Your Record Hand Weighs a Ton – Getting Rid of Dead Weight

Having a heavy record hand is an all too common problem for scratch dj’s. Even worse, many believe it is only an issue that plagues beginners. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When we first start out as scratch dj’s we tend to over compensate for our lack of record control by using too much downward pressure on the record.

If we’re fortunate enough to even be aware that it’s a problem we will attempt to correct it, but often times this is just a slight alleviation of the problem and not the solution. This leads to spending months and even years unintentionally holding back our potential simply because of our lack of awareness when scratching and knowledge to properly address this heavy handed issue. Before you can fix this you need to understand why scratching with a heavy record hand is so detrimental.

Exaggeration Leads to Enlightenment

Imagine someone strapped a 50 pound weight to the top of your record hand and told you that you had to keep it on while scratching. Even if you’re strong, wearing such a weight on your hand would considerably hinder your ability to move comfortably. Since the weight is causing downward pressure and scratching consists primarily of forward/backward motions, it’s working against every movement you attempt, making everything unnecessarily difficult.

While I know it sounds like a ridiculous scenario, understand that you’re likely doing the same thing to yourself that the 50 pound weight would be doing. Granted, you’re obviously not applying that much downward pressure to the record, but you’re still likely applying too much.

So How Much Pressure is Ideal?

Let’s put this to the test with an actual exercise. In order to find out you will need to put a record on your turntable and press the start button so that the platter is moving. Now put your hand on the record as you normally would when you scratch, but do not move the record forward or backward at all. The next step is to begin slowly (at a snail’s pace) releasing any downward pressure you’re putting on the record until the point where the record starts to slip away from you. Now repeat this exercise, but now stop releasing pressure right before the point where the record started to slip away the last time. This is your ideal amount of pressure to be using at all times.

Warning Signs

Despite going through the above exercise, it’ll take time to consistently use optimal pressure. Your mind has many things to concentrate on, especially in the earlier stages of development, so you may lose sight of how heavy handed you truly are. So here is a list of things to watch for so that you’ll stay on track:

• The platter slows down or stops moving
• The needle skips
• Your hand starts to feel tired or sore

Avoiding Confusion

Keep in mind that there are differing amounts of tension that will need to be used for various scratches, but this has little to do with the matter at hand. However, it’s important to point out that tension and record hand pressure are not the same thing so be sure not to confuse them. A good example of this is a baby scratch vs. an uzi scratch. The first requires very little tension while the latter requires quite a lot of tension (mostly from the forearm), but both require the same amount of record hand pressure.

Further Precautions

Part of what birthed the whole heavy handed issue comes from equipment and accessory issues that have no relevance in today’s world of scratching, so don’t make it any harder on yourself than you have to. Be sure to have a good quality turntable that doesn’t skip easily, preferably with a straight arm. Use needles that have good traction to also avoid skipping. Additionally, use super thin slipmats designed for scratching. For a more specific idea of my recommendations visit: Turntablist Gear

Getting a Feel for Featherweight Scratching

Now is the time for you to grow comfortable in your new skin. Scratch daily with optimized pressure on the record and enjoy the new found freedom of motion it grants you. I promise you’ll experience lots of "Ah ha!" moments. As time goes on you’ll be very accustomed to scratching in this manner and you’ll be grateful you put what I have written here into practice.

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!