Sluggish Improvement vs. Heightened Awareness

How many times have you approached a problem thinking you had the solution, only to find moments later that you were trying all kinds of other things to solve it? Or worse, you thought you found the solution and then in the blink of an eye you forgot it already. The sad thing is all of this could've been avoided had you made the effort to do one simple thing. That simple thing is taking notes.

Solutions Don't Come Easy

Yet they come even less easy when we aren't consistently looking for them. You may feel that you're thinking about how to cope with your struggles in scratching, but it's the depth of your thinking that measures the quality of your solutions. Generally, especially in the act of scratching, our thought process is very shallow. This is especially true the less experienced you are at successfully overcoming challenges in your scratching, because you have so many more things to think about that could be going wrong.

When you approach a practice session with a plan to document solutions you come across, your thought process automatically deepens. This is because writing things down takes a lot more focus when scratching then just thinking briefly about what might improve things. Not only because you have to actually stop what you're doing to write things down, but you're automatically going through a review process in order to write it out properly. Additionally, you can come back at any time and review what you wrote further, as well as weigh it out against future sessions that might shed further light on the validity of your previous notes.

Complex Problems Need Serious Care

If you were in school facing an extremely challenging exam and you didn't take any notes during lectures that preceded it, how well do you think you'd do? You would most likely not do well and perhaps even fail. As a serious student, you can bet you wouldn't let that happen. Yet when it comes to practicing the art of scratching, you probably wouldn't even consider taking notes at all. Admittedly for most, it's a pretty foreign concept. However, that level of care will put you head and shoulders above the rest.

Taking Notes Might Not Seem Fun

Guess what is much less fun though. Performing at a mediocre level because you weren't proactive enough to take the actions necessary for greater, faster improvement at scratching. Believe me, having a moment of realization then capturing that moment, is actually more exhilarating than you might imagine. It's the feeling of ensuring all your hard work is going to pay off instead of just hoping it will.

Documenting Your Thoughts Doesn't Come With a Guarantee

Admittedly, taking notes about what you think are solutions to your problems, does not mean that what you write is always going to improve things. However, not writing out your thoughts increases the odds that you don't get your problems fixed in a timely manner, if at all. In fact writing out the wrong solution is actually still a step in the right direction because it makes it easier to eliminate it from the possibilities of what is going to pan out. You don't want to think you have a solution, find out it doesn't work, still not have a working solution and then stumble upon it again, repeating the process. Now you have a document of what to avoid as well.

Before You Find Solutions You Must Find Problems

All this advice is well and great, but what if you don't even know what your problems are? Note taking can still aid you in such situations. If you haven't spent some serious time examining what's wrong with your scratching, you'll be even further behind. Fortunately such a predicament is reversible. Simply follow the advice I've given you in this article, but with problem finding in mind and before you know it, you'll have a whole laundry list of things you can seek out solutions to.

Reviewing is Undeniably Crucial

Note taking is great, but reviewing your notes is where the true power lies. Otherwise, you're just a minor step beyond those who only think about solutions. Repetition is the mother of mastery, so finding a solution and continually reviewing it will get it imprinted permanently in your brain, making it that much more reliable info to actually put into practice. So don't let all your effort to find solutions go to waste. Get out what you put in and watch the results stack up.

The Dangers of Playing it Safe

We all know that the key to improvement is to challenge yourself, but how much are you actually challenging yourself? Are you guilty of being too realistic? What do I mean when I say realistic? Well being realistic in terms of scratching and the challenges you take on, simply means assessing you're current scratch skills and then creating challenges for yourself that don't go too far beyond your comfort zone. While this is actually not a bad strategy for decent gains in skill over the long term, it is not a be all, end all way to approach scratching.

Lack of Comfort Creates Comfort

Sometimes you have to take a challenge that you normally face and double or triple its difficulty. The benefit to this may not be obvious at first. Of course your natural instinct is to feel that if you're already struggling with an easier challenge, why is multiplying its difficulty going to be any easier or less frustrating? It starts in the mind. Your mind is virtually capable of doing anything you set out to do, so if you're always playing it safe, you're just setting your belief system up to think you can only achieve minor things.

Being Unrealistic Pays

When you get more accustomed to thinking unrealistically, what seemed unrealistic before becomes reality. Aside from the mental aspect, you need to become physically used to high levels of physical difficulty. You'll never get a feel for what it's like to scratch at ridiculously high speeds for example, if you never attempt to do so. Sure you could wait until you're truly ready, but you're going to do that anyway. You might as well attempt to now so when the time comes for you to scratch comfortably at such speeds, you're already mentally and physically prepared to do so.

Don't Get Carried Away

I realize that my advice may sound amateurish, but that's only if taken out of context. I am not saying to do what many beginners do and scratch wildly out of your comfort zone regularly. I'm merely pointing out that you should integrate going way beyond your level of comfort into the other scratch skill building strategies you are or should be using to reach the level of scratching you aim to achieve.

There are many times where multiplying the difficulty of what you're working on will not be so helpful. Just as being realistic is not the only way to achieve your goals, neither is being wildly unrealistic. You must find a balance between the two as one feeds the other and vice versa.

Being Unrealistic in the Real World

Here is a challenge to give you a better feel for how you can actually apply this strategy. This exercise has to do with increase of speed, but keep in mind that what I've spoken about thus far is not only limited to challenges dealing with speed.

Put on a 4/4 beat that you can comfortably execute four notes per beat over. A regular challenge would be to increase your speed to five notes per beat. Instead what you will attempt to do instead is scratch eight notes per beat. Don't worry about how comfortable you feel or how clean it sounds. Just push yourself as hard as possible and keep trying even if you don't achieve it by the end of the exercise.

After you complete the exercise, drop back down to the more realistic challenge of five notes per beat and see how much more comfortable and at ease you feel now. When you started the exercise, four notes per beat was your comfort level, but now five notes per beat, whether you can execute it yet or not, will seem like nothing compared to the extreme challenge of doubling what you're currently able to handle.

Mental Barriers Come Tumbling Down

Navigating through such extremes will take the edge off more realistic challenges and you'll begin achieving higher levels of scratching faster. This happens because your mind is your biggest barrier to achieving anything. If you don't believe you can handle something with ease than you won't. It's really that simple.

Unfortunately suspending one's belief is easier said than done, which is why creating physically demanding challenges like the exercise above, will force your mind to accept the truth that lies behind mental barriers in scratching and what it takes to push past them. Seeing is believing rings very true here. Thus, I invite you to get creative by thinking of, then trying many ways of being unrealistic.

Why Confusing Jamming with Practice is Detrimental

Practicing is the most important thing you will ever do as a turntablist. How you practice determines everything you will ever accomplish with scratching. If you practice regularly and effectively you can basically guarantee that you will achieve the results you desire and achieve them at a rate far quicker than someone who is practicing ineffectively. Unfortunately, many do not understand the importance of practice, much less what effective scratch practice entails.

