Art of manipulating sound using turntables / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Turntablism is the art of manipulating sounds and creating new music, sound effects, mixes and other creative sounds and beats, typically by using two or more turntables and a cross fader-equipped DJ mixer.[1] The mixer is plugged into a PA system (for live events) and/or broadcasting equipment (if the DJ is performing on radio, TV or Internet radio) so that a wider audience can hear the turntablist's music. Turntablists typically manipulate records on a turntable by moving the record with their hand to cue the stylus to exact points on a record, and by touching or moving the platter or record to stop, slow down, speed up or, spin the record backwards, or moving the turntable platter back and forth (the popular rhythmic "scratching" effect which is a key part of hip hop music),[2] all while using a DJ mixer's crossfader control and the mixer's gain and equalization controls to adjust the sound and level of each turntable. Turntablists typically use two or more turntables and headphones to cue up desired start points on different records (Greasley & Prior, 2013).

DJ Qbert manipulating a record turntable at a turntablism competition in France in 2006
World premiere of the Tri-Phonic Turntable, July 14, 1997, London
Record producer DJ Jazzy Jeff manipulating a record turntable in England in 2005.

Turntablists, who are often called DJs (or "deejays"), generally prefer direct-drive turntables over belt-driven or other types, because the belt can be stretched or damaged by "scratching" and other turntable manipulation such as slowing down a record, whereas a direct drive turntable can be stopped, slowed down, or spun backwards without damaging the electric motor. The word turntablist is claimed to be originated by Luis "DJ Disk" Quintanilla (Primus, Herbie Hancock, Invisibl Skratch Piklz).[3] After a phone conversation with Disk, it was later popularised in 1995 by DJ Babu[4] to describe the difference between a DJ who simply plays and mixes records and one who performs by physically manipulating the records, stylus, turntables, turntable speed controls and mixer to produce new sounds. The new term coincided with the resurgence of hip-hop DJing in the 1990s.

According to most DJ historians, it has been documented that "DJ Babu" of the "Beat Junkies" / "Dilated Peoples" was the one who originally coined the term "turntablist". In 1995 while working on the groundbreaking mixtape "Comprehension", DJ Babu hand wrote the name "Babu The Turntablist" on hundreds of copies of this mixtape to describe his style of DJing, while working on the track "Turntablism" with "D-Styles" and DJ Melo-D, Babu would say "if someone plays the piano, we call them a pianist, if someone plays the guitar, we call them a guitarist, why don't we call ourselves Turntablists?" found in the documentary "Scratch (2001 film)" which was released in 2001.

John Oswald described the art: "A phonograph in the hands of a 'hiphop/scratch' artist who plays a record like an electronic washboard with a phonographic needle as a plectrum, produces sounds which are unique and not reproduced—the record player becomes a musical instrument."[5] Some turntablists use turntable techniques like beat mixing/matching, scratching, and beat juggling. Some turntablists seek to have themselves recognized as traditional musicians capable of interacting and improvising with other performers. Depending on the records and tracks selected by the DJ and their turntablist style (e.g., hip hop music), a turntablist can create rhythmic accompaniment, percussion breaks, basslines or beat loops, atmospheric "pads", "stabs" of sudden chords or interwoven melodic lines.

The underground movement of turntablism has also emerged to focus on the skills of the DJ. In the 2010s, there are turntablism competitions, where turntablists demonstrate advanced beat juggling and scratching skills.

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