How The Vinyl Record Player Led To The Art Of DJing

Do you know how DJing started? Why did people start spinning and scratching records on a turntable? Well, it obviously started with the old-style record players. These are turntable machines that you place a vinyl record on and they have a needle that reads the grooves on the record and turns them into an audio output.

antique turntable record player
An old-school record player

This was at one time a miraculous technology, but obviously it’s pretty outdated these days. Of course, that is not to say nobody buys record players anymore. They are still quite popular with a lot of people. In fact, many people believe that vinyl delivers the most pure sound possible.

But anyway, back to the point of this post. At some point radio stations appeared and people eventually wanted to listen to music. At first they would just listen to people talking and then radio stations started airing dramas, but eventually they started playing music. That music came on vinyl. In order to switch from one song to another, somebody had to switch out the vinyl record on the turntable record player.

Radio stations started hiring people specifically for this job. These people selected songs they thought the audience would like and put them on the record player to play them. Basically they spent their working hours taking the previous record off the turntable and putting the new one on it. Vinyl records come in the form of discs so these people became known as disc jockeys. They were jockeying discs.

Eventually disc jockey became DJ and today still, DJs play various records on a vinyl turntable. At least that’s what the purists say. Most DJs today actually use a digital set up and they don’t even touch vinyl anymore. I’ve never had a problem with that and have always been one to embrace new technology. That said, I do feel that DJs should still master the skill of spinning records. And when I say that, I’m not talking about just putting a new record on the player.

No, eventually the job became much more complicated. Instead of simply switching out one record for the other, they got two turntables and let one song play over the other. The final part of the old song would still be playing when the beginning part of the new song was started. To the audience the whole thing was supposed to seem like one continuous song. It took a lot of skill to match the beats of the two songs and to mix them together seamlessly. This is what real DJing became.

So there you have it, DJs started with vinyl record players and they continue spinning today with turntable style record players. At least some DJs do. Like I said. many use digital technology and many of them have never even touched a vinyl record. That is a shame.

I do wish more DJs would learn on vinyl and then switch to digital. The DJs that do that simply have a better understanding of the music and of their craft. And also being able to scratch or to skip or to jump or to do any of the other advanced techniques on vinyl is just much more impressive than doing it with a digital controller, don’t you think?


I go by the name DJ Tomboy