To most, simply putting on a beat and jamming freely over it is what they consider practice. While this is not a complete waste of time, it is certainly not an effective use of practice time and quite frankly is not actual practice. Real practice consists of determining categories of specific items to work on and how much time must be spent on each item in your practice schedule based on your current strengths and weaknesses. If you are not doing this, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Avoiding Problems vs. Creating Them

Think back to any conversation where you misinterpreted what the other person was trying to communicate to you. In most cases, that misinterpretation probably led to a problematic outcome. Had you truly understood what they were trying to get across in the first place, you would've had a much better chance of preventing whatever problems resulted from misunderstanding them.

When you confuse jamming with practicing you're essentially doing the same thing. This can be much worse than misunderstanding a simple conversation. Afterall, if you never gain true knowledge of what effective practice actually consists of, you could potentially waste years and years of your life never really achieving many of your scratch goals.

The Flip Side

Keep in mind, there is still a time and place for jamming. In fact, you can have the opposite issue if you get too heavily involved in practicing. While practicing effectively should make up the bulk of your scratching, if you never give yourself time to freely jam over a beat, you're not really giving yourself a chance to flex all the scratching muscles you're developing during practice. Ultimately, scratching is all about expressing yourself and stirring up emotion in your listeners. Thus, it's very important to set aside some time for jamming regularly where you can leave all your concern for the problems you've been working on behind for a bit.

Common Jamming Pitfalls

If you're truly working to progress regularly with an effective scratch practice strategy, it will be tough at times to shut out the inner critic when you're strictly jamming. What I'm advocating is not to avoid critiquing yourself when jamming, but to not be overly critical. Give yourself the freedom to make mistakes when scratching. You can take quick mental notes as you encounter problems, but you don't want to start breaking into practice exercises to fix those issues in the middle of jamming or you'll break the flow of your expression. You can always attack those problems later during your actual practice time.

An even better way to not let your worries drag you down during a jam is to record yourself scratching in audio or video and critique your jam afterwards. This will give you a much better chance to enjoy jamming and also make it easier to determine what the actual issues you're facing are. Often times in the moment of jamming, it is much more difficult to figure out what is being executed correctly or not. With a recording you have the opportunity to hear yourself from an outside perspective, as well as the ability to continually review anything that stands out to you as something to be concerned with.

With True Clarity Comes Great Responsibility

Now that you have a much better picture of what jamming and practicing are, you owe it to yourself to start creating a much more effective practice strategy for yourself. Understandably, this isn't always easy to do. Depending on your experience, you may not really know yet what specific areas deserve your attention during practice. To help get you started, I highly recommend you check out this great resource of practice topics I have written about here: Effective Scratch DJ Practice Strategies

While the topics I've covered should be of great help to you, you'll likely have more indepth issues that are very specific to you as an individual in need of attention. If you feel this is the case, be sure to go to this page and contact me directly with your concerns: Scratch DJ Lessons

Disposable Problems

Becoming better at scratching can create feelings of inferiority. You may have goals to be extremely fast, have a highly complex flow, or many other things. However, if you're not anywhere near those goals you're likely to feel upset about your ability and start overcompensating as a result. Overcompensation often leads to thinking you're not doing enough. Not moving fast enough, not doing enough intricate movements and so on. Unfortunately, this line of thinking only leads to more frustration with your scratching as you start piling on more problems instead of eliminating them.

Fundamentally Shift Your Thinking

Take a moment to think about how a sculpture is created. When you watch a sculptor work, what are they doing? Are they bringing in extra material and tacking it onto the material they started with, or are they carefully chiseling down what they already have? Clearly the answer is the latter.

How does this relate to scratching you might be thinking? Well, you may not physically have a block of material to carve down, but you do have the ability to create a vision of what you want to ultimately be as a scratch dj. This goes back to goals you already have in mind. You got the first part right by actually having specific goals (and if you don't you really need to). So now it's time to get the second part correct by viewing things in terms of elimination.

Taking Out the Trash

If you're familiar with my writing, you know I'm a big fan of tossing out the unnecessary such as too much tension, movement or negative thinking when scratching. If something isn't working, why would you want to continue doing it, let alone doing it in a more extreme manner? Think of it like a needle in a haystack. In order to find the needle you need to get rid of all the hay that's covering it up or you'll never find it!

Taking speed as an example, you would start with the goal of being ultra fast. You would then look at what great speed in scratching actually is and how people with great speed are achieving it. Next, you would decipher what are you doing that they aren't and eliminate it. Some aspects of what to do will be obvious and some won't. Don't sell yourself short though. With enough thought, patience and action, you will find the solution you seek. For more information on achieving great speed go here: Free Scratch DJ Report

Too Much Time and Too Little Knowledge

You might find that it's taking too long to find and eliminate all the problems you're suffering from. While thinking on your own about how to solve issues can be a great way to develop your problem solving skills for the better, it doesn't mean that you have to do everything alone. It is always smart to seek out a highly knowledgeable scratch mentor who has achieved what you want to achieve and personally learn from them.

Just realize that even though they're successful at doing what you want for yourself, it doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be able to transfer that success to you. You need someone that will have a truly vested interest in your success. They must also remember what it was like to go through all the challenges you're currently facing, how they got through them and distill that information into highly effective problem solving strategies. Otherwise you'll just be increasing your problems instead of decreasing them.

Using This Information on a Macro Level

While it is useful to think in terms of individual techniques and goals, in order to get truly worthwhile results you'll need to apply the process of elimination to much bigger things like relationship, career and health goals. Often times what's holding you back in scratching is something larger than you'd imagine. Let's face it, how can you really be at the pinnacle of success if you're suffering greatly in any of these areas of life? It's all connected, so if you're troubled in one area it will surely affect the others. Don't allow yourself to create more turmoil. Take charge of your success and take charge now!

Scratching Away From the Turntable – Mental Scratch Strategy

Improvisation is a very important part of scratching. Although there are methods for writing scratch solos such as TTM, scratching has a rich history of being primarily improvisation driven (more commonly known amongst turntablists as freestyling). A typical approach to improvisation is to take what you already know how to do and create solos on the spot with your current skill set. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, what happens if you run into a physical limitation because the idea you want to use is beyond your current ability? Typically we might work around such a problem by either avoiding it completely or by working on that idea later in isolation.

If you choose to avoid the idea you are intentionally hampering your creativity and will eventually hit a brick wall should you make avoiding such challenges habitual. If you choose to work on it in isolation you will likely have an easier time integrating it into your improvisation as time goes on. However, if the idea is too challenging, it may take quite awhile before you’ll be able to successfully integrate it and even worse, you may fall back on avoiding it out of frustration.

Good improvisation is like any other skill and will take time and patience to develop. That being said, there is a way to speed up the process and significantly increase your scratching creativity. Imagine you have no physical limitations and can perform any idea that comes to mind. With such ability, your creativity could really soar!

Believe It Or Not, This Is Something You Can Do Right Now!

Let’s take a few steps back and picture that we are an abstract artist and we want to create a very expressive painting. Before we even set foot near a canvas, we’re already thinking of the mood we want to create, what kind of colors we want to use, different kinds of shapes and other abstractions that will make the painting come alive. More importantly, our ideas of what we want to paint are vivid and we can envision it clearly. During this thought process there isn’t a single notion about being unable to create the painting. We are completely absorbed in our own creativity.

