Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Deconstructing the DJ: Forms of Scratch

OK, so remember when I told you about how Grand Wizard Theodore brought in the scratching technique (as well as the needle drop) into the art of DJing? After his discovery came the entire art of turntablism. And within turntablism, one of the playing techniques you have to know is the scratch.

There are over a dozen techniques within scratching, which is basically the art of moving a record back and forth on a turntable. I won't go into all of them, but I can get into the most widely used and innovative scratches in the history of hip-hop.

The first scratching technique is the Transformer scratch. The transformer scratch is where the record is moved (in whatever motion the DJ prefers) while the crossfader is rapidly tapped open and closed. Doing this will make the music go in and out of play, allowing the sound to resemble that of a Transformer (like the 80s cartoon it was named after).

Another scratching techniques is the Crab scratch. This technique is more for show than an actual technical sound creator because it exists when the DJ taps the crossfader open and closed with each finger while moving the record by hand. The motion made in this scratch will make the hand moving the crossfader resemble a crab. It does however provide an increase in sound or an easy fade out of a song, allowing the DJ to implement other techniques a lot quicker.

A third well-known scratching technique is the Flare. This is similar to how you would scratch using the Transformer technique, but the sound comes off as a flare (like you're throwing the sound out to the dance floor). To do a flare, a DJ clicks the crossfader twice while bringing the record forward (on the first click) then backward (on the second click). This technique also embodies the Chirp and the Orbit scratches.

The last technique is the Scribble scratch. Basically the DJ vibrates the record (or moves the record back and forth very rapidly) so that it makes a sound like someone is scribbling on a notepad. It gives one of the most distinct sounds in turntablism and, if done with the perfect record, will get the party amped.

All of these techniques combined can make party-goers go nuts, especially if the DJ does the right scratch with the right record. It is this form of DJing art that people in and out of the hip-hop community look forward to whenever they see a DJ around.

A good series of videos to watch on scratching is from DJ Qbert. If you start with one of the videos featuring him from the above techniques, you will be able to see his other demonstrations of the many forms of scratching.

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