What is the Origin of DJing?

What is the Origin of DJing?

What is the origin of DJing


DJing has long been an integral part of popular music culture. Its roots can be traced back to the late 1970's, when turntables and vinyl records first became widely available. DJs would mix and scratch records to create a new sound. Over time, the practice of DJing has expanded and evolved, incorporating modern technology and techniques. In this article, we will dive into the history of DJing and explore the innovations that have shaped it into the art form it is today.

Definition of DJing

DJing is an art form that uses turntables and mixers to play, reorganize, combine and remix music for an audience, often in a nightclub setting. It has its roots in the 1960s Caribbean sound-system culture, and has developed over time to cater to varying tastes in music. At its core, DJing involves playing existing recordings (commonly known as ‘vinyl’), manipulating them with the use of equipment such as turntables, mixers, equalizers and looping software while adhering to established principles such as beatmatching.DJs also make use of electronic effects to enhance the sound of their sets and individualize their style. Through improvisation with tempo controls and selection of both music genres and individual songs, DJs are able to create unique performances that captivate crowds. Since its inception in the late ‘60s, DJing has developed into a vibrant art form that comes in many different forms including house music, electronica and dubstep. Although certain elements link together many styles of DJ-ing all together they create a range of distinct yet interconnected experiences for crowd members on the dance floor. DJ-ing has evolved from its origins into a respected profession seen throughout the world today at events ranging from parties to professional tours by some of the biggest musicians around.

Origins of DJing

DJing has been around for many years and its origins can be traced back to the '70s and early '80s. It began as an experimental form of music-making and evolved into an integral part of the modern electronic music scene. This section will take a look at the origins of DJing, and how it has evolved over the years.

Radio DJs

Radio DJs played a major role in the origin of DJing as we know it today. Before the introduction of “disc jockeys,” DJs would use a combination of music recordings, live “mixes” and commercial advertising to entertain listeners. Usually broadcasting from commercial radio stations or from home-owned community radio outlets, these DJs provided necessary respite from static-filled broadcasts and made way for innovative soundscapes which were previously impossible due to only having technology suited for AM broadcasting. The early days of DJing saw radio DJs create their spontaneous mixes on air. Utilizing two improvised turntables, they were able to switch back and forth between two different tracks without any noticeable pauses in between the two selections -- this was one of the first true displays of mixing as we know it today. In addition, radio announcers made way for a new type of celebrity - these individuals found themselves highlighted in ads not just by their own sounds but also by those artists that they presented during their show or programs. Broadcasting personalities developed a kind of continuity which served as entertainment for its audience ranging from amateurs just listening in to actual musicians playing music over airwaves with the help of simple reels and microphones wired directly onto amplifiers and speakers. This advance allowed for key concepts such as cross-fading and extended breakdowns in musical content resulting in an increase in musical complexity that had never been heard before from just one artist or band on air alone. In effect, DJing on radio started what remains common place today in all arenas including televisions, nightclubs and music festivals alike.

Disc Jockeys

Disc jockeys (DJs) have been a part of music culture since the early days of recorded sound. The etymology of the term “disc jockey” comes from the notion that DJ’s were manipulating and spinning records, or ‘discs’ to create new sounds and mixes in clubs and radio shows, a practice that has continued for over 50 years. DJs have become an essential component to help create and connect with music audiences around the world. Today’s DJs are helping shape music culture by bringing new sounds, collaborating with virtual tools, and spinning unique remixes that shape culture today. The origin story for disc jockeys begins in 1933 with New-York radio broadcaster Walter Winchell. He received credit for coming up with the term “disc jockey” after announcing on his show that “That sign is followed by what we call record spinners or disc-jockies…Keep those discs ‘a juggin"'. Winchell's use of this phrase grew popular among broadcasters of his era. Additionally, DJs such as Joe Haney began gaining notoriety in jazz clubs as they tended to spice up their shows by adding lively records while they talked to guests in between acts. It wasn't until 1949 when a man named Bill Halevy produced an entire show entirely consisting of him talking and playing records at WIND Radio Station in Chicago; this was one of the first official radio broadcasts labeled as a Disc Jockey Show In recent times highly skilled DJs such as Grandmaster Flash are some who are credited for making their mark in music history through their innovative turntablism; which is defined as creative manipulation employing DJ techniques like cutting, scratching, beat juggling etc.. This eventually spilled over from clubs into popular hip hop culture laying down its roots into what music culture is seen today; thus perfecting what we know today as DJing!


