The Dark Side of Learning New Scratches

There are so many things to learn in scratching. Even if you're not new to turntablism you can still find yourself feeling overwhelmed. This becomes truer as you start to realize that there really is no end to what can be done on the turntable.

Unfortunately many people don't do anything to address their feelings of overwhelm. They simply keep focusing on more new things. While there is nothing really wrong with learning new things, it is only one piece of the puzzle. The biggest reason why feelings of overwhelm start to rush over you and take hold is because you're not giving yourself enough time to get comfortable with scratches you already know.

Imagine you're at a party filled with hundreds of people. Do you think you will make any worthwhile connection with anyone if you're approach is to say hello to each and every one of them? Obviously you wouldn't, but you would increase your chances tremendously if you limited your time to only a small handful of them. Of course you can increase your social circle further over time, but it's always going to be more valuable to invest time developing friendships than to know tons of people without really knowing them.

Mining for Gold

Approaching scratching from a similar viewpoint is crucial if you ever want to get any true value out of anything you know. This isn't a game to see who knows the most scratches. It's about scratching as expressively as possible with what you know. This will always ring true whether it's something you've been doing for years or something you just picked up the other day.

The Ins and Outs of Refinement

When refining your scratching there are multiple things to keep in mind, but the most important thing is thinking about what your biggest problem is with the particular aspect of scratching you're working on. Sometimes this can be clear as day and other times it will not be so obvious. Two things you can focus on that will make this task easier are to decide what you ultimately want the thing you're working on to sound like and what you're doing that's preventing you from achieving your desired result. As mentioned this will not always be easy, but by investing time to figure it out you increase your odds greatly to getting the issue resolved.

Once you have gotten past it you will want to look at what the next biggest issue is and repeat the process outlined above. Once you get that achieved you will continue tackling the next biggest issue until you have arrived at mastering that aspect of your scratching.

Don't Lose Yourself!

I must warn you that I am not saying to take this approach with just one challenge within your scratching at the expense of everything else you know or new things you want to learn. Doing so would be just as detrimental as doing nothing but learning new things. There has to be a balance, so I recommend singling out a handful of what you know and refining those things. You can have different priorities on a daily basis.

On day one you could try focusing on refining just a few things. On day two you could focus on a few others and so on. You could even have a day reserved solely for working on new things as well, but I would recommend you make that about 20% maximum of your weekly practice time.

Figuring out, understanding and staying on top of your priorities is the best way to ensure that you get the most out of scratching with the least amount of effort. Otherwise you will fall into the trap of spending many hours, weeks, months and even years focusing on the wrong things and improving at a much slower rate than anyone would ever care to progress at. I really doubt you want such a poor outcome for yourself so be sure to stay aware of the actions you're taking.

When Nothing Seems to Work

You may find yourself getting stuck on something because you are either unable to discover what is wrong or you are really unsure about how to get past what is holding you back. In situations like this the most effective thing you can do is seek outside advice. A qualified scratch instructor or high quality scratch instructional material authored by such a person is your best choice and will be invaluable in your quest to achieve your goals.

The Dangers of Playing it Safe

We all know that the key to improvement is to challenge yourself, but how much are you actually challenging yourself? Are you guilty of being too realistic? What do I mean when I say realistic? Well being realistic in terms of scratching and the challenges you take on, simply means assessing you're current scratch skills and then creating challenges for yourself that don't go too far beyond your comfort zone. While this is actually not a bad strategy for decent gains in skill over the long term, it is not a be all, end all way to approach scratching.

Lack of Comfort Creates Comfort

Sometimes you have to take a challenge that you normally face and double or triple its difficulty. The benefit to this may not be obvious at first. Of course your natural instinct is to feel that if you're already struggling with an easier challenge, why is multiplying its difficulty going to be any easier or less frustrating? It starts in the mind. Your mind is virtually capable of doing anything you set out to do, so if you're always playing it safe, you're just setting your belief system up to think you can only achieve minor things.

Being Unrealistic Pays

When you get more accustomed to thinking unrealistically, what seemed unrealistic before becomes reality. Aside from the mental aspect, you need to become physically used to high levels of physical difficulty. You'll never get a feel for what it's like to scratch at ridiculously high speeds for example, if you never attempt to do so. Sure you could wait until you're truly ready, but you're going to do that anyway. You might as well attempt to now so when the time comes for you to scratch comfortably at such speeds, you're already mentally and physically prepared to do so.

Don't Get Carried Away

I realize that my advice may sound amateurish, but that's only if taken out of context. I am not saying to do what many beginners do and scratch wildly out of your comfort zone regularly. I'm merely pointing out that you should integrate going way beyond your level of comfort into the other scratch skill building strategies you are or should be using to reach the level of scratching you aim to achieve.

There are many times where multiplying the difficulty of what you're working on will not be so helpful. Just as being realistic is not the only way to achieve your goals, neither is being wildly unrealistic. You must find a balance between the two as one feeds the other and vice versa.

Being Unrealistic in the Real World

Here is a challenge to give you a better feel for how you can actually apply this strategy. This exercise has to do with increase of speed, but keep in mind that what I've spoken about thus far is not only limited to challenges dealing with speed.

