To DeeJay or Not: Tutorial Part One

In our introduction last week,

we spoke about the DJ that doesn’t really “DeeJay," mixtapes, and

learning the fundamentals. This week will be dedicated to the beginner,

but if you’ve been spinnin’ for a while, you might learn a thing or

two as well. Here are some of the basics that I mentioned last week: 

1. Scratchin' / Cuttin'-

These days even the "corporate suit" knows what this is or has

at least heard a DJ cut it up. Scratches have been used in everything

from mainstream commercials for fast food chains to major motion pictures. GrandMaster Flash originally made this technique famous back

in the late 70s in the South Bronx. (Check out his scene in the classic

movie Wild Style as Fab 5 Freddie watches him wreck the

turntables) I was inspired to become a DJ and MC as a teenager when

I saw Run D.M.C. and their DJ, Jam Master Jay (RIP), cut up the group's name on the 1st Fresh Fest tour

at the Washington D.C. Coliseum. You can also peep some elements of the Run D.M.C. routine that

I mentioned in the movie Krush Groove.

Some DJs prefer scratching

as a method of going from one record to the next because it adds an element of surprise. The crowd doesn't know what record

is going to follow unless a familiar word or sound from the song being

mixed-in is incorporated. This tactic is a quick teaser that gets the

crowd excited as they anticipate the next record. It also allows you

to go from one record to another while jumping up or down to a totally

different tempo. Many styles of scratches and turntable tricks have

been incorporated throughout the years. Check out the examples below for the beginning and the more experienced DJs.

Basic Scratches:

a. The Stab - This scratch involves all forward movements

on the record while bringing the cross fader to the center simultaneously.

b. The Chirp - This is when you move the record

back and forth and every time you move the record forward cut the volume

with the cross fader. DJ Jazzy Jeff did this first and cut up a whistle

sound so it sounded like a bird chirping

c. The Tear - To perform this scratch you must move the record

back and forth but, you pull it back twice quickly 

Advanced Scratches:

a. Transformer Scratch - To execute this scratch you must move

the record slowly, but cut the cross fader on and off to chop up the sound

b. The Flair - This scratch involves moving the record

back and forth while cutting the sound off in between

c. The Crab - This is called "The Crab" because you use your fingers to move the fader in and use your

thumb as a spring to move it back 

2. Blendin' / Beat Matchin'

- I don't party as much as I used to but some of the parties that

I've attended lately have consisted of the DJ stopping the music after

every song, yelling into the microphone to introduce the next joint, or just

suddenly slamming in the next record when they feel like it with no

regard to beats, bars or timing. This method is cool sometimes, depending

on how it's done, but no one wants to hear that all night. In contrast,

blending or beat matching is the process of smoothly mixing 2 records

together, usually during the chorus of the song, to keep the music going

uninterrupted. The mission here is to almost make the transition from

one song to the next sound like a continuation of the same record.

Timing is paramount here because

you want the snares from both records to hit simultaneously, otherwise

you'll get what we call a "Train Wreck." Blending is most successfully

achieved by using two songs of the same or close BPMs (Beats per Minute)

or tempo and slightly adjusting the pitch of the record that you're

blending in to match the tempo of the song that's currently playing. A good blend these days lasts

between 4 to 8 bars or more, depending on the DJ's personal

style. Most DJs with

a good ear know which records will blend well together just by listening

to a song for a few seconds.

Check out DJ Spinbad's scratching tutorial:

GrandMaster Flash’s classic performance in Wild Style

The Legendary Jam Master Jay In Krush Groove