Why Your Ears Might Be Failing You
Listening is one of the most crucial skills you can develop as a dj. So why is it that people rarely, if ever, address it? After all, music is an art form for the ears. You’d be surprised how often you’re not really listening and just going through the motions. Yet, if you’re not truly listening to the beat you’re scratching over, you won’t be nearly as effective as you could be.
What do you typically do during a conversation? Listen to what someone is saying, then respond in a way that relates with what they said? Or do you spend more time thinking about what you want to say while the other person is talking, potentially missing key information? Often times we do the latter. You can imagine how much trouble this can cause. Especially if the topic at hand is very important to the other person involved. By not listening properly and responding appropriately, you could really upset the other person.
When we scratch, we tend to be really caught up in everything we know. From all the scratch techniques we have under our belt, to the patterns we have come to depend on. However, a lot of those things may not be effective for the musical situation you’re in. Remember, scratching is not about showing off everything you know within a minute’s time. It’s about expressing yourself in a way that makes sense for the music you’ve chosen.
Going back to conversation as an example, you wouldn’t spit out every word in your vocabulary just for the sake of doing so would you? So why would you do that when you’re scratching? This is why many of your listeners won’t enjoy, or be impressed with what you’re doing. It’s because your communication style is ineffective from not listening.
A Solid Approach
Let’s say you’re scratching over a beat you normally scratch to. You may think you’ve been listening before, but I challenge you to actually stop scratching and just listen to the beat. Think about what kinds of techniques and patterns would really sound good over it. Take note of how the beat progresses. Is it steady throughout? Does it build up over time or does it mellow out? Is there a melody, or is it just a simple drum beat? If it does have a melody, is there a way you can match what the melody is doing rhythmically? These are some of the many questions you can ask yourself to decide what style will best match the beat.
Don’t get discouraged about your scratching if you have patterns you’d like to use that don’t seem to work. This is good because most times, simply making small adjustments in rhythm and pitch can make the difference. Do you need to increase or lower the speed, or pitch? Do you need to use less or more notes? Take time to think about these things more often and it will start to become second nature. The best part is making these changes will increase your scratch vocabulary and give you more options.
You might be making good choices already, but it’s easy to get lost along the way. You could choose patterns that work when you started them, but if the beat switches you could miss the change. However, the audience won’t miss it because it’s the beat that makes more sense to them. That’s why you should listen constantly and listen well, so you can avoid sounding like you don’t fit in.
Silence as a Reset Button
When you start working on your listening skills, it helps to use silence in your scratching, so you can hear what’s happening with the beat and make better choices. As time goes on, you’ll know what works and what doesn’t. However, there will always be new listening challenges ahead, so don’t think it’s okay to give your ears a rest. Keep them active!
Article written by Kwote