The process of creating sonic and musical patterns through the use of phonograph (vinyl) records played on turntables. The style began in the 1970s when good-quality turntables became inexpensive enough for the mostly low-income urban artists who created the style. The turntablist places a record on the phonograph and then creates sounds and patterns by manipulating the turntable platter and the phonograph's stylus. The performer may spin the turntable forwards or backwards in patterns, rock it back and forth, turn the motor on and off, repeatedly pick up and drop the stylus on the record, and so forth. Early turntablists used whatever vinyl discs they could get their hands on, but pretty soon specialty record labels began pressing discs specifically for turntabling. Since the process was rather abusive on the turntable mechanisms, specially-made turntables for the purpose also appeared. Eventually most performers adopted the use of at least two turntables, which allowed them to mix and blend different discs and sounds.

The near-extinction of the vinyl LP format after 1990 severely reduced the number of turntable performers. Many attempts were made to replicate the capabilities of turntabling with CD players, but no really satisfactory alternative ever appeared. A few specialized-for-the-purpose turntables remain on the market today, but most of the performers eventually found that samplers could replicate most of what they did with turntables, plus much more.


Turntabling has roots in the invention of the direct-drive turntable by Shuichi Obata, an engineer at Matsushita (now Panasonic),[1] based in Osaka, Japan.[2] It eliminated the belts of older belt-drive turntables, and instead employed a motor to directly drive a platter on which a vinyl record rests.[3] In 1969, Matsushita released it as the SP-10,[3] the first direct-drive turntable on the market,[4] and the first in their Technics series of turntables.[3] This gave rise to turntablism, with the most influential turntable being the Technics SL-1200, released in 1972 and remaining the most widely used turntable in DJ culture for the next several decades.[3][5]