we are controlling becomes more touch friendly, there will still be place for these interfaces; what if you want to run your lights, Ableton, and Traktor all from one interface? I feel the medium is very underappreciated and that this is the best path forward in doing it justice.

So, to directly answer your initial question, the advantages of crowd funding into Free Software (again, not quite Open Source) are immeasurable in lieu of the other options. The burden of support stands to be lessened as anyone in the community is able to access the code for their own means; in other words if a customer had paid me individually for a copy of the template, it would be rather exploitative to let another member in the community to spend time helping them out with it. Furthermore, people can modify it to their own tastes, and pursue redistribution if desired; the features and functions stand to grow and get better through collaboration. When selling templates on a per license basis I would typically create unique obfuscations of the code for each customer as to provide a tracking mechanism in case I located a pirated copy as well as to prevent reverse engineering. Unfortunately, this typically meant users were unable to make changes and the whole system was a pain to maintain. What we have instead is proof to other developers that it is entirely possible to make a great template, let everyone have it, and still get something tangible in return. Those in essence are the chief benefits and why I opted to try this distribution path,  not because I particularly needed a new iPad but because I feel the community needs more incentive.

How do you prefer to use Traxus Control: Traktor in your own set up?

Thus far, I have been generally been using it stand alone or with a mixer as I’ve been trying to test it as much as possible while still having a good time in the mix. However, I recently setup the turntables and whittled the template down to the file navigation and EFX for Deck A and B as my tag team partner wasn’t quite comfortable having access to the entire template and that worked nicely as well. I’m not really sure that I have a preferred usage setup, it’s more what I’m in the mood for and I can only hope other users find this flexibility as comfortable as I do.

The features provided by this template open up doors to Traktor that NI has generally held very close to its vest.  I’m hoping that a lot of these tools are eventually integrated directly into Traktor, but until then (and that might be a ways away) this is the best we got, and it just so happens it’s pretty damn good.  As a note, this is not a review.  Once the final version has been released, and all of the bugs have been worked out, I’ll be providing a thorough review, outlining different workflows and trying to cover all of its features.

Over To You

Would you want a remote for Traktor?  Would you use this one?  What features would you want in a remote for Traktor?  Let us know in the comments.