Turntablism: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
(c) 19th August 1997 Compiled & Edited by: Bevan Jee email@example.com
The FAQ Committe:
* TABLE OF CONTENTS *
Section 1 - INTRO (maintained by: djpj)
Section 2 - HISTORY (maintained by: Christo)
- 2.1 - What is Turntablism?
- 2.2 - What are the origins of Turntablism?
- 2.3 - Turntablism & DJ Battle Culture
- 2.4 - Pre Hip-Hop Notions of Turntablism Music
- 2.5 - The Future of Turntablism
Section 3 - BASIC CONCEPTS (maintained by: Doc Rice)
Section 4 - ADVANCED CONCEPTS (maintained by: Doc Rice)
Section 5 - EQUIPMENT SETTINGS (maintained by: djpj)
Section 6 - EQUIPMENT REVIEWS (maintained by: Bevan Jee)
- 6.1 - Vestax Mixers
- 6.1.1 - The Double Panel System
- 6.1.2 - The Marwax Opinion - Vestax PMC-005
- 6.1.3 - The Marwax Opinion - Vestax Street Master 5005
- 6.1.4 - The Marwax Opinion - Vestax PMC-05MKIV
- 6.1.5 - The Marwax Opinion - Vestax PMC-05PRO
- 6.1.6 - The Marwax Opinion - Vestax PMC-06PRO
- 6.1.7 - The Marwax Opinion - Vestax ISP-05PRO
- 6.1.8 - The Marwax Opinion - Vestax PMC-07PRO
- 6.2 - Technics Mixers
- 6.2.1 - The Marwax Opinion - Technics SH-DJ1200
- 6.3 - Turntables * Coming Soon
- 6.4 - Cartridges * Coming Soon *
Section 8 - VIDEOS (maintained by: Doc Rice)
Appendix I - GLOSSARY OF TERMS * Coming Soon *
This list was started to offer another platform for people to discuss turntablism. More specifically, to discuss scratching and juggling techniques, equipment, and the culture surrounding turntablism.
In order to subscribe please send email to:
With the _exactly_ the following in the body of the message:
Where YOUR@EMAIL.ADDRESS is the email address where you want to receive the messages from the list.
subscribe turntablism YOUR@EMAIL.ADDRESS
SECTION 2 - HISTORY:
The term "Turntablism" was first coined in 1995 by DJ Babu (Beat Junkies) to describe a form of advanced turntable music stemming from Hip-Hop DJ'ing. As Babu stated in a brief 1996 interview:
"My definition of a Turntablist is a person who uses the turntables not to play music, but to manipulate sound and create music." (Interview with Christo Macias, Palo Alto, CA, May 1996.)The International Turntablism Federation (ITF), a collective of the World's best Turntablists offers a similar description:
"Turntablist: One who uses the phonograph turntable as a component to make music as well as an instrument to literally play music." (Official ITF Newsletter, 1996.)2.2 - WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF TURNTABLISM?:
Turntablism originates from Hip-Hop Djing, particularly from "battle" DJ culture. Though Turntablism has a fairly recent history, its roots can be traced to the origination of Hip-Hop.
The turntable and Hip-Hop have gone hand-in-hand. Kool Herc (a.k.a. Clive Campbell) helped give birth to Hip-Hop in 1973 when he took two turntables and two copies of identical records to isolate and loop certain "breakbeats." This basic foundation of beat-extending gave B-Boys and MC's their platform, the seed from which Hip-Hop would grow.
As early as 1977, Hip-Hop pioneers such as Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaata would battle at local dances and in parks. Battles at his time, though, were mostly about who could crank the most wattage and attract the bigger crowd. (The New Beats, S.H. Fernando Jr., pgs. 9-10.)
But also in 1977, Grand Wizard Theodore would forever change DJ culture when he invented the "scratch." While cueing a record back and forth through headphones, Grand Wizard Theodore heard a funky, rhythmic sound, and DJing would never be the same.
