AppMonday: Serato Pyro
The next time you have a party, you might be thinking of hiring a DJ, because as good as “shuffle” is, continuous mix is better. Serato’s Pyro could just save you some money in this area, bringing a bit of DJ power to your constant mix.
If you like the idea of having a DJ at your party or just mixing your favourite tracks, but you never really got the gist of cueing tracks, finding the right beat, and pressing play at the right time, listen up because one of the leaders in music mixing technology — Serato — has built a piece of software that has you — and a bunch of songs — worked out.
It’s an app called “Pyro” and the whole point of this program is to take songs you may already have on your device or songs on a supported music network, and then mix them together, finding the beat and letting you jump from one song to the other automatically.
The songs can be on your device, as mentioned, but if you rely on the Spotify music service, you’ll find Serato’s Pyro can link up with your account and not only bring in your own playlists, but also grab playlists by others and music recommendations to create mixing lists.
For instance, you might have a dance or hip-hop list you already dig into, or just some songs you think would work well together by running into each other, much like you can find at a club or with a constant mix “Ministry of Sound” CD. You can browse a list of songs recommended for Pyro, or just fill in your own songs, turning anyone into a DJ(ish) quickly.
With a track list ready, Pyro will give you a rough beats per minute (BPM) count in a number which can be used to tell you which songs will mix into each other well.
From there, you merely position songs the way you want to on the playlist, sliding the songs in and out of the list and following the colours. You can add more songs at the bottom and even take recommendations from Pyro on what could work, filling the list even more and giving you more to work with.
You’ll notice the colours pretty quickly, because the more red the song’s colour is, the further up it is in the list, because what you are making here is a fire of sorts, at least for the colour scheme for a DJ playlist. Yellow sits towards the bottom and red at the top, and as you run down the list, the fire gets softer.
In a way, Pyro is a little like a puzzle game for people that like to find music that matches, with the numbers on the right needing to be close to each other — 101 to 103 or 108, instead of 101 to 138 — making a mix possible.
If a song is too fast or too slow for another, Pyro will basically stop the song or play an effect to halt the mix and start from that new track, so this is all about making songs match each other, gradually speeding up or slowing down.
You might start with Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” at 88BPM and gradually get up to Usher’s “U Got It Bad” at 125BPM, but you can’t do it one hit with a seamless transition, so you’ll be working your way up there with different tracks you find or like.
Beyond the idea of automatically seamless mixing, the best part of Pyro has to be from the way the audio files are mapped, with lines up the top acting like a bit of a timeline scrubber that allow you to jump forward and backward in time while still keeping the beat.
When a song is being played, simply touch the section of the song on that timeline and you’ll listen to that section, but while skipping song sections and fast forwarding normally leads to hearing those parts out of sync, Serato’s Pyro has the beat mapped, and you don’t feel like that happens.
More than anything else, actually, Pyro’s audio scrubbing sounds more like you’re mixing audio than cueing the tracks in the playlist, which does work, but doesn’t feel like it’s as seamless.
In fact, when tracks do jump from one to the other in Pyro, there is some sense in continuity, but it’s rarely as seamless as the audio scrubbing, and some of the time, song introductions and spoken interludes taint the transformation of the song as the music begins to change.
If the song you’re listening to happens to pretty much just start and punches in the song from the get-go, everything is fine, but if there happens to be a spoken introduction or some sort of skit, the whole BPM tracking backfires as does the seamless transitions which comes across like a DJ struggling to understand how the whole idea of constant music should work.
And that leads you to one of the main problems with Serato’s Pyro: you’re not mixing, you’re just setting up playlists and letting the software do the heavy lifting.
Unfortunately, though, this doesn’t really work for proper mixing. It’d be great if you could set cue points for Pyro to work with, but this is more of an automated system, and the scrubbing inside the song is the only time you feel like you’re mixing anything.
We’d love there to be songs that have been suitable cut down, too, because while Spotify has millions of tracks, you kind of want dance mixes of songs to be found, or even Pyro to pick up on a specific bass hit — a difficult thing to do — to start the mix, something introductions can mess up with.
And hey, we’d love it of Pyro worked with other music services — like Apple Music — or existed for other platforms, and maybe offered more control on larger devices, like some advanced mixing on iPad.
Right now, though, it doesn’t for any of this, and feels more like an early beta proof of concept of something that could be a beginner’s DJ tool than anything you’d actually use on a continual basis.
If you have a lot of music on your iPhone or iPad and love continual mixes, Pyro is worth checking out, but don’t expect to stay just yet. Maybe when it improves, but right now, it’s just a fun toy that inspires you to learn how to mix for real.
Serato Pyro is available now for iPhone and iPad for free.