Put on a 4/4 beat that you can comfortably execute four notes per beat over. A regular challenge would be to increase your speed to five notes per beat. Instead what you will attempt to do instead is scratch eight notes per beat. Don't worry about how comfortable you feel or how clean it sounds. Just push yourself as hard as possible and keep trying even if you don't achieve it by the end of the exercise.

After you complete the exercise, drop back down to the more realistic challenge of five notes per beat and see how much more comfortable and at ease you feel now. When you started the exercise, four notes per beat was your comfort level, but now five notes per beat, whether you can execute it yet or not, will seem like nothing compared to the extreme challenge of doubling what you're currently able to handle.

Mental Barriers Come Tumbling Down

Navigating through such extremes will take the edge off more realistic challenges and you'll begin achieving higher levels of scratching faster. This happens because your mind is your biggest barrier to achieving anything. If you don't believe you can handle something with ease than you won't. It's really that simple.

Unfortunately suspending one's belief is easier said than done, which is why creating physically demanding challenges like the exercise above, will force your mind to accept the truth that lies behind mental barriers in scratching and what it takes to push past them. Seeing is believing rings very true here. Thus, I invite you to get creative by thinking of, then trying many ways of being unrealistic.

Never Get It Wrong – The Power of Isolation

Have you ever tried to learn a simple phrase in a foreign language? Perhaps you were planning on visiting another country and you needed to learn it and most likely other phrases that were critical for communicating things to the locals. In most cases like this, we tend to learn just enough to get by.

Getting by might be acceptable for simple trips, but what if you planned to move there and really immerse yourself in the culture long term? If you really want to be accepted and build strong, high quality relationships with the people there, you'd probably take learning their language much more seriously. Let's take it even further and assume that you want to learn the language to the point where even locals can't tell simply by hearing you that you're not from the area. With a goal like that, there's really no room for error. You'd literally have to talk the talk on a consistent basis.

Of course this may all seem very daunting for someone who hasn't learned a lick of the language yet. However, if you were to focus on simply one word and repeat it incessantly until you get it absolutely picture perfect you'd be hard pressed to ever get it wrong again. If you truly want to master scratching your goal should NOT be to simply get by. It should be to express yourself in the most fluent way possible 100% of the time.

A Big Piece of the Puzzle

This method of isolation that I alluded to in the previous example is a big part of what it will take for you to overcome your challenges in scratching and ultimately perfect your scratch technique. I refer to this method as drilling and if it's not a part of your current practice routine it should be. If you are faced with a challenge in a specific technique, random freestyle scratching and occasionally throwing that technique into your soloing will likely make it take much longer if not impossible to ever get past the problems you're encountering. When you drill a specific technique in isolation you are effectively shutting out all distractions when scratching and allowing yourself the chance to really get to the bottom of what is holding you back from improving.

Taking Things to Further Extremes

In fact it is possible that you may only be struggling at one aspect of a technique. In this kind of situation, you will need to isolate things even further and just drill that one aspect of the technique that is preventing you from performing it correctly. Perhaps things are worse for you and you just aren't grasping the technique at all. The strategy of extreme isolation is still the best way to approach it. Only now there are multiple parts to the technique that need to be broken down into their own specific drills before you'll be ready to put it all back together again and drill the full technique without such severe isolation.

Different Drills for Different Needs

While the above drills work well for techniques you are suffering big problems with, they don't necessarily work for other issues such as phrasing. When phrasing you are stringing together a group of techniques to create something where all the techniques sound like they're really meant to go together. Individually you might seem to have no issue performing any of the techniques you want to use in the phrase, but things tend to fall apart once you begin combining scratch techniques.

There are many reasons why this may be so, like timing, rhythmic feel, and contrast in speed or pitch as well as many other possible challenges. A great way to approach such a problem would be to isolate your phrase to only two techniques at a time. Work hard to see what approach will be best to make the transition from one technique to the next to sound the smoothest. Then once you feel you've achieved something you're pleased with, add an additional technique to the phrase and drill that. Often times it's the transition between one scratch technique to the next that is most difficult so you will likely have to go back to extreme drilling. Only unlike extreme drilling with a single technique, in the context of a phrase you would be drilling the transition only.

Refinement

While drilling is mostly best for getting past major challenges it can also be used to refine scratching that you aren't necessarily struggling with, but are getting close to mastering. This goes back to just getting by vs. perfecting things. Drilling something that you can do well, but haven't mastered will lead you to mastery much quicker than you would otherwise.

Making the Most of Your Practice Time

Keep in mind that items that you are struggling with most deserve much more practice time and things that only need refinement deserve much less attention. If you put too much effort towards drilling practice items that only need refinement you stand to progress at a very slow rate. No one wants to intentionally slow their rate of progress down so be sure to avoid allocating improper amounts of time to what you practice. While it is not impossible to judge what deserves the most vs. the least attention during practice, it's not necessarily easy either. If you need help designing a practice schedule that fits your needs and the amount of time you have to practice throughout any given week, be sure to visit this link: Scratch DJ Training

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