In this article I explain the concept and technique of scratching with ultrapitch turntables and records, specifically:
- What ultrapitch is
- Why you might want to use it
- Equipment needed & further resources
- How to use ultrapitch in your scratch practice
What is Ultrapitch?
A regular turntable has a standard pitch (speed) of +/- 8%.
e.g. Technics 1200 /1210 mk II:
Ultrapitch is a feature / setting on certain models of newer turntables which allows the record to be played at a pitch (speed) of +/-50%.
e.g. Vestax PDX 3000 mkII
& Stanton ST.150 / STR8.150:
Ultrapitch records make use of ultrapitch technology, to bring a new dimension and benefits to scratching which I will explain later.
At a turntable pitch speed of 0, the samples on an ultrapitch record sound sped up and high pitched. When the pitch / speed is slowed down to -50%, they will play at their normal intended pitch.
This is what an ultrapitch record sounds like played at 33 rpm 0% / normal pitch :
This is what the exact same ultrapitch record sounds like played at 33 rpm -50% pitch:
It is my understanding that the idea for ultrapitch records was initially conceived and pioneered by Ricci Rucker between 2001 – 2002 who later brought out his own Utility Phonograph Record in 2003, containing -50% scratch samples. (If you know anything different, please get in touch in the comments and let me know, thanks!)
Ultrapitch Records in Action
I don’t currently own an ultrapitch turntable to demonstrate the concept, so let’s take a look at a video of an ultrapitch record in action from friend of Studio Scratches; Dopez.
Notice how much slower the record is moving on the ultrapitch Numark TTX1 turntable in the bottom half of the video compared to the standard Technics deck in the upper half of the video:
You can hear that phonically, the pitch of the “ahhh” sample on both records sound the same, even though one is moving much slower. Which leads us nicely onto the next question…
Why Use Ultrapitch ?
Now that we know what an ultrapitch record is, let’e take a look at why you might want to use one.
If they audibly both sound the same, what is the point?
I’m glad you asked!
Because the ultrapitch record is moving very slowly, less movement is needed from your record hand and record control becomes easier. This is advantageous for beginner scratch DJs and also established scratch DJ’s performing very fast scratch techniques, especially when scratching vocal sentences e.g. “Cut like a guillotine”.
Typically, the gap between each word or syllable in a vocal scratch sentence is very small and so you need really good record control. Ultrapitch gives you more space to manoeuvre the record.
More samples can fit on each rotation of the record give you more options in practice or performing.
The main downsides are that you need specific equipment and it may be hard to transition back to a regular non ultrapitch turntable should you need to.
So, those are the main considerations. Let’s summarise here:
- Less record movement required
- More control over vocal cuts
- More samples per record rotation
- An ultrapitch turntable is required, although “you can scratch an ultrapitch record on a 1200, it’ll just be fast haha” – Dopez
- If you transition back to using a regular standard +/- 8% pitch turntable, you may find it more difficult to do scratches, particularly vocal cuts.
- “When you’re pampered by scratching on ultrapitch for a while, 0% will feel way too fast and almost hard to scratch on” – Dopez
Here is another good summary of both the pros and cons taken from the comments section of Dopez’ video:
“It took me while to get into ultra pitch records, but now I have I do prefer the way they slightly exaggerate changes in pitch with small record movements and tears. I do fear getting too comfy with them though cos normal speed records do feel like hard work in direct comparison now.”
Equipment & Resources for Scratching with Ultrapitch
You will need:
- An ultrapitch turntable
- Ultrapitched samples on vinyl or…
- Digital ultrapitched samples for use with a DVS like Serato or Traktor.
1 – Ultrapitch Turntables
Here come of are the main players of the ultrapitch turntable market that you could consider:
Vestax PDX-3000 – High end original ultrapitch turntable.
Stanton STR8.150 – high end of the mid range.
Numark TTX USB – low end of the mid range but still a good option.
2 – Ultrapitch Scratch Samples
2a – Vinyl Records
Scratch Science Records
The skip proof Scratch Science records are really popular, although very hard to get hold of. You might be able to find second hand copies of these records. I have contacted Scratch Science to see if I can find out more about availability. Put these on your wish list for if you happen come across them:
2b – Digital Scratch Samples
If you are a Serato / Traktor user, you can get around the lack of ultrapitch vinyl availability with digital samples.
I don’t currently have any ultra pitch digital scratch sample records in the Studio Scratches Beat Store, so allow me to recommend the following trusted alternatives:
How to use Ultrapitch?
Simply put the ultrapitch record or sample on the platter, pitch it all the way down to between -30 – -50% and begin scratching!
Here is another video example of Dopez utilising the benefits or ultrapitch for vocal phrasing to inspire your practice:
I hope that gives you an insight into scratching using ultrapitch. Do you have any experience of scratching with ultrapitch, if so, would you care to share your experience or thoughts in the comments below?
Similarly, if you have any questions also leave them in the comments below.
In the future I hope to get hold of an ultrapitch turntable myself and demo the differences and how you can use it.
Big thanks to Dopez for his input to this article.
Happy Scratching! 😀
– Emma Short-E