Adventures with warping old dance tracks

lotsofwarpmarks.pngRecently I’ve been purchasing and warping a lot of dance tracks from the late seventies and early eighties, Chic, Jackson 5, Sister Sledge and so on. Why is another story. Anyway, I tested with the latest version of Ableton Live (7.0.7) in case auto-warping has improved since the last time. The test case was Jackson Five‘s Can You Feel It.

The initial check using the built-in metronome actually sounded like auto-warping did a proper job, to my positive surprise. The second taste case was another Jackson 5 track, however after three minutes the auto-warping got out of whack.

Going back and listening to the first track critically I noticed that the alignment of drums was not that perfect, after all. So we are back on the same state as before, Ableton should really focus more on auto-warping and make it more robust. I do believe that it’s possible to design a proper auto-warping algorithm as it’s not rocket science to analyze various bandwidths and figure out where the drums align. It might be one of those cases where before it took too much CPU power, but with Intel cores sitting idle with the new chips this should not be an issue.

Anyway, when doing warping by hand it was really interesting to see how things were aligned. The track Get on the Good Foot by James Brown was super-tight, his background band was so on the pocket it was incredible.

When warping a special 12″ version of Chic‘s Good Times, the drummer and bass player at the end part, after seven minutes, kind of collapsed and the beats were not aligned at all. Now, this was in the age of no copy/paste of loops, rather having musicians play the same thing for up to nine minutes, so it’s understandable but interesting to notice now afterwards.

When I warp old tracks, there’s the issue of swing taken into account or not. A lot of old songs are performed with a lot of swing. However, personally I think for DJ performances it’s good to warp the tracks to be very tight, makes it possible to mix the track with any other track that is also warped in a tight matter, as well as introducing other contemporary loops and so on.

Next more about my new DJ musical direction concerning dance music.

4 Comments:

  1. Good to have you back on track again. :)

  2. Yes, I should write an entry what happened. Anyway, one has to follow one’s internal state concerning what music to DJ, and in what format.

  3. Hi Kent

    Thanks for the post.

    This is something close to my heart. I am warping a lot of irregular unquantized stuff played on instruments. I must admit I felt a bit cheeky when I was aligning John Bohnam – When the Levee Breaks.

    What would be really good is a central repositary for .asd files of tracks. As we are all probably spending a lot of time warping the same tracks. Surely these could be made publicly available as it is not copyrighted.

    Have you heard much soulwax? I like what they do mixing all types of music. Also because of the ecletic nature of the mixes lots of interesting transistions. I (mainly house and progressive house) am being forced to be have a more varied set.

    My current project is, I have asked my g/f for her top 15-20 songs, anything goes. It is really interesting and even though I dont really like most of the music it is great that I am playing and mixing stuff I never would normally.

    I will pass a copy on if you like when it is completed.

    Thanks again for your post.

    Ste

  4. There’s been talk about having a depository of .asd files for anyone to use. It would make sense, as long as the names for the .asd files clearly state what CD/Album, 12″ and so on these came from. The reason is that even with supposedly known tracks there could be variations, especially concerning the length of the track. If the wrong .asd file is mapped to such an audio file, the warp marks will most likely be misaligned.

    The other issue is that various Ableton Live users have a different idea where to put fixed warp markings, exactly on the transient, or just before/after. If someone is using the same methology, it will work, but mixing various .asd files with different styles might cause flamming.

    But yes, the pain, I was warping Prince’s Kiss last night. I assumed it had a steady beat due to the drum machine used, but boy I was wrong, the swing factor is huge on that track. Took over 40 minutes to warp the special seven-minute edition.

    I need to check soulwax. Just now I’m open for very eclectic dance DJ:ing, from sixties dance music up to today.

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