"I just came home from messing around.. I was about 13 or 14 years old, and my mother was banging on the door... So I stop the music and she opened the door and she was talking to me. At the same time she was talking to me I felt myself moving the record back and forth and forth and back while she was talking to me, because I wanted to keep that same groove I was on. I was talking to her and I was listening to the record...and I said to myself... Hey.. this sounds really good. So I kept practicing it.. and it became a scratch." (Grand Wizard Theodore, Battle Sounds documentary.)While scratching was integral to old-skool Hip-Hop culture, it wasn't until 1983 that the mainstream became clued-in. Legendary Jazz musician Herbie Hancock scored a hit using legendary Zulu DJ Grandmixer D.S.T. to scratch on the song "Rockit," and it wasn't long that kids from all over the USA (and world) were ruining needles on their parent's stereos trying to imitate D.S.T.
But the point that DJs could be true musicians was hammered home.
"If you listen to Herbie Hancock's 'Rockit' today, he's a vital part of the song and if you take his scratches out then something's missing. I always knew the turntable was a musical instrument but to me he was the first one to prove it." (Rob Swift, Interviewed by Bevan Jee, Bomb Australia, 1997.)Scratching deeply influenced the cut-and-paste soundscape of Hip-Hop/Rap throughout the 80's, which was by then commercially successful music, and new scratching techniques allowed for an even wider range of sound manipulations.
Transforming, developed by Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money, especially influenced the development of new scratch flavors. Moving a sound through rapidly clicking fader, sounds could be "chopped up" with new syncopated and percussive elements (check Cash Money's winning set at the 1988 DMC World Battle).
"Chirping" was another scratch developed in the 80's, still remaining popular with its rapid-fire cutting sound.
New scratches developed rapidly through the early-mid 90's, with new scratches coming on a seemingly daily basis. Some influential scratches include the "flare," developed by DJ Flare, the "crab" which was fully-realized in 1996 by Q-Bert and Disk, and the "tweak" which has been utilized to great effect by Mixmaster Mike.
Along with scratching, the second integral component to Turntablism is beat juggling, which was pioneered by Steve D and introduced the DJ community at the New Music Seminar (NMS)/Superman Battle for World Supremacy in 1990.
DJ Yoshi from Japan also contributed to beat manipulation with the introduction of "strobing," which was further developed by DJ Shortkut of the Invisbl Skratch Piklz.
Hip-Hop DJ's were already manipulating tones and melodies through cutting and scratching. With the ability to create original beat compositions on turntables, DJ's were truly creating original music, being that music is defined as the integration of rhythm and melodic/tonal manipulation.
Turntablism arose primarily from DJ "battle culture." Battling is a mainstay of both Hip-Hop and Jazz cultures (in Jazz the term is "cutting" or "cutting heads"). In both of these cultures battling has helped push the development of each artform, with each opponent reaching to newer and more innovative heights to show mastery of their craft.
DJ battles, like Clark Kent's DJ Battle for World Supremacy, continued to grow throughout the 80's and early 90's. The Disco Mix Club (DMC) for example held its first world DJ battle in 1987 and has continued to hold one of largest DJ battles of its kind. DMC however has been criticized for cashing-in on Hip-Hop DJ culture without putting much back in to it.
"You win a battle and probably get a cheap plastic jacket and some slip mats. While the person organizing the battle is walkin' away with 20 G's in his pocket, plus the video tape sales." (Rob Swift, Subculture magazine, Winter 1996.)With these shortcomings in mind, large-scale battles like DMC have helped bring much-needed exposure to Turntablists and Hip-Hop DJ's. "I'll be the first to admit that DMC is one of the establishments which have provided DJ's like myself a forum to display our creativity," concedes Rob Swift. (Rob Swift, On the Go magazine #15.)
DMC, for example, helped introduce Rocksteady DJ's/FM20 (Q-Bert, Mixmaster Mike, Apollo) to DJ culture. Rocksteady DJs, now Invisbl Skratch Piklz, pioneered crew routines in the 1992 DMC. With those three DJs simultaneously scratching and manipulating beats, the results were fully-realized turntable compositions. Crews are increasingly battling each other, such as the historic X-Men vs. Invisbl Skratch Piklz battle in 1996.
Nevertheless, with the rise in Turntablism's prominence, organizations like the International Turntablism Federation (ITF) are seeking to provide a better environment for DJ battles by addressing common complaints and problems found in DJ battles (i.e clueless judges, politics, etc.).