This type of approach is something you should be doing regularly when working on improvisation. When you create improvised solos in your mind nothing is off limits. The tempo, note groupings, speed at which everything is executed and every other element is all up for grabs. You can create scratch solos that are not only outside of your own current skill level, but above and beyond anything you’ve ever heard before as well. This is why improvising in your mind is such a powerful tool for your creativity and will allow you to be very self expressive.

There Is A Time And A Place

And that time and place can be literally anywhere at any time! Think about what it takes to actually scratch. First off you have to make time to do so. Secondly you have to be somewhere that a turntable and mixer is set up. I’m sure you can think of plenty of times where you had the desire to scratch, but didn’t have the time or access to gear in order to make it happen. Furthermore, I’m sure there are plenty of times throughout the day where you are doing something that doesn’t require a lot of thought, such as driving to work, taking an elevator, waiting in line at the grocery store or simply trying to sleep.

These are all great times to work on mental improvisation. For one thing it will make those types of activities much more enjoyable. For another, all of the time you spend working on it during these moments of your life adds up pretty quickly. By the time you are back in front of your set up and ready to scratch, you’re really excited and have a whirlwind of ideas to explore.

That Excitement Turns Into Motivation

Not only are you excited about all the possibilities, but you have a much clearer picture of where you want your scratch style to go. This can be extremely motivating when you come across physical barriers in your technique. Now that your creative ideas are stronger in your mind, it won’t be a question of not being able to do what you want, but more a matter of looking forward to when you can. With this type of mind set, patience and persistence becomes virtually unlimited.

Additionally you will have more focus on what to work on and likely won’t waste time on things that don’t fall in line with what you want to express. Once you have obtained this level of focus, you can speed up the learning process of scratching exponentially.

So How Do You Get Started?

If this concept is new to you, it might feel a bit abstract and possibly overwhelming to attempt. A simple remedy to this is to listen to the type of beats you would want to improvise over and mentally solo over them. In this day in age with all the mobile devices that exist, you can do this pretty much anywhere. Of course once this concept of mental improvisation is firmly planted in your mind you should have little need for such a crutch, but it’s a great way to get the ball rolling.

Pattern Generation – Infinite Possibilities

Ideas are being thought of and expressed all over the world at every second of every hour, all day, every day. One idea shared can lead to a multitude of other ideas, which in turn can lead to many more. At times it can seem like there’s no end to new ideas for better or worse. As a musician this is an exciting proposition. It means if you keep your mind and ears open and continually put effort towards your craft, you’ll never run out of new things to express.

Let’s break this down to something really specific within scratching and that is pattern generation. There are a lot of patterns that exist already within scratching. New patterns are being created all the time. It may be subtle or even obvious, but it’s happening. If it wasn’t, scratching wouldn’t have advanced to the point that it has from its humble beginnings. So then, it’s safe enough to assume that if it’s happening now it will continue for as long as scratching exists.

Essential Ingredients

Pattern generation is a vital part of scratching for a variety of reasons. For starters, it breathes new life into something older that’s becoming stale in the minds of those itching to explore new territory with scratching. It keeps things fresh for the fans that would otherwise get bored of hearing the same thing over and over again. No matter how much someone loves something, the natural order of things is to crave change.

Delving into pattern generation will advance the practitioner by expanding their vocabulary. Thus allowing them to express themselves more deeply and freely. This in turn allows the artform to grow further. Especially when taking into account that it’s not just one person working out new scratch patterns.

No Need For Ruts

It’s important for scratch dj’s to recognize that ruts essentially do not exist. I say essentially because most of us can remember at least a few times where we felt like we were in one. You need not continue to allow so called ruts in your scratching to control our creativity. It’s outside the scope of this article to get into all the strategies of avoiding or getting out of ruts. However, in the case of pattern generation I will discuss ways to keep the spark of creativity going.

Another Way To Skin A Cat

Sometimes you may want to hold back on creating new patterns of scratches. This may seem like a contradiction given that the majority of this article, advocates the benefits of pattern generation. What you need to recognize though is if all you ever do is work on new patterns you will never master the older ones you’ve already learned. You have to place equal importance on getting things down so you can maximize the expressive potential within any one particular pattern.

Potential Realized

Let’s focus on a simple example of pattern generation. Take any three scratch techniques that you know. Arrange them in any order. Now ask yourself the following questions:

1.How fast do I want to do each technique?
2.Do I want to do each technique at different speeds or similar speeds?
3.How many times do I want to do each technique before moving on to the next one?
4.What tempo will the beat be that I will execute this pattern over?
5.Will this pattern be a good way to start my solo or end my solo?

Keep in mind this is just one example of how a pattern can be created. As you can already see a lot of thoughts have been raised by carrying out this simple exercise. There are many more questions you can ask yourself within this example and you can also start the exercise off differently. For instance, take only two techniques and feed them into the formula. Or four techniques even. Math is a great way to play with pattern ideas. It really boils down most times to basic addition and subtraction.

Soaking It In

Feeling the impact of a concept like infinity can certainly be overwhelming. We need not be overwhelmed though. If realizing the endless possibilities of what you can create is too intimidating it can have the opposite effect. Remember, putting a self imposed rut on yourself is not the goal. Self expression through scratching is really the goal here.

Just because there are infinite possibilities doesn’t mean you have to now suddenly pressure yourself to come up with whopping loads of patterns all at once. Take it easy and enjoy the ride. By creating new scratch patterns over time you help create a longer lasting love for what you do. Enjoy the ride.

Expect the Unexpected

Great thriller movies contain lots of surprising moments, elements of calm and extreme excitement. When you watch a truly good thriller, you are likely on the edge of your seat for a good chunk of the movie. No matter how much you want to believe you won’t get thrown off guard, you always do.

Likewise a bad thriller just comes off cheesy because of the severe predictability of it all. It can potentially become comical because there is virtually no suspense and you have to laugh just to deal with the writer’s lack of imagination. The same can be said for scratching.

Clearly, sounding cheesy and boring are not goals of the vast majority of us. A great way to avoid putting people to sleep is to use a rhythmic technique called rubato. For those unacquainted with the term, the definition of rubato is as follows: The temporary disregarding of strict tempo to allow an expressive quickening or slackening. Or in more simple terms, not playing in strict time.

Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

It is a mistake to think that just because you’re scratching over a steady rhythm that you are chained to scratching steady too. If you lock into a groove and spit out a constant stream of 8th notes, it won’t matter how cool your mixture of scratch techniques or pitches are. People will disregard that because they’ll be fixated with your lack of rhythmic variety.

When you use rubato, each note now has its own personality. It’s similar to being at a party and not knowing who’s going to arrive next. All kinds of different people will show up randomly. Although some may be similar, none will possess exactly the same traits. Furthermore, you’ll have no expectation of who each person will be until they show up.

Don’t Beat Your Audience Over The Head

Being constantly unpredictable can be exhausting. If every moment of your solo was wildly random, you would begin to suffer from the very problem you were trying to avoid in the first place. A calm between storms gives the listener a chance to catch their breath and recuperate. Your job as the soloist is to know when the audience is close to full recuperation and then hit them again. You NEVER want them to completely recover.

