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Do you struggle with scratch improv?
If so, you’re not alone. Loads of aspiring scratch DJs have a hard time improvising fresh scratch flows on the fly.
The good news? → It’s not just a natural talent that only the “lucky” DJs have.
It’s an actual skill that YOU can learn and practice too! Literally ANYONE can learn to improvise! 🎊
In fact, you already know how to improvise instinctively because you do this every single day as a human being: LIFE is one big fat IMPROV!
Case in point:
Did you plan every single word you spoke all day today? Nope.
(At least I hope not. 😹)
From an artistic perspective, actors are known to study their improv skills regularly as an integral part of their craft.
But did you know that improvisation is such an essential acting skill, there are specialized acting schools dedicated solely to teaching you how to make stuff up as you go?
Speaking from experience, here’s yours truly on stage with my improv class at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) co-founded by the hilarious Amy Poehler.
Of course, traditional musicians make sharpening their improv chops a priority too. It’s an integral skill that every musician needs to hone to develop their unique voice.
Improvisation also plants the sonic seeds of creativity that sprout into full blown songs. And then of course there’s Jazz: An entire musical genre of which improvisation is a main ingredient. Yum! 😋
Regardless of the craft, it usually helps to set a few improv rules before you play the game.
These guidelines help to inspire your creativity and provide a loose outline to dance around.🕺🏽
Soooo, if you’re struggling to freestyle your own scratch flow on the fly, give yourself a container of bars (aka a “phrase”) and try to tell a short story within that container.
I like to call this technique “Story Phrasing”:
⚡ Start by improvising your scratching within 4-bar (or) 8-bar phrases.
⚡ Focus on creating a distinct beginning, middle & and end within each phrase to tell your “story”, and make sure you finish your ‘thought’ before starting the next phrase.
⚡ An easy way to do this is just to release the full scratch sample at the start of the phrase before you cut it up throughout, and then finish by releasing the full sample again at the very end of the phrase to create closure. The release introduces the sample to kick things off and then repeats again as a resolution to button things up.
⚡If you’re having trouble ending on time or starting the next phrase right away, try pausing for the same amount of bars before you start scratching your next phrase. (ex. Scratch 4 bars, Rest 4 bars, Scratch 4 bars, Rest 4 bars…)
🤩 This improv technique will train you to structure your freestyle flow in a way that makes makes musical sense so that you automatically sound more polished & deliberate when you improvise on the fly.
You can practice this alone in a solo sesh as described above, or Q&A with another person, alternating 4-bar (or) 8-bar phrases each.
Want to see this secret sauce in action?
Peep the video above! It’s a little freestyle scratch DJ session that I improvised in my studio on my fave Technics 1200 MKII turntables and Rane 72 DJ mixer. 😻
This scratch DJ session was originally filmed live online during a private lesson as an 8-bar Q&A improvised freestyle scratch practice drill with one of my students.
However, it was so much fun that I edited the video to eliminate the 8-bar rests and cut together a few of my fave 8-bar freestyle segments of this scratch DJ session to share with you for a fresh dose of inspo!
🥁 The beat I’m cutting to is “Irony” produced by Faust & Shortee …if you dig it, you can score it here in the Bionic Beats Bundle.
🤓 FUN FACT: The Technics 1200s in this video (& most of my videos) are actually my first turntables that I learned to DJ on way back in 1995, and that I still use to DJ & teach with to this day!
Just goes to show that Technics turntables are built solid as a rock → as long you keep them tuned up they’ll last you FOR 👏 EV 👏 ER!
I hope this 8-bar freestyle scratch session will give ya a quick dose of scratch DJ inspo for your own scratch improvs. ✨💫🔥
Give it a try and let me know how it goes in the YouTube comments! ⚡
ps — 🤗 Need some help practicing your freestyle scratch phrases? Get this full interactive Q&A practice session with the 8-bar rest breaks (so you can scratch back & forth with me Q&A style 😉) in my “SUPREME STABS” Scratch DJ Practice Pack with 60 scratch practice drills.
Grab this dope collection of 9 scratch samples and 11 exclusive beats to rock your scratch sessions like a pro!
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