• Hip-Hop Culture

DJ 101
The first steps to turntablism

In this video series, turntablist Kuttin Kandi, one of the best battle DJs in the game, demonstrates the basics of her instrument.

While every DJ adapts their setup for their own unique needs, Kandi’s demo uses the same basic setup that 95% of all DJs use. The two turntables attached to the mixer allow the DJ to create transitions from one record to another. Each turntable is connected to a channel at the rear of the mixer, and these channels are controlled by the levels at the center of the mixer immediately above the fader.

The levels control the amount of gain (or sound) that comes from the turntable assigned to that channel, and the other nobs on the mixer allow the DJ to adjust the EQ (or equalizer), which alters the tone of the sound coming out of the mixer. Think of it as helping you bring out the highs and lows.

Some DJs like to use the same hand for the turntables and the same hand for the mixer instead of switching back and forth. Doing so would require a different setup. Notice how Kandi switches her hands as she moves from one turntable to the other. It’s really a matter of comfort or preference, but just imagine what the setup would look like if the turntables were right next to each other with the mixer on the end.

When Kandi talks about “the clock,” she’s really talking about the place where the needle sits on the record. The needle is the part of the turntable at the end of the arm that actually rests in the groove and transmits the sound from the vinyl.

Many DJs—including Kandi—use dots to know how far into the record, or which groove the needle has to be in, to know where to find the sound she is looking for. If she dropped the needle in the wrong groove, she wouldn’t hear the sound she was looking for. Learning where to drop your needle is a very important skill.

Lesson Content

  • Writer

    Rob Jackson

  • Producer

    Kenny Neal

  • Published

    September 11, 2019

Related Resources

Collection Hip-Hop Culture

Hip-Hop embraces these artistic elements, most definitely. But it also has blended and transcended them to become a means for seeing, celebrating, experiencing, understanding, confronting, and commenting on life and the world. Hip-Hop, in other words, is a way of living—a culture.

  • Hip-Hop Culture
Kennedy Center Education Digital Learning

Eric Friedman 
Director, Digital Learning

Kenny Neal 
Manager, Digital Education Resources

Tiffany Bryant 
Assistant Manager, Audience Enrichment

Joanna McKee 
Program Coordinator, Digital Learning

JoDee Scissors 
Content Specialist, Digital Learning

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