When you spend more concentrated effort on rubato you may likely run into another issue. Your rubato could become formulaic. Meaning, every time you decide to break out rubato, you get stuck scratching the same way. What you must recognize with rubato and pretty much everything else, is there are always going to be alternate ways to do things. Thus, it’s important that you continually work out several ways of executing the rubato technique.

Tears, Flares And Tear Flares

There are a variety of scratches that are well suited to rubato. Take a tear scratch for example. You can do a two forward, one back tear scratch all in the same rhythmic division or you could break things up a bit. For example, the first motion of the tear could be one long, sustained note, while the second and third motion could be really rapid sounding.

You could also do a 2 click flare, where the first 2 clicks on the forward stroke of the record are quick, but you let the record
continue moving forward and then slowly pullback the record and click towards the end of the reverse motion. This would make for a highly unpredictable 2 click flare.

You could also take the first example of the tear scratch and add any number of flare combos and timing of the flares to it. Now imagine you combine all three of these examples into a string of phrases. By now it should be clear how entertaining your scratching will become with a large vocabulary of rubato at your disposal.

Outside The Scratch World

Rubato is quite an old concept and yet it is so under used amongst many musicians. The most notorious musician and master of rubato is none other than Chopin. While masterful, instrumental piano work from the Romantic Era is a far cry from modern day turntablism, it would do you a world of good to familiarize yourself with Chopin’s works. See a performance of Opus 28 here: Chopin
24 Preludes Op. 28

I’m sure if you take the time to listen, you will hear plenty of great rubato exhibited. A special thanks goes out to my music mentor Tom
Hess
, who has helped me to intellectualize the concept of rubato and recommended Chopin as well. I developed my rubato unconsciously as many musicians have. However, once you become conscious of such things as rubato, your level of development will thrive because you now have clearer focus on what to work towards. Not to mention, motivation because of the value that goes along with it.

Is Your Style Full of Poor Choices?

In scratching there are so many cool and not so cool styles out there. Some are trendy, and although you may not personally enjoy them, it seems as if many are doing everything possible to keep such styles thriving. Like most trends in the world, you'll also likely find that many are following them despite their own personal opinion of it all. On the opposite side of the spectrum you'll have others discounting trends simply because they are trends. What both camps are forgetting, or perhaps not aware of at all, is that in order to truly express yourself with scratching you need to follow what your tastes naturally embrace whether it's trendy or not.

Time Can be Your Worst Enemy

If something doesn't grab you, there's absolutely no reason to force it. Even if it seems like you're the only one that doesn't like it, you must have the courage to stand alone and let it pass you by. Time is precious. If you're spending time learning things you don't like in addition to the things you do, imagine how much more time consuming achieving a high level of it all will be.

The saddest part is eventually you will likely start dropping things anyway, whether it's the good or the bad stuff, simply due to overwhelm. When this happens you could end up losing some of the better parts of your style to make way for things that don't even really fit you well. Now you're even further away from your ideal sound and you will NEVER get all the time you spent back. Not only that, but you also have to work even harder now to rediscover all the things you do like, as well as having to break the habit of scratching in ways you dislike.

So How do You Decipher What's Not Worth Your Effort?

In scratching you have many elements to consider. Technique, genre, tempo, samples used and techniques and styles associated with those samples, as well as many other aspects worth considering. For example, if you don't like Electro or some other genre, don't spend time learning to scratch over it. Yes many have done and continue to do it. Yes many will argue that it's one of the best ways to learn how to scratch fast because of the typically high tempos that electro is known for. However, if you don't like electro than you don't like electro and nothing you do will ever sound convincing over it. Just like if you get zero enjoyment out of listening to Polka music. Why would you spend any amount of time trying to express yourself as a Polka artist?

Tailor Your Development

With all the clutter out of the way you now have way more room to delve deep into the styles you do enjoy. You are a unique individual with your own set of fingerprints and your own combination of life experiences. You will also likely not only enjoy one style of scratching. Thus basing your style on a combination of others will lead to a voice unique to you. Of course there are other aspects that lead to true self expression, but this is a big part of it.

Be Aware of an Untrained Ear

It's important to understand that the less exposure you have to scratching, the less you will be able to decipher various styles and what really stands out for you as one you enjoy. Don't fret though because listening to your gut when glaring dislikes come your way will save you a ton of time. As you continue to develop your ear for scratching, you can keep refining the direction you want to head in and more easily pick apart the undesirable from the desirable.

Some Doors Must Stay Open Before They Close

Like everything, there are exceptions to the rule. There may be certain styles that are less than desirable to you, yet contain some potential towards the sound you actually want to craft for yourself. You have to really take a look under the hood and think if it's really worth your time to work on it. If so, be sure to not put more focus than necessary on it and have a goal in mind of bending it toward your own way of doing things so that it makes more sense to your overall style and what you enjoy hearing.

Some Final Words on Uniqueness

Uniqueness does not mean being unique for uniqueness' sake. It simply means finding yourself and highlighting it. As mentioned, your total life experiences do not equal out to anyone else's. It's literally impossible, so you will already naturally sound unique when scratching. All you're really trying to do is go beyond what's natural and be much bolder when expressing yourself. When you're true to yourself the joy is unparalleled, so stop wasting time travelling someone else's journey and take pride in your own.

Why Blindly Practicing Will Lead You to Walls

Have you ever had the feeling of being eager to scratch, but when you finished you felt like you achieved very little? As exciting as scratching can be, if you're not consistently getting results from your sessions, you're likely to stop enjoying it so much. Too many sessions of thoughtless scratch practice will start to eat away at your self esteem. You would think the fact that you're regularly scratching should be enough, but it simply isn't.

Small Goals Lead to Big Achievements

Big goals are very important to have and downright vital should you wish to achieve anything truly fulfilling in life. However, you can't expect to reach such goals if you do not have smaller benchmarks to achieve along the way. You don't just come up with a massive goal for yourself then wake up the next day and it's achieved. Quite obviously, you have to work hard at scratching regularly to bring your dreams into reality.

So why is it that we tend to neglect the smaller things that make the big things possible? Is it because these smaller goals are too tiny to capture your imagination? Perhaps, but more likely it's simply because you just flat out didn't think of them before. Often times what's right under our noses is what needs our attention most.

Pointing Out the Obvious

When you go to the beach are you planning on having fun? Doesn't it seem silly to think of going to the beach without fun being involved? Well of course it does, but not having fun is exactly what will happen if you have no idea what you're going to do there. You just show up, sit down in the middle of the sand with no plans and do nothing. Pretty boring and ridiculous sounding right? You're probably wondering who in their right minds would do this, yet that's exactly what you're doing every time you scratch and you've neglected to make any plans of what to do while you practice.

Small Goals Overload

Once you become aware of how important it is to set smaller goals for each individual practice session, you're probably going to have the opposite problem. You started off blindly practicing with little to no purpose, but now you're burying yourself in problems with your scratching that you expect to overcome within each session. While it is good to work on multiple things when practicing, it doesn't mean that you need to drown yourself in goals.

Narrow it Down to One

It is often times better to focus on just one specific thing you want to achieve for each session. Doing so will keep your mind free of clutter and you'll be much more aware of how much progress you actually made on that particular goal by the end of the session. Also keep in mind that if you're practicing scratching daily and you have one daily goal per day that you're working towards, they all add up over time to tons of smaller goals. So in actuality, you're really working on many things all the time.