In the end, while Turntablism exists on its own merits, Turntablists continue to enter DJ battles. Battling gave Turntablists their initial platform, and the two are still close at hand.
The notion of using phonographic records to create music can be traced as far back as 1937. In a speech to a Seattle arts society, American avante-garde composer John Cage proclaimed:
"With a...phonograph it is now possible to control...any one of these sounds and give to it rhythms within or beyond the reach of imagination. Given...four phonographs we can compose and perform a quartet for explosive motor, wind, heartbeat, and landslide." ("The Future of Music: Credo" by John Cage, 1937.)Pierre Schaeffer, a French avant-garde composer, also championed turntable-based music as early as 1948.
"Using multiple turntables Schaeffer would cue desired sounds from existing recordings...His only means for altering the sounds of the discs were through changing the speeds of the turntables, creating repeating loops or grooves in the disc..and adjusting the volume and playing sounds backwards." (Electronic and Experimental Music, Thomas B. Holmes, p.120.)Hip-Hop musicians have most fully realized the visions of these early 20th century avant-garde composers. The descriptions above also sound strikingly similar to the methods which modern Turntablists employ. Turntablists are true visionaries.
With Turntablism being defined in only the last few years, it seems that Turntablism will continue to grow at its already rapid pace.
Turntablists are increasingly collaborating with traditional musicians, such as Apollo's continuing work with jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis' band Buckshot le Fonque, and DJ Disk who is part of the futuristic rock band Giant Robot II (GR2). Disk has already contributed cuts on the song "Junkie Man" by punk stalwarts Rancid, and sat-in live with ska band The Mudsharks and San Francisco punk/funk band MCM and the Monster.
Melo-D of the Beat Junkies is also reaching living rooms across television land as a member of Vibe T.V.'s house band.
New record and CD compilations are highlighting the influence of modern Turntablists, such as OM record's "Deep Concentration" and the two volumes of "Return of the DJ" (Bomb Hip-Hop Records).
New technological innovations may further enhance Turntablism. Q-Bert prophesizes:
"In the future they'll have some kind of mechanism where you can scratch without the needles hopping everywhere...it probably won't even be a needle. It's some kind of mechanism where you can sample sounds and you can touch it." (Turntable Wizardry video, 1995.)In short, Turntablism is still in its early stages and its growth will be limited only by the imagination and techniques of its purveyors.
SECTION 3 - BASIC CONCEPTS:
In turntablism, there are currently two main styles of musical expression. The first and foremost is scratching (also known as cutting). Scratching is a technique by which the performer uses vinyl and moves the record back and forth against the needle to produce sounds of varying degree. The performer can push the record forward or backward (denoted as forward stroke and backward strokes). In some cases, creating a stroke isn't necessary. Simply playing the record for a short duration is sufficient.
Baby: Simple movements of the record back and forth
Forward: The sound is played for a short duration, cut off, then rewound to beginning of sound.
Rub: The forward strokes and/or the backstrokes are slowed, as if decelerating.
Stab (Chop): Similar to a forward, but pushed forward and then cut off during rewind.
Chirp: During the forward stroke, the sound is gradually cut off while approaching the end of the stroke. As the backward stroke is initiated, the sound is turned back on.
Scribble: A very fast vibrating sound, done by holding the record idle and tensing the arm muscles, causing the record to move back and forth very quickly across a small point.
Tear: A three-step sound, performed with a forward stroke push and then rewinding the sound in two consecutive drags backwards.
The second common style of turntablism is beat-juggling. This technique is performed by using two records and manipulating the arrangement of the elements (drum sounds, headnotes, etc.) from both to create a new rhythmical composition.
Loop: The basic "1-2, 1-2's" of juggling, this is done by playing a section of the first record, cross over and play a section of the other record while rewinding first record to the marked beginning point, and then crossing over to the first record and repeating.
Breakdown: A manual slowdown of the beat by using the hand to rhythmically pause the record on every beat count.
Fills: While playing one record, a second record's sound element (kick drum, snare, etc.) is used to "hit" the sound a step (typically a sixteenth count) ahead or behind a similar element from the first record. For example, use the kick drum from the second record to "double" or "triple" the kick drum from the first record.
