Today we are celebrating School of Scratch Student Alina from Russia, who has recently completed the 100 Days of Scratching challenge! ??❤️
Here is her 100th day post:
Huge congrats Alina! You totally rocked it!
I asked Alina some questions to help those of you who are considering doing the 100 Days of Scratching Project.
Hey Alina! Can you give us some background on your interest in music and scratching?
I’m a dancer more than musician. For as long as I can remember I listen to music and dance. My grandpa told me that in childhood I used to dance everywhere with my eyes closed and especially I loved street musicians who played jazz near underground stations. And drummers! Guess drummers had stolen my heart in my antecedent life.
Then I took ballet classes but by that time I had already been hooked by hip hop. And though I didn’t understand a word in English, I liked music, voices and rhythm so much; also I was fond of rapping and basketball and all in all it was a pretty good mix.
However our choreographer teacher didn’t like my jams in Michael Jordan t-shirt on breaks between lessons, in her opinion they were really bad for discipline and dancing technique and she asked me either I forsake my “yo rap!” moves or leave. I must admit I’m an extremely shy person but the rebellious streak in me made me say goodbye to that lady and ballet.
After that I tried to join music class in school, but I was so nervous that failed the exam where we had to repeat some musical rhythm clapping on our knees. I was told that I didn’t have a musical ear and a quite precise sense of rhythm. For me as a child it was like a death sentence and it was big enough to give up. Nothing made sense for me anymore. Loser. I even didn’t dance for a while until I watched a movie about one deaf girl dancer and thought: “At least I’m able to hear”. Years passed and I tried different dancing styles, even erotic dance with its high-heeled (fcuking) shoes, but always stayed a huge hip hop fan.
Another big part took jungle and drum’n’bass. I could dance for six hours in a row and win you at the dancefloor at the 5 a.m. without any drugs in my life except music. It’s funny, I was amazed by scratching exactly in drum and bass and it was DJ Hype who did it to me. Then I discovered Birdy Nam Nam with “Abbesses” and “Violons”. Omg, that was huge!
I began to adore scratching and my interest in it continued to grow up through listening to hip hop music from another angle like very scratch friendly genre of music. Back then I have already developed love of vinyl records strong enough to make my friends jealous. All my money went on records from the UK. And I haven’t got even one turntable! But the process became irreversible. So it was great pride and joy when finally I had saved money and bought my own Technics 1200.
However, the strongest moment was a short time ago when I met DJ Iggaz, who took part in DMC Russia Finals this autumn, but at that time I had no idea at all who he was. Just imagine. Hands whipping from one record to the other, stopping lightning fast on the crossfader in between, shoulders dipping slightly in time to the beat, fingers moving in millimeter-precise formation – and all in front of your eyes at arm’s end! And you feel how he distinguishes fine nuances of power and feeling in music to create such a flowing and meaningful set full of art. And you understand that this guy is really into it, he’s not just putting one record after another. That was great! Much love & respect to DJ Iggaz! He jokes that people ask him: “What are you doing?” and he answers: “I’m a DJ”, then they ask: “Ok, all right, it’s clear, I BUT WHAT IS YOUR JOB?” – “I’m a DJ!”. Till nowadays the DJ’s job is strange in all the right ways. For a start, people don’t think that it’s really a job but a lot of fun. How could it be explained that most of the DJs go home and do the same thing in their spare time, and many of them will be glad to play at that special party when the crowd is right, even for free, just for the thrill of it? So after our acquaintance I went away with two words: love and freedom. Love what you do and do what you love! It helped me a lot and worked. I quitted, moved to another city and now I’m here. Scratching!
What made you decide to undertake the 100 Day challenge?
As I said, I was a total newbie and I thought that it would help me to develop consistent practice habits and would be a great start to dive deep. Moreover, it was a chance of living a childhood dream and also a chance of starting djing properly.
I was anxious. What? To post video? It’s just like to scratch outside the security of my bedroom? When I can’t do anything and have no skill? No way! But I returned to this idea every day and soon wrote to School of Scratch and Emma was so encouraging that there was no doubt I made a right decision.
What was your approach?
Some people say that all you need is some sense of timing and a few basic technical skills. That’s all. Though it’s vastly harder than you might think. Try it. In my opinion, there is a lot about this noble craft that must be learnt and can be taught. For some it comes instinctively, for others it’s a matter of experience. For me now it’s a matter of practice. Of course, in my dreams I wanted to learn a ton of scratches, create combos and make sooo much progress. But I understood that I wasn’t going to be scratching like the more advanced scratchers, but I had to improve at least a bit in these 100 days. Truth be told, it will be a long journey that requires patience, practice, dedication, structure and routine. DJs are doing this FOR YEARS.
What is your recording & posting workflow like?
I’m a beginner, so my “warm up” lasts for a about one hour 😀
Every day I began with the baby scratch and then added other different scratches in the right order. Then I did freestyle using those techniques and learned something new.
I tried to record different scratches or timings each day to keep it interesting and show something new, though in reality I could work on the same scratch for the better half of my training time. I varied the beats, but sample was the same as I had only one vinyl and the choice wasn’t great.
