Do DJs Still Use Vinyl? Old vs New
Since the historical dawn of the DJ trade, vinyl records have been the classic medium. Back in the 1920s, when the term disc jockey was used for the first time, the DJs used to play vinyl phonograph records on air, and the trend continued for over 50 years. Pretty much until the first mp3 player appeared in the 90’s, only vinyl records were used in the DJ industry. It’s quite natural that seasoned professionals would find it hard to go from a time-tested method like vinyl to digital files. Nowadays, DJs still use vinyl, but only the most experienced ones have the time and funds necessary to master this art.
There are a couple of reasons why some DJs prefer to use vinyl:
- The emotional aspect
The people who have been in the industry since vinyl was the only available source of music are emotionally attached to them. DJs that were at the peak of their careers in the 70’s and 80’s probably have huge record libraries, that have taken them years to gather and thousands of dollars to buy. It’s only natural that these people would not find it easy to switch to a soulless medium such as digital, and just cast their whole record library away. These people will still use vinyl to the day and will state that it sounds smoother, cleaner, and has a deeper bass that mp3 or any other type of digital medium.
Die-hard vinyl lovers are very bound to the feeling of touching their music and having a deep connection with every record they own. This is not possible with digital media that is not tangible and doesn’t hold any history and warmth to it.
- The technical aspect
Again, this concerns the people who grew up with vinyl records and were educated in styles and techniques that required specifically vinyl. One of the most popular techniques is turntablism, which has emerged in the 60s and 70s. The hip hop music that gained its popularity in the late 70s used lots of turntable techniques to create their trademark beat. Old school hip hop was entirely based on vinyl use, and DJs who work within this genre will have lots of records to work with and specific techniques that have been patented by hip hop DJs. These include scratching, beat matching, beat juggling, and the more advanced chopped and screwed, flare, stab, tear, crab, etc… While many of these can be reproduced nowadays with the help of DJ software, it is considered effortless and not as effective as when vinyl is used.
Many DJs grew up learning the basics of beat matching and juggling using vinyl records, and spent many years mastering the art of scratching. These people do not feel comfortable leaving it all in the care of software and will feel like the digital era strips the DJ profession of the need of having any skills. This is not exactly correct, as using software and a mixer still implies the need to match the beats, but die-hard vinyl users will state that using records is the correct way to do it. You cannot deny that it does require a much higher level of skill, and you cannot deny that it’s more of a sight to see a DJ juggling with records in real time. However, this is more of an emotional thing again – much like the difference between hand-drawn and computer animation.
Whether there is or not a real difference between vinyl techniques and digital mixing, the enthusiasts will stick to their opinion – vinyl is the real and much more exciting experience.
Whichever the reason, the answer to the question remains the same – yes, some DJs do still use vinyl, despite the fact that the digital equivalents are becoming more and more popular. Is vinyl a dying technique? Probably yes, or at least it will end up being passed on to an elitist group of enthusiasts, which will fall in love with the warm and personal feeling of owning and working with vinyl records. Digital records and software are way more accessible and easier to use than real records, and people always loved to walk the easy path. However, vinyl entertainment will still be in for a while, at least while those who were educated on turntables will be around to pass on their knowledge.
Is there a trade or skill name for a DJ that uses vinyl on the radio? I am still a radio fan listening since the late 50s. Radio has a mystery as you never knew the person was broadcasting other than their radio stage name, kind of like the “Wolf Man” was on American Graffiti. Thanks for your help.