15 Apr

If you're just starting out as a DJ, or even if you have some experience, you've likely heard of scratching. This technique involves manipulating the sound of a record by moving it back and forth while it's playing, creating unique sounds and rhythms. After all, Christopher, R. (2022) claimed, ''You know it started manually with fingers finessing black vinyl,'' when mentioning the roots of DJing. While scratching can seem intimidating to beginners, it's an important skill for any serious DJ to have. In this article, we'll take a beginner's look at DJ scratching, including what it is, why you should learn it, and the basic and advanced techniques you need to know to get started.

1. Introduction to DJ Scratching

What is DJ Scratching?

DJ Scratching is a technique used by DJs to manipulate sounds by moving vinyl records back and forth on turntables. The sound of the record scratching against the needle creates a unique sound that DJs can use to create patterns, rhythms, and effects.

Why Learn DJ Scratching?

Scratching is a fundamental skill for any aspiring DJ. It allows you to create unique sounds and add your own personal flair to your mixes. It's a way to show off your creativity and stand out from the crowd.

2. Understanding the Equipment: Turntables and Mixer

The Anatomy of a Turntable

A turntable consists of a platter, tonearm, cartridge, and stylus. The platter spins the vinyl record, while the tonearm holds the cartridge and stylus, which read the grooves on the record. The cartridge converts the physical movement of the stylus into an electrical signal that is sent to the mixer.

The Anatomy of a Mixer

A mixer is the device that connects the turntables and allows you to control the volume, EQ, and effects. It has channels for each turntable, faders to control volume, and knobs to adjust EQ and effects.

How to Set Up Your Turntables and Mixer

To set up your turntables and mixer, connect the turntables to the mixer using RCA cables. Make sure the turntables are grounded to eliminate feedback. Adjust the speed of the turntables to 33⅓ or 45 RPM, depending on the record. Finally, adjust the levels and EQ on the mixer to balance the sound.

3. Basic Scratch Techniques


The scratch is the most basic technique. Start by placing your hand on the record and moving it back and forth to create a rhythmic sound.

Forward Scratch

To do a forward scratch, start with your hand on the record, then move it forward quickly and let it come to a stop. This creates a "rewinding" sound.

Backward Scratch

To do a backward scratch, start with your hand in front of the record, then move it back quickly and let it come to a stop. This creates a "fast forwarding" sound.

4. Advanced Scratch Techniques

Flare Scratch

The flare scratch is an advanced technique that involves using both hands to create a complex pattern. Start with your hand on the record and move it back and forth while moving your other hand quickly back and forth on the crossfader.

Crab Scratch

The crab scratch is another advanced technique that involves using your fingers to create a stuttering sound. Place your hand on the record and use your fingers to move the record back and forth quickly while using the crossfader to create a stuttering sound.

Tear Scratch

The tear scratch is a technique that involves alternating between the forward and backward scratch to create a rapid-fire sound. Start with a forward scratch, then quickly switch to a backward scratch and repeat. Practice this until you can do it quickly and smoothly. 5. Creating Your Own Scratches and Combos

Scratching is not just about replicating existing sounds – it's also about creating your unique scratches and combos. To start experimenting with your scratches, try incorporating different techniques like chirps, flares, and transforms. Don't be afraid to experiment with different sounds and rhythms until you find those that fit your style.

How to Experiment with Scratches

Experimentation is essential when it comes to developing your scratching skills. To experiment with scratches, try playing with different speeds, angles, and record movements. You can also try incorporating other sounds and samples into your scratches to create unique sounds. Remember to record yourself and listen to your scratches to identify which techniques work best for you.

Combining Scratches into Routines

The key to creating impressive routines lies in your ability to combine different scratches into complex, seamless combinations. To do this, practice transitioning between different scratches at different speeds and in different sequences. Learn how to listen to the beats while scratching and develop a sense of timing that will enable you to create perfect musical combos.

6. Incorporating Scratching into Your DJ Sets

Scratching can add excitement and energy to your DJ sets, but it's crucial to know when and how to use it. Here's what you need to know.

When to Use Scratching in Your Sets

Scratching can be used at any moment, but it's essential to use it where it fits in seamlessly with the set's vibe. It is best used to create tension, transition, or as a way to highlight a particular track's sound or vocal. Scratching should not be overdone to the point where it distracts the audience from the music.

How to Transition into and out of Scratching

Transitioning into scratching requires seamless transitioning from one track to scratch. You can accomplish this by using effects like echo, delay, or reverb to create a natural build-up to the scratch. When transitioning out of scratching, make sure you have a cue point ready to bring the track back in at the correct moment. Remember to keep the scratching smooth and natural and take care not to disrupt the beat.

7. Tips and Tricks for Better Scratching

Scratching is an art form that requires practice and dedication to master. Here are some tips to help you improve your scratching skills.

How to Practice Effectively

The key to improving your scratching is to practice consistently. Set aside time to work on your scratches daily, focusing on one technique at a time until it becomes second nature. Consider recording yourself and listening to your scratch patterns to identify areas that require improvement.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

One common mistake beginner scratch DJs make is overdoing the scratches, leading to chaotic sounds that disrupt the beat. It's crucial to listen to the music and add scratches that complement the track rather than competing with it. You should also avoid relying too much on pre-made samples and focus on developing your scratching skills.

How to Develop Your Own Style

Developing a unique scratching style involves experimenting, practicing, and listening to your creativity. You can take inspiration from your favorite scratch DJs but focus on developing techniques that work best for your style. With consistent practice and dedication, you can develop a signature sound and style.

8. Conclusion and Next Steps

Scratching can be challenging to learn, but with consistent practice, dedication, and experimentation, anyone can develop impressive scratching skills. Review what you've learned in this article and start practicing these techniques to take your scratching skills to the next level. There are various resources available online to learn from, so keep exploring until you find resources that work best for you.Scratching is a fundamental skill for DJs that can add a dynamic element to your sets and elevate your performance to the next level. With practice and dedication, you can master the techniques and create your own unique scratches and combos. Remember to experiment, have fun, and keep pushing yourself to improve. With the knowledge and tips covered in this article, you're well on your way to becoming a skilled DJ scratcher.


Do I need any special equipment to start scratching?

Yes, you'll need a DJ setup that includes turntables and a mixer. You'll also need a collection of vinyl records with sounds that you can scratch and manipulate.

How long does it take to learn scratching?

This can vary depending on how much time and effort you put into practice. Some DJs may be able to learn the basics of scratching in just a few weeks, while others may take months or even years to master advanced techniques.

Is scratching only for hip-hop and electronic music?

Scratching is most associated with hip-hop and electronic music, but it can be used in any genre. DJs in other genres, such as rock or pop, can incorporate scratching to add a unique and unexpected element to their sets.

Can I learn scratching without a teacher?

Yes, there are many online resources, tutorials, and videos available to help you learn scratching on your own. However, having a teacher or mentor can be helpful for getting feedback, troubleshooting problems, and accelerating your progress. 


Christopher, R. (2022) Boogie Down Predictions: Hip-Hop, Time, and Afrofuturism. Available at: https://mitpress.mit.edu/9781913689285/boogie-down-predictions/  

* The email will not be published on the website.