The first days were easy but when I started to learn more complicated scratches and tried to repeat them in front of the camera after pushing the record button, I froze and everything was bad.I would record multiple takes and spend a lot of time reviewing them all and picking the best one. So I changed my method and started to record every time I went on the decks, from the very beginning. I got used to the camera and could forget about it. I pushed stop when I felt that the scratch wasn’t too bad and then continued, so I knew that then I should look for the best parts at the end of the videos.
What are your top tools / apps / software / equipment to capture and edit?
I’d like to make the recording & editing process as quick and easy as possible so my top is my phone with its built-in functions. That’s it!
What did you learn?
I succeeded in practicing every day. I learned to show up. Every day! Though there were a lot of frustrating moments I did it for no one else but myself. Also I understood that one step forward & two steps back is normal. And the best and the most difficult thing is to slow down. We are adults and don’t want to feel ourselves like pupils again, but developing the skill is a process and we have no time to hurry up.
What were some highlights for you?
While hip hop culture is moving fast into the mainstream, the turntablist DJs preserve the music’s roots and keep alive the traditions of the “old school” hip hop.
Scratching is a highly emotional, improvisational artform. Manipulating sound with just your hands is like a miracle. You can figure out all these time signatures and rhythms and patterns and notes. There are so many things you can do with the turntable, it’s definitely an instrument. So studying musical basics is quite necessary and useful. There are systems of turntablist musical notation! If you’re a DJ, scratching will be a language that you understand. I was surprised that skillful DJs recognize all combinations by ear, they even don’t need to watch. And me catching each movement and dreaming to see everything in slowmo! lol.
I liked the phrase that scratching is like rap – just relax and express what you want to say.
What helped you on your way?
As I had not so much support mostly I have been driven by an enthusiasm, strong desire and a hunger for knowledge. It helped.
And the community, of course! Cool feedback! Always friendly! Always helpful! I remember how together we were looking for a vinyl record with a definite sample on it for me. That was really nice!
What didn’t work?
Lack of patience. Trying to speed up the element I didn’t know well just to show that I’d progressed. And definitely putting too much pressure on myself. The key is to relax.
What was the most challenging part & how did you deal with that?
Triplet notes! And a crab! Real struggle. Ahaha. Still trying to get those down.
And the most challenging part was the last day. I thought the last video had to be the best, better than the all previous ones. Much pressure on myself. It was nerve wrecking! I kept my expectations high but nothing would seem to flow. So I decided to do 10 minutes or so with a random beat, record one take and come what may! Uploading was a mix of feeling scared, ashamed and happy, all at the same time. To tell the truth, I didn’t like it all, I’m afraid of reviewing it and think I had much more better videos during my 100 days of scratching, but I did it and got rid of frustration.
What are you top tips for anyone who wants to undertake this challenge?
#1 Do not compare yourself with others. Remember – developing the skill is a process, you’ll be learning for the rest of your life.
#2 Relax and have fun. No rush – take you time.
#3 Find beats you really enjoy – that’s a pleasure to freestyle more.
#4 Draw your combos – you’ll get a clear visual picture of how many sounds it consists of.
#5 Try basic scratching with both hands – it will be very useful if you decide to beat-juggle.
If you were to do this challenge again, what, if anything would you do differently?
Join the challenge and school much more early 😀 For real, I thought about setting up weekly goals.
You are a school of scratch student. What has your school experience been like?
My school experience has been amazing.
The community is very supportive and you feel free to ask any dumb questions.
The tutorials are informative and easy to follow.
Moreover, if you’re curious you’ll get a lot of extra information about scratch history.
And the best thing is that you feel yourself a part of DJ culture!
My advice is to sign up and you will not want to leave.
What is next for you?
I gotta go home and practice. 😀
Maybe, 50 weeks of Freestyle Challenge? 😀 1,000,000 days of scratching, I guess. Beat-juggling. Drumming. Plenty of records to play on it.
I’d like my scratches were proper rhythmic and melodic elements. I’d like to become a good DJ. My goal is to continue to practice and improve my skills, work on short routines, scratching, mixing and beat-juggling included, of course, then do a live set with just vinyl records. And the craziest thing is to play turntable in a band! But who knows!..
Where can we find you online?
That’s a wrap!
Thanks Alina! Thank you for sharing so much with us from your heart. It is super insightful for anyone wanting to follow in your inspiring footsteps! Congratulations for showing up daily and for everything you have achieved and the ways in which you have grown.
Thank you for being part of our Supa Scratch Crew and for all you contribute. Looking forward to seeing your continued progress and creations on Instagram and inside our School.
About 100 Days of Scratching
100 Days of Scratching is a project I started and completed (see here) and have been encouraging my students to do the same – as a way to get in the habit of daily practice, documenting progress and connecting with others.
Alina joins fellow School of Scratch Students aka the Supa Scratch Crew: Toby, Jay Rakim, Vanessa, Julian, Crystal, Smallimus, Allexia, Thomas, Ashley, Adam, Erick, Magnus, Roly G and Denise who have all completed the 100 Days of Scratching project. What an amazing crew of creators!
Wanna take part in the 100 Days of Scratching Project?
You can take part in the 100 Days of Scratching project and join our group of supportive DJs here:
Join the 100 Days of Scratching Challenge
If you are curious about School of Scratch you can check it out here and sign up below to get 2 free lessons to get you started.
Happy Scratching! 😀
– Emma Short-E