Alleviating the Pressure

You need to also understand that you don't have to achieve any of these smaller goals in just one session. Sure it would be great and also quite possible at times. However, it is not the end of the world should you fall short of any given goal. That is why tomorrow exists. It is not about getting to the finish line faster. It's about the continuous drive towards it.

If you run faster than anyone else and are about to win the race, but collapse just short of the end due to exhaustion, what good was all that hard work? Persistence in scratching is your biggest ally and persistence consists of regular, thoughtful, well paced action.

Why Seeking Perfection Will NOT Lead to Perfection

Seeking perfection in scratching is a very common thing. Obviously, the idea of being perfect is an ideal that many would undoubtedly love to experience in the real world. Unfortunately, seeking such an ideal rarely, if ever pans out to anything significant.

There is a lot of unspoken danger about becoming perfect. One of the biggest issues that will crop up for you time and time again when you feel you must be perfect at something is you'll be frozen in fear of not being perfect and hence not take any notable action towards your goals. The main reason being, that for most the idea of being perfect tends to feel like an insurmountable goal that no matter how much effort you put forth, shall never be achieved. When you have engulfed yourself in this belief you've essentially knocked all the air out of your sails and will likely have little to no motivation to take the actions necessary to progress.

Perfection Vs. Progression

What I'm about to say may be hard to believe, but I truly feel beyond a shadow of a doubt that true perfection does NOT exist! I also want to point out that I don't believe that's a bad thing. The problem with the idea of perfection is it places an artificial limit on what one can achieve and that at some point there is an end to what can be done with your scratching, or anything else in life for that matter. Yet we all know that everything that exists can always be improved upon (at least on a subconscious level). Humanity's greatest strength is within our ability to endlessly progress at whatever we choose. Scratching is a great example of that when you see how it started from its humble beginnings to where it's at currently. The amount of progression is very significant. Yet it is such a young art still with much room to grow.

Imagine if the forefathers of scratching and everyone that followed in their footsteps believed that perfection was achieved after only a few years of development. Clearly, the art would not be nearly as advanced and primed for further progression as it is today. This is why it's so important to avoid the idea of perfection and to place your focus on continual progression. NEVER place a glass ceiling over your head!!

Progression in Your Own Goals

Now that you have gotten a taste of how detrimental perfection can be on a grand scale, it's time to shift your focus back on yourself. This is important because, whether it's obvious or not, your progress has the potential to progress the artform overall. More importantly, on a personal level, you'll be able to feel much more fulfilled if you're regularly progressing and of course actually achieving the goals you've set out for yourself.

Progression will come, but it must be pursued systematically! The first major key to progress regularly at scratching is to change your belief system! After all, how can you possibly achieve what you want if you don't truly believe you will achieve it? All your thoughts stem from your beliefs, but if your beliefs aren't aligned with your goals it's like trying to run on a conveyor belt that's going top speed in the opposite direction that you're running in.

Even if you manage to get your beliefs and goals aligned, you will still likely struggle to keep your thoughts positive while scratching. The main thing to keep in mind here is patience. Anytime you make a major change in your life it takes time. There is no such thing as overnight success. Many steps need to be taken in the right direction before progress can be measured with major achievements. It takes daily effort on your part and faith that you WILL learn to dominate your thoughts with positivity!

Action Leads to Progression!

While improving your beliefs and thoughts is extremely crucial you DO NOT need to worry about perfection. Otherwise you're completely missing the point of this entire article. Remember, action leads to real world results and real world progress. We are human. We are not beings of perfection. We are beings of progression and progression does not take place without the willingness to put yourself to the test regardless of how prepared you are to deal with the challenges you face. Furthermore, since you'll be working on improving your beliefs and thoughts in addition to taking action, your actions have no choice but to improve as well!

Seeking a quality scratch mentor will also be of great help to you in order to supercharge your scratching progress, because a great scratch mentor will have already succeeded in many of the areas you wish to succeed in. When seeking success it's important to learn from someone who has been through the struggles that you may be experiencing and has figured out the solutions to those problems. Time waits for no man so don't waste your valuable time reinventing the wheel. Take charge of your future and start achieving your scratch goals!

The Necessity of Ultra Pitch Turntables

At the time that I am writing this article, ultra pitch turntables are common place. It is not a stretch to say that you could easily order one right now and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer. Yet, many scratch dj’s have not taken that step and remain on what is essentially outdated gear. This is unfortunate considering all of the expressive scratching options that will open up as a result of acquiring ultra pitch turntables.

Imagine you owned a piano and you were very accustomed to the full pitch range that it has to offer from the first to the 88th key. With such a rich range of pitch your ability to express yourself tonally is very full. Now imagine you get up one day and walk over to your piano only to find that over 70 keys have been removed, leaving you with just one octave in the mid range to play. Most likely you’d be devastated by the drastic decrease of your expressive options.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the piano, you’d be hard pressed not to notice that any great piano music covers a wide range of octaves and would not be nearly as expressive if it were all suddenly reduced to one octave. Unfortunately, that is similar to how popular turntables like the Technics 1200 are designed. Now I’m not out to bash Technics, but if we’re going to be truly honest, we have to admit to ourselves that its pitch range is extremely limited.

Excuses vs. Moving Forward

If you’re hesitant to dump old gear and move on, you could have several reasons. Perhaps you’re sentimental as you might’ve had your current turntables for awhile. You might feel that your current turntable is built like a tank and has proven its reliability. You may even be a pretty advanced scratch dj despite the limitations of the pitch range on your turntable. However, you should recognize that these are all merely excuses and by not moving on you are avoiding a key that will unlock many doors.

The First and Most Obvious Benefit

Let’s say you have a sample you want to scratch over a beat with, but the tempo of the beat doesn’t match the sample. You want to let the sample play all the way out, but it won’t stay on beat. The obvious solution, regardless of what kind of turntable you own, is to adjust the pitch of the sample so it will match. However, in this case the pitch is so far off that using a turntable without ultra pitch will result in the sample still playing off beat. Clearly, if you were using an ultra pitch turntable this would not be an issue whatsoever and you could solve your problem almost instantly.

Further Options

Let’s look at another example. Say you have a really cool vocal sample to scratch with, but it sounds way too high and nasally. You can already tell that if you only dropped it down 10 percent or so that it would still sound piercingly high. Without an ultra pitch turntable you’d be likely to toss the sample and forgo what could have been a worthy addition to your arsenal of sounds. On an ultra pitch turntable you wouldn’t have to make such a sacrifice because you could continue to drop the pitch down incrementally until you find an ideal setting.

What About Serato?!

With technology like Serato you could actually record your scratch sounds into your DAW, adjust the pitch of each sample to whatever you like and then drop it into serato or use a plug-in for Serato called Pitch ‘N Time and the above problem would be solved. However, while these are workable solutions, they aren’t the most ideal for on the fly situations. Using Serato for pitch issues also negates the advantage of slower platter speeds which I’ll speak more about below.