Turntablism is the use of phonograph turntables to manipulate sounds and create music. It's a form of art that emerged in the mid-1970s and was popularized by artists like Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa. Turntablism consists of borrowing musical recordings, samples and scratch techniques, to create new musical compositions. A DJ may mix samples, spoken word recordings and other sounds such as: noise effects, drum beats or bass lines over existing sources like pre-recorded songs or vocalists. DJs can also create full cuts by “scratching” CDs in which they cut audio pieces from pre-existing records and add effects while manipulating the tone arm’s pitch control wheel. In addition, DJs can also utilize samplers which allow them to program beats from a previously recorded source (drum loop) or to sample directly from other records, either playing it forward or backward as part of a mix. This type of turntable manipulation has also evolved into DMC’s or Digital Music Controllers which use special software programs to control computers with DJ performance software such as Serato Scratch Live or Ableton Live Suite. This allows cutters (DJs), musicians and producers to remix songs on the fly with just their hands as opposed to traditional turn tables/mixers combination where needles are used instead.

Evolution of DJing

DJing has been around since the mid-1980s, when it first emerged in New York City. It was initially a way for DJs to mix different records together to create a new sound. From those humble beginnings, DJing has evolved into a whole art form, with DJs now able to create their own music, remix existing tracks and even develop their own style. Let's take a look at the history and evolution of DJing.

Vinyl Records

Vinyl records emerged as the most popular format to DJ with in the early days of the craft due to their versatility and portability. Dj’s discovered that by manipulating two vinyl records simultaneously on two turntables, they could create an effect known as beatmatching or “mixing,” where two songs blend seamlessly together. The first use of this technique was popularized in Jamaica in the 1950’s, shortly after vinyl records were developed. Beyond muscle memory and trial-and-error techniques, electronic devices were eventually made to aid in perfect beatmatching and synchronizing two tracks together. One of the earliest forms of DJ hardware was a device known as a “slipmat,” which allowed for manual speed control on one or both turntables enclosed within a record player. Other helpful tools such as faders, headphones and cueing systems are vital components used by DJ's to gain precision and accuracy while playing. Over time, equalizers have also allowed DJ mixers to better balance and adjust signal strength such as low-mid and high range frequencies when mixing multiple audio tracks into one.

Digital DJing

The first steps toward digital DJing took shape in the mid-1980s. Two seminal figures in innovative DJ technology were pioneering British hip-hop deejay, Grandmaster Flash and New York house deejay, Frankie Bones. Grandmaster Flash helped to popularize a special turntable set up called the “Crossfader” which allowed for smoother transitions of music back and forth, as well as mixing different beats together. Frankie Bones was also an early innovator and is credited with introducing “digital vinyl systems” - allowing deejays to control computer-generated music using traditional turntables and record players instead of traditional records. The introduction of digital audio workstations (DAWs) marked the beginning of modern digital DJing, allowing producers to create entire songs on computers in what had traditionally been a hardware-based live show environment until then. Digital software such as Ableton Live, Traktor Pro and Serato allowed producers to mix multiple loops and samples on one computer at once instead of switching out records every few minutes. This opened up endless possibilities for creativity for DJs around the world. Digital DJing has proven to be immensely flexible compared to its analog predecessors because acoustics are much easier to control when dealing with electricity signals instead of trying to match analog components from different eras together. As a result, modern DJs can easily transition between different genres within their sets or manipulate sounds on a microlevel which was never possible before. Of course this transition took time and many long time DJs used both analog gear and new digital gear alongside each other until they had made the transition from one format to another - allowing them to continue playing while they were learning how same techniques they’d perfected on vintage pieces would work digitally instead. Professional engineering expertise was now available with much less equipment than ever before due largely in part due advances in game changing digital audio platforms such as Apple’s Ableton Live Suite and Native Instruments' Traktor PRO Suite which are still widely used today by bedroom producers around the world who want their mixes heard without having access expensive hardware setups like their mentors did decades prior.

