3 Keys to Effective Scratch Sentence Phrasing
Scratch sentence phrasing is a hard concept to grasp. Many dj’s want to do it well, but few seek out strategies for making it more effective. Even worse, many dj’s avoid scratch sentence phrasing altogether because they think it’s too difficult. This is unfortunate because it’s a powerful tool for capturing people's attention with scratching. Particularly people who aren't dj's, because it's easier for them to relate to.
A Clear Definition
Before we go further, let's define scratch sentence phrasing. A scratch sentence is a series of words put together on a record to form a sentence, such as "say what" or "so damn fresh". Phrasing is actually not specific to scratching and is really just a way of soloing with more emotion. Good phrasing is similar to a good conversation because it has pauses, punctuation, rhythm and mood. For good examples, check out artists like John Coltrane and Marty Friedman.
Scratch sentence phrasing is simply combining those two things. In other words, manipulating scratch sentences in a creative way. It is very common in scratching to move back and forth between two to three words in a sentence, playing them off each other. D-Styles is a master of this and you can hear him do it most often with "say what".
Key Number One!
Now that we've covered our bases, let's get into what you need to do to be more effective. You must have excellent timing. Phrasing never sounds good if it's not timed well. Treating your scratch sentence phrasing like scratch drumming is a common way to develop good timing. In fact, a lot of the coolest phrases are just drum patterns in disguise.
The easiest way to improve your timing is to take a two word sentence and time it to the beat you're scratching over. Often times the first word of the phrase will land on the kick drums of the beat and the second word of the phrase will land on the snares. In terms of a 4/4 rhythm, that would be the first word on the 1 and the second word on the 2. Scratch techniques commonly used for this style are forwards and stabs.
Key Number Two!
You must sound extremely clean. Scratch sentences usually have sounds that are close to together and short in length. If you're the slightest bit off, you'll sound sloppy because you'll end up going too far forward, or too far back into other words of the sentence. You might even land in a silent spot. Even if you scratch precise with the record, you can run into synchronization issues with the fader.
To gain accuracy, always watch where you're at in the record so you don't lose track. To do this, simply mark the record label with a sticker, so the beginning of the scratch sentence lines up with the needle. You can also add an additional sticker below the first to mark when the second word of the sentence begins.
To improve your fader and record hand synchronization, isolate one word of the sentence and practice stabs. Granted, stabs are just one part of scratch sentence phrasing. However, they're a primary element, so it’ll do you well to pay close attention to them. Clean stabs done back to back give a strong feeling of precision, like tapping buttons on a sampler.
Key Number Three!
You must have a variety of scratch patterns. If all your scratch sentence phrasing sounds like drum patterns it’s boring. This is why using the phrasing style of other musicians is important.
Typically when dj’s scratch, they use sounds like "Ahhh" and "Freshhh". As mentioned, phrasing is meant to flow like a good conversation. There are no limitations to what techniques can be used.
Treating each word in your sentence like an "Ahhh" is a great way to balance drum pattern phrasing with musician style phrasing. Just take one word and do a variety of scratches with it. When you go back to drum patterns is up to you, but if you use both ways of phrasing often, you'll sound more interesting. Phrasing is a big topic that can’t be covered in just one article. However, you can learn a ton about how to create high quality phrasing here: The Definitive Guide to the Tear Scratch.
Using the sound “Freshhh” is a great way to bridge the gap between drum pattern phrasing and musician phrasing. Since you're probably used to using a variety of techniques and patterns with "Freshhh", the next step is breaking it into two parts, using "Fre" and "shhh". You can apply drum style patterns to each part as well as musician phrasing. This will get you in the habit of phrasing like a scratch sentence and also establish some transferable patterns. Most importantly, it'll keep you from avoiding phrasing, because working on it a little bit is better than not at all.
Article written by Kwote