DJ Techtools might not be as traditionally turntable-oriented as other DJ communities, but we’re getting to be big fans of the growing movement of portablism. In this article, we’ve put together six reasons why every DJ would get something out of becoming a hobby portablist.
Over two decades ago, Egyptian Lover posed the question “What is a DJ if he can’t scratch?” We’ve learned in the years since that DJs have plenty of utility beyond simply scratching records, there’s still a deep connection to the humble beginnings of DJing within in the rhythmic art of turntablism.
Fast forward to 2018 – DJs now have access to battery-powered, ultra-portable turntables. These new devices have sparked a resurgence in the turntablist community, and even spawned their own off-shoot scene – portablism – which is focused specifically around battery-powered, go-anywhere sized gear. For under $200, you can now procure a scratch-worthy turntable and specialized 7” records, pressed specifically for the aspiring portablists.
So, why should every DJ give portablism a shot?
1. Portablism can make you a better all-around DJ
Even if you’re not aiming to be the next A-Trak, there are plenty of applications for learning simple scratches. Cueing a record is essentially scratching the record back-and-forth on beat and releasing it on time. With a little practice, you can take that basic scratch and turn it into something more advanced to incorporate into your DJ sets.
This practice can also help build powerful muscle memory – making your reaction time faster when juggling beats, scrubbing tracks, and finding great places to mix in a song. This applies even beyond turntables – crossfaders are near universal, and control of jogwheels on any DJ device (CDJ, controller, etc) will improve from a DJ having well-refined wrist.
2. Lots Of Ways To Learn Online
Much like the art of music production, there are a wealth of tips, tricks and techniques available to learn how to scratch.
There are also tons of tutorials out there for the various mods offered on these tiny turntable powerhouses.
3. A Strong Community Network
This DIY-oriented community has a lot of meet ups that are great social places to get your name out there or simply network with other DJs that you might have artistic commonalities with.
Portablism meet ups could be seen as the modern-day version of talking shop at the record store, that so many of us older DJ’s fondly reminisce over. This aspect of community can’t be understated in today’s digital world, where connections are many, but perhaps lacking in depth.
A great example is a notable scratching meet up here in the SF Bay Area, Skratchpad.The meet up invites all levels of DJ to try their hand in a communal setting. At the event, it is common to find industry vets right next to pre-teen or younger DJs in the making, all practicing their skills and learning from one another.
4. Customizations Galore: Personalize your own deck!
Personally (next to scratching of course) this might be my favorite aspect of portablism. There are hundreds of mods out there, from skins, to tonearms, to custom records, platters and much more. Much like the controllerist community, portablists take great pride in making their decks highly customized.
One of the coolest mods I’ve seen is a Denon DS1 Serato box built right into the base of the deck, making the deck into a completely functioning self-sufficient DJ rig:
5. More than just an instrument to scratch with
Portablist decks aren’t limited to the scratch community either – lots of musicians have found them an affordable alternative to more expensive record players simply for listening to tunes around the house or even sampling records for production purposes.
6. It’s fun, cheap, and portable (duh)!
Comparatively speaking, portablist decks- most commonly the Numark PT01-USB and PT01 Scratch, are far less expensive to invest in than other DJ gear and can provide hours of entertainment and musical fun that you can literally take anywhere with you. The PT01 easily fits in a backpack and runs on 6 “D” batteries so you can practice your cuts in the park, at the beach, in the kitchen anywhere your heart desires.