Digital Scratch Technologies and the Future of Turntablism
Is digital scratching ‘turntablism’s’ future? There are now high-tech software and hardware products that allow performers to scratch with an infinite number of audio files, so why do most ‘turntablists’ and DJs still prefer to use two Technics SL-1200s and a simple DJ mixer? This paper will attempt to address these issues through three major topics: the history of scratching, scratching techniques and the recent attempts by manufacturing companies to promote digital turntablism.
Learning to scratch has commonly been restricted to two analogue turntables and a DJ mixer. For the originators, e.g. Grand Wizard Theodore, Grandmaster Flash, and Grand Mixer DXT (formally DST), and the innovators like Q-Bert, DJ Shadow and the Scratch Perverts, the ‘wheels of steel’ are the basis for all the different scratches and scratch techniques. This performance structure has remained in place for over three decades now which seems slightly strange to some academic researchers (Hansen 2006) considering that at first, the turntable used as an instrument was a happy accident.
Since the turn of the century, audio software and hardware companies, allied with modern thinking turntablists, have developed DJ tools and instruments to perform a digital form of scratching. CD and MP3 decks seemed to be the next logical step for turntablism but perhaps the recent developments in vinyl emulation software placated digital scratching detractors. These new systems still rely on a human performer interacting with vinyl on a turntable, while at the same time utilising the computer’s ability to process sampled sounds.
A Brief History of Scratching
Scratching a record was originally thought to have a negative effect on audio playback. In the last thirty years, opinions have changed due to the turntable being used as an instrument. The first scratch is...