Scratching is a DJ or turntablist technique originated by Grand Wizard Theodore, an early hip hop DJ from New York (AMG). The technique is designed to accentuate the work of the DJ by creating an assortment of sounds through the rhythmical manipulation of a vinyl record, and has spread from hip hop culture to a number of other musical forms. Within hip hop culture, scratching is still of great importance in determining the skill of a DJ, and a number of competitions are held across the globe in which DJs battle one another in displays of great virtuosity.

A simple (or baby) scratch technique is produced by moving a vinyl record back and forth with your hand while it is playing on a turntable. This creates a distinctive sound that has come to be one of the most recognizable features of hip hop music. Ideally, scratching does not damage a record because the needle stays within the groove and does not move horizontally across the record's surface. Theodore developed scratching from DJ Grandmaster Flash, 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) Kool Herc was also an important early figure.

There are many different types of scratch techniques, including tear, flare, orbit, twiddle, ripples, transforms, crab, tweak, chirp, and scribble scratches. The names can indicate the scratch's sound, required hand motions and equipment set up, or the name of the DJ who developed it. Recently, DJs and turntablists have begun developing systems of notation for use in learning different scratches and writing compositions. The practice is not yet widespread.

Sounds that are frequently scratched include but are not limited to drum beats, horn stabs, spoken word samples, and lines from other songs. The two most commonly scratched sounds are "aaaah" and "frrresh", taken from the record "Change the Beat" by Fab Five Freddy. Any sound recorded to vinyl can be used, though a new generation of CD players providing a turntable-like interface has recently reached the market, allowing DJs to scratch not only material that was never released on vinyl, but also field recordings and samples from television and movies that have been burned to CD-R. Some DJs and anonymous collectors release 12-inch singles called ScratchTools battle records that include trademark, novel or hard-to-find scratch fodder. Some DJs prefer to rotate the turntable 90 degrees counter-clockwise in an orientation known as "Battle-style" to put the tonearm of the turntable at the top, furthest away from the DJ. This frees up more of the platter to manipulation without interfering with the needle.

Scratching is a complex, yet mis-understood art.

During the 90's up to the present day its usage in popular music has seen a substantial increase. Some examples of this would be within Nu-Metal acts (especially Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park) and in some pop music (Nelly Furtado). Dj's are also often included as 'stage-props' (especially in the urban genre) where they stand behind turntables pretending to emulate scratching and mixing. The majority of these Dj's are there simply to add effect to the stage and create more of an atmosphere. Because of this, many people perceive scratching as an easy and simple skill to acquire where all one needs to do is move your hand back and forth to create the associated "wikki-wikki" sound. The reality is, scratching is a skill that requires considerable practice.

While scratching is becoming more and more popular within pop music, the art-form itself is still predominantly underground. One of the most influential groups to the world of scratching would be the Invisibl Skratch Piklz hailing from the San Francisco area. Forming in 1994 as Dj's Qbert, Disk & Shortkut and later Mix Master Mike the group took scratching to a whole new level. With their focus primarily on scratching, the group displayed exactly what the turntable is capable of.

"The turntable is the most versatile instrument. You can be a drummer, you can be a guitarist, you can be a lead vocalist — anything." Dj Shortkut

With the departure of Dj Disk, enter two new members, Yogafrog followed by D-Styles. Dj A-Trak from Canada was also a guest member of the group after winning the Technics' DMC World Finals in 1997. After releasing their Shiggar Fraggar CD series and touring various countries around the world the group disbanded in 2001.

Each of its members however have continued to prove they are at the forefront of the scene by pursuing their own projects. In 1996, while both still a part of the ISP group, Dj's Qbert & Yogafrog set up their own company — Thud Rumble — dedicated to the art of scratching. There main goal was to spread the art of scratching on a global scale. They released their own video's called Turntable TV where Dj's from around the world would hang out and scratch.

In July of 2000, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts held Skratchcon2000, the first DJ Skratch forum that provided “the education and development of skratch music literacy”. By bringing the globe’s important DJs together in one arena, professional and amateur DJs were given the chance to learn and utilize various skills, techniques, and styles. In the past, Thud Rumble was involved in the facilitation of important historical DJ events like ITF (International Turntablist Federation) and the Vestax World DJ Championships. After being praised by Source Magazine as the “Greatest DJ event of all time”, Thud Rumble had successfully added Skratchcon2000 to the list.

Although a favourite of the Hip-Hop culture, Scratching has been incorporated into a number of other musical genres, including Pop, Rock, Jazz, and Classical music performances. Two of the earliest such examples were released in 1983: scratches by DXT on Herbie Hancock's hit song "Rockit", and, more obscurely, on a few songs the first Golden Palominos record, where Bill Laswell or M.E. Miller scratched. DJ Jazzy Joe, one of the pioneers dj's in India, loves to scratch and is one of the early dj's to bring a little bit of scratching to clubs around India and especially on his Hip-Hop Nights.

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