Tips on Pitch Adjustment on a Turntable

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Specially designed DJ turntables usually include a pitch-adjustment slider. Located on the turntable's top surface, the pitch adjustment allows the user to speed up or slow down the rotational speed of the record by 10 percent in either direction. The idea behind this is to allow the synchronization of songs that are slightly out of time. The pitch adjustment allows a track to be increased or decreased by a tiny margin, enough to make it synchronize perfectly with another song, without drastically effecting the pitch.

Crossfader Position

  • Before you start adjusting the pitch control, it's vital to ensure that the crossfader is fully over to the opposite turntable. All your pitch adjustments should be complete and your record fully synchronized with the one currently playing before you bring the record in through the speakers. Set the "Cue" fader over to the turntable that needs adjusting and listen to it through your headphones. Hearing a DJ adjust the speed of a record that is playing over the speakers is jarring for the audience.

Nudging

  • Adjustments made to the pitch and speed of a record should be as small and infrequent as possible. It will generally take a bar or so of listening to both records playing together, before you can determine whether your second record is too fast or too slow; if you continually jab at your pitch fader, you won't know the significance of your previous adjustment until it's too late. Nudge the slider a half-percent, listen for a few beats, then nudge the slider again if necessary. When you get close to the desired speed, this approach will pay dividends, as it is easy to overshoot the target speed and confuse yourself.

Re-synchronizing

  • Adjusting the pitch doesn't stop the record. It will continue to play during and after the adjustment, stretching or compressing the tempo of the record. If you synchronize the first kick in a measure, then adjust the speed of the record, the kicks aren't going to sync up on the following repetition, even if you have the speed exactly right, because it wasn't correct prior to you moving the slider, so the overall length of one loop is still wrong. After each adjustment of the fader, stop your second record and re-drop it, synchronizing the kick drums again. Then listen for a few beats before making any more adjustments. This will give you an accurate picture of the difference in speed between the two records.

Dramatic Effects

  • Turntablists built their art form on finding creative uses for equipment, so it's no surprise that many of them choose to use the pitch fader for unusual purposes. Turntablists like DJ Swamp play a record with a solid monotone pitch on it, then use the pitch adjuster to create melody lines, bending the pitch like a theremin. Others like Q-Bert and Cut Chemist often deliberately play records at the wrong speed with the pitch adjuster maxed, creating drawn-out, resonant grungy snare hits or frantic drum-and-bass passages.

References

  • Photo Credit Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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