Do you want to learn how to scratch? Do you have time to practice and do scratches regularly?
Scratching is not an easy task. In fact, not all DJs do and many don’t bother to learn because this skill takes thousands of hours to master.
Honestly, It took me over 2 years of practicing to be confident enough to incorporate scratching in my performances. Yes, it isn’t easy, so don’t be discouraged if you are still learning how to scratch and you are finding it hard.
For newbies who are interested in learning this skill, continue reading to learn how I did it! But, again, be reminded that performing a scratch isn’t easy and it may take thousands of hours to learn the craft perfectly.
- 1 How Do DJs Learn To Scratch?
- 2 How Do You Practice Scratching?
- 3 How Long Does It Take To Learn To Scratch?
- 4 How Do You Make A Crossfader For Scratching?
- 5 What Is Scratching
- 6 Tips To Learn How To Scratch Like A Pro
- 7 Conclusion
How Do DJs Learn To Scratch?
Before you start, it’s important to equip yourself with the right materials to get started.
So, here are some things that you need to do to get started.
Get the right gear and set-up
It is very important that you get the right equipment.
Getting the right DJ gear is important to ensure that it is capable of allowing you to scratch.
Once you’ve got the right equipment, you need to get a basic, beginner DJ set-up for you to practice. So, make sure to get a pair of direct-drive turntables, a mixer and a collection of vinyl records to practice sampling and scratching.
Digital controller and CDJs (CD turntables ) also work. They are increasingly more popular and offer features that enable them to be used to scratch, create beat loops, play tracks in reverse at fast or slow rates, and more functions that make them great for turntablism.
If you don’t own a gear, buying your first can be intimidating. If your budget is tight, you can start with a single turntable. Always remember to don’t break the bank.
For starters, get a mixer with curve adjustments on the crossfader. This will allow you to switch back and forth between the turntables more easily. Remember, a good scratch mixer includes a crossfader that does not have to be exactly in the middle before the sound is crossed over into the new channel.
Make sure to use anti-static slipmats because these are essentials when scratching. They are helpful in stopping the record from moving without stopping the whole platter from moving when you are scratching. You can also use “magic carpet” to reduce friction or “butter rugs” as your permanent slipmats.
Learn the basics
If you’ve been itching to start scratching, there are some basic skills that you need to learn.
Before you get your gear or do the other staff, I want to orient you with the different types of scratches.
There are actually too many types of scratches including basic scratch, scribble, tear, stab, repeat, chirp transformer, flare, orbit, tweak, loop, strobe, crab, hamster style, hydro plane, click flare and more.
For beginner DJs, you don’t have to learn everything. But it’s a must to learn the basic scratch a.k.a the baby scratch.
I’ll discuss the baby scratch in details in the another section.
Nail the technique
Choose a sample or sound on your record that you can practice scratching on.
Listen closely to records and stop when you hear something you might like to use.
Go back and find the exact moment the sound begins.
Once you find it, mark the groove. DJs used to place stickers on the vinyl, but you can also mark the groove.
Stop the record with your finger.
I’ll discuss this in detail in the next section.
How Do You Practice Scratching?
I know that you are itching to start scratching and this section will surely make you happy because I’ll be sharing with you a step by step guide to teach you how to scratch.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Select a track to practice
Select a track and listen to it. Familiarize the sound and every detail of it before your proceed to practicing it.
Observe the characteristic of the track when only the drum remains and the other instruments are dropped. All these details will help you scratch more professionally.
After analyzing the music sound, you will automatically be able to start scratching. Listen carefully to the track until you find something that you can use. Go back and analyze the track to find the exact time that sound comes out.
So, the first step is to interpret the track!
Mark the groove
Once you find the sound, mark the groove. There are several ways to mark the groove, so this depends on your personal preference.
The traditional way is to place an essay sticker directly on record to mark the groove. However, modern DJs no longer do this because they considered it an outdated technique.
Use your fingertips to stop the record
Once the sound you want to use ends, start to bring the record backward slowly at almost the same speed as it was played forward.
Listen carefully and notice the effects of the action you’ve just performed.
It will sound like you tapped reverse on your turntables.
Find similar usable sounds repeat the process and practice. But remember that there are two crucial keys to scratching in this step.
First, focus on the start and endpoint of the sound.
Second, once the sound ends, you will have to bring the record backward to the start point of the sound at almost a similar speed as the sound/track was played.
Put another song
If you want to be a pro scratcher, you need to learn to pair all your samples and track manipulations that you have done with the beat.
Start by finding a beat on which you can build your music. Analyze tracks thoroughly to find the breakbeats that you like and use them, accordingly. R&B, Hip Hop samples and classic souls can be an excellent source for you to find the breakbeats.
Learn baby scratch
Baby scratch is the backward and forward motion on a jog wheel.
It’s the first scratching method you should learn because it’s the foundation for many advanced scratching techniques and the easiest to learn.
How to do this?
? Simply place your index and middle finger on the record/jog wheel.
You can decide where on the wheel to place your fingers. You can also place your fingers close to the inner circle of the wheels to use smaller movements to create the sound. Choose your preference.
? Make a forward and backward motion on the record/jog wheel.