SECTION 4 - ADVANCED CONCEPTS:
Transform: The sound starts turned off, and then turned on and off in a stuttering motion during playback (the sound turned off when finished).
Hydroplane: While pushing the record in any direction, apply counter pressure to the record surface by gently rubbing a finger from the other hand against record rotation.
Flare: A reverse transform concept. Instead of starting with the sound turned off, the off/on motion is started with the sound on (known as "clicking").
Twiddle: A flaring style using only the index and middle finger and alternating hitting the fader between the two.
Crab: A four-click flare done by hitting all the fingers (except the thumb) against the fader in a row to turn on the sound, starting from the pinky to the index finger, all while the thumb applied reverse pressure to keep the fader in the closed position (this is for traditional, non-hamster scratchers - reverse finger roles for hamster style).
Strobe: This requires two records in a breakdown playing simultaneously. However, one record is playing a step ahead of the other (typically a sixteenth count) and the performer is alternating playback between the two sources.
Double-click: Used to insert double-time elements into a composition, it is done by offsetting the synchronization of two records by a sixteenth count and changing the crossfader position quickly between the two sources.
SECTION 5 - EQUIPMENT SETTINGS:
5.1 - CARTRIDGES/NEEDLES:
Submitted By: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cartridge: Shure M44-7/M44-G
Weight: 1/4 - 1/2 the way in
Other: Weight reversed
Submitted By: email@example.com
Cartridge: Stanton 500AL
Weight: All the way in
Height: 0 - 1
Submitted By: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cartridge: Stanton 500AL
Headshell: Cart pulled to front of headshell and angled slightly facing center about 5 degrees.
Weight: All the way to front, not backwards.
Height: As high as possible.
Other: 2 metal plates between headshell and cart to gain extra weight.
Submitted By: email@example.com
Cartridge: Stanton 680EL
Weight: All the way in
Height: 0 - 2
Submitted By: Maofish@aol.com
Cartridge: Stanton 680HP
Weight: 3 (sometimes 3.5)
Other: This works for me most of the time, still tweaking looking for that perfect setting.
Submitted By: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cartridge: Stanton Trackmaster AL
Weight: All the way in
Submitted By: Maofish@aol.com
Cartridge: Stanton Trackmaster
Weight: 3.25 to 3.75, or flip weight, but not all way to front.
Height: 3 - 4
Submitted By: email@example.com
Cartridge: Ortofon (Nightclub Series)
Weight: All the way in.
Height: 2 - 3
Submitted By: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cartridge Ortofon OM (Nightclub Series)
Other: I have the screws as far forward as possible.
SECTION 6 - EQUIPMENT REVIEWS:
Street Master 5006 or PMC-005: 2 phono inputs and 4 line inputs on two faders. Transform Buttons beside the crossfader (also known as Flashformer buttons). The mixer has also two mic inputs, master volume control and balance. All this are covered with a plastic outer box.
Street Master 5005: Ideal for beginners and the cheapest in the Vestax range. Master volume control. Phono/Line switches are placed vertically so Phono is Up and Line is Down.
PMC-05MKIV; Replacement of the successful PMC-05MKIII: All features are the same as the Street Master 5005 with the addition of "Clean" fascia design featuring the Double Panel System (described in the next paragraphs). High quality circuit design for exceptional sound quality.
PMC-05FX: Designed by Funkmaster Flex. Normal sound quality circuit, not as the PMC-05MKIV. 2 phono, 2 line. Separate balance controls on each channel. Separate Left and Right Master volume controls.
PMC-05PRO: 2 phono, 2 line, 2 mic inputs. Bass & Treble controls on each input (including the mic one). PHOTO COUPLER operation which allows for Crossfader curve adjustment (cut-in time). Superior grade crossfader. Selectable position (8 positions) transformer switches. Double Panel System.
PMC-06PRO: 2 phono, 2 line. Double Panel System. Separate Bass-Treble controls for each input. "Hamster" switch.
ISP05-PRO: The newest model in the PRO range. 2 phono, 2 line. Gold Color Panel. Hamster Switch. Double Panel System. Gain Controls on Vertical Faders.
ISP07-PRO: This model is now being designed by the Invisibl Skratch Piklz.
