The Enemy of Stamina

Have you ever set out to scratch for a few hours and ended your session much sooner than planned? Mentally, it seemed you were there. You had lots of scratches to work on and many ideas were flowing, yet physically you couldn’t persevere.

You were likely pretty disappointed because your mind didn’t shut off, but your body did. What’s worse is you were probably unaware of the true reason behind your apparent lack of stamina. Since you were not aware of the real cause, you likely went back with the “Try, try again” attitude, expecting that if you forced yourself to regularly practice long hours you’d eventually be able to endure it.

Unfortunately this is the wrong approach and will only lead to either causing unnecessary exhaustion or cutting down on your scratch practice time. There are many reasons why one’s endurance may suffer, but the key reason behind such an issue is excess tension throughout your body.

The Tension Antidote

Tension can be equated to stress. When we are overly stressed we tense up. Our neck gets stiff. Our shoulders tighten. Our back gets sore. These are all symptoms of stress and shouldn’t be neglected.

When we seek to combat stress we do so through activities of relaxation. We might take a nap, drink a cup of warm tea or meditate. Regardless of what you may choose to do when faced with lots of stress, we all have the same objective. We want to get relief.

Tension is no different. It can also be dealt with through relaxation. However, if you’re in the midst of a scratch session, you’re not going to just stop the moment you feel overly tense and take a nap. Thus you must learn subtle ways of relaxing that tension when scratching so you may continue for as long as needed.

The First Step Is Awareness

Before you can remove unnecessary tension, you must become aware of it. Since this is not something that typically comes naturally, I will take you through a quick exercise. Stand as you normally would when you are scratching. Squeeze your right shoulder muscle and hold it for 2 to 3 seconds. Notice the feeling of tension this gives you. Also take note of other areas that feel tense when you do this, as your shoulder will not be the only area affected. Next, completely relax and take note of how that feels as well. Now repeat this exercise with all other muscle groups.

When you are finished familiarizing yourself with the presence of tension throughout your body, you now have a working model to go by the next time you scratch. In fact I recommend that, time permitting, you go to your set up after completing the exercise and scratch.

Focus while scratching on how your body feels. Are you experiencing any feelings similar to the ones felt during the tension portion of the exercise? If so don’t worry about fixing it yet. Just be very aware of it and know that you are much closer to increasing your stamina than you were moments ago.

The Art Of Letting Go

Now you are ready to start releasing tension as it crops up. Since you are more aware of how unnecessary tension feels your task is easier. Unfortunately, tension can be a relentless pest and so you must be extremely vigilant of its presence.

Think back to the tension exercise at the moment you released the tension. You are shooting for a similar feeling when releasing tension while scratching. Since you’re not standing still as you should’ve been during the exercise, you might be required to adjust your body a little bit. This could mean lifting your chin up if your neck is craning too far forward, dropping your shoulder if it is positioned upwards towards your ear, having a wider stance if your feet are too close together, etc.

The Jellyfish Syndrome

You must be warned that it is possible to over relax. While it is true that too much tension can cause discomfort and weaken endurance, too little tension can be just as detrimental. When you are too relaxed it becomes difficult to execute much of anything. In a case like that, all the stamina in the world is going to have little value because you will just sound sloppy and non expressive.

Too Little, Too Late

While it is good to be aware of and fix issues of excessive tension, it does not always equal out to increased stamina. Tension will often creep into our system without us realizing it at the moment it happens. By the time you become aware and diffuse it, you’re body has already grown more weary than it would have if you had addressed the problem when it began.

This doesn’t mean that you are doomed to never endure extended scratch sessions. It simply means you’ll have to work on your relaxation technique long term, continually increasing your awareness while scratching all the while. The best news of all is that eventually this will become second nature. This is great because once the process is natural you won’t have to cloud your thoughts with issues of tension and can instead focus on having fun when you scratch and expressing yourself.

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