From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Scratching is a DJ or turntablist technique used to produce distinctive sounds by moving a vinyl record back and forth on a turntable while optionally manipulating the crossfader on a DJ mixer. While scratching is most commonly associated with hip hop music, since the mid-1970s, it has been used in some styles of pop and nu metal. Within hip hop culture, scratching is one of the measures of a DJ's skills, as in DMC World DJ Championship or IDA (International DJ Association) former ITF (International turntablist Federation) where the DJs can use only scratch oriented gears (turntables + mixer + digital vinyl systems or vinyl only, and there are many scratching competitions. In recorded hip-hop songs, scratched hooks often use portions of different rap songs.
Scratching was developed by early hip hop DJs from New York such as Grand Wizard Theodore, who describes scratching as, "nothing but the back-cueing that you hear in your ear before you push it [the recorded sound] out to the crowd." (Toop, 1991). Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc also influenced the early development of scratching. Kool Herc developed break-beat DJing, where the breaks of funk songs—being the most danceable part, often featuring percussion—were isolated and repeated for the purpose of all-night dance parties.
Although previous artists such as William S. Burroughs had experimented with the idea of manipulating a reel to reel tape manually for the sounds produced (such as with his 1950s recording, "Sound Piece"), vinyl scratching as an element of hip hop pioneered the idea of making the sound an integral and rhythmic part of music instead of uncontrolled noise.
Christian Marclay was one of the earliest musicians to scratch outside of hip hop. In the mid-1970s, Marclay used gramophone records and turntables as musical instruments to create sound collages. He developed his turntable sounds independently of hip hop DJs. Although he is little-known to mainstream audiences, Marclay has been described as "the most influential turntable figure outside hip hop." and the "unwitting inventor of turntablism."
In 1981 Grandmaster Flash released the song "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel" which is notable for its use of many DJ techniques such as scratching. It was not the first recorded song to use scratching however, it can be heard in earlier songs like "Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll" by Vaughan Mason & Crew for example. In 1982, Malcolm McLaren & the World's Famous Supreme Team released a single "Buffalo Gals", juxtaposing extensive scratching with calls from square dancing, and, in 1983, the EP, D'ya Like Scratchin'?, which is entirely focused on scratching. Another 1983 release to prominently feature scratching is Herbie Hancocks Grammy Award winning song "Rockit". This song was also performed live at the 1983 Grammy Awards, and in the documentary film Scratch, the performance is cited by many DJs as their first exposure to scratching. The Street Sounds Electro compilation series which started in 1983 is also notable for early examples of scratching.
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- Vinyl Emulation Software
- List of Turntablists