Basic & Advanced DJ Forms Annotated
This is a reference guide intended for understanding and learning basic DJ forms as well as some advanced scratch combinations.
Scratching occurs when a DJ physically alters the natural progression of a song or audio sample, coupling varied forward/reverse vinyl movements with the opening/closing of the cross fader on an appropriate DJ mixer.
Such maneuvers can be performed in conjunction with on-the-fly adjustments by manipulating other components such as the Mixer volume faders, Equalizer knobs, or by the turntable’s pitch, start/stop button, or power knob. Once the practitioner becomes oriented with their gear, many maneuvers can be performed to achieve almost limitless combinations.
Understanding the Symbols:
X = closed fader / = forward motion
O = open fader \ = backward motion
_ or - = pause
The symbols above were chosen to provide direction, proper form and scratch shape. When a “/” (forward slash) or a “\” (backward slash) is present, it means that the vinyl hand moves the record “forward” or “reverse/backward” in a smooth motion. If there are 2 or 3 slashes in vertical succession forming a diagonal line, it symbolizes a singular uninterrupted motion.
- Pauses in directional motion only occur when “-” (dash) or “_” (underscore) exists.
- Finally, “X” and “O” symbolizes the state of the central cross fader, indicating whether it is either closed (X) or open (O).
With these basic symbols anyone can transcribe their inventive combinations on paper or electronically (though html hinders sharing).
Additional Info and Techniques
Thumb Spring Fading: (adjust fader curve so Left and Right channels cut in at 1-3mm)
If your fading agility begins to peak and you demand more speed, there are 2, 3 and 4 click solutions available by accessing the springing capabilities of your thumb. To do so, use your thumb to apply light pressure towards the “X” (closed fader) direction.
- When scratching, keep in mind that 1,2,3 and even 4-Click fader motions can be twiddled and crabbed.
- Twiddle (2-click): Strike the cross fader gently, but firmly enough to reveal the sample, alternating between your index and middle fingers.
- Crab (3 & 4-click): Starting with the ring (3-click) or the pinky (4-click) fingers, slide each finger in order (pinky, ring, middle, index) across the cross fader revealing the sample, cycling back to the pinky to repeat the maneuver.
- In addition, note that the vinyl can be pushed, pulled, released, thrown or back spun for additional variations. For added fun, make contact with both hands on the turntable adding inventive and creative techniques to the form.
Anyhow, onto the scratches!
After understanding and practicing proper scratch form, experiment with different scratch lengths, speeds, rhythms, etc.
With an open fader, push and pull the record in succession.
Like a baby scratch, except using only the middle finger, tense the muscles in the hand to create a rapid forward/backward warble.
Open the fader while releasing the record to reveal the sample, then quickly close it as the sample ends.
Like a Cut in regards to the fader, except you push the record instead of releasing it.
Like a Baby scratch, except the peak of the movement just reveals the very beginning of a sample.
Open the fader while progressing forward, then backward toward a closed fader.
Begin before the sample with an open fader. Push the record while closing the fader to mute the sample. Then pull to reveal a snippet while returning to the starting point.
Repeatedly and rhythmically click the fader while the record is freely playing or when you are pushing, pulling, releasing or spinning the record at any speed. Transcribed, the written image resembles a chain of cuts or stabs.
Flares start with the fader open, have clicks in the middle and usually end with it open as well, though not always.
Orbits are patterns that are mirrored in succession. Use the Flares and Clover Tears below as a reference.
1, 2 & 3-Click Flare
Perform a Baby Scratch, however put single, double or triple clicks symmetrically between the beginning and end of each movement.
Delayed 1, 2 & 3-Click Flare
Perform standard 1, 2 & 3-Click Flares, however begin and end the orbit with the fader closed.
Tears are brief pauses in the movement of a record caused by applying short bursts of downward pressure to create a gap in the sample. They can occur forward, backward, or both and can often be the sole technique in a pattern. Tears can also accentuate a combo that utilizes clicks by creating a simultaneous gap where the click exists. This may seem redundant, however it is similar to a string performer pulling their strings to bend a note.
NOTE: From here on, use these building blocks to decipher the remaining scratch combos and patterns. Remember that some of these patterns can be 2 and 3 clicked/teared for added variation. The click and tears can also be rearranged, swapped and/or substituted.