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Turntables have long been used as performative elements in aspects of the Western experimental tradition
The avant gardist movement has been majorly responsible for much of the early experimentation with electronically generated music. ‘Imaginary Landscapes No.1’, composed by John Cage, is a musical piece consisting of audio test tones and other sounds played on variable speed turntables. Pierre Schaeffer’s musique concrète, a type of musical composition that uses recorded sound as the raw material, also saw the use of turntables. Even the French born composer Edgar Varèse experimented with turntables as early as 1930.
Examples of turntable effects can also be found on the popular records produced in the 60s & 70s. This was most prominent in the Jamaican dub music among DJs in the sound system culture. Dub music introduced the techniques of mixing and scratching vinyl, which Jamaican immigrants introduced to American hip hop culture in the early 1970s.
Modern Art Form
Turntablism is the art of manipulating sounds and creating new music, sound effects, mixes and other creative sounds and beats, by using two or more turntables and a crossfader-equipped DJ mixer. As a modern art form and musical practice has it its roots within the African-American inner city hip hop of the late 70s.
DJ Kool Herc , a Jamaican DJ, is credited for originating Hip Hop music in the Bronx, New York City, in the 1970s through his ‘ Back to School Jam’. He is widely credited with developing the ‘break-beat’ technique which extends the break – the song’s climax – indefinitely. Two copies of the same record are put on the decks, and the mixer switches between them, creating a rhythmic beat by looping the breaks.
Kool Herc's invention of break beat DJing 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.
Kool Herc’s DJ style was quickly taken up by figures such as Afrika Bambaataa, GrandWizzard Theodore & Grandmaster Flash. Inspired by Herc, Bambaataa expanded awareness of break-beat deejaying through his famous street parties. Drawing upon vinyl LP recordings, these early DJs developed a range of techniques for isolating and manipulating musical fragments, using a setup consisting of two turntables and a two channel audio mixer.
Theodore Livingston better known by the moniker Grand Wizard Theodore is widely credited as the inventor of the scratching technique. He discovered the technique by accident as he stopped the record with his hand to hear what his mother was shouting out to him.
In the 1980s scratching was one of the main features of the emerging turntablist art form and a staple of hip hop music
Scratching is the sound made by moving the record back and forth in order to create syncopated rhythms, is a very important aspect of turntablism. It has become an art unto itself.
The 1990s saw an increase in the invention of new, more sophisticated turntable techniques. DJs began to push the boundaries of what they could achieve and a range of new scratches were created.
The evolution of scratching from a fairly simple sound & rhythm to a more complicated sound & intricate rhythm patterns allowed the practitioners to further evolve what could be done with scratching musically.
These new ways of scratching spread as DJs taught each other, practiced together or just showed off their new techniques to other DJs
Listed out are a few types of Scratch techniques
It is a type of scratch made from a combination of moving the record on the turntable by hand and repeated movement of the cross fader. The origin of the name has been associated with DJ Jazzy Jeff due its similarity to the sound made by The Transformers, a 1980s cartoon show.
A tear is a type of scratch used by turntablists made from moving the record on the turntable by hands only. The tear is similar to baby scratch so the DJ does not need a fader to perform it. So when the DJ pulls the record back he pauses his hand for a split second in the middle of the stroke. The result is one forward sound and two distinct backward sounds.
Orbit scratch uses a forward and a backward movement of the record in sequence. Developed by DJ Disk, who incorporated the flare technique after being shown by DJ
Q-Bert. Orbits can be performed once as a single orbit move, or sequenced to produce a cyclical never ending type of orbit sound.
Flare is made from a combination of moving the record on the turntable by hand and quick movement of the crossfader. This technique was invent by DJ Flare in 1987. This technique is similar to the transform technique in some ways.
A type of scratch invented by DJ Qbert. The crab is done by pushing the record forward and back while pushing the crossfader mixer open or closed through a quick succession of 4 movements with your fingers. It is recommended for beginners to start with 2 fingers and work their way to 4.