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Scratching is a DJ or turntablist technique originated by Grand Wizard Theodore, an early hip hop DJ from New York (AMG). Theodore developed scratching from DJ Grandmaster Flash, who describes scratching as, "nothing but the back-cueing that you hear in your ear before you push it [the recorded sound] out to the crowd." (Toop, 1991) Kool Herc was also an important early figure. The technique is designed to accentuate the work of the DJ by creating an assortment of sounds through the rhythmical manipulation of a vinyl record, and has spread from hip hop culture to a number of other musical forms. Within hip hop culture, scratching is still of great importance in determining the skill of a DJ, and a number of competitions are held across the globe in which DJs battle one another in displays of great virtuosity.

Almost all scratches are produced by moving a vinyl record back and forth with your hand while it is playing on a turntable. This creates a distinctive sound that has come to be one of the most recognizable features of hip hop music. Ideally, scratching does not damage a record because the needle stays within the groove and does not move horizontally across the record's surface. The basic equipment setup for scratching includes two turntables, and a mixer with a crossfader. When scratching, this crossfader is utilized in conjunction with the "scratching hand" to cut in and out of the scratched record.


Sounds and Techniques

Sounds that are frequently scratched include but are not limited to drum beats, horn stabs, spoken wordsamples, and lines from other songs. The three most commonly scratched sounds are the beep sound, "Ahhh" and "Frrresh", from the phrase " Ahhh - This stuff is really frrresh" taken from the record "Change the Beat" by Fab Five Freddy. This is most likely related to D.ST's use of the "frresh" sound during the performance of "Rockit" at the 1984 Grammy Awards.

Any sound recorded to vinyl can be used, though a new generation of CD players providing a turntable-like interface has recently reached the market, allowing DJs to scratch not only material that was never released on vinyl, but also field recordings and samples from television and movies that have been burned to CD-R. Some DJs and anonymous collectors release 12-inch singles called ScratchTools or battle records that include trademark, novel or hard-to-find scratch fodder. Some DJs prefer to rotate the turntable 90 degrees counter-clockwise in an orientation known as "Battle-style" to put the tonearm of the turntable at the top, furthest away from the DJ. This frees up more of the platter to manipulation without interfering with the needle.

Baby Scratch

The simplest scratch form, and the basis for all other scratch forms, the baby scratch is performed with the scratching hand only (the crossfader is not used). The scratching hand slowly moves the record back and forth. Moving the record slowly is important for this scratch form, otherwise it becomes a scribble scratch.

Tear Scratch

Like the baby scratch, the tear is performed without the crossfader. The tear consists of a simple forward-back-back or forward-forward-back motion, effectively breaking the sound into triplets, where the baby scratch breaks it into duplets. The term "tear scratch" can also refer to a simpler, slower version of the chirp. For example: the fader is cut in, the record is dragged forwards, the fader is cut out then back in again as the record is dragged backwards. The fader is then cut out and the pattern continues.

Scribble Scratch

The scribble scratch is performed without the crossfader, and is performed by tensing the forarm muscles of the scratching hand and rapidly jiggling the record back and forth in minute movements.

Chirp Scratch

The chirp scratch involves fading the sound in and out with the crossfader hand while the scratching hand performs a baby scratch. When performed quickly, this creates a distinctive "chirping" noise.

Transform Scratch

The transform scratch was first popularized by its appearance in the title sequence for the cartoon The Transformers. It starts with the crossfader closed, and involves moving the record very slowly with the scratching hand while periodically "tapping" the crossfader open and immediately closing it again. The Flare scratch is the same as the transform, except that the crossfader begins open, and is bounced against the closed wall to periodically cut the sound out.

Crab Scratch

The crab scratch consists of slowly moving the record while quickly tapping the crossfader open with each finger of the crossfader hand. In this method, the thumb acts as a spring, immediately pushing the crossfader closed after each tap. In this way, DJ's are able to perform transforms or flares much faster than they could by manipulating the crossfader with the whole hand. A precursor to the crab scratch was the twiddle scratch, where the first and middle finger tap the crossfader in rapid succession.

Orbit Scratch

An orbit scratch describes any scratch, most commonly the flare, which is done forward and immediately backwards along the record's surface. Thus, an orbit scratch can be carried on indefinitely.

Tweak Scratch

The tweak scratch, invented by DJ Mix Master Mike, is performed with the turntable's motor off. The record platter is set in motion manually, then "tweaked" faster and slower to create a songlike scratch. This scratch form is best performed with long, sustained sounds.

