This video offers an introduction to TTM (turntablist transcription method), a system of notation designed for notating turntable-based music.
TTM is derived from a graph of the rotation of the record vs. time. The vertical axis of the staff represents the rotation of the record, and the horizontal axis represents time.
About The TTM System
The Turntablist Transcription Method, also known as TTM, appears to be the most popular method of transcribing turntablism. This structure consists of a grid that subdivides the beats of the song being played. This grid consists of thicker lines to separate the beats, and thinner lines for subdivisions within the beat. Lines are drawn going in an upward motion to indicate that the record is going forwards and downward to indicate that the record is going backwards. This method is read from left to right and the lines drawn represent the scratches, which slant from left to right. Slower movements are always slanted but appear to be 45 degrees or less from the horizontal axis and faster movement appear greater than 45 degrees but never can fully reach a 90 degree angle from the horizontal access. Due to the fact that a turntablist is always scratching a music sample, the word or name of the sample is listed to the left of the grid. The beginning of this sample is present at the bottom of the grid and the end of the sample is at the top, with all the subdivisions of the sample being subdivided by the grid that appears vertically. The name of the record being scratched is listed above and to the right of the grid. Although this method is extremely unique in its notation structure, it does use conventional dynamic markings such as crescendo and diminuendo. These are listed underneath the grid and appear to be the only characteristic similar to that of standard music notation. Another unique characteristic of this system is the use of drum scratching. When scratching drums, a unique symbol is given to the kick, snare, or hi-hat and these are drawn on the grid along with lines indicating if the record is going backwards or forwards. When a record is simply played, lines are drawn from the lower left corner of the grid section representing each beat to the upper right corner.
This method has many strong points that can allow a turntablist to utilize its methods. Any DJ with scratching experience can learn this system in a relatively short period of time. With practice, a DJ could possibly sight read with some efficiency but there are some factors that could prevent one from doing so. This method features a way to notate scratching on a turntable but may prove more difficult when focusing on a song in its entirety. It is true that two of the TTM staffs can be used to identify a song with one record being scratched and the other record being played. Sight-reading various scratches is possible but notating or reading a full-length song could prove to be difficult and extremely lengthy. In order for a DJ to read a full-length song, he would be constantly flipping through multiple pages, even if the song only appeared to be very short. This would require a turntablist to flip through many pages, which is similar to when a guitarist reads guitar tab. A lengthy song would be difficult to keep on a music stand. For this reason, sight-reading using this method might only appear useful for learning scratching techniques or short etudes. The only other downside to reading using this method for a full song would be that it doesn’t appear to address sections of a full-length song. Measures can be numbered but due to it’s lengthy use and absence of defining sections of a song, it would be easy for the turntablist to become lost when reading the song.
This is not to say that reading using this method is impossible, but would require one to be quite familiar with the song before attempting to read it. As noted earlier, the turnablist will face the same challenges that appear when a guitar player attempts to read guitar tab. If the player has heard the song already, he will have a much easier time reading the song. Without hearing the song, the player may be able to play something similar to the song that the composer intended but it would require lots of practice and the turntablist would face some limitations when sight reading.
The TTM system is a revolutionary method that allowed the turntablist to notate music for the first time. Despite it major differences from that of standard music notation other than its use of crescendo and diminuendo, it appears to be an effective way of transcribing turntable music.