Live Streaming

As technology has advanced, DJs have embraced exploration of new platforms for delivering their sound to a live audience. Live streaming has become increasingly popular with DJs as it creates an opportunity for fans around the world to connect with the performer in real time. Using platforms such as Twitch, YouTube Live and MySpace Music, DJs are able to stream mixes, talk shows and guest sets online. Many renowned DJs have started live streaming their shows and hosting virtual festivals. This is content that was previously impossible to share outside physical spaces but now can be experienced from anywhere in the world via the internet. Live streaming has proven an invaluable resource for independent or emerging DJs who lack access to larger venues or audiences but still want to share their mix with a worldwide audience. Additionally, by using web tools such as Beatport Link Pro, DJs can easily sync up visuals and include video clips during their live stream set ups, allowing for more engaging performance experiences for both the artist and listener alike.

Popular Styles of DJing

DJing has come a long way since its origin in the late 70s and early 80s. This style of music production and mixing has evolved over time, with new ideas and techniques being developed and refined as technology has progressed. Today, this enduring art form has various popular styles and genres that are used in clubs, radio broadcasts, and more. Let's take a look at the different types of DJing and their unique features.

House Music

House music is a genre of electronic dance music that developed in the 1980’s in Chicago and Detroit. The style commonly involves synthesizers, drum machines, and other technology-based instruments to manipulate audio recordings, as well as create new sounds that traditionally would be created by manual instrumentation. The early pioneers of house music—often known as the “Godfathers of House” today—were Frankie Knuckles from Chicago, who is widely credited with innovating the concept of DJing with records. Later on, Jeff Mills and Derrick May emerged from Detroit to form the techno sound that was highly influential in American house industry worldwide. In terms of DJing styles, modern house DJs use specific mixes such as 4/4 and acid jazz for their live performances to create new sounds and beats by combining popular tracks from database software. Four on four are performed continuously like hip hop and club mix formats. DJs also use a variety of scratch techniques often used in hip-hop DJs such as cutting between tracks or rearranging sequences while mixing two or more songs together simultaneously. Additionally, funk-infused loops or samples are also incorporated during mixing session in addition to growing library of digitally stored sound files with prerecorded samples available on purchase at online store.


Hip-Hop is one of the most popular and recognizable genres in music today. The style of DJing involved with hip-hop often falls under the subgenres "turntablism" or "hip-hop scratching". This form of DJing combines turntable techniques, such as scratching (moving records on turntables to produce an audio effect) and beatmatching (aligning two audio tracks in a way that creates a seamless transition from one track to another) with rhythmic manipulation and sound effects. Hip-hop DJs often mix samples from existing recordings or scratches from vinyl records, to create unique sounding compositions. Popular DJs often represent or identify with their local hip-hop culture, amplifying aspects of it for the whole world to appreciate. This type of DJing has pushed the art form forward, inspiring different generations and creating a new wave of musical artists.


Trance is a genre of electronic dance music that originated in the 1990s, closely aligned with the rise of techno and house music. It is characterized by high-tempo rhythms, hypnotic arrangements and calming melodic progressions. Trance’s popularity continues to grow as DJs embrace its energetic appeal, often adding unique production elements such as progressive basslines and synths to create more dynamic sounds. Trance DJs maintain an ongoing dialogue with the fans through their musical performances, remixes, live sets and regular releases. The trance DJ’s role is to take listeners on a musical journey that blends different sonic landscapes together for a unique experience. The mixing style typically involves progressive builds, often using more intense percussion which increases the intensity of the track until it reaches its climax with broken beats or distorted samples layered over powerful bass lines. Trance DJs also incorporate elements from other genres such as hip hop and dubstep into their sets to create exciting transitions between tracks. Trance also features themes of percussion-driven arpeggios, electro-infused breaks and melodic chord progressions in its soundscapes. One popular subgenre of trance is known as 'uplifting' due to its use of euphoric melodies and an emphasis on uplifting sounds and feelings within the music.


The origin of DJing can be traced back to the late 19th century, before the invention of sound recording equipment. Disc jockeys used wax cylinders and hand-cranked phonographs to recreate popular songs for their audiences. As technology advanced, so did the techniques and styles used by DJs, leading to the modern club scene that we know today. In recent years, DJing has become more accessible due to the proliferation of digital music and modern software like Serato and Traktor that allow anyone with an internet connection to produce professional-quality mixes and edit audio on-the-fly. From its humble beginnings in bars and clubs, DJing has grown into a multimillion dollar industry that is respected as an art form by millions worldwide.