The Art and History of DJ-Mixing
by Alex Cosper

See also:
How to Find a Wedding DJ

Electronic Music 1980s
Electronic Music 1990s
Electronic Music 2000s

Why DJs Still Use Turntables

The turntable has survived because it has become imbedded with the popular cultures of hip hop and techno. There is also a crowd of indie rockers who prefer vinyl because it has a "warmer sound" meaning more life-like. Even though pitch control has been featured on CD decks, club DJs still prefer turntables for some technical but mostly cosmetic reasons. It would seem that the more digital the better for DJs who rely on the world of electronic music. Why not use CD players or computers with pitch control to deliver the music?

One thing a turntable is that other delivery systems aren't, is a musical instrument with its own musical possibilities depending on the DJ/artist. Compared to CD players, turntables have a more on-demand feel by the DJ, who can start a record more precisely than with a CD player, which sometimes has delay problems. A DJ feels more in command when on-demand ability is not in question. But the turntable is also more for show. It just looks more technical than a CD player, plus you can see what the DJ is doing, handling and cueing up records. It looks more scientific and artistic than popping a CD in a CD player or clicking a file on a computer. Chances are, the turntable will still be around for years to come. It has made a mark in dance culture that has ensured its place in history.

So what makes a DJ? It actually starts with the equipment. A DJ is simply not a DJ without a sound system. At bare-minimum the DJ needs powered speakers (with built-in amplifiers), a four channel or better mixing board (with Numark being a popular brand), a microphone and any type of sound source such as a laptop, CD players, turntables or mini-disc players. Thanks to the development of music storage and the computer revolution, many DJs in the 2000s are using laptops, particularly Mac-based computers, featuring the iTunes program or other playlist-oriented music software (such as MegaSeg), to generate the music flow.

DJs who beat mix, of course, are sticking with turntables while other DJs are hanging on to CD players. If the speakers do not have built-in amplifiers, then the DJ needs to add an amplifier to the equipment list. Many DJs like to assemble the components except for the speakers all in one racked-mounted case or box on wheels. In many situations a venue will set up a table with table cloth matching the event so that the DJ fits in more with event coordination, which makes it better for DJs who condense their equipment in a small box.

On top of these requirements are the many extras DJs like to throw in to enhance their shows. These extras include a light show with strobes and multi-colored beacons, wireless microphones, wireless headsets, expanders, limiters and MIDI equipment. The main thing a DJ will always have to make a priority is the music. As long as something is playing through the speakers the DJ is making something happen, assuming people are present. The big test for the DJ is populating the dance floor, unless it's music not intended for dancing, such as dinner background music.

Usually a continuous dancing crowd is what makes the DJ a star. That means the DJ must know or learn the crowd as much as possible, by figuring out which songs work for that particular crowd. For a DJ-mixer, it's the mix that needs to work more than anything, which means creating an evolving tempo scheme with a bpm-organized music library and pitch control. DJ mixing at its most amazing has a subliminal effect on people's minds, and the best of the best are the ones who present a seamless flow where transitions are not obvious. Unlike radio, a dance mix suspends judgment on songs and instead creates an atmosphere that promotes crowd unity.

The Art and History of DJ Mixing
How Early Disco Shaped Dance Music in the 70s
Disco's Influence on Pop Music
Transition to Electronic Dance Culture
Soundbites and Special Mixes
The On-Air Nightclub
The Secret to Beatmixing
Why DJs Still Use Turntables

© Playlist Research. All rights reserved.