Fader Hand Tension – Why Less Equals More

Have you ever felt like you were putting way too much effort into scratching? You push and push and yet your results seem to be pretty stagnant. Well there are several symptoms that could be at the root of your suffering. In this article I plan to focus in on one of them.

This issue typically plagues the beginner worse than anyone, but make no mistake, this can and will affect anyone. I’m talking about unnecessary tension in the fader hand. I want to share with you some ways you can begin to alleviate this problem so you can focus on your development as a scratch dj more freely.

Taking An Assessment

First let’s take a look at your average beginner scratch dj so we can get a better understanding of what I’m addressing. You begin scratching and the fader is all over the place. You just can’t seem to control it. You’re having trouble getting together any proper technique. You’re probably strong arming the fader way too much and straying way too far from the cut off point.

Does Equipment And It’s Settings Play A Role?

Now two things have to be made clear before I go any further. If you want to get the most out of your scratching in the short and long term you need to have your cutoff point set as close to instant as possible. Also it’s ideal to have a very loose fader. I personally love the fader of the Rane 56, but regardless of what mixer you have, nowadays there are options for using scratch friendly faders regardless of what type of mixer you’re using.

No Fader Control, No Dice

Obviously if you have a hard time controlling the fader you will have basically no hope of getting any decent scratches pulled off. The solution to this may seem as obvious as taking the power you’re exerting back a few notches and in a way it is. In fact the solution is actually not much more complex than that.

What you need to realize is that although this will help, you are not through correcting this problem. Ultimately you need to discover with experimentation what the least amount of power is needed to control the fader and only use that. Simple right? Well not so fast. Understand that this is not a fix and forget issue. Only through consistent, highly concentrated awareness can you really reap the benefits of focusing on this method.

Why All DJ’s Will Benefit

This is truly a lesson for scratch dj’s at any level. No matter how well you grasp the concept of minimum power you can always improve your current scratch technique. I personally can attest to this as I’ve gone through many stages of this issue.

Sometimes you may be taking on a new technique and have yet to really gauge what is needed to pull it off. You may be starting off slow and not ready to put a lot of speed into it. You may be doing one technique that requires more energy and power than another technique. Not to mention all the combinations of scratch techniques you already know. As you can see it begins to become somewhat intricate.

Narrowing Down The Process

What we need to do right now is take things down a notch. Several notches in fact. Take the most simplest fader based scratch possible. We’ll use a forward 2 click transform for this exercise.

Execute a simple forward transform scratch over and over at a low tempo such as 60 beats per minute and pay close attention to how much power you’re exerting. Is your forearm, wrist or hand getting sore? Are you pushing the fader too far away from the cut off point? Is the sound of the record running out before you have a chance to finish? These are things you should be asking yourself as you’re performing the transform scratch. If the answer is yes to any of these, try relaxing and releasing as much power as you can while still maintaining control.

Is Doing Nothing A Solution?

Well yes, it can actually be a highly effective solution. However you would not simply be doing nothing and stopping there. You would be resting between each repetition. This is one of the easiest ways to avoid unnecessary tension. So always make sure you bear that in mind.

While it is typical while learning new scratches that there will be some forearm burn, you can usually reduce it substantially by following the advice outlined in this article, especially this particular point. In fact it really doesn’t matter what technique or combinations of techniques you do. Resting between every transition will make a HUGE difference.

What Else Is Choking The Life Out Of Your Potential?

There is another culprit that creates unnecessary tension while scratching and that is unnecessary tension in the body. While it may seem obvious by now that you need to have just the right amount of tension in your hand, wrist and arm, it’s important to note that holding extra tension in other parts of your body can be detrimental as well.

The biggest key here is awareness. You have to pay attention to how you’re feeling while you’re scratching. If you notice that you’re tightening up in your neck, back or another area you’ll need to consider changing your posture and sending a message to your brain to relax. This is a process that will require consistent, focused monitoring so keep alert.

Keeping Things At The Forefront Of Your Mind

One final point I’d like to mention is that you shouldn’t just read this article and then leave it to memory. Use this information to your advantage on a regular basis. You can potentially shave off years of frustration by following this advice. Stay aware, focused and above all else have fun!

