How To Set Up A Turntable For Scratching – A Comprehensive Guide

Are you interested in the art of scratching?

Whether you’re a seasoned DJ or just starting out, setting up your turntable for scratching is crucial to ensure that you don’t damage your equipment or your records.

With so many different techniques and equipment options available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. But fear not!

In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of setting up your turntable for scratching, including the key features to look out for and the best equipment options available.

So, let’s dive in and get scratching!

How To Set Up Turntable For Scratching

Before you start scratching, it’s important to set up your turntable properly. This will ensure that you don’t damage your records or your hardware. Here’s how to do it:

1. Choose the right turntable: The best turntables for scratching are direct drive turntables with high start-up speeds. Look for models like the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-SV and Technics SL-1200MK7. Belt motors are also a good option, especially for budget-friendly tables.

2. Check for key features: Look for turntables with USB ports and cables, which allow you to transfer vinyl to a computer or external device easily. Pitch control and the ability to adjust the speed of playback are also important features to consider.

3. Set up your turntable: Once you have your turntable, it’s time to set it up. Start by placing it on a sturdy surface that won’t vibrate or move during use. Make sure the turntable is level and adjust the feet if necessary.

4. Install the cartridge and stylus: The cartridge and stylus are crucial components of your turntable. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install them properly.

5. Adjust the tonearm: The tonearm should be parallel to the record when it’s playing. Adjust it using the counterweight and anti-skate controls until it’s balanced.

6. Set the tracking force: The tracking force is the amount of pressure that the stylus puts on the record. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set it correctly.

7. Install a slip mat: A slip mat helps to reduce friction between the record and the platter, making it easier to scratch. Install one on your turntable before you start scratching.

Understanding The Basics Of Scratching

Now that you have your turntable set up, it’s time to understand the basics of scratching. Scratching involves playing the record back and forth several times, creating a rhythmic sound that can add texture and rhythm to your mix. However, it’s important to note that scratching can damage your vinyl records over time. To minimize the extent of the damage, you can use a special mat to prevent the record from rubbing against the turntable when scratching. You can also choose direct-drive turntables, clean your hands before handling the vinyl disc, and go for a needle with a low record-wear rating.

To get started with scratching, set a cue point at the start of your sample or song. This will help you align your scratches perfectly each time you begin a new scratch. Practice scratching back and forth steadily without music to build muscle memory in your hand and wrist. Push the pitch fader all the way down on the sample track and practice timing your scratches to match up with each beat. Learn to scratch to the rhythm of a simple, slow song by choosing an instrumental track and putting the pitch fader all the way down so it’s as slow as possible.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, double-time your scratches to the beat and alternate double-time scratches with normal-time scratches. Engage the crossfader by pushing it slightly away from the instrumental channel as you begin a scratch and pushing it back into the instrumental deck as you end a scratch. Practice at full speed by bringing the pitch faders on both decks back to “0” so they play at normal speed. Finally, develop an ear for when scratches should occur and at what rate and splice scratches periodically for an artistic effect.

By understanding the basics of scratching and taking steps to protect your vinyl records, you can create unique and exciting mixes that will keep your audience engaged and entertained.

Choosing The Right Turntable For Scratching

Choosing the right turntable for scratching is crucial to achieving the best results. Direct drive turntables with high start-up speeds are the best option for scratching. Some popular models include the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-SV and Technics SL-1200MK7. However, belt motors can also be a good option, especially for those on a budget.

When choosing a turntable, look for key features such as USB ports and cables, which allow you to transfer vinyl to a computer or external device easily. Pitch control and the ability to adjust the speed of playback are also important features to consider. These features will allow you to create unique sounds and effects while scratching.

It’s important to note that not all turntables are suitable for scratching. Some turntables may not have the necessary torque or speed required for scratching, which can lead to damage to your records and hardware. Therefore, investing in a quality turntable that is specifically designed for scratching is essential.

Setting Up Your Turntable: The Essential Components

When setting up your turntable, there are three essential components that you’ll need to consider:

1. Speakers: Your turntable won’t be much use without speakers to play the sound. Look for speakers with a frequency response that matches your turntable’s output, and that can handle the power output of your amplifier. If you’re on a budget, consider looking for used speakers or borrowing from a friend.

