Vinyl scratching is a beloved technique among DJs, but not all turntables are created equal when it comes to executing this skill.
With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to determine which turntables are suitable for scratching and which ones aren’t.
In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of scratching on turntables, including the differences between belt-driven and direct drive turntables, the potential damage to vinyl records, and a new technology that eliminates the need for needles altogether.
Whether you’re a seasoned DJ or just starting out, this guide will help you understand what to look for in a turntable that can handle your scratching needs.
Can You Scratch On Any Turntable
The short answer is no, not all turntables are suitable for scratching. While it is possible to scratch on digital DJ controllers, many DJs prefer the pure sound of vinyl records. However, vinyl records are fragile and can easily be damaged by scratching. Even too much pressure from the turntable’s needle can cause damage to a record.
Direct drive turntables are the best option for scratching because they have no delay between moving the platter and reaching the desired speed. This ensures that the record won’t miss a beat or lag behind after the scratch has been performed. Direct drive turntables specifically designed for scratching have powerful motors and platters that perfectly balance resistance and smoothness when moving underhand.
On the other hand, belt-driven turntables are not suitable for scratching because they have a delay between moving the platter and reaching the desired speed. This delay can cause the record to skip or lag behind after a scratch has been performed.
It’s also common for DJs to use two turntables simultaneously when scratching. This allows them to use one record to create the scratching effect while the other continues to play the main beat. Using two turntables also makes it possible to beat-match, which involves slowing down or speeding up the tempo of one of the records to line up with the other’s beats per minute (BPM).
However, a new technology called Phase eliminates the need for needles altogether. Phase is a pair of small rectangle-shaped transmitters with sticky bottoms that you affix to the top of a piece of vinyl. As a record plays or is scratched, Phase’s sensors send information about these movements to a receiver, which is connected to both the DJ gear and your laptop running the DJ software. This enables you to play and scratch the music loaded in the software using turntables without the use of a needle and tonearm.
Belt-driven Vs Direct Drive Turntables: Which One Is Better For Scratching?
When it comes to scratching, direct drive turntables are the clear winner over belt-driven turntables. Direct drive turntables have a motor that is connected directly to the platter, which results in the platter spinning at the exact speed of the motor. This makes direct drive turntables more responsive and better suited to scratching than belt-driven turntables.
Belt-driven turntables, on the other hand, have a delay between moving the platter and reaching the desired speed. This delay can cause the record to skip or lag behind after a scratch has been performed, making them not ideal for scratching.
Direct drive turntables specifically designed for scratching have powerful motors and platters that perfectly balance resistance and smoothness when moving underhand. This ensures that the record won’t miss a beat or lag behind after the scratch has been performed.
While it is possible to scratch on a belt-driven turntable, it is not recommended. Belt-driven turntables are not designed for scratching and do not have the necessary torque to adequately learn or perform technical scratch solos.
The Potential Damage To Vinyl Records When Scratching
When it comes to scratching vinyl records, there is a potential for damage to occur. Vinyl records are fragile and can easily be scratched or damaged if not handled properly. Scratching involves moving the needle back and forth across the grooves of the record, creating a unique sound effect. However, this movement can cause friction between the needle and the vinyl, leading to scratches or even deep gouges.
If a record has already been scratched before scratching it again, it’s possible for the needle to get stuck or lodged in the scratch. While the needle may jump out of the scratch, playing damaged records consistently can lead to damage to the needle at a faster pace. It’s important to note that even lightly scratched records can cause damage to the needle over time.
To minimize potential damage when scratching, it’s essential to handle your records with care. Mishandling your records by carelessly removing and replacing them in their sleeves or covers can cause tiny surface scratches. Stacking records can also lead to warping and scratches, as surface dirt on the vinyl can act as an accelerant for damage.
Using a direct drive turntable specifically designed for scratching can also help minimize potential damage. These turntables have powerful motors and platters that perfectly balance resistance and smoothness when moving underhand. Belt-driven turntables are not suitable for scratching because of the delay between moving the platter and reaching the desired speed.
Lastly, it’s important to maintain clean hands while handling vinyl records. Oils from your skin can transfer onto the record and further degrade its sound quality. Using a specialized mat can help protect the underside of the record from damage caused by the turntable itself.