Record Control on a Whole New Level

When you scratch on a turntable without ultra pitch you are forced to learn to control the record over a platter speed that may be too extreme for your current skill level. However, when you drop the pitch down considerably the platter spins much slower and the amount of resistance that you experienced with scratching before is lessened to a great degree. This makes it much easier to gain the necessary record control it takes to be really expressive when scratching. When you gain control at those speeds, going back up to standard or extreme speeds becomes much easier to tackle because now you only have to deal with the challenge of extra resistance from the platter.

Recommendations

Now that you have a clear picture of why it is so vital to use ultra pitch turntables, I’d like to give some recommendations of turntables that have an ultra pitch option. The main ones I think are most noteworthy are the Vestax PDX 3000 and the Numark TTX. The PDX 3000 being on the higher end and the TTX being somewhat lower. There are other options, but I think you’ll find that those are the most worthwhile. So in closing, take a leap and don’t look back. I wholeheartedly believe you’ll have zero regrets.

How to Shred Like a Scratch Beast

Scratching super fast is a skill that the vast majority of scratch dj's strive to acquire. Unfortunately, the typical approach you likely have taken for building extreme speed is severely ineffective. There are several things that must be considered if you want to build speed effectively. Missing any of it will prevent you from scratching at the most extreme speeds possible.

The Average Strategy is Tempo Boosting

While boosting the tempo has its benefits, it's not the sole way to build speed. Most people assume if they keep increasing the tempo and trying to scratch over it that they'll eventually be able to scratch faster. However, as already mentioned, a lot more must be considered and consciously worked on if you are to achieve any major results.

Think about it like driving at extreme speeds. If you are driving on a race track built for insane speed it doesn't guarantee that you will be able to drive extremely fast. You still need the right kind of vehicle and highly developed skills to fly through the race track at a lightning pace.

Efficiency of Movement is Crucial

If your record hand and fader hand are moving inefficiently then you will never scratch as fast as possible. Being efficient means achieving maximum results with minimum effort. Typical examples of inefficient movement are moving the record forward and back too far from the starting point, opening the fader too far from the cutoff and releasing your fingers too far away from the fader.

Clearly, the more movement you use in your scratching where it isn't needed, the longer it will take to do those things, thus the slower your cuts will be. What you want to do is identify where you're being inefficient, how inefficient you are in each area and how to become more efficient when you scratch.

Relaxation is at the Heart of Speed

One thing you may have noticed when scratching at faster tempos is it can be challenging to relax. What you must realize is that the more relaxed you are the more easily you can scratch efficiently. This is because when you tense up, you tend to overdo your motions even if you're consciously making an effort to move efficiently.

That's why it's very useful to scratch over more mellow tempos, such as 80 bpm and below, so you can focus on learning to scratch in a very relaxed manner while still attaining higher levels of speed. When you successfully do this it enables you to handle much higher tempos in a more relaxed mental and physical state.

While mellow bpm beats will help naturally put you in a state of relaxation, you still have to learn more aspects of the physical side. Learning to optimize your record hand pressure, fader hand tension and overall physical relaxation when scratching will greatly increase the fluidity of your movement which all leads to greater overall speed.

Good Timing Equals Further Relaxation

In addition, you need to time your fader movements well with what your record hand is doing. This will allow you the chance to rest between record movements, so that you are not building up unnecessary tension in your fader hand. The better you are at doing this, the more consistent your relaxation will be and the more you will scratch clean and fast, because you are learning to click the fader at the right moments.

Measuring Your Speed Leads to More Speed

It's essential that you also have some set parameters so that you're aware of how fast you're actually scratching. How many notes you execute per beat will determine how fast you are at the current tempo you're scratching over. 1 note per beat is quarter notes, 2 notes per beat is 8th notes, 3 notes per beat is 8th note triplets, 4 notes per beat is 16th notes, 6 notes per beat is 16th note triplets and so on. This is assuming you know basic counting over a 4/4 beat which is the typical time signature for most scratch beats.

It will be partially helpful to know how many notes there are for each scratch technique and combo you are working on, but you also have to keep in mind repetitions per beat. For example, if you are performing one technique per beat, then how many notes that technique is made up of will represent your speed. However, in order to increase your speed without increasing the tempo you have to add repetitions of that technique.

The more repetitions of a technique you can do per beat will represent your true speed of that technique at the chosen tempo. It is only when you have maximized your reps of a technique or combo per beat that boosting the tempo will be necessary to further gain speed. Remember though, it is all the areas of your scratching that I've discussed that will need to improve for you to actually gain speed. Boosting the tempo once you have maximized your speed at a lower tempo only puts you in a position to continue accurately measuring your speed.

Don't Underestimate Building Speed

While I have covered a lot about dramatically increasing your speed, there is much more detail that will need to be understood and applied to truly reach your full potential. Often times it isn't just the depth of each topic associated with speed building, but also your own personal weaknesses and strengths. These personal aspects of your scratching are best addressed by a high quality scratch instructor who knows from their own experience how to scratch at extremely fast speeds and has successfully taught others to do so as well. Bottom line, the fastest way to learn to scratch extremely fast is to seek help from a mentor who can and will help you reach your goals.

Why Persistence is More Important Than Talent

Persistence is an obvious component in achieving your goals, but do you realize it's actually the most important component there is? Many will tell you why you shouldn't bother expecting big results if you have no natural talent. While it is true that talent is important, it's false to believe that anyone is just given talent.

People with supposed natural ability work hard to get to the outstanding levels of skill they're known for. Often times what you see is the aftermath of all their extremely dedicated hard work and undying persistence. In fact most individuals that are viewed as natural talents would likely be offended if you told them that is why they are who they are. It's essentially a slap in the face to all the blood, sweat and tears they've poured into their craft.

Quitting is Always Just a Decision Away

It may sound oversimplified, but it's really true. Think back to all the times you've decided to quit something and then actually followed through on giving up. There may have been many reasons behind you deciding to do so, but in the end it all boiled down to that final decision and then it was over.

Even if it's something that you truly love, the option to quit is always there. Yet as we all know, quitting something, for better or worse, is often times easier said than done. So what brings you back to what you felt so certain you wanted to give up? Clearly it's persistence. Whether it's a strong love for something, a craving, peer pressure, fear of the unknown or any number of other things, it all equates to persistence.

Motivation Won't Always be on Tap

I'm not going to lie to you and say that you can just turn a faucet and out pours motivation to scratch whenever needed. If you're familiar with my articles than you know I've written a lot about how to stay motivated towards your scratch goals. The funny thing about learning and knowledge is that it can be something you're not always ready for or able to summon when you most need it.

This is where persistence comes in. It's most vital when frustration has taken hold of you to the point of an overwhelming desire to give up. For me personally it has easily been my biggest ally through all the growing pains I've experienced in my many, many years of scratching. I can't begin to tell you how many let downs, disappointments and periods of practically abandoning scratching I've been through. I don't share my darker moments to discourage you, but rather so you understand that a true love for what you do will always outshine any negativity you face.

Major Breakthroughs

You never know when your biggest breakthroughs will occur. In all honesty I'd say most of mine came over a decade after I began scratching. Will it take you that long? Hopefully not, which is why I've created and continue to create helpful scratch resources for you to learn from.

