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DJ scratching
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Under scratching or scratching (from the English "to scratch" for "to scratch") is understood in music jargon the generation of tones by rhythmically moving a running record on a record player with the needle in place. The tones can be rhythmically faded in and out with the crossfader of the mixer in order to combine them into new melodies . The record lies on a slipmat , which enables the record to be turned independently of the turntable. Most of the turntables used are also equipped with pickups that are designed to be particularly robust and stable in grooves. Scratching was introduced by Grandwizard Theodore in 1975 and quickly became an integral part of DJing in hip-hop .


Scratching spread within the hip-hop scene from the mid-1970s. After the first advances by DJs like Kool DJ Herc and Grandwizard Theodore , z. E.g. Scratches can be heard on the song by Vaughan Mason & Crew Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll (1979). In 1981 the song of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel was released . This track is a short DJ mix of different songs and - for the time - many different mixing and scratching techniques are used. Malcolm McLaren & the World's Famous Supreme Team released the single Buffalo Gals (1982), which also has some scratches. In 1983 the same band released the EP D'ya Like Scratchin '? , which is very dedicated to this art form. Also in 1983, Grand Mixer DXT was the first DJ to use the sample Fresh and used it to scratch the hit single Rockit by Herbie Hancock , which is on the album Future Shock . This was the first time that scratching was presented to the general public.

Especially after the turn of the millennium, a large number of different techniques (English moves ) were developed to generate certain sounds and rhythms. In the meantime, from this and from beat juggling, an art form of its own has developed , turntablism .

In addition to the usual records, record stores specializing in DJs also sell those that only contain tones and beats that are particularly suitable for scratching. Such scratch plates, which are usually put together by DJs, are called battle tools or battle wax.


When scratching, it is important to choose the tone used: a distinction is made between scratching and cutting. In scratching, scratching is used as a musical instrument. The tone used is in the background and the scratching itself comes to the fore. Sounds with a hard attack are popular here, such as a group of horns, human voices and synthesizer effects.

On the other hand, one speaks of cutting when entire text passages of a vocal or rap track are scratched and repeated in the context of a song. This means that scratching takes a back seat and the content of the scratched language becomes part of the song.

In hip-hop , cutting is often done in the chorus, whereby the content of the song is usually summarized in the cut line.

Another form of scratching is the scratching of pure drum parts, ideally a bass and snare drum sound in quick succession. From this, new drum parts can be put together by scratches or current drum parts can be added. This special technique is called beat cutting.

Well-known moves


The Baby Scratch was developed in 1975 by Grandwizard Theodore , who at the same time invented scratching in general. The latter happened by chance while, according to his own statement, he was practicing playing records in his room. As always, it was way too loud. For this reason, his mother came to his room to admonish him. At that moment he stopped the record with his hand as both were arguing. In the meantime he unconsciously pushed the record back and forth and heard the sound that was generated by it. After the conversation with his mother was over, he started experimenting with the sound.


The Baby Scratch is carried out without a crossfader, the mixer is not included in this technique. It is open for the entire time of scratching (non-fader scratch / faderless scratch). The plate is then only moved back and forth. The faster the plate is moved, the higher the tone becomes. It is possible to play patterns in a binary or ternary rhythm. This scratch is also called "Wiggy Wiggy" or "Jiggy Jiggy" because it sounds something like that.

Forward / Backward

The forward scratch is also known under the name "Cutting". It was invented by Grandmaster Flash .


At the beginning and at the end of the scratch the crossfader is in the closed position. After it has been opened, the movement of the plate is similar to that of the Baby Scratch. However, this move also uses the crossfader during scratching. The sound of the sample is played forwards and the backward movement of the record is faded out with the help of the crossfader. When moving forward, the plate can be pushed forward slightly - as with the Baby Scratch - but it should not be pushed too hard. This would be a different technique (→ see staff ).

The technique of “release scratches” is a slight variation. In this case, the sample is not pushed when moving forwards, but the record is simply released and played in any length.

In the case of "Backward Scratch", analogous to Forward, only the sound of the backward movement is played and the forward movement is faded out.