That’s it! You just did your first baby scratch. To master it, you can practice with different finger placement, speed and range of movement. So, explore and find your sweet spot because this is the foundation of the other scratches.
How Long Does It Take To Learn To Scratch?
How long should you practice scratching? I could not give a fixed number of hours for this question because it’s a bit tricky as each of us has a different learning phase.
In general, scratching is not easy and as I said, it may take thousands of hours to master the skill. For instance, when I start DJing, I didn’t bother learning this because most I know also do not know how to scratch.
But when I witness an old friend’s performance and he scratched like a pro I was impressed. It’s not a huge surprise though as he has been into DJing since high school.
But watching him perform that night awakened my interest in scratching. That’s when I started to learn how to scratch
At about the same time, another friend also joined my journey into scratching. So, yes we learn scratching together.
However, we didn’t dedicate the same amount of time because I was also very busy at the time.
He practiced 4 hours a day. I could only do 1 to 2 hours because I was also finishing college. There were even days or weeks when I can’t practice because my attention was divided between school and learning scratching.
After a year, his scratching skills were so much better than mine. I wasn’t surprised because as I said, I gave more time into practicing.
But you should also take note that aside from the technique, your mindset when you practice matters. The quality of your practice is just as important as the number of hours you spent.
When you practice, you should practice deliberately and you’ll be surprised at how much it can improve your learning. By deliberate practice, you’ve got to practice mindfully.
I continue practicing scratching but after the first year I learned about deliberate practice and mind you, it was life-changing. I still practice 1 -2 hours but every practice has become more productive.
“Practice with your fingers and you need all day. Practice with your mind and you will do as much in 1 1/2 hours,” Leopold Auer said.
How Do You Make A Crossfader For Scratching?
Many believed that you need turntables to scratch, but you might be surprised with this – the majority of scratching is actually done with crossfader!
Crossfaders work well for scratching because it has two channels and it’s generally looser, meaning it needs minimal effort to scratch. However, I know that only a few thought of setting up their crossfader like a scratch
When you use crossfader, you have to adjust the crossfader curve setting, which is built into most DJ software and hardware that create nice cutting wounds when scratching.
When its set to slow, it is ideal for mixing. But if you want to use the crossfader for scratching, then set the crossfader curve to fast. Once the crossfader leaves one edge, you will hear the opposite track at its full volume than track gain in volume as it travels from left to right or vice versa.
Setting up the crossfader correctly will help you big time in learning how to scratch. Make sure to check the settings and alter them to a fast or picnic bench position.
Also, use a scratch sample and practice cutting your crossfader in and out.
For Rekordbox users, the crossfader curve settings can be found in the preferences under the DJ controller header under the mixer tab. Make sure it’s set to the picnic bench position.
If you are using Pioneer DJ, look for the crossfader curve options. It’s usually a switch. When you do this, make sure that have more than 2 channels.
What Is Scratching
Scratching refers to DJ and turntablist technique of moving a vinyl record back and forth to produce percussive or rhythmic sounds. A
DJ mixer’s crossfader is used to fade between two records simultaneously. Scratching is also referred to as scrubbing.
If you are an aspiring DJ, you have to learn the art of scratching. Not every DJ is a pro when it comes to scratching because it’s hard. But it’s also satisfying and not to mention, a lot of fun!
Also, if the transition from one track to another doesn’t work, you can use scratch techniques and create a “train wrecked” transition that sounds like you intended it that way. When you know how to scratch, you are in control of your controller!
Tips To Learn How To Scratch Like A Pro
Improve your scratching skills by taking these tips to scratch wholeheartedly.
These help me learn various scratches with ease and I must say, these are very effective and helpful, so don’t be afraid to try them.
Research and listen
You can always start by researching on how your favorite DJ develops beats, and add elements and texture to a track from various sources. You can also look for scratch samples online on Google or Youtube.
If you have the time and budget, you can check for online courses. I recommend School of Scratch, their courses are really good and effective.
Also, the School of Scratch connects you to more DJs worldwide. So, yes, it is more than just a training ground because it also provides you a happy community. Sign up is easy because it will only ask for your email address.
Just like scratching, not everyone is a pro in beatmatching because of the Sync function. However, the classic DJs would agree that developing the beatmatching skill is a must in this craft.
If you are good with beatmatching, you won’t have trouble pairing two tracks for your DJ mix. You need a good ear for beatmatching and once you do, you will not have a problem matching the beat with the music you are building to produce a quality sound.
Experiment with sounds
To be a pro you’ve got to be confident in your own skills. Push your limit by experimenting with sound until you find the best technique for you. Try different tracks and texture. You can also experiment with different speeds and tempo.
For those who want to learn how to scratch, be kind to yourself.
Remember, it’s not easy to scratch and it will take a lot of scratches to master the craft.
There are various scratches to practice on and it usually takes thousands of hours to perfect this skill.
You’ve got to keep practicing and incorporate and experiment with a better scratch combo for your scratch routines. Also, whenever you practice, you should practice deliberately.
Practice with your scratch records with your mind and heart not just with your fingers to make the most of every hour you practice.
And again, for beginners, get the right DJ equipment and scratch from your heart to effectively improve your scratches. Also, if you want to take a course to scratch or to learn scratches formally, check out the School of Scratch because that’s their expertise.
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