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THE ART AND HISTORY OF DJ-MIXING
by Alex Cosper
The art of DJ-mixing has climbed to the top of the mythical pyramid in certain
scenes. For many people, it's a subliminal art that carries a message of nonstop dancing.
Different sources credit different DJs as leaders in the field. The story of how DJs started mixing
records for clubs is actually not so much about which DJ deserves the most credit, but about the
development of new technology and how it played into the evolution of electronic dance music.
Prior to the introduction of compact discs in the early eighties (circa 1982), everybody
listened to music on turntables and cassette decks. By 1977 the cassette had become half as
popular as vinyl. By the end of the eighties the cassette had surpassed CDs and vinyl in sales,
although CDs would take the lead in the early nineties.
The main drawback about cassettes was hiss and stretched tape, but
many consumers still saw the cassette as better than vinyl because the stylus that played the record,
was also wearing out the record every time it got played.
That's because the weight of the tone-arm was so heavy on most turntables. Records easily
got scratched as dust added to pops and skips while trying to enjoy the record. Besides,
a cassette could fit a lot more playing time or "extended play."
The cassette revolution had been brewing since the early sixties but really took off in
the seventies when consumers became more aware of sound quality. FM radio began to overtake
AM radio because of better fidelity. The record industry moved away from mono recordings
and concentrated on cleaner production of multi-track stereo recordings. What caused a
small culture of club DJs to hang on to the turntable and vinyl records was a company
called Technics. While the consumer turntable manufacturers were giving up on making the
vinyl record experience as enjoyable as possible, Technics catered to the professional
user. In 1972 the Technics SL-1200 turntable became the model turntable for the DJ world
of radio stations and mobile DJs.
Technics had introduced the first direct drive turntable, the SP-10, in 1969. This was
important because turntable motors were otherwise driven by a belt, which after time
became worn out, causing records to turn in warped rotation, adding to the machine noise working
against the music. The SL-1200 was an improvement on the SP-10. Between 1972 and 1984
Technics began to add features suited for the needs of DJs to the SL-1200, which
inevitably evolved into the SL-1200 MK2, the all-time definitive DJ turntable,
in which a pair was widely referred to as "Technics 1200s."
Read more at Playlist Research.