As with baby scratch, only the plate is moved rhythmically without chopping up the sound with the fader. The drill scratch is much faster and is carried out by tensing the forearm. The plate is moved very quickly over a very short plate path.


A drag is basically a baby scratch, with the difference that the sound to be scratched is first pushed quickly and then slowed down. Thus the tone changes (slower = lower; faster = higher). The crossfader remains open.

Tear scratch


This technique is carried out without using the crossfader ("non fader scratch" / "record hand movement"). As with the Baby Scratch, there is only one movement of the plate. The sample is first pushed forward and then pulled back again, the backward movement being interrupted by a brief stop in the movement. After the stop, the plate is pulled back further. This creates three parts of the sound (forward [pause] back [pause] back). The short stops described are the principle of the technology. There are no fixed guidelines for setting the stops. They can be performed as often as you like and both during the forward and backward movement. (1st example: two sound parts forward, one sound part back; 2nd example: three sound parts forward / two sound parts back; etc.). It is important that the breaks can be heard clearly. A variant of the tear scratch that is often carried out is called "swirl". This is the sequence already described above: one sound part forwards, two sound parts back.


The tear can be wonderfully combined with other scratches. So z. For example, instead of the normal, simple forward and backward movement, the plate movement of the tear can be used for a transformer or flare. This makes the scratch sound a little more funky.

Stabs or punches

  1. At the beginning the crossfader is on “off” and the record is at the beginning of a note.
  2. Push the plate forward quickly and briefly move the crossfader towards "on" and then back towards "off".
  3. Pull back the plate to the beginning of the tone.
  4. See 1.

This will cause the sound to play quickly and the backward movement will be faded out. If the plate is released after several sticks, a stuttering effect occurs (example: "Fre-Fre-Fre-Fresh!").

Transformer scratch

Two DJs are associated with the invention of the Transformer Scratch. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince performed in New York's Union Square in November 1986. There DJ Jazzy Jeff presented the Transformer Scratch. The recording was released on their album He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper (1988). In addition, the development is also attributed to DJ Spinbad from Philadelphia. The Scratch was named after a cartoon series from the USA in the 80s. The Transformer Scratch creates a sound similar to the robots in the series.


At the beginning and at the end of the scratch, the crossfader is in the closed position. While the record is then slowly moved back and forth, a long note on it is "chopped up" into small rhythmic staccato pieces with the crossfader. In the simplest variant, the sound of the record is simply allowed to run while the fader is "chopping", extensions are then the simultaneous fast or slow retraction of the record as well as playing the sound at a different speed (= pitch) using the pitch control or through Pushing / braking / running out of the plate. Entire melodies can be (re) played in this way.


The Chirp Scratch was made famous by DJ Jazzy Jeff , who first performed it on the track The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. This track is on the album Rock the house (1987) by the hiphop duo. The text is an homage from Fresh Prince to his DJ, who himself has various scratches, etc. a. just the "chirp" for the best. Since the sound of the scratch is reminiscent of the chirping of a bird, it was so called ( chirp = chirp).

  1. At the beginning the crossfader is on “off” and the record is at the beginning of a note.
  2. Push the plate forward and move the crossfader towards "on".
  3. Close the fader at the end of the tone.
  4. Pull back the plate and move the crossfader towards "on".
  5. Close the fader at the end of the tone.
  6. See 1.

This fades out the period in which the record slows down by changing the direction (and thus the resulting sound deeper) and a steady sound is created that quickly reminds of the chirping of a bird, hence the name chirp.


The name giver and inventor of the flare technique was DJ Flare in 1987. He invented the "Original Flare" scratch. This technique was later further developed by DJ Disk, D-Styles and DJ QBert and the so-called "Orbits" (1-click, 2-click, 3-click) were created. The idea behind the development was as follows: After the "Transformer Scratch" was established in the scene and various DJs were able to perform it, they tried to improve it. They tried to get faster and faster in the implementation. However, they soon realized that the scratch speed is limited due to the closed start and end positions of the crossfader. With a simple forward movement, the crossfader has to be moved twice from the closed position (two clicks or two up and down movements) in order to generate two parts of the sound. The flare scratch starts and ends with the crossfader in the open position. With a simple forward movement, the crossfader only needs to be closed once from the open position and then opened again (one click) to create two parts of the sound. This saves the DJ from having to move the crossfader. This enables him to achieve higher speeds in performance. The implementation of scratching becomes more efficient.

