How do I master the art of record manipulation?
August 16, 2006 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Turntabelism / Spinning -- how do I start?

Reading this recent question made me realize that I'd really like to try that out, myself. If you knew nothing about manipulating records to produce phat beats, where would you go?

Of course, I'm sure the first step is to get a record player and just start messing around, but will any old $12 junk-store record player do, or should I really wait until I can buy one with a belt-drive and a "multi-directional design"?

1) What's the least exspensive set up I could look for to try stuff out, and

2) Are there any good resources out there that cover the basics--books, web sites, &c.?
posted by Squid Voltaire to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Wait until you can afford direct drive tables. I highly recommend Numark products for beginners. Cheap and pretty nice. I think the model I started with was the TX-100 ? or TX-101? something like that.

Once you get two decks and a mixer and some vinyl, you'll get the idea behind things real quick, no book necessary. What it takes is practice and an ear for things... I think.

Anyway. Good luck.
posted by dead_ at 1:43 PM on August 16, 2006

try a pawn shop for inexpensive set-ups - lots of tables in there for cheap. Technics is what i recommend. Don't do belt-driven.
Learn to hear the beat & practice beat matching over and over and over... I recommend starting with basic house - 4 beats per measure - easiest to beat match. Get a comfortable set of headphones, ones that you can flip around easily & will take a beating. Wish I could recommend a book - but you really just have to practice, practice practice....
good luck!
posted by Alpenglow at 1:52 PM on August 16, 2006

Can't vouch for it personally, but it had some good reviews in the music press when it came out: How to DJ Right: The Art and Science of Playing Records
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 2:05 PM on August 16, 2006

See "Scratch." It's awesome.
posted by JPowers at 2:13 PM on August 16, 2006

Best answer: DIY with DJ Qbert
posted by Dean King at 2:39 PM on August 16, 2006

There are lots of resources online about turntablism. The only way to really get into it, though is to commit to it. and by committing to it, I mean that you will have to spend money on good equipment.

Belt driven turntables will actually hamper your skills. I do recommend biting the bullet and purchasing direct drive turntables.

Technics and Vestax are the best, but Numarks are perfectly fine for beginners. I'd take the pawn-shop/craigslist route as well. Local record Shops may have DJ tool records and battle weapons records to work with. as well as most online record shops. (Search for DJ tools in the records areas).

I also recommend the book posted above, it's very informative and gives a good overview off all aspects of being a DJ.

There are instructional videos and tutorials on scratching, sven schools in major cities like the scratch academy. (SF,LA, and NY) However, you really need to kind of jump in and try it. It's also easier if you aren't going it alone; I'd also recommend seeking out others with the same interest. Turntablists often tend to be an egotistical bunch, so be prepared to deal with some of that.

Part of the problem is that it's difficult to describe the performance part, there are techniques that can be described, but it's still an artistic endeavor.

above all else, though, is the element of practice. Every Turntablist I know practically sleeps with his turntable. They practice a lot (did I say alot? I meant a whole lot!), and the learning curve is pretty steep to start out.

Best of luck.
posted by djdrue at 2:44 PM on August 16, 2006

Best answer: The best thing you can do is find a friend with a dual-table setup who will let you bring records over to practice. Or, find a local radio station with a setup, get a show, and practice during the off hours. Also, many nightclubs have "open tables" nights where anyone can show up and play.

If you purchase turntables (vs. CD Players/MP3 - more on this in a minute) absolutely purchase Technics 1200s. Don't listen to what anyone else says about other brands being as stable, well built, etc. Not only is it untrue, but the vast majority of clubs i've played in use 1200s and it just doesn't make sense to learn on anything else. The added benefit is that if you decide that the hobby just isn't for you, you can resell 1200s for a price near their original value. They are rock solid decks, require minimal servicing.

For needles, pick up a lower-end cartridge like a Shure M44 or similar. They are well made, sound good, and won't tear your records up. Make certain you learn how to properly weight them as well.

Pick up a cheap mixer to start with - two channels with a crossfader and basic eq. You should be able to find one for under 100$. Once you figure things out you can worry about upgrading the mixer.

An alternative route is to invest in something like the CDJ-100 to learn how to mix/match beats, and then step up one turntable at a time as you have the cash. You won't learn how to manipulate vinyl, but you can still master the basics of mixing at a much lower price. As long as you don't beat them up tooooo much the CDJ's hold their resale value fairly well also.

The final step, obviously, is a soundsystem of some sort. The ubiquitous Aiwa shelf units are more than adequate, and i've used (at times) a boombox with a tape adapter as the input. You also need headphones, but again, cheapies from radio shack will work initially.
posted by casconed at 2:58 PM on August 16, 2006

Specifically, the SL-1200MKii.

We don't like the Stanton double-ended cartridge?
posted by baylink at 2:14 PM on August 17, 2006

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