Today we are celebrating School of Scratch Student Mike Marble from Germany, who has recently completed the 100 Days of Scratching challenge! ??❤️
Here is Mike’s 100th day post:
Huge congrats Mike!
I asked Mike some questions to help those of you who are considering doing the 100 Days of Scratching Project.
Welcome Mike! Can you give us some background on your interest in music, DJing and scratching?
I started DJing in 1992. I ran a mobile DJ team together with a few friends, playing tracks from two HiFi CD players and a mixer. 1994 I bought my first turntable. I still remember when I took that decision. Being in my teens it was a big invest for me back then. It also meant committing large parts of my future allowance to buying vinyl. I learned to beatmatch by ear and then became a semi professional house and trance DJ working for an agency when I got my drivers license. I followed that route roughly till I was 23. Then I started my main profession in IT, and priorities shifted for me, so I kept DJing more as a hobby ever since.
I was mostly (and still am) into electronic music. I started off spinning Rave and Euro Dance back in the day, then became very big on Trance and finally ended up as a Deep House fan. Those styles all typically do not lend well to scratching. Still I was always curious about scratching. I remember back when “The Course – Ready Or Not” was big, that I was super impressed by the intro scratch. I tried to replicate it, and I failed – probably due to a mixture of lack of trying and guidance. (Sorry kids, no YouTube with friendly Emma on Studio Scratches showing how it’s done… 🙂 I recently listened to it again, and guess what – it’s a simple military pattern, and I was able to replicate it in a few minutes.
Scratching became a thing for me only “lately” – in 2016. I had not touched my decks for ages, did not feel like recording mixtapes any longer. I am not sure what actually triggered the interest in scratching, but I simply decided to want to give this a try – just to try something new with my 1210s. So I got a SUPER cheap DJ-Tech Midi only mixer, with the sole purpose of getting a light and easy sliding crossfader. Then I started searching for tutorials, and of course found your previous Studio Scratches tutorials, as well as those by DJ TLM and DJ Angelo. Those were my guide posts when starting out. And yeah – then at some point I decided to join the school, and never looked back.
What made you decide to undertake the 100 day challenge?
Though I joined the School in 2017 and became a Lifetime Member sometime in 2018, I simply lost interest in scratching early 2019. I think I was over embracing the entire topic – maybe I also hit a wall from a skill perspective. I saw DMC live, both in 2017 and 2018 – and when that was done, I came back home and somehow I felt like I was done. So, I effectively returned this March from a 12 month scratch hiatus. I took a video of my “status” after this extended break – for those of you who need proof that it is like riding a bicycle. Still, I felt I needed to change my approach. The 100 days always interested me in the past, though I had not dared to try. This time around, I decided to go for it, and prepared accordingly (see workflow and tools below).
What was your approach?
I wish I could claim a certain plan or something, but for the most part it was simply “never miss a day”. It was also highly depending on how much time I could (or wanted) to spare any given day. Some days I only warmed up briefly, recorded right away and then fooled around longer. Sometimes I trained deliberately and then recorded the end of my drills as a kind of status snapshot. Sometimes I tried something new, failed or stumbled through the patterns, and recorded that.
I mostly posted in the evening, independent of when I recorded, as I noticed early on that posting in the evening gave me the most response on social channels.
What is your recording and posting workflow like?
I think my workflow was the most important factor in completing the 100.
To me it was clear from the get go, that it had to be as simple and straightforward as possible. I could not spend time with either file transfers or syncing audio and video on a daily basis.
So this meant that I needed to record on a device that can shoot the video and record it with clean audio, as well as edit the video, as well as also post it. Based on those parameters it was clear I needed to use my phone for recording. And I think I nailed that part by assembling the right tools. To give you a rough idea – using my setup I am (if needed) able to go from nothing to an uploaded instagram video in roughly 10 minutes, and that includes recording, editing as well as posting.
Bonus tip – keep a “template” of your daily posting including all the standard hashtags around. It can make the instagram posting as simple as adding the current days number to your template.
What are your top tools / apps / software / equipment to capture and edit?
I got the Apple Lightning to USB Adapter Kit and a very simple USB audio interface from Behringer. At least in the Apple universe this is the cheapest way (70€) to get me a line in for pristine stereo sound.
For actual filming I used a camera app called Mavis. I picked it after searching for camera apps that have a visual level meter for the audio in (and that even support picking an audio input in the first place). It was somewhat astoundingly hard to find such an App on iOS.
I had an old pocket camera tripod, for which I bought an Ulanzi smartphone mount.
Editing I did with just iMovie – it comes for free, it’s simple and gets the job done.
What’s nice about my recording setup is that it is completely mobile. I travelled two times during my 100, and I was able to simply take my portable, hook up the soundcard to its line out, and had the same workflow going like at home.
What did you learn?
Several new scratch patterns of course. But I think more importantly I learned to have far better hand control. I have started to use accents, and also minimized my record movements. Mostly I move the record just out of my hand motion by now, which helped me gain speed. At the same time I am now able to use more far reaching movements for getting specific sounds.
