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"The Art of Scratching: Techniques Every Hip Hop DJ Should Know"

The world of music is incredibly diverse and constantly evolving. One prominent genre is Hip hop, which has been a major part of urban culture for many years. At the heart of the hip hop scene is the DJ, manipulating sounds and creating beats to get the crowd dancing. A key aspect of being a successful hip hop DJ involves mastering the art of scratching. This slightly mystical technique can take your set to the next level, so let’s delve into the essential techniques that every hip hop DJ should be familiar with.

What is Scratching?

Before diving into specific techniques, it’s important to understand the fundamental concept of scratching. Conceptualized in the 1970s by Grand Wizzard Theodore, scratching involves the DJ moving a vinyl record back and forth on the turntable, manipulating the sounds being produced by the record player. It’s an artistic method to add more layers and complexity to the music, creating a unique audio experience and captivating the audience.

The Techniques

The following are cornerstone techniques that every DJ, both novice and professional, should master:

The Baby Scratch

The Baby Scratch is the most basic scratch technique. No mixing or fading involved, just straight hand control on the vinyl. The DJ moves the record forward and backward in a fast motion, creating a sharp, rhythmic sound. Mastering the Baby Scratch forms the foundation for more advanced techniques.

The Chirp Scratch

The Chirp Scratch is a step up from the Baby Scratch, involving the use of the crossfader. As the DJ moves the record back and forth, they manipulate the crossfader to cut the sound in and out. This creates a ‘chirping’ sound effect, adding another level of sophistication to the mix.

The Flare Scratch

The Flare Scratch demands more coordination, as it calls for simultaneous movements of the record and the crossfader. With a single backward or forward movement, the sound is cut at least twice, creating a rapid, ‘ticking’ noise. It adds more texture and rhythm to the music, elevating the overall sound mix.

Crab Scratch

This technique is more advanced, requiring precise timing and hand control. It involves rapidly tapping the fader with multiple fingers, while moving the record back and forth. The outcome is a quick succession of sharp, scratchy sounds that resemble the clicking of a crab.

Practice Makes Perfect

Mastering these scratching techniques will not happen overnight. Patience, practice, and a deep passion for music are vital in this journey. Always keep in mind that the unique sounds created through scratching aren’t percussion, melody, or harmony, but somewhere in between, adding an additional dimension to the rhythm of the music. It’s all about feeling the beat and allowing your hands to become an extension of the song’s rhythmic energy.


The art of scratching is that- an art. It requires skill, dedication, practice, and a sense of creativity. Subtly manipulating a song by introducing one’s unique rhythm is what makes DJs stand out and affirms their influence on the hip-hop culture. Understanding and mastering these techniques are fundamental to succeeding in the landscape of hip hop DJing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How long does it take to master the art of scratching?

There isn’t a set time frame to mastering the art of scratching. It varies from person to person, depending on individual learning speed, the amount of practice, and inherent rhythm sense.

2. Can digital DJing interface simulate scratching?

While digital interfaces can simulate scratching sounds, they lack the tactile experience and minute control allowed by actual vinyl and a turntable.

3. Do I need any special type of turntable to practice scratching?

A high-quality direct-drive turntable is generally recommended for scratching as it offers better motor torque and speed control.

4. Can I scratch on any record?

You can, in theory, scratch on any record. However, it’s advisable to practice on scratch-specific records that have longer tones and simpler beats.

5. Does scratching damage records?

Depending on the amount and intensity of scratching, some wear and tear on the records can occur over time. It’s suggested to use scratch-specific or old records for practice.


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