The Power of Influence by Other Genres
There are so many different kinds of music in the world, yet when learning to scratch most are generally influenced by other turntablists. This makes sense and is actually quite necessary because so many building blocks have been laid down for many years now. However, drawing influence strictly from scratching will leave you sounding very typical. Even worse, because there are so many turntablists nowadays, with more and more starting daily, how can you ever expect to stand out if you're only being influenced in the same way that they are?
Conformity vs. Self Expression
Imagine you go to a private school where everyone is expected to wear the same outfit every day. Any passerby would just view you as another face in the crowd. However, if you broke the rules and came to school dressed exactly how you want to dress, you'd stand out so much you'd be hard not to notice.
Likewise, the more diverse your musical influences, the more unique your style will be. Not only will your scratching stand out more, but it will be more personal because your influences are likely to not be the same as others. This is where you will start to sound much more interesting because you'll not only be more unique when scratching, but you're also likely to innovate because the ideas you're working on expressing come from unique sources (more on this later).
What Genres Are Worth Giving Attention?
That is up to you to decide. Generally I'd advise to seek out the genres that naturally catch your ear, although sometimes it's worth listening to music that you may not like. Regardless of what you choose to listen to, there are certain things you should keep in mind. Pay attention to how the music makes you feel, how it's composed, what kind of rhythmic patterns does it contain, how melodic it is, what are the individual musicians within the song doing, etc.
Personally, I take a lot of influence from Jazz and Metal soloists, particularly virtuoso saxophone and guitar players. I think a lot about how they play with timing, pitch, rhythm, speed and phrasing. This has allowed me to really form a much more musical sounding scratch style, whereas before, I sounded a lot more stiff and monotone. Don't over concern yourself with my influences though. It's still best to learn from whatever source you choose, but I feel it's important to share my influences with you so you get a better picture of how ideas can be shaped from listening to other musicians.
Scratching Still Has its Merits
Not to confuse the issue, I must reiterate, it is still vital that you learn from other turntablists. So much of the hard work has already been done for you that it'd be foolish to completely reinvent the wheel. In truth, learning from other people who scratch is what makes it possible to even begin emulating other kinds of musicians. Without a strong foundation in scratching, it is extremely difficult to push the boundaries because you would have no knowledge of what the boundaries are.
True Emulation Doesn't Exist
As a turntablist, you are already in a very unique position because no other instrument sounds like scratching does. Think of this as an advantage. While you will not be able to fully emulate the sounds of other musicians, attempting to do so will naturally lead to unique sounds and style. This is also why innovation can come about. Since you're unable to truly emulate and what you're emulating is outside the circle of normalcy for most tablists, the chance for innovation increases tenfold because you'll inevitably discover uncharted territory.
Developing Good Habits
Don't make this a one time thing. Listen to other genres and the musicians within them regularly. The more often you approach the idea of emulating them, the more you will develop strongly as a turntablist. At first it might feel somewhat abstract, but over time it will become much more natural. Most importantly, your efforts WILL be noticed!
Article written by Kwote