A couple of people have asked me what is the best way to get started
with scratching, so I thought I'd write a little guide aimed at
What is hamster and regular style and which should I use?
"Hamster" style means scratching with the crossfader reversed, so when
you move the fader to the left, the right turntable comes on and vice
versa. Some people find this a more natural way to scratch (me
included). The main thing is to choose a style that you prefer and stick
to it. Switching between styles at the beginning will only slow up your
progress. Don't be influenced by the style other people use, for
example, just because QBert scratches hamster it doesn't mean you
What records do I scratch with?
Scratching takes years to master. If you wanna become good, you'll be
doing LOTS of practice. Every time you perform a scratch on a certain
sample, you're wearing it away. It's essential not to practice with your
treasured vinyl collection! Get yourself a couple of battle records to
practice with and when they wear away, get some more. I'd recommend
SuperSeal, because it has some common sounds like ahhhhh and fresh
arranged so they're skipless.
What are "skipless" records?
Imagine you stuck a little label on your record at the 12 o'clock mark.
When you play the record, the label will go round and pass the same
point every so often. Skipless records work by having the same sample at
exactly the same point spread over several rotations. This means that
if the needle skips forwards or backwards a couple of grooves, it'll
land in exactly the same spot on the same sample. When you start out,
you might be a little heavy handed and the needle skipping can be very
frustrating. Buying battle records that have skipless sections is one
way to get around this.
What scratches should I learn first?
Nearly all scratches are based on simple foundation scratches. It's
important to start with the very basic scratches first. A lot of DJs
will try and learn crabs and 2-clicks before they learn anything else
simply cos to them they sound impressive. That's not the best way to
learn. If you wanted to learn how to play a guitar, you wouldn't pick
one up and try playing a Hendrix solo - you'd start by playing single
notes and work from there - scratching is no different. If you want the
beat I use for the examples, you can download it by clicking HERE. It's in wav format so you can loop it up using
the Focus Looper I posted, or in the program of your choice.
What are the foundation scratches?
Baby - The baby scratch is the first scratch anyone should learn.
All you're doing is moving the record back and forth in time with the
music. There are various ways to perform it. Here's a little file with
some examples: -
.:. BABY SCRATCHES .:.
The file is broken down into 6 parts. Number 1 is the basic baby, the
others are just examples of things you can try for a bit of variation: -
1. Regular baby scratch. Just move the record forwards and backwards in a
regular motion in time with the beat. This is the one you'll start
with. Don't really worry about the other 5 below until you can do this
one with precision.
2. Fast pull back. Let the record play at normal speed forwards and pull
it back quickly.
3. Double time regular baby. Same as number 1, but done twice as fast.
4. Short baby. A bit like number 1, but you only use the very start of
the sound. This has a more "chopped up" feel to it cos there's a slight
gap in between each part of the scratch. It's a little like scratch 3,
but you miss out every other cut to leave gaps.
5. Half time baby. Let the record play forwards at the regular speed and
pull it back slowly. This is like number 1, but it's half the speed.
6. Short fast pull back. This one is a combination of numbers 2 and 4.
The sample plays at regular speed forward, but only let a little bit of
it play, then pull the record back quickly. Again, there's a pause
between each one so it stays on beat.
Forwards - A forward is essentially the same as a baby, except
you only hear the forward part of the sample. Open the fader, let the
sound play, close the fader, then pull the sound back to the beginning.
Marches - Marches are a combination of babies and forwards. This
is the first combo you'll learn. As with all scratches, you're aiming to
have solid record control and get a clean and even sound. Here's an
example using combinations of forwards and some of the different baby
scratches mentioned above: -
.:. MARCHES .:.
Drags - A drag can be performed either forwards or backwards.
What you're doing is slowing the record down rather than letting the
sample play at it's regular speed. Here's an example: -
.:. DRAGS .:.
I've exaggerated the drag movement in this example, but you can slow the
record down as little or as much as you like as long as it fits in with
your combo and doesn't knock you off beat.
Tips - A tip is like a really short baby. All you're doing is
moving the record back and forth over a short distance to catch just the
start of the sound, as in this short example: -
.:. TIPS .:.
Stabs - Stabs are a little like forwards except you're only
catching the very start of the sound. You can also change the pitch of
the sound by pushing the record forwards at different speeds. They sound
like this in their most basic form: -
.:. STABS .:.
Chirps - The record movement of a chirp is the same as a baby. If
you've practiced your baby scratches so they're nice and clean then
give chirps a try. Start with the fader open, then move the record
forwards. As soon as you hear the sound start to play, close the fader,
but continue moving the record as if you were doing a baby. As you move
the record backwards, just before you get to the start of the sample
again, open the fader. What you're doing is using the fader to cut away a
large portion of the sample. This gives a crisp, defined sound. Here's
an example: -
.:. CHIRPS .:.
Tears - There are many different tear combinations. An easy one
to learn first is the 1 forward, 2 back tear. The record motion is a bit
like this: -
Play sound forwards - Pull back half way - Pause briefly - Pull back to
The pause is splitting or "tearing" the sound into two. Here's an
.:. TEARS .:.
Other tears include the 2 forward, 1 back and the 2 forward, 2 back
which is known as the clover tear. Practice various combinations.
Transforms - A transform is a technique, not a specific scratch.
The fader starts closed and ends closed. What you're basically doing is
snapping the fader on and off to chop up a sound. Transforms can be done
over the top of other scratches including babies and tears to add more
definition to the sound. Here's an example of some simple transform
.:. TRANSFORMS .:.
Why is it better to learn these scratches first?
An example of a more advanced scratch is the crab orbit. You move the
record forwards and backwards while crabbing the crossfader. What you're
doing with the record is a baby scratch. If you haven't practiced the
basic faderless baby scratch, then you won't have a nice consistent
motion so your advanced scratches will sound sloppy. If you practice all
the basic techniques above, then when you move on to flares, 2-clicks,
orbits etc. you'll have a head start over people who jumped straight in
trying to do them, plus your scratching will sound clean and precise.
Even if you only get a few of the basics down, you can use these
techniques when you're doing a set to add an extra dimension to your
mixing. A few simple scratches here and there sound a lot better than
sloppy attempts at complex ones.
*****AUDIO SAMPLES CAN BE FOUND
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