Naturally, DJ Angelo gets asked a lot of questions. Sometimes, people ask the same questions a lot, so here’s some of those answers. If you have a question for Angelo, please give these a read first – If your question is not answered below, feel free to get in touch.
I started in the late 90s on the worst turntables known to man! Basically I built my own belt-drive decks from pieces of scrap wood, duck tape and turntable spares that cost me £25 each. After being exposed to DJing by a school friend who had decks, I became fascinated with the possibilities of interacting with music by manipulating the vinyl and wanted to take my love of music to another level. I felt compelled to unravel the mysterious art DJing by myself with no real purpose other than to satisfy my curiosity and to enjoy it. I enjoyed it so much in fact that I never got bored and things came pretty naturally to me. I carried on DJing through school, university, and my first job (which sucked), and I even won a few DJ battles along with way. Finally in 2005, in order to save my soul from complete destruction, I ditched the job in finance and took a leap of faith. I’m privileged that things worked out, and I’m still not bored…
I can only play somewhere I’ve been invited to play at. If you know a promoter, please pass on your interest and ask them to get in touch.
For worldwide bookings, please complete the enquiry form on the Contact section of this website. I perform club sets, festival sets, turntablism sets, and I also deliver turntablism masterclasses for DJ schools.
I have no contract with Reloop but have built a great relationship with them since 2009 and enjoy working with them.
I’ve produced something even better than a DVD! Check out my Turntable Training Tool
There’s no set path or formula to become a good DJ, and no textbook answers I can give you. Speaking from my own experience, I always wanted to be a great all-round DJ.
First and foremost, I’d say to enjoy the learning process and don’t put pressure on yourself to make quick progress. I got my first set of decks years ago with no experience whatsoever and no plans other than to have fun. Its best just to stay curious and let your passion lead you. Try and figure out how to do things yourself and learn from your mistakes. If you’re in it for the right reasons and want it to work, you will naturally pick things up.
Understanding phrases, BPMs and beatmatching is crucial as the backbone to the “science” part of DJing but, don’t forget that DJing is also an art. Personally I feel the “art” part relates to understanding the relationship between the music you play and the emotions they trigger with your audience. So practice playing sets (what songs to play and when to play them) to suit whatever the occasion. You really only get good at this by playing live gigs where you’re forced to read the crowd and make them happy. So take any opportunities that come along because every gig you do will teach you something new.
As for scratching, I find that DJs either really want to do it, or they don’t. It’s not essential to be a DJ and will not save you if you are weak in all the other areas of DJing. But it can make a good DJ great, and give more reasons for people to respect what you do.
As a general rule regarding DJ equipment – you always get what you pay for. If you can afford to, buy the best you can at every stage of your career. If however you’re on a budget like most beginners are, remember that turntablism is a technical and intense artform which can be very demanding on your equipment. Cheap entry-level turntables and mixers may seem like the best option, but in most cases, they are not built strongly enough to handle the rigours of turntablism. As an alternative to buying entry-level stuff brand new, you could also consider buying second hand professional-level gear which may be a better option at a similar cost.
With regards to turntables, The classic Technics 1200 or 1210 are a solid choice and they are the industry standard so 99% of the time, this is what DJs use in clubs and battles all over the world. Having said that, most direct drive turntables are pretty good these days such as those by Reloop, Vestax, Stanton or Numark and may be a cheaper option than Technics. It’s important to choose a direct drive turntable as they provide a higher torque (turning power) than belt-driving turntables.
With regards to mixers, the bare minimum any turntablist needs is a robust 2-channel scratch mixer with durable faders. Again, check out mixers from different manufacturers such as those above. Most importantly, be sure that the mixer has a solid, loose crossfader with a curve adjustment to allow you to set it to a sharp cut-in.
It’s always best to try equipment out before you buy because it’s hard to tell how they will “feel” just by looking at pictures and reading about them. If you can find a DJ store with knowledgable staff , they will be able to suggest a good package to meet your needs and budget. www.djstore.com is a good online DJ store which has a lot of customer reviews on most of the products so you can get some opinions before you buy something.
Check out my video: Turntable Tutorial 1 – Getting Started In Turntablism for further information.
It depends what you want to do and achieve.
If you just want to be a DJ (i.e. play music to people in clubs and parties etc, you’ve got a wealth of options. For example, you could use: turntables (to mix vinyl records), CDJs (to mix CDs), DJ software like Virtual DJ (to mix digital tracks via a laptop), a midi controller combined with software such as Traktor (to mix digital tracks) or turntables combined with a digital vinyl system (DVS) such as Serato (to mix digital tracks using time-coded vinyl). You can even use a combination of all of these!
If you’re intrigued by turntablism and the desire to scratch, beat juggle, battle etc, I’d always favour turntables and vinyl over other setups. It’s the authentic and true expression of the artform. It is possible to scratch with CDJs and midi controllers nowadays but it isn’t quite the same feel because turntablism is an analogue artform (a needle moving along grooves in a piece of vinyl) which means it doesn’t always translate too well digitally.
I guess you have to weigh up the pros and cons. MP3s and CDs are easier to acquire (and most of the time cheaper) than vinyl but there’s things certain things that are only possible with vinyl. I think it’s a case of choosing the right tools for your needs, tastes, and goals, then it’s in your hands to master those tools.
Work on mastering every individual technique – baby scratch, tear, drop, cutting, transforming, chirp, stab etc. Make sure you can execute every technique perfectly in time before trying to learn more advanced ones. Timing is far more important than trying to scratch fast. Practice on getting your scratches to sound clean and sharp over a slow beat first. Then try them over a range of different speed beats.