If you’d like to know more about this topic there’s an excellent video by my music mentor Tom Hess. While he’s primarily focused on guitar you can easily apply the concepts he’s teaching to scratching as this article has demonstrated. Enjoy: Finger Tension

Never Get It Wrong – The Power of Isolation

Have you ever tried to learn a simple phrase in a foreign language? Perhaps you were planning on visiting another country and you needed to learn it and most likely other phrases that were critical for communicating things to the locals. In most cases like this, we tend to learn just enough to get by.

Getting by might be acceptable for simple trips, but what if you planned to move there and really immerse yourself in the culture long term? If you really want to be accepted and build strong, high quality relationships with the people there, you'd probably take learning their language much more seriously. Let's take it even further and assume that you want to learn the language to the point where even locals can't tell simply by hearing you that you're not from the area. With a goal like that, there's really no room for error. You'd literally have to talk the talk on a consistent basis.

Of course this may all seem very daunting for someone who hasn't learned a lick of the language yet. However, if you were to focus on simply one word and repeat it incessantly until you get it absolutely picture perfect you'd be hard pressed to ever get it wrong again. If you truly want to master scratching your goal should NOT be to simply get by. It should be to express yourself in the most fluent way possible 100% of the time.

A Big Piece of the Puzzle

This method of isolation that I alluded to in the previous example is a big part of what it will take for you to overcome your challenges in scratching and ultimately perfect your scratch technique. I refer to this method as drilling and if it's not a part of your current practice routine it should be. If you are faced with a challenge in a specific technique, random freestyle scratching and occasionally throwing that technique into your soloing will likely make it take much longer if not impossible to ever get past the problems you're encountering. When you drill a specific technique in isolation you are effectively shutting out all distractions when scratching and allowing yourself the chance to really get to the bottom of what is holding you back from improving.

Taking Things to Further Extremes

In fact it is possible that you may only be struggling at one aspect of a technique. In this kind of situation, you will need to isolate things even further and just drill that one aspect of the technique that is preventing you from performing it correctly. Perhaps things are worse for you and you just aren't grasping the technique at all. The strategy of extreme isolation is still the best way to approach it. Only now there are multiple parts to the technique that need to be broken down into their own specific drills before you'll be ready to put it all back together again and drill the full technique without such severe isolation.

Different Drills for Different Needs

While the above drills work well for techniques you are suffering big problems with, they don't necessarily work for other issues such as phrasing. When phrasing you are stringing together a group of techniques to create something where all the techniques sound like they're really meant to go together. Individually you might seem to have no issue performing any of the techniques you want to use in the phrase, but things tend to fall apart once you begin combining scratch techniques.

There are many reasons why this may be so, like timing, rhythmic feel, and contrast in speed or pitch as well as many other possible challenges. A great way to approach such a problem would be to isolate your phrase to only two techniques at a time. Work hard to see what approach will be best to make the transition from one technique to the next to sound the smoothest. Then once you feel you've achieved something you're pleased with, add an additional technique to the phrase and drill that. Often times it's the transition between one scratch technique to the next that is most difficult so you will likely have to go back to extreme drilling. Only unlike extreme drilling with a single technique, in the context of a phrase you would be drilling the transition only.

Refinement

While drilling is mostly best for getting past major challenges it can also be used to refine scratching that you aren't necessarily struggling with, but are getting close to mastering. This goes back to just getting by vs. perfecting things. Drilling something that you can do well, but haven't mastered will lead you to mastery much quicker than you would otherwise.

Making the Most of Your Practice Time

Keep in mind that items that you are struggling with most deserve much more practice time and things that only need refinement deserve much less attention. If you put too much effort towards drilling practice items that only need refinement you stand to progress at a very slow rate. No one wants to intentionally slow their rate of progress down so be sure to avoid allocating improper amounts of time to what you practice. While it is not impossible to judge what deserves the most vs. the least attention during practice, it's not necessarily easy either. If you need help designing a practice schedule that fits your needs and the amount of time you have to practice throughout any given week, be sure to visit this link: Scratch DJ Training