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.
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
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.
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.