  1. At the beginning the crossfader is on and the record is at the beginning of a tone.
  2. Push the plate forward. The sound is briefly interrupted during the forward movement by briefly moving the crossfader towards "off" and back again to "on". There are two parts of the sound.
  3. Then pull back the plate and during the backward movement - just like with the forward movement - briefly move the crossfader towards "off" and back to "on".
  4. See 1.

This scratch is called a “1-click flare” (or “1-click orbit”).

This principle creates so-called phantom clicks. The change in direction of the plate is not faded out with this technology, which saves the crossfader movement. Nevertheless, the sound is interrupted because the record is briefly stopped due to the change in direction. Four parts of the sound are generated by a total of two clicks.


There are countless variations and combinations of this technique. When moving the record forwards and backwards, the corresponding tone can be played once (1-click flare / 1-click orbit), twice (2-click flare / 2-click orbit) or three times (3-click orbit). Flare / 3-click orbit). The number of clicks per movement is theoretically not limited to a specific number of off-clicks. There is also the "Original Flare".


The Crab Scratch was developed in 1995 by DJ QBert and DJ Disk . It is a variation of the Twiddle Scratch , which was invented by DJ Excel. DJ Excel and DJ QBert met in Japan at a DMC DJ contest and Excel asked DJ QBert how the flare scratch worked. Excel presented QBert with the twiddle in this context because he thought that this was the appropriate technique. For QBert, however, it was a new move. Back in his hometown of San Francisco, he showed the Scratch again to DJ Disk. According to his own statement, this then further developed the technology accordingly. At the US DMC Finals in 1995, however, Q-Bert presented this technology publicly for the first time. According to a story by QBert, the scratch was named after the food “crêpe”. When he and Mix Master Mike ordered a crepe, both found the vendor's pronunciation interesting and used the phrase as the name for the scratch.


The crab is a kind of fast transform scratch, in which three to four fingers dribble over the crossfader, creating a very fast staccato.

  1. The crossfader is “off” and is held loosely in this position with the thumb.
  2. While the plate is being moved, the little finger briefly pushes the fader towards "on".
  3. Let go of your little finger so that your thumb turns the fader back to "off".
  4. Repeat the same thing with your ring, middle and index finger.

The technique is reminiscent of playing castanets . Crossfaders with shortened opening travel, which have been available since the late 1990s, make crab easier and better, as dribbling does not move the fader to the middle, but only a few millimeters.

However, there is a possibility that the crab scratch starts and ends with the crossfader open. In this case, the scratch would in principle be a quick flare scratch, as this would generate the corresponding phantom clicks (→ see Flare ).


The twiddle is basically based on the same technique as the crab scratch. However, only two fingers and the thumb are used here.

Well-known samples

"Ahhh, this stuff is really fresh"

There are virtually an infinite number of samples and sounds that can be scratched, depending on the DJ's preference. The best-known sample can be found on the single Change the Beat by Fab 5 Freddy (1982). The B-side contains a track with the same beat, only the lyrics are different. This is from a French singer named Beside . At the end of the track you can hear the following sentence: “Ahhh, this stuff is really fresh”. The voice was processed with an effects device (vocoder) so that the corresponding sound was created. One of the track's producers is Bill Laswell. He and Fab 5 Freddy were looking for a way to end the track as original as possible. The words, however, are spoken by the manager of Laswell, whose name is Roger Trilling. This in turn imitated a sound engineer who was known for saying the phrase "Ahh that's fresh" when he thought certain things were cool. The whole thing became a joke in the studio and that's why it was used. Both the "ahh" and the "fresh" can be found on almost every DJ record.


  • Scratch , USA 2001, directed by Doug Pray. Documentation about Hip-Hop DJing and Turntablism ( English IMDB page ).

Web links

Commons : Scratching  - collection of images, videos and audio files