However, focusing on how long it takes you to achieve something is not nearly as important as how efficient and persistent you are. After all, once you've achieved something, you've achieved it so it's almost irrelevant how long it took. What matters more is what will you do with your achievements and how persistent will you be at your next round of goals.

Perhaps Quitting is What You Want?

Obviously, I can't make that decision for you. Not everything we take on in life is worth seeing all the way through. It takes some real introspective thinking to decide what's worth moving on from. There are even elements within scratching worth dropping. However, if you truly love scratching, I guarantee persistence will be there with you every step of the way.

Persistence Development

The best thing about persistence is you don't have to treat it like some unfathomable pie in the sky that comes to your aid from time to time. While my passion for music and art is what mostly kept things alive for so long, the truth is most of my strongest attributes in persistence were developed from direct and indirect training with minds much more persistent than my own in more recent years.

Great minds like Napoleon Hill, Michael Gerber and Seth Godin are just a few of the people that have had a major impact in my continuing forward with scratching for what I consider to be a lifetime journey that I'll never grow truly weary of. It is because of what these people have done for me that I strongly recommend you to seek out mentors of your own. Whether you learn from direct training or simply read a few books, it's an excellent next step in taking your persistence to the next level.

If You’re Not Staying Sharp, You’re Becoming Dull

How often do you practice scratching? If you’re being honest with yourself the answer is probably not as often as you’d like. The upsetting part of this, regardless of why you aren’t regularly practicing, is the deterioration of your skills as a result. You work hard to achieve the skill level you desire, so when you find yourself having to overcompensate because you’ve gotten rusty, it’s extremely disempowering.

Practicing Does NOT Have to be Overwhelming

When you practice, consciously or subconsciously, you’re making an effort to improve. The very word practice evokes feelings to take things up a notch. However, the challenges of improving your scratching can be overwhelming if you have a poorly planned scratch practice regimen. Even the best practice regimen can’t always account for the challenges that can come up in your life. So you say to yourself, "I don’t have enough time. I’ll just practice when my schedule becomes free again." Yet anyone who really understands time management will tell you it’s just an excuse.

The truth is even just 10 to 15 minutes can serve you well when approached with the right mindset for scratching. And what’s 10 to 15 minutes really? If you can’t find a way to create 10 to 15 simple minutes of practice time, it’s time to reexamine your life and make some drastic changes.

Thinking of the Consequences is Important

You have to ask yourself what will happen if you continue to slack on practicing. How many weeks, months or years will it cost you if you don’t take control of the situation now? Take a moment and truly think about this. How soon would you like to actually be at the ideal level you desire? For most this would be instantly, but as we all know, mind blowing scratch skills aren’t built overnight. So is it really in your interest to add to the inevitable amount of time it’s already going to take to reach your goals? The obvious answer is, of course not.

Many Focus on Improvement, but Few Concentrate on Maintenance

Do you realize that practicing is not just about getting better? Say you have a car that you want to upgrade. You can get higher grade parts all the time, but if you never change the oil your engine’s performance will be affected drastically for the worse. Now all you’ve got is a shiny, nice looking heap of worthless metal.

Don’t treat your scratching this way! When you gain skills you need to reinforce them. The good news is this does not require tons of time per day to do. It’s really just a simple matter of using what you already know. This can be done by simply scratching over a beat and improvising with the techniques and patterns you’ve gotten under your belt, or are at least working on already.

Use it or Lose it!

Scratching is just like learning a language. If you don’t use what you’re learning, you’ll be hard pressed to recall it in times where you want or absolutely need to use it. So take at least a little time each and EVERY day to do so. Turn your schedule upside down if you have to. Find the time, because if you don’t you know it will only lead to regret and regret is not worth cultivating.

Good Maintenance Actually Leads to Improvement

If you maintain what you know, it stays sharp, often times becoming sharper. Firstly because you’re regularly locking it into your muscle memory, but also because you give yourself a chance to regularly examine what areas of your scratching needs refinement, or even drastic improvement. Ever heard the expression, "Out of sight, out of mind"? So don’t allow your scratching to collect dust, become dull or get rusty. Take my advice and USE it!

Grappling With Nerves

Being nervous is a common concern among scratch dj’s, but what’s the biggest culprit behind nervousness? The biggest cause of nervousness, hands down, is the fear of making mistakes. If you’re familiar with the fear of mistakes, which you naturally should be, then you’ve likely dealt with it in a couple ways. You accepted it and moved forward anyway, or you let it prevent you from opportunities you would like to take on. More realistically though, you probably dealt with it in both ways or you wouldn’t be reading this. You moved forward enough to seek answers to the problems that ail you, but you’re still holding yourself back in some way.

There are many situations where becoming nervous about mistakes can affect you. Live performance, training with an instructor and even scratching on your own can all bring up feelings of panic. No one wants to look bad in front of others, not even themselves. The desire to scratch at your best is at the heart of any scratch dj that cares about their skills and how they’re perceived. Thus, the thought of screwing up, even just a little can be quite nerve wracking.

Redefining Mistakes

Let’s face it, mistakes are impossible to avoid so surely avoiding them is not the solution. What you need to understand is that mistakes exist for a reason. And that reason is to give you the chance to become who you truly want to be. If you run from or cower at the mere thought of mistakes, you have ZERO chance of ever getting to the skill level you desire, or experiencing all the great things that come with facing your fear head on. In short, mistakes are all potential learning experiences.

In fact, no amount of researching, teaching, training, coaching or mentoring will ever mean squat if you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes and make them often. I have seen it with many of my students before. They come in with this intense feeling like they need to impress me and then freeze up, struggling even more than they should. Ironically their fear of making mistakes is causing them to make more. It’s not until I introduce to them how important it is to freely make mistakes and the benefit of making them, that they become relaxed and start living up to their full potential.

Don’t Get Upset, Get Excited!

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not encouraging you to think that messing up regularly is something to aspire to. Of course you still want to get to the point where mistakes are minimal and you scratch at a pro level. However, in order to get to that point you have to embrace mistakes wholeheartedly and go out of your way to learn from each and every one of them. If you truly do this, not only will the fear of making mistakes begin to fall away, but your skills will begin improving at a more rapid pace.

So the next time you make a mistake, don’t get frustrated. Get thrilled and ask yourself what you can learn from it. The answer may not be obvious all the time, but it will come to you eventually. Believe me, because you’re going to keep making that mistake until you do. I know because I’ve made a TON of mistakes over the years, but one way or another I found and implemented solutions. Even if it meant seeking help from an outside source, like the training I did with my music mentor Tom Hess.

Cultivating Faith

Believing in your potential to achieve is important. Many people just like you have gone through the same scratch struggles and overcame them, but NONE of them would have done so had they not developed a "Can and WILL do!" mentality. Notice I said "WILL" and not just "Can". Simply believing you can, will yield very little results because it requires no action, but believing you will propels you into action because deep down inside you know that you won’t if you don’t physically tackle the problem at hand.

Don’t Let One Day Spoil a Lifetime

Undoubtedly, if you’re used to viewing mistakes as a negative it will take time to recondition yourself to feel otherwise. So don’t let a so called bad day on the turntables allow you to revert to your old way of thinking. Reread this article multiple times and keep reinforcing the idea that mistakes are your ally. Learn from them and they will reward you with more than you could ever wish for!

