We check out the latest evolution of Pioneer DJ's industry standard media player.
Many of the CDJ-3000's key improvements are at least as significant as these performance features but are less conducive to video demonstration. Online pictures and videos don't do the 150 percent brighter, 720p screen justice, while testing improved audio fidelity and processing power is difficult to communicate with an online video. Features like Touch Cue and Touch Preview land in the same category, but they're arguably as useful as the more performative tools displayed here.
The performance feature that caught our attention most was polyrhythmic looping. Looping on DJ players typically centres on even divisions or multiplications of four beats. This makes sense considering dance music is almost entirely in 4/4 time and dance floors generally expect a steady pulse.
The CDJ-3000 gives you options for looping in groups of threes (three quavers, three minims, three crotchets and so on) and combinations of twos and threes (five crotchets, seven crotchets etc). Given what we've just said about dance music's four-beat pulse, how can we put loops of an odd-numbered length to use without creating rhythmic confusion?
It depends mostly on what section of a track you choose to loop. For instance, making a five-crotchet loop on a track with, say, a clap on the two and four, will result in those claps moving over onto beat one and three every second bar. There are certainly situations where this could be desirable but a conservative pair of ears might deem it disruptive. But if you pick musical elements that don't have clear rhythmic markers like a clap or a kick, you have more scope for looping polyrhythmically without totally upsetting a 4/4 flow.
Arpeggios are a good example of a musical element that responds well to odd-length loops. In this video we loop the same arpeggio on two decks, one with an even length while the other jumps between different odd-numbered loops. Since the loops are running at contrasting lengths, new harmonies emerge as different notes in the scale cross over each other. We then use the shortest 3/4 division and a bit of reverb to create a crescendo before hot-cueing to the drop on the second deck.
Tracks that are already rhythmically ambiguous are also candidates for odd-length loops. On the left deck here we have a track by Struktur whose syncopated sequence and lack of drums (apart from a kick) makes it easy to lose where the downbeat is. With odd-length loops, we can capture windows of the sequence and use the CDJ-3000's new dedicated Beat Jump buttons to shift between different segments of the track. This opens the door to a type of audio-chopping you'd recognise more from a sampler than a DJ media player.
Next we'll try and apply this sampler-style, audio-chopping idea to breakbeats. During the breakdown of the track on the right deck, we use hot cues on the left deck to jump between two different breaks in succession. As the breakdown ends we begin chopping up one of the breaks using odd-length loops, creating an impression of the type of beat science typical of '90s jungle and drum & bass productions.
This time around, we remove the safety net of a full track on the second deck. With two different breaks looping on each deck, we use the 3/4 length loop and some resonant filter sweeps to again imitate the sampler techniques used by '90s jungle/drum & bass producers. Later on, we switch the even-length accompanying break on the second deck to an odd length and add some delay and reverse. If you're trying this sort of thing on top of an actual finished track, you'll need to be wary of inadvertently turning the beat around—we'd often end up with the snare shifting from beats two and four to one and three after deactivating odd-length loops at the wrong time.
All the ideas that have been explored so far can be greatly expanded with the CDJ-3000's eight dedicated hot cue buttons, which let you immediately jump to any part of an audio file. This of course raises the question: what do you need eight hot cues for? Hot cues are typically used as markers for various parts of a track's structure, allowing you to playback the track in the order you like. While it's conceivable that a track might have enough structural twists and turns to warrant eight hot cues, there's another way to approach using all eight slots.
Using a DAW or audio editing program, you can stitch together whatever pieces of audio you like into a single file with eight distinct parts, which you can then jump between with the eight hot cues. You could prepare a file with eight of your favourite breakbeats, vocals, basslines, loops, atmospheres or any other musical element that comes to mind. Then you can layer these sounds on top of complete tracks or even rely on them entirely, which is what we'll do here.
Here we've loaded a file of eight breakbeats onto the left deck and eight loops chopped from various tracks onto the right deck. In rekordbox, we prepared the hot cues so that each one is an auto-loop (you can learn more about these rekordbox functions here). While in reality you might not jump so quickly between each cue, it's clear how much scope is available for adding energy or character to a performance based on your personal vision.