What is Turntablism? And Different Parts of Turntable

Turntablism is the professional term for the art form of creating original music with a traditional plastic record spinning on a turntable. Turntablism originated most influentially from creative "disc jockeys" (DJs) who recorded music at dance parties in the late 1970s. DJing is considered to be one of the cornerstones of urban culture, which has been known as hip-hop master of ceremonies (MC-ing), breakdancing and graffiti art. Turntablist DJs use turntable techniques such as scratching or juggling beat to compose original musical works. Turntablism generally focuses more on turntable technology and less on mixing. Some turntablists want to be recognized as legitimate musicians who are able to interact and improvise with other performers. The most commonly used slang terms describe hip-hop as a street life of scratching, rapping, breaking, or tagging. Scratching is actually just one of many sophisticated techniques for manipulating a spinning disk to alter its original music recording. We have a course for every beginner who wants to become a professional Disc Jockey, click here for more information.



The original DJ's phonograph was a disk player with two turntables but only one audio output channel. Sliding levers, so-called crossfaders, were located underneath its controllers, allowing the DJ to seamlessly disappear from a music track during a recording while he faded into a track on the opposite turntable. Recorded discs were made of hard vinyl plastic, one of which was recorded with irregular grooves that represented the direct transmission of physical sound vibration. A fine needle attached to a freely moving arm traced this groove to capture and amplify microscopic vibrations. This is the musical instrument of turntablism. One of the pioneering DJ's first tricks was to apply pressure to a turntable to stop its rotation and create a silent "break" for a track. It took a long time to release the pressure and continue playing the song without altering its rhythm. Partygoers adapted their dancing to this newly introduced cadence of groundbreaking rhythms. Other DJs were quick to join in, and here's how to play short segments of music over and over again by pressing a turntable counterclockwise to the exact position where that segment began. When you release the pressure, it will play. 


Kool DJ Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash are widely credited for having cemented the now established role of DJ as Hip Hop's foremost instrumentalist (and historically the genre's only instrumentalist). Kool Herc's invention of break-beat deejaying is generally regarded as the foundational development in Hip Hop history, as it gave rise to all other elements of the genre. His influence on the concept of "DJ as turntablist" is equally profound. To understand the significance of this achievement, it is important to first define the "break." Briefly, the "break" of a song is a musical fragment only seconds in length, which typically takes the form of an "interlude" in which all or most of the music stops except for the percussion. The break is roughly equivalent to the song's "climax," as it is meant to be the most exciting part of a song before returning once more to its finale (usually a return to the main chorus). In addition to raising the audience's adrenaline level, the percussion-heavy nature of the break makes it the most danceable as well, if only for seconds at a time. Kool Herc introduces the break-beat technique as a way of extending the break indefinitely. This is done by buying two of the same record and switching from one to the other on the DJ mixer: e.g., as record A plays, the DJ quickly backtracks to the same break on record B, which will again take the place of A at a specific moment in which the audience will not notice that the DJ has switched records.




The finger motion when executing this technique rapidly resembled "scratching" an itch. As this unique sound effect became more popular in mainstream music, turntablism came to be simply called scratching. With acceptance and legitimacy, more aspiring DJs meant more innovative new scratching techniques and corresponding sounds. Manufacturers of DJ equipment also responded to the physical and sonic demands of its new use as a musical instrument rather than a simple playback device.

When a sound is slowed down or sped up, its pitch changes. Equipment makers therefore combined the turntable with an audio mixer capable of correcting the pitch or also otherwise creating new complementary tones. Beat mixing on such instruments has the additional benefit of usually having additional input channels for other musical devices such as programmable digital drum machines. Computers and digital audio processing technology have been a significant influence in turntablism. Pressure-sensitive touchpads, "vinyl emulation" software and other applications are agents of evolution in this musical art.

The following different parts of a turntable

These are the basic parts of a standard, modern turntable. Familiarise yourself with them so you can study carefully how any turntable you’re considering buying deviates from the “norm”.

(1) 7” adaptor  – Many 7” singles have a wide hole in the center, originally because such a hole was needed for them to work with the mechanisms in jukeboxes. This adaptor lets you play such records on your turntable. Typically long-lost on club turntables; take your own if this is important to you.

(2) Anti-skating control  – Sets the anti-skating force, which is to counter the tendency of the rotating record to pull the cartridge towards the center of the platter. Setting it to the same value as…

(3) Counterweight  – Used to balance the tonearm so it applies just the right amount of pressure to the cartridge and stylus. The correct “tracking weight” is usually two or three grams, but you see DJs reversing the counterweight, adjusting it to be as heavy as possible, and even attaching small weights like pennies to the top of their cartridges to help stop skipping.

(4) Cue lever – Lets you lift up and lower the stylus without touching it. Rarely if ever used by DJs, who prefer to lift the tonearm using the arm of the headshell.

(5) Headshell  – The mount for the cartridge and stylus, has a little arm that is there to help you lift and place the assembly where you want it. Sometimes it is not a separate piece from the cartridge.

(6) Headshell holder – For storing a headshell that you’re not using. Can theoretically be useful if you use your own headshells for DJing (a good move!) so you can store those supplied by the venue. I’ve never seen anyone using it.

(7) Height adjuster ring  – For adjusting the fulcrum height of the tonearm. Don’t mess with this unless you have good reason to and know what you’re doing – it’s unlikely to cause you any issues left as it is.

(8) Pitch adjuster  – Essential for beat-mixing, because it lets you change the speed of the motor, and so the speed of the record, and so the tempo. Gets its name because speeding a tune-up or slowing it down also raises or lowers the musical pitch, +/-4% being about a semitone. Curiously, moving it up lowers the pitch, and down speeds it up. The scale printed on the turntable’s body allows you to see the percentage value of your change.

(9) Pitch adjuster range – Doubles the range of the pitch control, meaning you can slow down or speed up the record more, but at the expense of accuracy.

(10) Pitch reset button – Sets the pitch to zero no matter where the pitch adjuster is set – basically, disabling the pitch adjuster. Pressing it again returns the turntable to the currently set pitch.





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