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

Why Weak Record Control Equals Weak Scratching

Having outstanding record control is the holy grail of scratching. Yet it is far too often overlooked, even by people you may consider advanced. The biggest reason for this is people's obsession with fader techniques.

Flashiness Can be Distracting

You may have noticed, especially if you're new to scratching, that most modern day scratch dj's use the fader quite heavily. In fact it's not odd to see thousands of fader clicks go down within just a few minutes. If you don't know any better, it's easy to get the impression that scratching is all about ripping the fader. Thus lots of newer scratch dj's and even some seasoned ones fill their repertoire with many fader clicks with little regard to what they're doing with the record. This often leads to uncoordinated, sloppy sounding scratching.

Even scratch dj's that are fortunate to gain coordination between their fader and record hand and clean up some sloppiness, never really gain much more than that. A lot of the emotion that could exist in their scratching won't because they aren't giving their record hand the chance to develop at an equal or higher level than their fader work. The most ironic thing about this is that having great record control will allow you to further develop your fader work, as what you do with the record dictates your timing of fader use.

Record Control Equals Emotion

You must realize that scratching is music. Music's purpose is to stir up emotion in the listener. That being the case, you should have some control over what emotions you trigger in your audience. One way to do this that resonates most with people is the pitches you use. Pitch control in scratching is a HUGE part of record control!

Lower pitches tend to represent mellow, melancholy feelings. Higher pitches tend to represent extreme intensity and excitement. There are many shades of those pitches, as well as all other pitches between them. Not to mention countless combinations of pitches that can make up a scratch phrase and what it represents. What it all boils down to is without high development of record control, you will severely lack the ability to be an expressive musician and thus never really connect strongly with your audience. Clearly this is important should you ever want to be a successful scratch dj, so don't continue to make the mistake of overlooking your record control.

Attack Your Record Control from Different Angles

There are two methods for record control development that will get you HUGE results. The first involves zero use of the fader. That's right, ZERO! Now if you're extremely accustomed to always using the fader, you're going to have to force yourself to let go of your dependence of it.

When first doing this, it's like taking a look under the hood of your car. From the outside it may look like a really nice vehicle, but if you've been neglecting what's going on inside, it's not going to be pretty. Don't worry about this! It's actually great to realize how flawed your record control is. Once you're truly aware of where you're at, you have a much more substantial chance of overcoming your weaknesses.

Keep in mind, you must approach faderless scratch practice with focus. You need to have specific things to focus on or you will NOT get the results you're striving for. There are three scratch techniques in particular that will be of great benefit to focus on. The baby scratch, drag scratch and tear scratch. These three techniques are the heart of all record control. In fact, most scratching is simply variations of baby and tear scratches.

The next method can and should be used as part of the previously mentioned strategy, but will also be of great benefit to apply while using the fader. This involves keeping your hand on the record at all times. This means you never release the record. You only push the record forward and pull the record back for all movement.

Generally, people approach their scratching by mostly releasing the record whenever they want it to move forward. This is unfortunate because by doing so you give up all control over the countless options of pitches you can use if you were to hold on to the record. When done in conjunction with the fader you can really breathe some life into all your fader based scratches!

Be Sure to Get Your Priorities Straight

You should never be 100 percent focused on any one area of your scratching. Obviously, record control is just one aspect of scratching. However, it is the MOST important and should be treated as such. The exception being, you already have stellar record control, but your scratching with the fader needs more development. Most likely that will not be the case though, as most people tend to have more of a deficit in their record control.

Gain the Most Record Control Efficiently

Since record control is such a deep issue, one of the best ways to develop it well, as quickly as possible is through professional guidance. Although you now know the general areas of record control that need attention, you'll likely have different weaknesses in different areas that are personal to you. These things won't always be obvious and even if they are, you won't always know how to overcome your issues. Don't allow yourself to get lost in a sea of problems! Take charge of your progression in the most effective and efficient manner possible with my online scratch dj lessons!