2. Amplifier: Your turntable will need an amplifier to boost the signal from the cartridge and send it to the speakers. Look for an amplifier with a phono input, which is specifically designed for turntables. If your amplifier doesn’t have a phono input, you’ll need to use a preamp to boost the signal before it reaches the amplifier.

3. Cables: You’ll need cables to connect your turntable, amplifier, and speakers together. Look for high-quality RCA cables with gold-plated connectors to reduce interference and improve sound quality.

By considering these essential components, you can ensure that your turntable setup provides an excellent listening experience without breaking the bank. Don’t forget to test your setup before you start scratching to make sure everything is working properly!

Adjusting Your Tonearm And Cartridge For Scratching

To achieve a skip-free scratching experience, it’s essential to adjust your tonearm and cartridge correctly. Here’s how to do it:

1. Set the tonearm height: Adjust the tonearm height to “3” using the height adjustment on your turntable.

2. Set the anti-skate: Set the anti-skate to 0 using the anti-skate control on your turntable.

3. Balance the weight: Balance the weight so that the tonearm floats just above the record. Hold the weight still and set the black numbers ring to “0.”

4. Adjust the weight: Turn the weight so that the numbers are set to around 2.5 or 3.

5. Install a slip sheet: A slip sheet is a thin piece of paper that sits between the record and slip mat, reducing friction and making it easier to scratch.

By following these steps, you’ll have your turntable set up correctly for scratching, allowing you to enjoy a skip-free experience and protect your records and hardware from damage.

The Importance Of Slipmats And Needles

One of the most important components of a turntable setup for scratching is the slipmat. Slipmats are thin mats that are placed between the vinyl record and the deck plate of the turntable. They serve many purposes, including improving sound quality, reducing resonances, assisting in scratching, and increasing the accuracy of cue-ins. Slipmats are essential tools in any DJ’s equipment kit, as they allow the DJ to stop the record while allowing the deck plates to continue to turn. Without a slipmat, you risk damaging both the deck plate and the vinyl record.

Slipmats are usually made out of synthetic fabric, with some having thin plastic backings to make them slick. Since slipmats are most commonly made out of felt, static can become an issue. Vinyl records can stick to the felt, which makes swapping records tricky. Many slipmats are made out of synthetic, non-static fabric to avoid this problem. Slipmats are classified by material, thickness, weight, and size. Thickness and weight selections are based on the preference of the DJ. Thicker, heavier slipmats weigh down the deck platter which slows down rotations. Thinner and lighter slipmats are easier to use but also deteriorate quickly. The size of a slipmat is simply based on the size of the records being used by the DJ.

The needle or stylus is another important component in a turntable setup for scratching. The needle should be sharp and clean to ensure that it tracks properly on the vinyl record. A worn or dirty needle can cause skips, distortion, and even damage to your records. It’s important to replace your needle regularly to maintain good sound quality and protect your vinyl collection.

Maintaining Your Turntable For Optimal Scratching Performance

Once you’ve set up your turntable for scratching, it’s important to maintain it properly to ensure optimal performance. Here are some tips to keep your turntable in top condition:

1. Keep it clean: Dust and dirt can build up on your turntable and affect its performance. Clean it regularly with a soft, dry cloth, and use a record brush to clean your records before playing them.

2. Lubricate moving parts: The moving parts of your turntable, such as the tonearm and platter, should be lubricated regularly to ensure smooth movement. Use a high-quality lubricant recommended by the manufacturer.

3. Check the alignment: The alignment of your cartridge and stylus can affect the sound quality and tracking ability of your turntable. Check the alignment regularly and adjust if necessary.

4. Replace worn parts: Over time, parts of your turntable may wear out or become damaged. Replace worn or damaged parts as soon as possible to avoid further damage.

5. Store it properly: When not in use, cover your turntable with a dust cover or store it in a protective case to prevent dust and damage.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your turntable stays in top condition for optimal scratching performance.