Another thing I learned is: how I learn. What I mean by this is I noticed a certain pattern to happen when starting off with a new scratch. Typically what happens is at first I can barely put it together, if at all. On the next day however, I already see that I can do the pattern slowly, and maybe with a bit of luck already continuously. If the latter is not on day 2, then by day 3 for sure. From thereon out, it is pure speed and finesse building, but the actual scratch is already happening. Also, on any given day it might be that at some point I start unlearning again, which means I start to bet worse again. That’s a typical sign for me to stop, as I will not progress in that session any more. It’s a bit like learning in your sleep – I think there also might be some science to back this up. Also I learned that I can speed up the progress, if I spread my sessions out through the day, i.e. 4 x 10 minutes interspersed through the day will give me more progress than doing 40 minutes straight.
What were some of the highlights of the 100 day project for you?
I think two moments stood out.
Day 55, on which I managed to replicate an accented delayed 2 clicker I heard somebody else perform. It was one of those “Oh holy moly, this is it. I’m doing it! I I’m doing it! Yes!” moments.
Day 73 was a proud moment as Zuckell featured me on his Instagram story that day. It felt good to be recognized by one of the big names in the scene.
What helped you on your way?
The constant exchange of likes and the camaraderie among both other 100 day participants but also other people from the scratch scene in general. It was also fun every day to not only open instagram for posting but also to see other people’s contributions.
Tagging Skratchsociety and the producers of the loops or scratch vinyl used was helping to get further exposure.
I also can recommend subscribing to the School of Scratch 100 emails – there’s some gems in there. Especially the series on learning techniques by bulletproofmusician.com helped.
Also ensure to keep your loopers fresh. If you are stuck, just try a new looper and see where it takes you.
I created a visual tracking sheet with 100 circles that I stuck to my turntable. I used colouring pencils from my son to fill one circle each day.
Hitting every 10th day was special as well, as I got to change the colour. Very easy mechanic, but I liked that I had a form of visualization of my progress.
What didn’t work?
Coming up with a real plan, e.g. practicing an entire week a specific technique. I thought about this several times, but in the end I settled with deciding on any given day if it was freestyle or practice day.
What was the most challenging part and how did you deal with that?
Recording when not feeling well, was where I almost failed to record a day. In those cases I just will-powered myself through – but of course I did not create anything great, and just recorded for a few minutes.
Also, when my workday was really looooong, it initially led to me having to record very late. I later became more aware of my calendar and sometimes then used a free slot in the afternoon to record instead.
Another issue that came up from time to time was the “not good enough” syndrome. For the most part I was able to keep this under control, and usually I was happy with my first or second take. And happy in this case does not mean error free. It just felt OK and that was fine. But there also were those days where I felt I always needed to record yet another take. I just pulled the plug on those days and just decided that the most recent one I took is just the one.
Interestingly some of these videos were the ones with the most reactions and comments.
What are your top tips for anyone who wants to undertake this challenge?
See above – have that super simple and ideally portable workflow. Even if available time is a challenge, you will always find 10 minutes to record to keep your chain going.
If you were to do this challenge again, what, if anything would you do differently?
Probably not much. The continuous work has really upped my scratch game. I don’t think I am at a level where I would not still profit from another 100 days like these.
You are a School of Scratch student. What has your school and learning experience been like?
The School is a super positive and friendly place to be in. While the training videos are important, I think the community is your biggest achievement in all this. I still remember when I first joined, how surprised I was about the uplifting and cooperative vibe. Ultimately this is also what made me opt for the Lifetime Membership – it is a fun group to be with, why would I ever leave?
The amount of material provided in the School is also huge, and even after 3,5 years, I still have not seen all of it. I can only recommend giving it a look if you have not done so already, and want to learn scratching. Like so many before me, I can vouch for the fact that Emma takes those scratches apart and explains slowly and in detail.
How do you approach ongoing learning and staying fresh?
I have a natural tendency to want to learn new things. So that just happens. On the flip side, I am not good at mastery. So if I have to pick between drilling boomerangs for speed vs. learning a new combo, I will very likely pick the combo. As I am aware of this tendency of mine, I consciously train a mixture of new and already learned techniques. I feel this gets me the most out of my training and ensures that I not only chase the new and shiny.
Do you have any wisdom on learning that you can share with our students?
Dated but still true: Use video to document your own progress and motivate you – your future self will thank you.
If you want an example: I learned a technique that is like an A9 orbit throughout the first half of the 100. You can watch me progress from barely getting it, to using this with confidence in roughly 50 days.
Also, never be afraid to show your current level of skill and ask for feedback. There’s no better way to learn and grow.
What is next for you?
A short break from recording. I have been hitting the decks still quite frequently, though.
Next could be a live session. Also, I have a collaboration request still pending for a Q&A joint venture that I want to do.
Also as winter comes, I might decide to go for another 100. Not sure yet.
Where can we find you online?
As mentioned above, I treat this as a hobby – just like someone who plays his guitar for himself at home.
So I am not actively promoting myself a lot and my social channels are mostly dormant.
Still you can of course subscribe here:
Is there anything else you want to add?
Just thank you for inspiring me to take this on, Emma. It was a great journey, and I would not have taken this on without you.
That’s a wrap!
Thanks Mike! Great to hear about your experience and thank you for sharing with us!
Thank you for being part of our Supa Scratch Crew. Looking forward to seeing your continued progress.
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.
Mike joins fellow School of Scratch Students aka the Supa Scratch Crew: Ouille, D Supreme, Robert, Jenny Pocket, Eric Spindler, Roli Rho, Andrei, Jaden, Molino, Jamie, Jerry, Alina, 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:
Happy Scratching! 😀
– Emma Short-E