Scratching Away From The Turntable
Improvisation is a very important part of scratching. Although there are methods for writing scratch solos such as TTM, scratching has a rich history of being improvisation driven (more commonly known among turntablists as freestyling). A typical approach to improvisation is to take what you already know how to do and create solos on the spot with it. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, what happens if you run into a physical limitation because the idea you want to use is beyond your current ability? Typically dj’s work around this by either avoiding it completely, or by working on that idea later in isolation.
If you make a habit out of avoiding this challenge, you’ll eventually hit a brick wall. If you choose to work on it in isolation, it’ll be easier to integrate in your freestyle as time goes on. However, if the idea is too challenging, it’ll take awhile before it’s fully integrated and even worse, you may fall back on avoiding it out of frustration.
Good improvisation is like any other skill and will take time and patience to develop. That being said, there is a way to speed up the process and significantly increase your scratching creativity. Imagine you have no physical limitations and can perform any idea that comes to mind. With such ability, your creativity could really soar!
Believe It Or Not, This Is Something You Can Do Right Now!
Take a few steps back and imagine you’re an abstract artist and you want to create a very expressive painting. Before you even set foot near a canvas, you’re already thinking of the mood you want to create, what kind of colors you want to use, different kinds of shapes and other things that will make the painting come alive. More importantly, your ideas of what you want to paint are vivid and you can envision it clearly. During this thought process there isn’t a single notion about being unable to create the painting. You’re completely absorbed in your own creativity.
This type of approach is something you should be doing regularly when working on improvisation. When you create improvised solos in your mind nothing is off limits. The tempo, note groupings, speed at which everything is executed and every other element is all up for grabs. You can create scratch solos that are not only outside of your own current skill level, but above and beyond anything you’ve ever heard before as well. This is why improvising in your mind is such a powerful tool for your creativity and will allow you to be very self expressive.
There Is A Time And A Place
And that time and place can be anywhere at any time! Think about what it takes to actually scratch. First off you have to make time to do so. Secondly you have to be somewhere that a turntable and mixer is set up. I’m sure you can think of plenty of times where you had the desire to scratch, but didn’t have the time, or access to gear in order to make it happen. Furthermore, I’m sure there are plenty of times throughout the day where you’re doing something that doesn’t require a lot of thought, such as driving to work, taking an elevator, waiting in line at the grocery store, or simply trying to sleep.
These are all great times to work on mental improvisation. For one thing it will make those types of activities much more enjoyable. For another, all of the time you spend working on it during these moments of your life adds up pretty quickly. By the time you’re back in front of your set up and ready to scratch, you’re really excited and have a whirlwind of ideas to explore.
That Excitement Turns Into Motivation
Not only are you excited about all the possibilities, but you have a clearer picture of where you want your scratch style to go. This can be extremely motivating when you come across physical barriers in your technique. Now that your creative ideas are stronger in your mind, it won’t be a question of not being able to do what you want, but more a matter of looking forward to when you can. With this type of mind set, patience and persistence becomes virtually unlimited.
Additionally, you’ll have more focus on what to work on and won’t waste time on things that aren’t what you want to express. Once you have obtained this level of focus, you can speed up the learning process of scratching drastically.
So How Do You Get Started?
If this concept is new to you, it might feel abstract and overwhelming to attempt. A simple approach is listening to beats you want to improvise over and mentally solo over them. In this day in age with all the mobile devices that exist, you can do this pretty much anywhere. Of course once this concept of mental improvisation is firmly planted in your mind, you should have little need for such a crutch, but it’s a great way to get the ball rolling.
Article written by Kwote