Try and come up with as many patterns as you can to avoid your scratching becoming repetitive sounding. Scratching is just like learning a language with your hands, and these patterns are your sentences. The more different sentences you can do, the better you can speak with your hands. Maybe even write them on paper first, then see if you can do them on the decks. It’s easy to do the same patterns all the time so this will push you to step out of your comfort zone and come up with fresh stuff.
Don’t rush things. Scratching cannot be mastered quickly but try and be on your decks every day. Even if it’s only half an hour. You will definitely see improvement every time.
When any DJ starts scratching, they naturally start on one side (like when we all picked up a crayon as a child). I think all turntablists wish they were great at scratching with both hands but very few actually are (DJ Craze is an example). The truth is, it takes so long and so much practice to get good at just one side so a lot of DJs focus on just the one side.
My personal preference is to control the record with my strongest hand (right) and control the crossfader with my weaker hand (left), but most right handed DJs I know scratch the opposite way to me. I regularly train my weaker hand to enable me to do more complicated routines and it’s a lifelong goal for me to get both sides to an equal skill level. I think it may help to learn all the techniques on one side first, then you’ll know how to apply them to the other side when you’re ready to do so.
If I was starting as a beginner now, I would make a habit of practicing everything on both sides and try to progress them at the same rate.
Sadly, vinyl records are not so popular for DJing nowadays due to the advent of digital DJing technology. With less vinyl being produced, this has resulted in a lot of physical record stores closing down all over the world. Most vinyl sales are now done via the internet via online record stores. Two popular record stores I use that are aimed at DJs are: Hard To Find Records and Juno
There’s so much choice now for battle tools. It all depends on what kind of turntablist you are.
If you’re more of a traditional turntablist looking for hip hop influenced stuff, I recommend DJ Babu’s – Super Duck Breaks (classic tool), DJ Craze – Bully Breaks, DJ Atrak – Ganster Breaks, and there’s plenty on the Dirtstyle label such as Thud Rumble’s – Needle Thrashers Alpha.
If you’re more into the European sound of battle turntablism (synthetic electronic industrial techy stuff) you might wanna try stuff on the Breakz R Uz label by people such as DJ Peabird, DJ Clear etc. I’ve been told tools by DJ Tigerstle, Awekid & Muzzel, and I.E. Merg are good.
It’s always useful to have a trusty skipless tool such as the highly popular, Q-Bert – Superseal.
When I started DJing, DJ Rectangle was pretty much the only one making tools. He’s released a whole series of Battle Weapons which are great all-rounders – some classic familiar hop hop beats, tones, skipless sounds, and his trademark Kung Fu movie samples!
For digital scratch tools (as well as digital music downloads), check the DJ Tools section on popular online stores such as www.junodownload.com.
World DMC champion DJ Vajra has kindly put together a digital scratch tool for free download here:
Turntablism is an artform that can take a lifetime to master, just like Kung Fu!
You have to spend as much time as YOU need to. Seriously. There is no other answer I can give you. Everyone learns at a different pace so practice as much or as little as you want to but obviously, the more you put in, the more you will get out.
Scratching (in particular) requires your hands to move in a way they are not used to moving so it will take time to “condition” them. Remember, there was a time when you couldn’t use your hands to write but with practice and repetition your hands will be able to do anything.
There’s 2 things that need developing – Strength and Coordination.
Strip things down to the very basics and only scratch at the speed that your hands can cope with for now. As long as your are dedicated and practice daily, you will notice improvements. Whenever the scratch becomes comfortable, keep challenging your hands by gradually increasing the speed of the beat you scratch to the complexity of the scratches you try to perform. You need to put your hands through stress so that they will grow stronger – just like weight training.
The reason most people fail at scratching is because they try to rush the learning process. Its easy to watch people like Qbert and think that level of skill can be achieved instantly but some of the best scratchers have been practicing for 10-20 years. A little practice everyday will add up.
There is no set formula to composing a battle routine, just as there is no set formula to writing a song or painting a picture. If you can scratch, beat juggle, and mix between records, then you are already well on your way. You just need to put things together into a tight, well-timed order with possibly an intro and an outro.
When it comes to battling, common sense tells me that judges will be looking for skill, musicality, technicality, and probably most importantly, originality. Therefore, this isn’t really something anyone can help you with. It is the responsibility of each and every turntablist to create something of their own that represents their style. The ideas have to come from you and that is what it means to be a turntablist.
I’d suggest you spend some time trying to decide what you are trying to “say” in your routine, in terms of a message and style of music etc. When you have a direction, you then need to find the records and sounds you need, and the rest is down to you spending lots of time on the turntables discovering things but also making mistakes.
Check out the my Turntable Training Tool for tips on using cue stickers for speedy transitions and other creative effects when performing routines.
When creating a routine for performing on a DVS (like Serato or Traktor), I first visualise the routine in my mind and start composing the routine in my head. I think long and hard about what I want to do on the turntables (i.e. scratch, juggle, what words I need etc.) and then I try and find the audio I need to do it. From here, I determine which of the audio needs to be on my left turntable and which need to be on the right. Then, I group the audio together and produce 2 different WAV files (one for each turntable) using a sequencer (like Acid Pro or Ableton) so that the sounds are all in the order that I need them to be on the vinyl for me to manipulate them.
It takes a lot of trial and error to get the spacing right in between each sound so that they land at the place you want them to on the vinyl (e.g. 12 o’clock position). Once you have the audio in the right place, you have to practice the routine hard until you’re able to do it fluently. It may take you months until you have what you were aiming for but that is the kind of commitment it takes for battling. Some DMC guys practice a routine for years before they feel ready to battle. And even then, it can all go wrong on the night…