How to Use Maschine in a DJ Set

Integrating Native Instruments' Maschine into your DJ sets might be a lot easier than you think. Whether you want to use it as a controller for Traktor Pro or to control Ableton Live, here's how!  
Pic 1

After many years of blending tracks using mixers, CDJ's and controllers, there comes a time when DJs may want to take on a new exciting challenge. Many of the world's best artists are actively using Maschine to add a new dimension to their DJ sets. If you're curious about Maschine, this article will give you an overview of a couple of different ways you can incorporate Maschine into your DJ set, and use it to further your creative ideas.

Using Maschine as a MIDI Controller for Traktor

Pic 2

One of the easiest ways DJs can begin to use Maschine in their DJ set is as a MIDI controller for Traktor. This means that in theory, all you would really need for your set is a copy of Traktor and a Maschine controller. Creating MIDI mappings can be a very long (and tedious) process, and luckily MIDI Monsters has created a very easy to use and intuitive Traktor mapping for Maschine. Created by ENDO, the Maschine mapping makes good use of all of the buttons on the Maschine, and turns Maschine into a creative control surface. MIDI Monsters offers their Maschine mappings for a variety of Maschine models, including the Maschine MKI & MKII, the Maschine Mikro MK 1 & II and the Maschine Studio.

MIDI Monsters

Once you've got Maschine installed and Traktor and NI's Controller Manager updated, installation is a snap thanks to the MIDI Monsters manual. Directions are easy to follow and it only took me minutes before I had the Maschine mapping installed. Using Maschine as a MIDI Controller may inspire some new mixes, and it's certainly an original (and fairly uncommon) way to control Traktor. With the majority of DJs using other types of controllers, you'll be ahead of the game and have the crowd wondering how you're mixing and using FX so flawlessly. Don't tell them all your secrets.

Syncing Traktor and Maschine

If you're interested in using Maschine more as live performance tool, rather than a controller, you might like to sync the two together. This will allow you to play and mix tracks in Traktor and use Maschine to create percussive and/or melodic patterns, and improvise on top of your tracks. This method can help you to begin to bridge the gap between DJing and live performance, and if you're interested in pushing your musical boundaries, this setup may help you push past a creative plateau. The good news is, it's easier than you think to set this up and all you need is Maschine, Traktor and a single laptop.

Using Maschine and Traktor together allows you to play drum patterns that are perfectly in sync with Traktor's MIDI clock, and easily switch and vary your patterns using Maschine. You can choose to play any type of percussive or melodic sound with your tracks in Traktor (I recommend checking to make sure that any melodic content you play is in key with your tracks and try analyzing samples with Mixed In Key first.) 

Here's how you do this:

Navigate to Traktor's Preferences, then Controller Manager, and create a Generic MIDI Output and set the Out-Port to “Traktor Virtual Output”.

outport Traktor

In Maschine, enable Traktor's MIDI Input, by navigating to File/Audio and MIDI Settings. In Maschine's MIDI Inputs, make sure the Traktor Virtual Output is “On” and all other MIDI devices are turned off.

Maschine audio midi settings

In Maschine, navigate to File, then click Sync to External MIDI clock.

sync to external MIDI clock

In Traktor, navigate to the Preferences, then click MIDI. Make sure the box next to 'Send MIDI Clock' is checked.

Send MIDI clock

Send MIDI clock from Traktor by clicking the Play/Pause button, and then clicking 'Sync'. 

Traktor Sync

Turn on the metronomes in both programs, and use your ears to decide if the two are in phase. They should be playing perfectly in time! 

traktor metronome

Maschine metronome

If they aren't perfectly in time, then you can navigate to Maschine's Preferences and in the 'General' tab and adjust the the Sync Offset Slave value until the two metronomes are playing perfectly in sync. 

MIDI sync offset slave

In this example, Maschine and Traktor are both run off the same audio card, to keep things simple. This is a fun and easy way to sync the two together, and have Traktor's MIDI clock drive Maschine.

As a Live Performance Instrument

Maschine can also be used as a live performance instrument all of its own and if you're highly creative (as well as a skilled finger drummer) you can create your own sets using samples and play them on Maschine. The best live performance that I've seen on Maschine was by Jeremy Ellis, who is capable of playing a whole set using two Maschines and two hands at once. While this style of performance isn't strictly a DJ set, it's a very unique way to perform. It will certainly require a time investment and some serious practice time to put together a solid set, but once you have something that's uniquely your own this could open up new doors and opportunities for you. 

Jeremy Ellis

Once you're confident using Maschine as a live performance instrument, you could consider forming a band or performance duo by teaming up with another DJ. The DJ could drop beats, and you could finger drum melodies or percussive lines on top. You could work together with a band and help them to perform their repertoire live. You might even replace a few band members in the process since you can load up and play any types of sounds on Maschine. 

Using Maschine as a Controller for Ableton Live

Maschine Live 9

Maschine can also be used as a very cool controller for Ableton Live, and it ships with templates for Live. It's a very powerful MIDI controller and has the ability to control Live the same way that many popular controllers do. Pressing Shift-Control allows you to switch back and forth between using Maschine as a MIDI controller and Maschine's regular mode, so you can use both modes with ease. Installation does require a bit of setup that is beyond the scope of this article, but it's certainly worth looking into if you're already an Ableton Live user. Maschine gives you the power to compose on the fly and control your Live sets at the same time, giving artists true creative freedom. 

This article just skims the surface of many of the interesting ways that Maschine can be used in a DJ set/live performance. If you're looking to broaden your musical scope or just looking for a new, unique controller for your set, look no further than Maschine.

Learn more about Maschine at AskVideo here.

Learn more about Ableton Live at AskVideo here.

Sara Simms captivates the world as an innovative musician, DJ, turntablist and electronic music producer. She's a multi-instrumentalist who's known for her love of music technology. Sara makes her mark in the music community by crafting diverse sets with styles ranging from pulsating techno to house. She balances technical skills wi... Read More


Is there a way to use sync Maschine's MIDI clock to say a mixer through a MIDI cable, say like a DJM 900 Nexus? I like to use CDJS and wanna add melodies and the like over the tracks i play
What about setting up with Denon Prime and Maschine Studio?

Want to join the discussion?

Create an account or login to get started!