DJ Dain
DJ | Producer | Musicologist


Summer Sessions - Lesson 1


This evening marked the first of a four-part, weekly session on developing scratching and turntablist skills at Table Tutors. Three other students and I are being taught by Eric Cardeno (Wundrkut), who has been very patient, encouraging, and courteous to our needs. This was an eye-opening experience for me. Although I certainly learned some new techniques and ideas, there were a few larger takeaways for me:

Scratching is a language, and languages require basic terminology

I incorrectly assumed that I had a working knowledge of most scratching and turntablist terms. Chirps, Flares, Boomerangs. They made sense to me once I heard and watched them performed. What I realized was that I had developed my own system of categorizing these moves. Before I had the equipment to try the real thing, I would emulate the sounds of scratching using my mouth. Something akin to beatboxing, or maybe rapping but without any actual words. Regardless of the sample being manipulated, it always sounds like a voice. I hear patterns of cadence and inflection in DJ's combos. A baby scratch and two chirps mean "WAHH-OHH WA- OH-" to me. I think there's merit to this method of listening to scratching, but it's hampered by my habit to start thinking in "phrases" before honing the individual "words". There is foundational work here that I need to develop if I want to be able to move forward and communicate better with my peers.

Open faders open up opportunities

Another poor habit that became readily apparent is that most (if not all) of my current skills are centred around closed fader techniques. I constantly want to start and end everything with a closed fader. I had to force my brain and body to rewire and embrace starting with an open fader to figure out how to achieve a Flare. Making this realization felt like suddenly discovering after years of driving that you can turn your car left instead of right. A whole new set of sounds are now available to me. It's no wonder I was feeling sonically hampered for so long. I think I built up a false sense of security with a closed fader. The inflated feeling of control over the sound meant that I wasn't improving my hand control over the record itself.

Coming to terms with this in class was a little embarrassing, and I felt foolish as I fumbled through the lessons, but I'm grateful that I was presented with the opportunity to face this issue head-on. It took a lot of time and working at half-speed to resist my impulses and complete the combos. However, this also provided me with a personal goal to work on at home as I refine things. I may not be up to par with the level of skill intended for this particular course, but I'm not going to let that stop me from learning everything I can.

Practice & Drills = Skills

My relationship with the term practice has always been tainted. It was positioned to me poorly as a kid, and I grew to resist the concept as I grew older. I was always more drawn to a pure sense of "play" - focusing on exploration and experimentation. Only recently have I begun to heal and incorporate repetition and drills in a more healthy way. As I was repeating the lessons over and over, I found myself having moments of seeing my hands do what I wanted them to do, but feeling slightly disconnected as my body didn't feel in "sync". These moments of lagging behind my intention reminded me of my time spent training in rapier fencing and boxing at Valkyrie WMAA. There were many times I would feel like my limbs would lag behind where I wanted my body to move. This sensation hammered home the idea that these techniques are achievable, but will require continuous repetition to become more comfortable and familiar. I feel like the synchronicity between my motions and the sound I want to produce is within reach. Part of the challenge will be making time in the week between lessons. There are a couple of other projects I want to complete before the end of the month. Hopefully, I can find a balance to make it all happen.