World of Scratching

During the 90's up to the present day its usage in popular music has seen a substantial increase. Some examples of this would be within Nu-Metal acts (especially Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park) and in some pop music (Nelly Furtado). DJs are also often included as 'stage-props' (especially in the urban genre) where they stand behind turntables pretending to emulate scratching and mixing. The majority of these DJs are there simply to add effect to the stage and create more of an atmosphere.

Because of this, many people perceive scratching as an easy and simple skill to acquire where all one needs to do is move your hand back and forth to create the associated "wikki-wikki" sound. The reality is, scratching is a skill that requires considerable practice.

While scratching is becoming more and more popular within pop music, the art-form itself is still predominantly underground. One of the most influential groups to the world of scratching would be the Invisibl Skratch Piklz hailing from the San Francisco area. Forming in 1994 as DJs Qbert, Disk & Shortkut and later Mix Master Mike the group took scratching to a whole new level. With their focus primarily on scratching, the group displayed exactly what the turntable is capable of.

"The turntable is the most versatile instrument. You can be a drummer, you can be a guitarist, you can be a lead vocalist — anything." DJ Shortkut

With the departure of DJ Disk, enter two new members, Yogafrog followed by D-Styles. DJ A-Trak from Canada was also a guest member of the group after winning the Technics' DMC World Finals in 1997. After releasing their Shiggar Fraggar CD series and touring various countries around the world the group disbanded in 2001.

Each of its members however have continued to prove they are at the forefront of the scene by pursuing their own projects. In 1998, DJ Qbert made scratch history by composing the first ever album made entirely by scratching - from the beats to the sound effects. The album was entitled 'Wave Twisters' and was later released in 2001 as a feature length movie. DJ D-Styles (now a member of the Beat Junkies crew from Los Angeles), who contributed the 'Razorblade Alcohol Slide' chapter to Wave Twisters was at the same time working in his own 'scratch music' album entitled 'Phantazmagorea' - released in 2001. Both these albums displayed an array of new scratches & techniques, further proof that these guys were still out there pushing the boundaries. In 1996, while both still a part of the ISP group, DJs Qbert & Yogafrog set up their own company — Thud Rumble — dedicated to the art of scratching. Their main goal was to spread the art of scratching on a global scale. They released their own videos called Turntable TV where DJs from around the world would hang out and scratch.

In July of 2000, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts held Skratchcon2000, the first DJ Skratch forum that provided “the education and development of skratch music literacy”. By bringing the globe’s important DJs together in one arena, professional and amateur DJs were given the chance to learn and utilize various skills, techniques, and styles. In the past, Thud Rumble was involved in the facilitation of important historical DJ events like ITF (International Turntablist Federation) and the Vestax World DJ Championships. After being praised by Source Magazine as the “Greatest DJ event of all time”, Thud Rumble had successfully added Skratchcon2000 to the list.

In 2001, Thud Rumble opened their office doors to become an independent company that managed and maintained the production and distribution of their own products. By working with various DJ artists to produce and distributed scratch records, Thud Rumble was able to provide a wider range of practice and/or performances tools for DJs. Thud Rumble have close ties with many of the leading electrical DJ equipment companies and have often been approached to help design new products for the DJ community. Most notable of all these is the Vestax QFO released in 2004. The QFO is a turntable/mixer in one, allowing DJs a portable device able to set up literally anywhere. Designed mainly for this reason it has met mixed reviews however since its release all of Qberts shows have seen him using only the QFO.

DJ Q-bert

Richard Quitevis aka. DJ Q-bert (or Q) is regarded as one of the most important figures in the scratch community today. The extent of his arsenal of turntable tricks and techniques can be seen in his self-produced DIY scratching DVD's released through Thud Rumble. Here he explains equipment set-up, gives advice on hand and arm strengthening techniques and offers a one-to-one tutorial on various different scratches from the most basic through to the most advanced. The DVD also offers a five-part battle section where DJs take turns at performing scratches over a looped beat.

Scratching outside hip hop

Scratching has been incorporated into a number of other musical genres, including Pop, Rock, Jazz, and Classical music performances. Two of the earliest such examples were released in 1983: scratches by Grand Mixer DXT on Herbie Hancock's hit song "Rockit", and, more obscurely, on a few songs the first Golden Palominos record, where Bill Laswell or M.E. Miller scratched.

For recording use, samplers are often used instead of physically scratching a vinyl record.

The Beatmania music video game series simulates scratching with a "turntable" on the side.

Scratch is a documentary film about the origin of scratching and its modern practitioners.

Christian Marclay was one of the earliest and one of the most notable musicians to scratch outside hip hop.


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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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