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.

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!