6.1.1 - THE DOUBLE PANEL SYSTEM: This is a patent used by Vestax where even the smallest obstructions, such as crossfader screws and fittings have been hidden under a removable flat panel. The panel is easily removed and when it is you can replace the crossfader, faders or position the transformer switches in any of the eight positions you prefer for your style. In this way nothing gets in the way of your hands so you are completely free to move them around the mixer as fast as you like. This system is similar (the idea is the same anyway) as the DMC Technics and previous models of mixers.
The PMC005 (Street Master 5006), has a typewriter style panel which is a bit strange in between your SLs or PDTs if you prefer! It's advantage is the 6 inputs (4 of which are line) so you could connect your 2 phonos, 1 tape, 2 CDs, 1 drum machine, plus 2 mics! What more could you want? Well there is a catch! You can only use two at the same time as there are only two faders. The fader is the CF-005 (used only in this model) and the crossfader curve (cut-in) is appalling. It's almost logarithmic so you can't under no circumstances use it for scratching. The mixer also has the "Flashformer" buttons which not many people use. As a conclusion, it's good for sorting out your inputs (if you have many), not for the turntablist.
The Street Master 5005 is one of the best entry turntablist mixers in my opinion. Simple design, no fancy controls. A different aspect of this mixers transformer switches is that the are placed so Phono (ON) is up and Line (OFF) is down. Another difference from ordinary switches is that they have half of the "travelling" time. Good for the flare scratch and you don't really have to spend much time to get used to them. So to conclude, it's cheap it has a "clean" fascia, good sound quality..what more could you want?
The PMC-05MKIV this is what more you might want! This mixer has the same controls as the 5006 but it's much more expensive. Why?...I hear you say! Well...you get more on the design side, actually much more. It features the Double Panel System and high quality circuit components which give a superior sound quality an minimum hiss and noise. The crossfader is the CF-05IV (used only in this model) and has a very good cut-in time. A bit expensive but a very "sexy" mixer! I definitely would like one! One of the Pro choices for all real turntablists.
The PMC-05PRO. What can I say...Exceptional sound quality and built, "feather" feel crossfader, adjustable cut-in time, re-positionable switches and as the name suggests, PRO! Ok...so it's expensive, but look at what you get. The only design problem I find is that the C.F. monitor control on the right of the crossfader. This could have been placed on the top panel. Something else is that even with the best cut-in time you don't get the cut-in of the Technics.
The PMC-06PRO is one of the latest additions to the PRO series. Designed with all the high standards of the 05-PRO but with something less...and something more! You only get 2 phono and 2 line inputs (that's all you need really), no mics (who needs them anyway?), but you get a "Hamster" switch. What this does is it reverses the way the crossfader travels. The "Hamster" switch is mainly used for the Flare scratch and all its variations. Another difference with the 05-PRO is that it's less wide and so your turntables are much closer.
The newest model in the PRO range is the ISP05-PRO. This as the name reveals has been designed by the Invisibl Skratch Piklz. It is availiable now in the U.S. so I haven't really tried it yet. Although I know it has a Hamster switch and a gold color. One of the innovations in this mixer is the vertical pan controls. This as I had excpected is a no-nonsense turntablistic mixer.
Also, soon this year (or early 1998) the PMC07-PRO will also be released and designed by the ISP as I was told from Yoga Frog.
SH-DJ1200 Official DMC Championships Mixer: 2xLine, 2xPhono, 1 mic, 1xEffect In/Out, Treble, Bass (+12dB, -24dB) Master Volume, Balance 1 x cross fader and 1 x fader included.
Additional Info The first ever mixer by Technics (and only model) incorporates a high-precision variable resistor which boasts long service life and resistance to wear from friction (a nominal 100,000 uses compared with 15,000 of the normal life). The mixer is equipped with a spare channel-fader and cross fader inside the back panel. The mixer also uses a "new" 3-column level meter (L,R and Monitor levels).
DMC has been collaborating with GLI to produce its mixers but now has turned to Technics. This is a "classy" sort of looking mixer! Black lacker finish (which needs less than 1 second to get full of fingerprints) and Gold color controls. The crossfader is really much better than your ordinary Gemini or Vestax fader but still when it comes to life duration...it is not what Technics say. With heavy use it starts clicking after generally two months (compared to the standard of two weeks!). The phono/line switches are very smooth but could have been more rugged, Sparky T broke one of them!
