Since I started teaching in School of Scratch, I think a great deal about scratching and how best to break it to make learning as simple as possible.
In this post I’ll break it down into a model of learning I have created that I hope will help you understand and progress with your scratch journey.
Please refer to this diagram as you go:
(Click to open in a new window / download)
The 3 Main Elements
I’ve identified 3 main elements of scratching:
Part 1 – Technique
The fundamental section is the physical movements of pure scratch techniques.
- Turning the fader off and on.
- Moving the record backwards and forwards.
- Pushing the record.
- Tapping the record.
- Two handed record techniques.
Examples: a transform, a chirp, a tear.
This part is limited – there are no other physical fader and record techniques but these.
Part 2 – Timing
This section is concerned with musical rhythm and patterns.
It concerns where you can place the techniques in part 1 over a beat.
- Standard time
- Double time
There are considerably more possibilities here than with just part 1 alone.
Part 3 – Expression
In this section we are concerned with the way you combine techniques from part 1 with the timing and rhythms in part 2.
Part 3 is a decision making process that is conscious and sometimes slow and cumbersome at first, until we have more experience, when it becomes unconscious and mostly automatic. It can be identified as our creative “flow”.
Each person carries out part 3 differently, which gives us our own unique style.
This part is where our own combos start to be created as we explore.
If you know what is possible within parts 1 and 2, then you can run with it and go wild in this part.
It is mainly up to you to explore part 3. Having a relaxed and playful approach helps.
There are truly unlimited possibilities here!
To apply each of these part to method of learning, I have found the following usually works best.
Learn the fundamental techniques in part 1 first.
During part 1 we normally explore the timings in part 2 at the same time which feeds back into the techniques.
Finally, once a base level of technique and timing ability has been established, we move into Part 3 where we get really creative and start to move out on our own to experimentation and develop our style and flow.
Part 3 is always ongoing and feeds into 1 and 2.
Many people initially get stuck in part one, and without seeing the bigger picture they get hung up on pure techniques. To broaden our scratch horizons it really helps to consider part 2 and then play with part 3.
What can be taught?
Part 1 – Techniques and Part 2 – Rhythms, can be taught as it concerns mostly tangible concepts that can be well explained and broken down.
What cannot be taught?
Part 3 is harder to teach because it’s about making decisions and also allowing your natural creativity to come through.
What I find helps in this part is providing guidance on how to approach this section, for example, encouraging experimentation, using different types of beats, unplugging from what other turntablists are doing. It’s really about creative thinking and sometimes not thinking at all!
I find the main thing is to empower a students own internal search and show that there is no right or wrong way, that they don’t have to copy anything exactly.
It is a personal journey where it helps to be pointed in the right direction with support and encouragement to empower you to take everything you know from part 1 and 2 and then combine it into your own personal stye in part 3.
Part 3 is definitely the hardest part, but once you have learnt all the “rules” and seen the possibilities in part 1 and 2, you are all set to break them, mix them up and do whatever you want!
I’m sure the trifecta can be applied to any musical discipline. Here are some even wider examples to illustrate.
Here is an analogy using language to explain the concept even further:
1 – Techniques = Words.
When we first start speaking we learn individual words such as ‘mama’, ‘dada’, ‘apple’, etc. We are limited by the number of letters, words and phoenetical sounds that make up our language.
2 – Rhythm and timing = Punctuation and grammar.
Once we can say some words, we begin to put them together in an order to formulate sentences, using the pauses of punctuation to provide the correct timing so that they make proper sense. We learn about grammar and where which types of words, bound, adjectives etc can be placed.
3 – Expression = Being able to fully express ourselves with words.
Once we have spend some time in 1 and 2, we can choose our words, the order to say them and when to say them. We can change our intonation. We find our own voice and master our language.
Another example, this time with art:
1 – Techniques e.g pencil drawings, can include shading, lines, hatching, dots.
2 – Rhythm and Timing = where you place them on the paper. Are the lines and marks close together or spread out?
3 – Expression = how you combine the techniques and rhythm of your strokes to create a painting or drawing that depicts shapes and lighting.
That concludes my theory of the trifeecta of scratching. I have only shared this with a few people, but it’s time to put it out there and share it with you all.
What do you think? Agree / disagree? Could any part be expanded or better explained?
You all know that I love collaborating to elevate the art form so leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!
If you would like help with 1+2 and some encouragement with part 3, please head on over to www.SchoolofScratch.com
Happy Scratching! 😀
– Emma Short-E