Art of Deejaying, WK 12 – Fundamentals of Scratching

Welcome to SKAH DJ Blog! Scratching is one technique that excites most beginner-DJs. Usually they try to get into scratching too quickly without even learning the fundamentals of scratching. The harder they try to incorporate scratching into their DJ set, the worse their DJ set is due to poor cuts, wrong timing, and wrong choice of scratching sound.

Scratching, sometimes referred to as scrubbing, is a DJ and turntablist technique used to produce distinctive percussive or rhythmic sounds and sound effects by moving a vinyl record back and forth on a turntable while optionally manipulating the crossfader on a DJ mixer simultaneously* (Wikipedia).

*I added the word ‘simultaneously’ to the definition of scratching from Wikipedia

Do not be deceived by the word ‘turntablist’ and think that you can only scratch professionally on turntables. What ever your DJ gear is, be it CDJs or controllers as long as it has a platter (or jog-wheels) for scratching then you can learn and master scratching on it. It is important to note that there are some DJ gear that are not built for scratching as they do not have a platter such as the Traktor Kontrol S5 and S8.

traktor-kontrol-s8

s5

So here are a few important points to note before you start to attempt scratching

Laptop/Computer

As long as your computer meets the minimum requirement as specified by the manufacturer of your DJ Software, then you can scratch on it. However, here are a few tips on tuning your computer for a DJ set.

  • If not in use, switch off Bluetooth and WIFI
  • Close any unnecessary background processes and programs
  • For PC users, switch you battery option to high performance, disable USB suspend setting and Hard Disk Sleep
  • If you can afford it, use a different computer for deejaying and a different computer for other tasks.
  • Otherwise, create a DJ profile or System User for deejaying strictly
  • For Mac users, disable Spotlight and Time Machine while deejaying
  • Scan you hard disk for errors maybe twice in a month depending on frequency of use and scan you computer regularly for viruses and malware.
  • Check your software and hardware manufacturer website regularly for updates and newer versions of the software and firmware. Also keep in touch with their Support team/webpage and learn from other people’s experiences.

Mixer Settings

Set your crossfader curve to the sharpest setting. This reduces the distance the crossfader has to move to get the highest volume from the opposite channel and this gives tighter cuts. Reduce the latency of your mixer or soundcard to the least your computer can bear without audio dropouts. Latency is the time interval between an action (pressing a button on the hardware) and when an audio response is heard. The lower the latency, the more responsive your setup is and this increases the possibility of an audio dropout with more demand on the CPU. Also, the higher the latency, the less responsive your setup is and this reduces the possibility of an audio dropout with less demand on the CPU.

cf-curve

usb-buffer-in-serato-dj

Choose appropriate sounds for scratching

Buy scratch samples or download free scratch samples online. You need to know that not every sound in a track is appropriate for scratching. It is better to use vocals, acapellas, snares and high hats to learn scratching rather than using kick and bass-line sounds. The main reason for this is that you can easily get away with errors when you use the vocals and the likes to scratch. In fact, your errors might even go unnoticed. However, if you use the kick or the bass-line sound to scratch, it kind of alters the beat or the rhythm of the main track and errors are very obvious. This is not a rule but an advice for live sets for DJs learning to scratch.

new-waveform

Timing/Know when to scratch

You need to understand the difference between a live DJ set for a party and a battle or competition. For a party, you cannot possibly scratch throughout a 2-3 hour DJ set. DJ battles and routines are usually within 15 minutes and you can choose to ‘scratch throughout the set if that is the only creative DJ technique you know’. For a party, there are other tasks you need to accomplish during your set such as connecting with the audience, transitions, other DJ techniques, editing your playlist to the current party situation amongst others.

For a party it is more appropriate to drop a scratch routine during your transitions, intro or outro part of a track that lacks vocals or during breakdowns. This will give you the opportunity to deliver a clean scratch technique that is not competing with the vocals of the main track.

Finally, you should deliver your scratch routine in time with the main track. That is, your counts of one to four.

Start with the Basic Scratch Techniques

Start with the basic scratch techniques such as baby scratch, the forward scratch and the backward scratch.

Baby Scratch – with the crossfader open, move the platter back and forward. Double your speed to change the intensity of the scratch.

Forward Scratch – is a variation of the baby scratch. Close the crossfader during the backward movement so only the sound produced during the forward movement is heard.

Backward Scratch – is a reverse of the forward scratch and a variation of the baby scratch. Close the crossfader during forward movement so only the sound produced during the backward movement is heard.

Muscle Memory/Practice

Create a daily scratch practice routine for at least 1 hour or more. Build on your previous scratch lessons during the practice. The practice helps to build muscle memory and co-ordination between both hands. This can be likened to learning how to drive a vehicle.

Create scratch combos such as:

  • 2 baby scratches, 1 forward scratch, 1 reverse scratch within a bar or 4 beats (one to four count)
  • 1 baby scratch, 2 reverse scratches, 2 forward scratches within a bar.
  • 2 forward scratches, 1 baby scratch, 2 reverse scratches within a bar and so on.

Others

  • Learn to scratch with both hands though one hand will usually be better than the other.
  • Hand placement on the platter should be between 8 and 10° clock, -1 and + 1 is still okay respectively.

Watch out for the video demonstration of this article coming soon and a part two of this article. Like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube Channel for the latest updates in deejaying from the foremost DJ Blog in Nigeria. If there is a topic, issue or article you would like to learn or read about on this forum, or if your will like to contribute to this series, kindly email info@skah.com.ng

Stay tuned for the next article. Yours truly signing out.

@djkcydal

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