DJ Techniques

A turntable is essentially a DJ's phonograph for playing back Vinyl records, of which the most common is the Technics SL-1200. Turntables come in many different forms these days, but all play back 33/45 RPM records and have pitch control for mixing capabilities.

Turntable components[]


The platter is the large 12" circular 'plate' that rotates, on which the record is placed.


The slipmat is the mat on the platter which protects the record from wear and allows the platter to continue rotating underneath a record if it is held. Slipmats are important so that the record can be held for cueing, and for scratching. In general, a slippier slipmat is more useful for scratching but needs more hand control, and will also mean the record needs gentle pushing to get up to speed quickly after releasing as the platter will not drag the record along as much.

Tone arm[]

The tone arm is the extension which holds the cartridge in place for reading the grooves whilst taking the signal back via internal wires, and comes in two shapes; S-shape and straight. S-shape tone arms have a bend in the middle, which helps with audio quality, whilst straight tone arms are completely straight, which helps reducing skipping whilst scratching.


The cartridge, held in the headshell at the end of the tone arm, is what holds the needle and picks up the sound. A clean, unworn cartridge is important for sound quality; most turntable cartridges pick up the sound from the grooves magnetically, but technology may mean lasers are used for sound pickup in the future. Some cartridge models are regarded better for scratching as they are designed to skip less often. A common technique to further prevent skipping is to place a small weight on top of the cartridge, such as a coin.


The counterweight is a small weight on the off-record end of the tonearm to balance it and hold the cartridge in position. Too little balancing weight leads to record wear; too much leads to skipping.

Anti-skipping adjustment[]

Anti-skipping adjustment features on some turntables and is a device that somehow limits the speed of the movement of the cartridge over the grooves so it cannot skip easily. This can be useful but turntablists prefer it turned off as it induces outwards movement and does not help protect against much skipping. It is an awesome technique where DJ use to introduce a new "drop" in the entire music player

Drive system[]

Turntables come with two different styles of drive system that transfer the motor rotation to the platter - belt drive and direct drive. Belt drive connects the motor to the turning mechanism via a small belt, essentially linking the two, but the belt wears out and can slip; part of the advantage of belt drive is that the motor does not stop when the platter stops, protecting it. Direct drive is where the motor is directly linked to the rotation of the platter; the direct link means it is faster to get up to speed.


Pitch control[]

The pitch control on a turntable is a long variable fader that allows the platter rotation speed to be changed by small amounts (typically +/- 8%).

For more information, see pitch control.

Quartz lock[]

The quartz lock control on some turntable models locks the pitch at 0% difference, so that the record is being played back at exactly 33.3 or 45 RPM.

Key correction[]

Key correction, or master tempo, is a DSP feature on some turntable models that keeps the platter rotating at the same speed with pitch control on, but reverts the perceived pitch of the record back to its pressed status, keeping it in tune.

For more information, see key correction.

Start/stop button[]

The start/stop button on the turntable does just what it says; it starts the platter spinning, or stops it. Some turntables come with dual start/stop buttons so that it is easy to reach whatever turntable configuration is used.

Motor off[]

Most turntables come with, in some form or another, a 'motor off feature. This stops the motor whilst not braking the movement of the platter, leading to a 'pitch-down' or 'power-down' effect, something that can be found useful.

Start/brake adjustment[]

Some turntables come with the ability to control the start and brake parameters. The start means how fast the motor gets up to speed when the start/stop button is pressed, and if this is not set to a fast start, it leads to the sound dragging as the motor slowly gets up to speed. The brake parameter similarly leads to a slow down effect if it is not fully applied, where no brake means a full motor off effect.

Servicing a Turntable[]

See full article: Servicing a turntable

Turntables are normally serviced a number of times throughout their lifetime to improve sound quality and effectiveness; the most common service is replacing the stylus, cartridge or headshell so that a new stylus or pickup system is in place.

See also[]