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

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.

How to Make Your Scratching Super Clean

Being able to scratch really cleanly is something that many people greatly desire. Part of what makes scratching sound professional is executing everything as clean as possible. If your scratching is overly sloppy it is not very appealing to listen to because it prevents you from clearly communicating the ideas you want to express.

Many think that simply practicing regularly will be enough to eventually get their scratching sounding super clean. The problem is that it's very unlikely that your scratch practice is focused on the correct things that will actually lead to clean scratching. This all amounts to a big waste of time with much less results than focusing your practicing on the areas that are essential to achieving your goal of scratching cleanly.

Use the Right Tool for the Job

Imagine you had a really dirty toilet. Now imagine the only tool you had to clean it with was a toothpick. Sure you could scrape off the gunk to some extent, but it would take you a really long time and the end result would likely still be a pretty filthy toilet. Now imagine you had a proper scrub brush and cleanser to clean that same toilet. Clearly the results would be much more to your liking and you wouldn't be stuck with a nasty toilet anymore.

The same applies with cleaning up your scratching. You need to pick the most effective method to get the job done. This method is what I refer to as 2 hand sync. This method involves training the timing of what your record hand is doing with what your fader hand needs to be doing at the same time.

Being Out of Sync is the Biggest Cause of Sloppiness

Now that you're aware of what the most important skill for cleaning up your scratching is, you need to further your understanding of how to harness its power. Just like not knowing what to focus on in practice is problematic, so is being unsure about what to focus on when working on the correct method. Even if you're practicing 2 hand sync you're likely to still have a lot of problems with fixing sloppy scratching. This is because when your hands are out of sync with each other you will not be clicking the fader in time with your record movements.

Better Understanding of Techniques is Important

One of the best ways to get an idea of when to time your fader hand with what your record hand is doing is to know how each scratch technique you are practicing works. Each technique should dictate specific timing. If you lack understanding of how techniques work you will never be able to execute those techniques cleanly.

Techniques like forwards, stabs, reverses and transforms dictate very specific timing. The definition of those techniques clearly states that the fader must begin and end with the fader closed. Timing for techniques like 1 click, 2 click and 3 click flare scratches depend on the fader beginning and ending open, as well as clicking in the middle of a forward or reverse record movement. While you still need a bit more understanding about those techniques and others to really work on your 2 hand sync, the basic definitions provide a good understanding of where to start.

Speed is Very Important

A huge misconception about clean scratching has to do with speed. It is not advised to try scratching at warp speed if you are generally sloppy at slower speeds. This is an obvious sounding point that many people actually are familiar with. However, despite their familiarity they typically run into another common problem that occurs when practicing scratching at slow speeds. They think that because they are scratching with slower more sustained notes that it's okay to open and close the fader slowly.

Unfortunately, this leads to big problems when working to increase your speed later on. While you may have longer periods of time between each click of the fader when scratching slower, it is crucial that every single time you open and close the fader you do it as instantly as possible. This puts you in a much better position for increasing speed because you will not have to train yourself to click faster later on. You'll simply need to decrease the amount of time that passes between each click of the fader.

Mastering the Basics and Taking Things to Another Level

You now have the general guidelines on how to get your scratching sounding ultra clean. What you'll want to do now is begin implementing the advice in this article for each of your scratch techniques, scratch combos and patterns that you want to clean up. You'll want to make sure that you do this in isolation, over a beat and within your freestyles as each context presents its own challenges. Realize, that just because you can do a technique cleanly in complete isolation does not mean that you will be as clean with that technique over a beat or in a freestyle integrated with all your other scratching.

You must also recognize that there are many more facets to improving your 2 hand sync that are often times very personal to your own development. This is mainly because your strengths, weaknesses, challenges and goals are unique to you. This is why if you truly want to excel at 2 hand sync and get your scratching to sound extremely clean and masterful, you need high quality scratch instruction. Come to my online scratch lessons page and discover how you can successfully conquer all your scratching challenges.