The history of DJ turntables is a fascinating journey that spans over a century, starting from basic phonograph devices to the advanced and versatile turntables we see today. Here’s a brief overview of the key milestones in the evolution of DJ turntables:
- Early Phonographs and Gramophones (Late 19th to Early 20th Century): The history of DJ turntables can be traced back to the late 1800s with the invention of phonographs and gramophones. These early devices played music from cylindrical or flat discs and were operated using hand-cranked mechanisms. While not intended for DJing, these inventions laid the foundation for sound reproduction and manipulation.
- Introduction of Turntables (1930s-1940s): In the 1930s and 1940s, turntables began to appear with features designed for broadcasting and live sound manipulation. These early turntables included pitch control, allowing broadcasters to adjust the speed of playback. However, they were primarily used for radio broadcasting and not yet integrated into the burgeoning DJ culture.
- Turntablism Emerges (1970s): The 1970s marked a pivotal era in the evolution of DJ turntables with the emergence of hip-hop and the birth of turntablism. DJs like Grandmaster Flash and Kool Herc started manipulating records by manually moving the vinyl back and forth to extend drum breaks and create new rhythms. These DJs began using two turntables to seamlessly transition between tracks, effectively inventing the technique of “beatmatching.”
- Technological Advancements (1980s-1990s): The 1980s saw the introduction of more advanced features in DJ turntables, such as the direct drive mechanism. This innovation allowed DJs to manipulate records more precisely, making beatmatching and scratching easier. Brands like Technics introduced iconic turntables like the Technics SL-1200 series, which became a staple in the DJ community due to their durability and performance.
- Digital Revolution (Late 1990s-2000s): The late 1990s and early 2000s witnessed a significant shift as technology brought digital capabilities to turntables. Digital vinyl systems (DVS) were introduced, which allowed DJs to control digital music files using specially encoded vinyl records and software. This innovation combined the tactile experience of vinyl manipulation with the flexibility of digital music.
- Modern Turntables (Present): In the present day, DJ turntables have reached a remarkable level of sophistication. High-end turntables often come equipped with features like adjustable torque, USB connectivity for digitizing vinyl, MIDI compatibility for integrating with software and hardware, and advanced pitch control options. Additionally, turntables have become more compact and portable, enabling DJs to take their craft anywhere.
- Turntablism as an Art Form: Turntablism has evolved into a recognized art form, with DJs pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on a pair of turntables. Techniques like scratching, beat juggling, and transform scratches have become integral to the DJ lexicon. Turntablism competitions and events provide platforms for DJs to showcase their skills and innovation.
In conclusion, the history of DJ turntables is a story of innovation, creativity, and the dynamic intersection between technology and music culture. From their humble beginnings as phonographs to the advanced, feature-rich turntables of today, these devices have played a pivotal role in shaping the world of DJing and music performance.