Do not underestimate the importance of the humble slipmat; having the right slipmat can make all the difference when you start to move beyond the beat matching basics of the DJ trade.
The way to setup your player is as follows: remove the rubber mat that came with your deck, and under this you will find the deckplate. Do not remove the rubber coating, just the rubber mat. Then, on top of the deckplate, you put your slipmat; on top of this you put your vinyl.
Personally, I find I get better performance from plain felt slipmats; it may be better to avoid slipmats with elaborate printed designs as they have been known to damage discs. Technics slipmats tend to be quite good; otherwise, any hip-hop specific mats will probably work well because they will be designed with extensive scratching in mind. Keep it thin, light and slippy and you should be on the right track, so to speak.
The Importance Of Being Slippy
But why do you need a slipmat at all? Well, it’s a matter of control really. For accurate cueing, or scratching, you will sometimes want to hold the record still, while the deck plate continues spinning underneath the vinyl. If there’s too much friction between the record/slipmat and the deck plate, the plate won’t be able to turn (and you don’t want to damage the underside of the disc either). This is big problem with belt drive decks – they simply don’t have enough power to turn beneath the disc, no matter what sort of frictionless slipmat you manage to put in there.
If the platter can continue spinning underneath the record, when you release the disc the track will start playing back at full speed. If the platter has been stopped by the pressure of your hand on the disc, when you release it then the platter will take a second or two to get to full speed, creating a sort of accelerating time-stretch effect. Occasionally you might actually want to create this effect on purpose, but generally you will want things to happen much faster (we’ll come back to this in a later chapter).
Some Tips And Tricks For Slipmat Success
If you’re having problems with friction between the deckplate and slipmat, there are a couple of things you can try. The first thing would be to get a more powerful turntable; but you probably can’t afford that, if you have followed my advice earlier and spent as much as you can on your decks already.
A cheaper way (that can also be very effective) is to cut out a sheet of wax paper into the same shape and size as your slipmat (many vinyl inlay sleeves are made of wax paper). You can then use this as a sort of secondary slipmat by placing it under your original slipmat, so that it lies between your slipmat and the deckplate.
Another way of approaching this is by cutting out a small circle of cardboard (about a three-inch radius, or the size of the record’s label), punching a hole in the centre and resting your slipmat on top of this, before setting the vinyl on. This technique may work, but bear in mind that there may be some instability in the vinyl due to lack of support at the outer edge. As the disc will be raised slightly from the centre, there can be some more flexing across the face which might make it more prone to skips (needle jumping) or pitch fluctuations.