And we come to the crossfader. If you blow on the crossfader it goes from one side to the other! It has an extremely soft "feather" feel. It's the best cross fader when it comes to the cut-in time, leaving behind by far its closest competitors of the Vestax PRO series. It's almost like a switch. The sound quality is very good indeed. With my 110 Watts RMS amplifier turned all the way up and with all the Technics controls set to max, no hiss was heard whatsoever (except the amplifiers' one!). The Tone controls can boost your frequencies by 12dB or cut them by up to -24dB!!! are just excellent. Almost like "kill" switches. When both the Treble and the Bass controls are set to -24dB you can get a "box" like sounding effect. Check out Crazy B in the 1997 DMC World Finals to see what I mean.
The Effects/Aux channel is a bit disappointing as although you can use the effect on one channel only the faders are not operational. So for example a guitar pedal can't be used in this way and as a solution an aditional mixer has to be used. There is a way in getting over this problem by manipulating the cue switch but...could have been better.
So yeah it's a good mixer and expensive, but consider what you get. You get a real studio quality turntablist mixer.
Battle Sounds http://www.dubon.com/battlesounds/
Bomb Australia / Bomb Hip-Hop Records http://www.bombhiphop.com/
Buez's Battle DJ Links http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Palms/3941/
Christo's Turntablism Web Sitehttp://www.cwo.com/~christo/
DJ Sheep http://www.turntablism.com/djsheep/
Four Lives http://www.myd.com/~4lives/
The International Turntablism Federation http://www.hip-hop.com/
Invisibl Skratch Piklz http://www.skratchpiklz.com/
Marwax - The Turntablistic Site http://users.acropolis.net/marwax/
Muzik Fiendz http://www.turntablism.com/muzikfiendz/
Scratch Papers http://www.streetsound.com/scratchpapers/
Terntable Jediz http://www.turntablism.com/jediz/
Vinyl Exchange http://vinylexchange.com/
Wicked Styles http://www.wicked-styles.com/
SECTION 8 - VIDEOS:
At this time, the listing here will comprise of commercial videos. This refers to material which is generally available through key outlets.
- Disco Music Club (DMC); West Coast, East Coast, USA, European, World Finals, etc., from each year since 87.
- International Turntablist Federation (ITF); 1996 Eliminations and Finals.
- Music Systems; 1996 Grand Finals
- Shiggerfragger Show Shows 3 - 5
- Turntable Mechanics
- Turntable TV Volumes 1 - 3
- Turntable Wizardry Stage 1
- Vestax DJ School Volumes 1 - 5
- Vestax Championships 1995 USA Finals
The following are some of the known locations from which to purchase the above videos:
131 Old Cleveland Road
Capalaba QLD 4157
Phone: (07) 3823-2613
Fax: (07) 3823-2280
(Australian orders only)
4104 24th Street - Suite #105
San Francisco, CA 94114
(for the USA & other parts of the world)
Fat Beats (Amsterdam)
Singel 10 (Sous)
1013 GA Amsterdam
Fat Beats (Tokyo)
4-28-24 Jingumae Shibuya
Fat Beats (Los Angeles)
1768 North Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Phone: (213) 663-3717
Fat Beats (New York)
406 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 673-3883
Invisibl Skratch Piklz website
151 5th Avenue
Redwood City, CA 94063
Phone: (415) 368-0171
Fax: (415) 368-0878
Pro Sound & Stage Lighting
14200 Beach Blvd.
Westminster, CA 92683
Phone: (800) 945-9300
Fax: (714) 891-6375
Ultra Sounz Records
San Bruno, CA
Phone: (415) 871-4170
Fax: (415) 794-8523
Up Above Records
1300 E. 223rd Street #404
Carson, CA 90745
Phone: (310) 549-4696
2968 Avenue X
Brooklyn, NY 11235
Phone: (800) 796-9732
Phone: (718) 332-3322
Fax: (718) 332-6232
475 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
Phone: (415) 626-9145
Fax: (415) 626-9146