Pitch Variation – A Matter of Urgency

Scratching is a lot like your emotions. It can be very reserved and almost non expressive, or it can be full of intensity. Imagine if you had an emergency and you had to convey it immediately to the person next to you. It’s safe to assume that if you kind of mumbled the message in a lifeless way, they probably wouldn’t take you seriously. However, that is not the typical way we express ourselves during an emergency situation.

The opposite can also be true. If you were at the dinner table and you were asking the person next to you to pass the salt, you probably wouldn’t act too alarmed about it. However, many times in scratching we tend not to express the right emotions at the right times. Even worse we simply don’t express much at all. Working on pitch variation and the timing of such scratch variations is a great way to pull yourself out of the dark cell you may be currently imprisoning yourself in.

Don’t Throw Away The Key

Speaking of prison, if you were in a jail cell and you had the key you’d most likely open the cell and make a break for it. So why is it that we often place ourselves into boxes we think we can’t get out of? Often times it boils down to focusing too much on the problem and not the solution.

A great way to avoid self imposed limitation is to focus in on pitch variation. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced at scratching, you’ve probably painted yourself into a corner enough times. By taking what you already know and working on expanding the pitch range of it, you can greatly expand your expressive capabilities in scratching.

Become a Better Communicator

Various pitches communicate various things. Extremely high pitches communicate tension and intensity. On the other hand, extremely low pitches communicate release or a relaxed state of being. There are times to be intense and there are times not to. Our goal when relying on pitch to express what we want is to use it at the times it is necessary to convey such emotions.

The range of pitch in scratching is immense. For those familiar with turntables that have ultra pitch functions, you realize the pitch can go 50% faster or slower than the original speed of the record. With such a vast amount of octaves to play in, the options reach far and wide. The best part is you don’t even need an ultra pitch turntable to access this amazing pitch range. It can all be done manually when executing your techniques.

This is a great attribute for scratching to have because it represents all the different levels of intensity that scratching can have. Some examples of situations that call for certain levels of intensity would have to do with the melodic and rhythmic content of the beat you are scratching over. If the melody of the beat is laid back, you could compliment the beat with some lower, more even tempered pitches. If the beat is fast and the drums are pounding strong, high pitch scratching would be a great way to add to that intensity. Likewise, you may want to subtract from the mood at times when it becomes too intense by scratching in the lower pitch range.

Narrowing Your Focus

There are times when you may want to cut the variations down and simply stay within a tighter pitch range. Situations like this may include a beat where the overall mood is very static and you want to match that mood throughout the length of the track. Or perhaps the chorus is meant to only express one type of feeling and you want to match that emotion. These examples are by no means all inclusive. The challenge and the fun for you as the artist is to think and discover multitudes of ways to use pitch variation to your advantage.

Reach for the Sky!

As you can see, there’s a myriad of possibilities within the concept of pitch. It is important to realize that for every scratch you can do, there’s a chance to do it in a variety of alternate pitches. It will truly multiply your scratch vocabulary. Whether it’s a scratch you’ve been doing for years, or something you just picked up, the concept of pitch expansion can and should be applied.

A good way to get tons out of this concept is to place limitations on yourself. Imagine you’re a painter and you’ve decided to paint a mountainside. However, you only have three colors on your paint palette. You want to paint a brown mountain that has many different cracks, crannies, nooks and shadows. The three colors you’re restricted to using are brown, white and black. While that may seem like an extreme limitation, the reality is anyone with decent painting experience could tell you it’s more than enough.

Floodgates Unleashed

Now that you have a better idea of pitch and its function in the greater world of self expression, it’s an excellent time to start experimenting with it. Even if you just begin using it a little bit, you’ll notice quickly how much of an impact it will have on your ability to express yourself with scratching more effectively. You may even have extensive experience in building your pitch vocabulary. Despite that fact, it is likely you are neglecting at least some aspect of your scratching that could benefit from a wider range of pitch choices. Start being heard more. Demand people’s attention!

Your Record Hand Weighs a Ton – Getting Rid of Dead Weight

Having a heavy record hand is an all too common problem for scratch dj’s. Even worse, many believe it is only an issue that plagues beginners. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When we first start out as scratch dj’s we tend to over compensate for our lack of record control by using too much downward pressure on the record.

If we’re fortunate enough to even be aware that it’s a problem we will attempt to correct it, but often times this is just a slight alleviation of the problem and not the solution. This leads to spending months and even years unintentionally holding back our potential simply because of our lack of awareness when scratching and knowledge to properly address this heavy handed issue. Before you can fix this you need to understand why scratching with a heavy record hand is so detrimental.

Exaggeration Leads to Enlightenment

Imagine someone strapped a 50 pound weight to the top of your record hand and told you that you had to keep it on while scratching. Even if you’re strong, wearing such a weight on your hand would considerably hinder your ability to move comfortably. Since the weight is causing downward pressure and scratching consists primarily of forward/backward motions, it’s working against every movement you attempt, making everything unnecessarily difficult.

While I know it sounds like a ridiculous scenario, understand that you’re likely doing the same thing to yourself that the 50 pound weight would be doing. Granted, you’re obviously not applying that much downward pressure to the record, but you’re still likely applying too much.

So How Much Pressure is Ideal?

Let’s put this to the test with an actual exercise. In order to find out you will need to put a record on your turntable and press the start button so that the platter is moving. Now put your hand on the record as you normally would when you scratch, but do not move the record forward or backward at all. The next step is to begin slowly (at a snail’s pace) releasing any downward pressure you’re putting on the record until the point where the record starts to slip away from you. Now repeat this exercise, but now stop releasing pressure right before the point where the record started to slip away the last time. This is your ideal amount of pressure to be using at all times.

Warning Signs

Despite going through the above exercise, it’ll take time to consistently use optimal pressure. Your mind has many things to concentrate on, especially in the earlier stages of development, so you may lose sight of how heavy handed you truly are. So here is a list of things to watch for so that you’ll stay on track:

• The platter slows down or stops moving
• The needle skips
• Your hand starts to feel tired or sore

Avoiding Confusion

Keep in mind that there are differing amounts of tension that will need to be used for various scratches, but this has little to do with the matter at hand. However, it’s important to point out that tension and record hand pressure are not the same thing so be sure not to confuse them. A good example of this is a baby scratch vs. an uzi scratch. The first requires very little tension while the latter requires quite a lot of tension (mostly from the forearm), but both require the same amount of record hand pressure.

Further Precautions

Part of what birthed the whole heavy handed issue comes from equipment and accessory issues that have no relevance in today’s world of scratching, so don’t make it any harder on yourself than you have to. Be sure to have a good quality turntable that doesn’t skip easily, preferably with a straight arm. Use needles that have good traction to also avoid skipping. Additionally, use super thin slipmats designed for scratching. For a more specific idea of my recommendations visit: Turntablist Gear

Getting a Feel for Featherweight Scratching

Now is the time for you to grow comfortable in your new skin. Scratch daily with optimized pressure on the record and enjoy the new found freedom of motion it grants you. I promise you’ll experience lots of "Ah ha!" moments. As time goes on you’ll be very accustomed to scratching in this manner and you’ll be grateful you put what I have written here into practice.

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