I bet you’re asking yourself, “what are Rekordbox tags and how on earth are they gonna make me a better disc jockey”??
The Disc Jockey is making music changes almost effortlessly, the dance floor is bumping as the set switches from house to dubstep to trap and back to house, however it somehow manages to remains tight and smooth – and there you are, shaking your head in the corner, asking yourself how on earth the dj is pulling it off. We’ll let you in on his secret: It comes down to thinking beyond genre, and making sure your music library is organised…
What is Rekorbox tagging, & why should you do it?
I consider tagging as “extra useful data about a song”. So a track in your library will usually have a bunch of regular info in its metadata: at the very least the artist, the title, the remixer/remix name, the song’s BPM, the songs genre and the key it is in. There might be other data as well, such as the date it was added to your collection and the number of times you played that track. This is the data we normally use when we filter & group our musical library together with & by when we are DJing.
Basically, if we want to drop a dubstep set, we’ll filter our music by musical genre “dubstep”, and then perhaps organize the filtered results by BPM (beat per minute), then try to find key combinations amongst songs with matching keys in order to build a smooth, slightly building set of dubstep music. Hope you got it so far.
But any other type of “system” beyond that tends to live in our brains. We instinctively begin to learn each track in our music library, and so certain songs seem to “clump together” because we just feel that they work that way. We have a feeling for what should work early on in the evening, and what should wait until later on in the night. We sort of have a gut feeling about what we will play in a lounge bar versus a huge nightclub. We just “know the perfect track to end the night on”, or to begin our set with. Certain tracks work better on the beach, or outdoors and others not so much…
Also, we always remember the tracks with female vocals, or male vocals, or trumpets, or someone rapping in them, and so if we decide to drop a small-set of tracks with rap lyrics, our spidey senses kick in and our quick searches find the ideal tracks simply because we “know our music”.
Rekorbox Tags or pretty much any sort of “Tagging”, is basically a way of recording some of that data so we won’t soon forget about it, and then we will later on, make better use of it. As our library grows, and spinning records turns into a something we’ve done for a while, then for years and years, then by decades and decades, and our performances pile up and up, it inevitably will become impossible to be able to remember every single mix, each track with flutes in it, everything that has a BPM change in it. That’s the time when tagging will really start to pay off.
In this article, I’ll show you a few ways DJs today use Rekordbox Tags or other software programs to tag their music, that are simple and easy to begin with. I hope that by the end of it you’ll have at least one or two new ideas to try in your own music collection.
5 tagging ideas
- Tag a tracks overall energy level by using stars – Most professional DJs i spoke with, use the star rating system in their DJ software to help them remember the perceived “energy level” of their songs (1 star is for songs that are strictly for home listening, 2 stars usually means a warm-up track, and all the way up to 5 stars for your prime-time, big room bangers). Several software programs such as Mixed In Key even attempts to do this for you automatically.
- Tag perfect song pairings in the comments section– “Comments” is a text field in audio files that allows you to add comments to certain songs– you can have it display as a column in your DJ software, and sort, search, and filter by it. For example, when you find a track that goes well with another track, why not leave a brief note to jog your memory in the comments? You can even do this as you DJ, so you won’t forget
- Use the Grouping field in you iTunes software to add specialist tags – Many DJs who use iTunes to organise their collection use the unused “Grouping” tag to add tags to their tracks, which can then be accessed in most DJ software, or you can use it to create smart playlists in your iTunes, which you can then pull up in your DJ software. You can use this section for tags like “vocal”, “instrumental, “filler”, “BPM change”… you get the drift
- Use DJ software programs that have a tagging system built in – Pioneer’s Rekordbox DJ software has a very advanced song tagging and filtering system already built into it. Serato DJ allows you assign colors to songs so you can visually tell them from each other (you could have 1 color for male vocals, 1 for female vocals, 1 for instrumentals etc) – have a look at what your software has built in
- Play around with library platforms that have a tagging system built in – We’ve already explained to you how to “hack” tags into your iTunes, but the Beatport Pro version For Desktop (Beatport’s rival to iTunes for Mac and PC) has had tagging at the heart of how it functions since the beginning. Beatport appears to be attempting to bring a crowd sourced element to this too, recently revealing that over 1,000,000 tags have been added to songs by its users – the article goes on to reveal the types of songs it’s users have been tagging the most
Using Rekordbox Tags, as with most things in DJing, it’s not about how you do it, but why you do it that matters. The top DJs have that extra magical something that elevates them past the fixed, always predictable genre dj playlists, but yet these djs still play sets that work perfect together: Perfect song choices, perfectly programmed.
Try to tag your library so you can go past genre as a way of connecting songs together, which is a huge part of this, and being a digital dj provides you with many ways to do that. This means we won’t be forced to keep it all in our brains (and by the way, if some of you think “ hey, that’s cheating!”, I once had to carry a notebook with me all the time when I was DJing to write this kind of stuff in– it’s basically just the digital version of that). At the end of the day, it all comes down to only 1 single thing…
Providing the best possible product for your consumers (listeners) as possible.