So you want to learn to DJ hip hop sets? In the last post in this series, we talked about how to get into the right mindset for playing hip hop sets, as well as some basic techniques you can use to get you started. Getting into the right mindset is important for playing hip hop music, as hip hop has some fundamental qualities that set it apart from other electronic music genres. If you really want to set yourself apart as a hip hop DJ, however, the best thing you can do is learn some basic DJ scratching techniques.

The Baby Scratch: Where It All Begins

For someone who has never scratched before, the thought of mastering any DJ scratching techniques can be intimidating. The best way to learn to scratch, however, is the same as the best way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

If you’ve never scratched before, the baby scratch is the best place to start. To perform a baby scratch, you simply stop a spinning record with your fingers, then push it forward and pull it backward in time with the music.

To see the baby scratch in action, watch DJ Kenya’s video on 3 Essential Scratches – Baby, Stab, Transform, which is available as part of Spin Academy’s Online DJ School.

Advanced DJ Scratching Techniques

Once you’ve mastered the baby scratch, you can move on to learning some of the more advanced DJ scratching techniques like the chirp, the crab, and the orbit. You can even get creative and start coming up with your own scratching moves.

To help newer DJs master some of these advanced DJ scratching techniques, Spin Academy has produced a set of videos with none other than turntable superstar Mat the Alien. Nowhere else will you find in-depth tutorials on scratching from one of the world’s leading scratch DJs.

What If I Don’t Have Turntables?

With all of the playhead simulation technology available these days, scratching isn’t limited to DJs who spin vinyl. However, there is a difference between using a simulation and the real thing.

Vinyl playhead simulators can be found on everything from CDJs to mobile DJ controllers to iPad apps. Many of these will work just fine for giving you a way to incorporate basic scratching techniques like baby scratches into your hip hop sets. However, it’s when you start to get into more advanced DJ scratching techniques that you may start to feel the limitations of the playhead simulators. After all, there’s nothing like the real thing.

Turntable moves are not essential for playing hip hop sets, but if you’re serious about becoming a hip hop DJ, then mastering at least one or two basic scratches is a must.

To wrap up this series, we’ll be talking about how to come up with the perfect set for a successful hip hop gig, so keep an eye on the blog in the coming weeks.