Why Thoughtless Solos Get Greeted With Closed Minds

Composition isn't something that gets discussed much in the scratch community. However, without it music lacks structure and without structure music is essentially just a bunch of noise. This holds true when any instrumentalist solos as well. A well composed solo is a great solo. Likewise, if there is little to no thoughtful composition in a scratch solo it will not be enjoyable to listen to.

Composition tends to be thought of as a written process, yet in scratching writing out your solos is very rare. However, just because the bulk of scratch solos that exist are improvised does not mean that they can't be well composed. If that were the case, all the greats of scratching would sound thoughtless and unconvincing, thus there'd be no great scratch dj's.

Know Your Audience

Whether your audience is comprised of other turntablists or people that have little to no connection with turntablism, one thing bonds them together. If your solos lack structure, they will notice and subsequently be turned off. They may not be able to put what they dislike into words, but they will naturally lack enjoyment from what you're doing.

Improvisation Love it or Love it

Let's face it, if you don't enjoy improvising you better learn to or switch instruments because the backbone of scratching is and will likely always be improvisation. So how do you give your solos a feeling of quality composition if everything you're doing is on the spot? Well there are many ways, but one simple yet effective way that you can implement immediately is repetition.

Repetition Gives a Feeling of Structure

If all of your solos are just one long string of different scratches where repetition comes few and far between the audience never has a chance to feel anchored to what you're doing. It will fly right over their heads. If something sounds good it should be repeated multiple times. Get the most juice you can out of it until it's dry. That's why pop songs are so popular because they always have a hook. Don't get me wrong, I'm not telling you to be as maniacally repetitive as a pop song, but you need to get more mileage out of the scratch patterns you know so the audience has a chance to soak them in and really enjoy them.

This is also important when considering that most scratch beats are in a simple, repetitive 4/4 format with no hooks whatsoever. This makes the responsibility of providing a hook like feeling fall to you as the soloist. If you don't do this, audiences that are used to receiving the feeling hooks give off in other genres will be lost and naturally disinterested.

Timing Goes Hand in Hand with Repetition

Don't make the mistake of assuming that simply repeating a combo multiple times at any moment is enough. Timing is still a crucial part of utilizing repetition. Going back to hooks, listen to any major pop tune and you'll notice the hooks are always well timed. This isn't an accident. The goal is to maximize the effectiveness of the hook, so it will often times come after a song has built up a lot of tension and is giving a feeling of beginning to climax.

What this means for you as a scratch soloist is you'll have to feel things out. If you're scratching over a simple 4/4 beat you will be completely steering the ship. If the beat is a little more complex and actually has hooks of its own, you can use those hooks as cues for your own repetition. Either way you'll have to develop a good sense of timing and that comes mostly from experience.

Never Go Too Long Without Repeating Yourself

A good way to get your feet wet with this concept is to simply not allow yourself to go more than 30 seconds at a time without launching into a string of combo repetition. As you continue to do this, you'll soon get a feel for what sounds and feels right as far as when to launch into repetition, how many times to repeat a combo as well as how often. Nothing is a better teacher than experience, so don't wait to transform your scratch solos into breathtaking feats and get started today!

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.

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