A New Technology That Eliminates The Need For Needles In Scratching
Phase is a revolutionary new technology that eliminates the need for needles in scratching. Created by French company MWM, Phase uses wireless technology to translate the movements of a record into the timecode format that can be read by Digital Vinyl System (DVS) software such as Traktor and Serato. The Phase transmitter has an adhesive surface which can be affixed atop a record, and as the record plays, Phase uses sensors to track the movements and send the information to a receiver, which is linked to the DJ equipment and laptop running the DVS. The wireless technology means users don’t face the possibility of needle skips or records jumping from shaking surfaces.
Vinyl DJs that play with DVS software normally use records that have timecode on them, not music. Tracks are loaded onto virtual decks in the software, and then those audio files can be controlled and physically manipulated with the timecode vinyl. This preserves the tactile feedback of DJing with turntables (allowing for things like slip-cueing and scratching), but it doesn’t eliminate the pitfalls that come with it. Turntables and needles can be fussy, especially in a club environment. Rumble from loud bass can make a tonearm jitter, dust caught underneath a needle can cause skips, or there can be the worry about someone physically bumping into the turntable and making the stylus jump.
Phase is compatible with any turntable, which, as well as fitting any record player setup you may have, makes it an easily portable option for club use. You can even lift the record off the platter and give it a spin on your finger for a particularly scratching manoeuvre. MWM recently showcased the technology at the NAMM trade show with multiple demonstrations, and there was no perceivable latency with the technology, even when turntablists performed quick and complex movement. MVM says the battery life can last up to 10 hours on a full charge, and they’re already working on improving it. Release plans are scheduled for this summer, with the price expected to be around $300.
How To Choose The Right Turntable For Your Scratching Needs
When choosing a turntable for scratching, there are a few key features to consider. Firstly, it’s important to select a direct-drive turntable. This type of turntable provides the immediate response and torque necessary for accurate and precise scratching. Direct-drive turntables designed specifically for scratching have powerful motors and platters that perfectly balance resistance and smoothness when moving underhand.
Another important feature to consider is the cartridge. Moving magnet cartridges are a popular choice as they are more reliable and offer great sound quality. It’s important to ensure that the cartridge is suitable for scratching and has a sturdy stylus that can withstand the pressure of repeated back-and-forth movements.
Additionally, it’s recommended to choose a turntable with a high signal-to-noise ratio, ideally above 65dB. This ensures that there is minimal background noise during scratching and that the music signal is much stronger than any noise.
Lastly, it’s important to consider your budget. Turntables range in price greatly, from entry-level models to high-end models that can cost several thousand dollars. It’s important to keep in mind that a more expensive model is not necessarily better; you should focus on finding the best turntable for your budget and needs.
Tips And Techniques For Scratching Like A Pro On Any Turntable
Scratching like a pro requires practice, patience, and the right techniques. Here are some tips and techniques to help you scratch like a pro on any turntable:
1. Start with the baby scratch: The baby scratch is the foundation of all scratches and the easiest technique to learn. Place your hand on the turntable, stop the sound underneath your fingers, and push forward and pull back in smooth, rhythmical motions. Practice this technique until you can do it in time with the beat of a song.
2. Experiment with different scratches: Once you’ve mastered the baby scratch, experiment with different scratches like the tear, transform, and spinback. Each scratch has its own unique sound and rhythm, so try combining them to create scratch combos.
3. Use two turntables: Using two turntables allows you to scratch on one record while the other continues to play the main beat. This makes it possible to beat-match and create seamless transitions between songs.
4. Invest in a direct drive turntable: Direct drive turntables are the best option for scratching because they have no delay between moving the platter and reaching the desired speed. Look for a direct drive turntable specifically designed for scratching with a powerful motor and a platter that perfectly balances resistance and smoothness.
5. Protect your records: Vinyl records are fragile and can easily be damaged by scratching. Use slipmats to protect your records from scratches and invest in high-quality needles to minimize wear and tear.
6. Practice, practice, practice: Scratching takes time and practice to master. Set aside time each day to practice your scratching techniques and experiment with new scratches. With time and dedication, you’ll be scratching like a pro in no time.