Magnifying Your Flaws

The ego is a funny thing. When it comes to our musical skills, most of us don’t let our ego rage out of control telling us how amazing we are. We tend to believe that we have a pretty firm grasp on what our current ability of scratching is. Unfortunately, even the most level headed, conscientious individual will have trouble being highly aware of all their scratching flaws.

Sometimes what we want to hear and expect from ourselves becomes what we hear despite the fact that it is not what’s actually happening. Consider a singer who has nearly mastered a popular song. The line between nailing the song and almost nailing it is very thin. As time goes on their vision of what they’re working towards could seemingly come into reality. However, another singer who is also very familiar with the song could likely spot some mistakes that the first singer is making such as occasionally going out of key.

If that person was to be informed that they’re having problems, it may be difficult for them to take the critique seriously. A situation like this could benefit greatly from a recording. If they listened well to a recording of themselves they’d likely catch the mistakes that their mind wasn’t allowing them to hear in the midst of actually singing it. This is great for the singer because they now have the dose of reality they need to tackle the last parts of the song that are preventing them from getting it down cold.

What This Means From A Scratch DJ Perspective

Since scratching is much more physical, video recording would actually be more beneficial for catching all the flaws that are holding you back. With scratching there are so many things that could be improved and in order for it all to sound like you mean for it to sound, you must be very precise. Often times you can be barely off in your scratch technique or timing, so it’s crucial that you have the ability to review your scratching with a critical ear and eye since it’s much harder to catch such minor issues while in the act.

How Often Should You Video Record Yourself?

Well, it really depends on your skill level and needs. However, a good general guideline would be as often as once a week and no less than once a month. If you are practicing scratching daily a month is a long time to go without giving yourself the type of feedback that video recording affords you. Since we’re naturally prone to miss a lot of the flaws without such perspective, letting months and months go by can be dangerously risky.

Even a week can be a long time if your practice efforts are efficient and effective. If you’re working through a quality daily scratch practice strategy your progress should be notable each week. In fact, recording weekly could be an eye opener that your practice strategy may not be as effective as you assumed it was. Video is a good way to review your victories and defeats and gear the following week’s practice schedule towards your scratching problem areas so you can continue to speed up your scratch progress.

Is There Such Thing As Too Much?

While I do believe that weekly recording sessions can be extremely helpful, I understand that it might be tough mentally for someone who doesn’t feel they’re progressing at the rate they want. If you are that type of person you might want to dial back the amount of recording you do to a monthly basis. I must caution you though that you’re probably worrying too much about your feelings and not enough about what you can do to ensure that you will increase your rate of improvement at scratching. The beauty of recording often is the pressure that comes with it melts away. It just becomes a natural and essential part of what you do.

It’s Not Just About Mistakes

Not everything that you want to fix will be a technical issue. You may be doing plenty of things that are technically correct, but don’t necessarily sound good to you. This is an excellent opportunity for you to note what you like and don’t like about your scratch style and begin crafting a style that is much more pleasing to you. This is where your personality starts to shine through a lot more because you’re making personal choices about how you want to ultimately sound when you scratch.

Excuses Will Not Get You Far

Nowadays the cost to record is dirt cheap. Granted it won’t be the ultimate in high definition recording if you go low budget, but that’s irrelevant. You just need a clear enough picture and sound so you can catch all the details of what you’ve captured. Many of you already have a device that captures video like a webcam or cell phone, so even if you plan to get a nice camcorder later on you can still get started today.

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

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