Learning how to make beats of your own can be a fun process, but at a certain point, you may find yourself getting tired of the same old sounds and patterns. If you’ve reached that point in your own beat making journey, you may be the perfect candidate for iZotope’s BreakTweaker virtual instrument.
BreakTweaker is the second collaboration between popular audio plugin maker iZotope and producer BT. Their first venture, Stutter Edit, was extremely well received, so it’s no surprise then that, when BreakTweaker was launched at NAMM 2014, many DJs and producers jumped at the opportunity to try it.
What It Is
BreakTweaker is essentially three tools in one: a sequencer, a beat generator, and a micro-editor. The sequencer allows you to create your own beat patters, the beat generator allows you to choose from a 2GB library of pre-made sounds, and the micro-editor allows you to edit every sound down to the molecular level. You can also purchase expansion packs from iZotope to expand BreakTweaker’s existing sound library.
Who It’s For
BreakTweaker is really designed with producers in mind, but DJs who know a thing or two about how to make beats could benefit from a tool like BreakTweaker. Essentially, it’s a drum machine that gives the user way more control over sounds than any other drum machine ever made. You can use it on the fly for random manipulations, or zoom in on a single sample and manipulate that sample to your heart’s desire.
The ability to zero-in on individual elements is what really sets BreakTweaker apart from other beat making modules. The micro-editor lets you slice up and tweak every sample to create glitch and stutter effects, and ultimately create never-before-heard sounds. So if you feel like you’ve outgrown your current beat making software, BreakTweaker is an excellent upgrade.
Who It’s Not For
iZotope calls BreakTweaker a MIDI-driven instrument, although it has its limitations as a performance tool. You can use a MIDI controller as both a sampler and a pattern selector with BreakTweaker, however, there’s no MIDI note input for the sequencer, which means the only way to input new sequencer notes is to use a mouse. In addition, you can run into problems with syncing when changing track values in real-time.
So while it may be a good addition to a live setup when used in conjunction with a piece of performance software like Ableton Live, BreakTweaker doesn’t provide enough MIDI control to be used as a standalone performance tool.
The Bottom Line
BreakTweaker is not your grandmother’s drum machine. This thing means business. If you’re just learning how to make beats on your own, this tool might give you more functionality than you really need. If, on the other hand, you’re ready to get creative and make some totally original sounds, you should definitely consider giving BreakTweaker a try. The best part is, if you’re not convinced, you can try it as a 10-day free trial and see for yourself what the software can do.
If you want to learn more about how to make beats with software like BreakTweaker, check out some of our Ableton Live tutorials on topics like tempo control and using grooves; BreakTweaker can easily be integrated with Ableton to give you virtually limitless possibilities for beat making and warping. Or, if you’re just getting started in the DJ game, check out our DJ school where you can learn everything from what gear to buy to how to get gigs and promote yourself online.
Here on the blog, we like sharing failure stories. Why? Well, for one, because they’re funny. But also because failure is something all DJs have to deal with at some point in their career, and hearing about other people’s failures is a pretty good tool for making us feel better about ourselves.
We all screw up once in a while, and in the end, what’s the point of learning how to DJ if you can’t pick yourself up off the ground after one bad gig?
The Worst Ever?
Recently, in search of good DJ failure stories, I stumbled across this great thread on Reddit called “Worst gig you ever played?” (If you’re ever needing some encouragement about your DJ skills, just cruise around on Reddit looking for bad gig stories – guaranteed you’ll find plenty of people whose stories are worse than yours.)
One story in particular stood out from this thread. Here are a few excerpts for you to give you the gist of what happened:
“I cringe every time I have to think back to my first wedding I ever DJ’d. I straight up ruined what should have been the happiest day of this couple’s life.”
“I didn’t prepare anything beforehand. Not their playlist, not their special songs, I didn’t even look over their program. I just showed up and expected to play music like I usually do at the lounge I play at.”
“When it came time for their first dance I was just sitting there not even paying attention, probably messing with my controller or something. It got really quiet so I looked up, everybody was looking at me. What happened? Did something go wrong? The emcee made an announcement and filled in the dead air space. He tried to help me out and said something about the first dance. I panicked and tried to pull it up on YouTube (I tethered my iPhone before hand). It took me about two minutes, but I finally found the song and turned the volume fader up. When I brought up the volume, I forgot that I had some other dance song playing in the background on iTunes. Their first dance song and this dance song came blaring in at the same time. I brought the volume back down, turned off iTunes, and got their first dance in. I was so embarrassed, I wanted to leave and never be seen again.”
“I try really hard to block that event out of my memory. The very thought of it makes me sick to my stomach.”
A few things stand out about this story. One: this was the first wedding this DJ had ever played, and they were clearly not prepared. The person who posted the story later went on to say: “My piece of advice to inexperienced DJs, don’t take gigs that you’re not ready for.” This is a good tip for anyone learning how to DJ: know when the time is right to get out there and show your stuff, and when the time is right to stay in your bedroom and keep practicing. (By the way, if you want some tips on how to get prepared for your next gig, check out our lessons on getting gigs and promoting.)
The second thing that stands out from this story is that this DJ still feels sick to their stomach whenever they think about this gig. But think about it: is this story really that bad? Sure, the first dance was delayed by a few technical difficulties, but did it really “ruin what should have been the happiest day of this couple’s life?” Probably not.
For one, what can seem like an eternity of dead air space when you’re up on stage could actually only be a matter of a few seconds; it all depends on your perspective.
Secondly, is this couple’s whole memory of their wedding day going to be marred by what happened at their first dance? Again, probably not. They have had a few laughs together over the DJ that screwed up their first dance, but in the end, weddings are about family and the people we love, not about getting every technical detail right (or at least they should be).
The point is this: if you screw up as a DJ (which, guaranteed, you will) it’s probably not as bad as you think. And even if you do screw up really bad, just look at all the ways other people have screwed up, and you’ll know you’re not alone.
How Does This Apply to My DJ Education?
What does this all have to do with learning how to DJ, you ask? A big part of learning how to DJ is learning how to recover from failure. So if you want to be a DJ, you’ll just have to get used to the fact that failure is a part of life, and in the end, it should be something we all laugh about, and not something that makes us want to give up.
Another important aspect of becoming a good DJ making sure you know your stuff. We’ve got lessons on every aspect of DJing here at Spin Academy. Why not start off with some DJ basics to help prevent you from falling on your face at your next gig?
Do you have any good DJ failure stories? Share them with us in the comments below.