10 Basic DJ Scratching Techniques You Need To Know In 2024

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Published By:

DJ Fierce

June 21, 2024

DJ Scratching Techniques

DJs looking to enhance their careers need to develop new skills, and learning some basic DJ scratching techniques is a great place to start.

Beginning with the spinback and baby scratch, these foundational scratching skills can be combined to create stunning DJ sets for your fans.

In this guide, we’ll explain how you can perform a range of basic scratch DJ techniques you can practice and perfect for your next mix.

What Is Scratching?

The art of scratching is deeply embedded in the history of record players, opening up new creative opportunities for all types of DJs.

In its essence, scratching gives the DJ additional ways to manipulate vocals and other sound effects over the tracks they’re mixing.

The basic scratch DJ premise revolves around rhythmically moving the track back and forth over a specific sound.

This movement is then combined with additional audio manipulation by using the crossfader to bring sounds in and out through the mixer.

Sometimes referred to as scrubbing, scratching is a fundamental technique used by hip-hop DJs such as DJ Q-Bert and other pros.

While hip-hop is the most commonly associated music genre for scratching, drum and bass, techno and house music can also benefit.

It’s a great way to take your DJing up a notch, bring some visual flare to your performance, and stand out from the competition.

Who Invented Scratch DJing?

Several key DJs introduced the world to scratching and helped develop the art form into what it is today.

The first notable scratch DJ was Grand Wizzard Theodore, who described the style as back-cueing played through the main speakers.

While practicing DJing, he stumbled across the technique and moved the record back and forth to save a starting point during a conversation.

A similar discovery was made by Afrika Bambaata while experimenting with his Technics SL-1200 decks during the 1970s.

It’s a technique popularized by some of the best old-school DJs, from DJ Kool Herc to the iconic hip-hop star Grandmaster Flash.

In the years since, many more influential DJs have contributed to developing the style and scratch techniques widely used today.

As new technologies continue to emerge and artificial intelligence reshapes sampling, we can anticipate the style to evolve in the future.

What Equipment Do I Need To Scratch?

Before you begin perfecting these basic scratch DJ techniques, you’ll need to invest in the appropriate DJ equipment.

First, you’ll need at least one turntable, although two are required for more advanced techniques such as beat juggling.

Your next purchase should be a mixer with a responsive and accurate crossfader, which delivers a sharp cut-in and curve adjustment.

If you’re using traditional turntables, a pair of slipmats will be required to allow the records to move smoothly over the plate.

Likewise, a good quality set of needles and cartridges is also important for ensuring a responsive sound when scratching vinyl.

If you’re using a DJ controller, some models come recommended for scratching through the included jog wheels and crossfader.

The Rane Twelve Mk II emulates the torque of a traditional turntable, or for entry-level DJs, there’s the Pioneer DJ DDJ-REV1.

Whether you’re building a home DJ setup or planning on playing at house parties, this gear is essential.

Selecting The Best Samples For Scratching

Working with samples is one of the core foundations of DJ production and crucial for developing a range of scratch techniques.

While scratching can be performed with all types of samples, you should work with a limited selection when first starting.

Professional scratch DJs work with everything from drum sounds to effects, but as a beginner, you’ll want a long, textured sound.

For example, a prolonged “Ahhh” vocal sample is a great place to begin since it has a clearly defined sound that can be manipulated.

You can also consider using instrumental tracks as well as using a single word, as well as those that don’t have a beat in the background.

This will make things easier and help you avoid being distracted by percussion elements that can introduce confusion when learning.

If you’re using a digital vinyl system, this will also give you plenty of options when loading tracks into the platform for scratching.

There are plenty of great sample packs you can download to build a library of vocals, instruments, and effects to practice scratching with.

10 Basic DJ Scratch Techniques You Need To Know In 2024

Learning how to scratch DJ can be daunting, and some more advanced scratching techniques can take years to master fully.

We’ve ensured this guide covers the core, basic scratch DJ skills you need to know to introduce the concept with a shallow learning curve.

So, now that we’ve covered the background, here are 10 basic DJ scratching techniques you need to know in 2024:

10. Backspins

If you’re looking into how to become a DJ who understands the best scratching techniques, chances are you’ve heard of backspins.

Also referred to as spinbacks, reloops, and repeat scratches, backspins were invented by none other than iconic DJ Grandmaster Flash.

They’re incredibly easy to perform and require DJs to spin the record back at the end of a phrase in an anti-clockwise direction.

Before the record returns to its clockwise movement, quickly move the crossfader across to bring in the new track.

Make sure the incoming track is at the beginning of a new bar, dropping the first beat as soon as the previous track is cut out.

9. Baby Scratch

Perhaps the most simple of all the basic scratch DJ techniques is the baby scratch, which can be performed with vinyl or a controller.

The basic principles remain the same, and you begin by establishing a marker for where you want the scratch sound to start.

You can use a piece of tape to set a marker on vinyl records, while CDJs have the option to set markers at the center of the jog wheel.

Once you’ve set a marker, you can use this to move the record back and forth over this point to create a baby scratch in your set.

Keep it in time with the rhythm of the track, counting to four to ensure this is in line with the music’s beats and bar structure.

It’s incredibly easy to perfect the baby scratch, and you don’t need to learn how to use the crossfader to get started.

8. Forward Scratch

Our next scratch technique you can start to learn is the forward scratch, which introduces the basic use of your mixer’s crossfader.

To perform the forward scratch, you’ll need to start with your crossfader closed and set up the record at the beginning of the sound.

Next, you’ll need to begin playing the record, and as it moves forward bring the crossfader slider toward the middle of the crossfader.

When the sample you’re scratching with ends, quickly return the crossfader to its starting closed position.

It’s a simple yet effective technique scratch DJs use to enhance their performance and bring a touch of showmanship to their DJ sets.

7. Backward Scratch

Once you’ve mastered the forward scratch, you can switch things up by combining it with our next technique, the backward scratch.

As its name implies, this is a reversed version of the forward scratch that flips it on its head and rewinds the sample being used.

For the backward scratch, you’ll want to set the crossfader to the closed position while positioning the record at the end of the sample.

As you drag the record back to the beginning of the sample, open up the crossfader so the reversed sound plays through the speakers.

Once you reach the beginning of the sample, quickly close the crossfader and return the record to the starting position for the next scratch.

6. Scribble Scratch

The scribble scratch is another easy-to-learn technique you can introduce when making a DJ mix for hip-hop and drum and bass music.

It’s a faster and slightly more complex variation on the baby scratch that works best when using a short and sharp sample.

To perform the scribble scratch, raise your arms above the record with your finger in position at the start point of the sample.

Next, open up the crossfader and make a rapid back-and-forth motion over the sample, keeping the motion short and sweet.

5. Flare Scratch

Now that we’ve explored some basic scratch techniques that use back-and-forth motion, it’s time to integrate the crossfader motion.

The flare scratch uses the same process as the backward scratch and forward scratch, moving the record between the samples’ start and end.

However, this technique also requires you to move the crossfader in quick succession as the record is moved to split up the sound further.

Each time you move the fader from the open and closed position, a clicking noise is introduced to the flare scratch.

The more times you bounce the fader between the open and closed position, the more flare scratches you’ll bring to the mix.

4. Orbit Scratch

The orbit scratch, also known as the two-click flare scratch, is another great technique for practicing and honing your crossfader skills.

Combining a forward scratch and backward scratch, the orbit scratch is performed by moving the fader twice on each motion.

Starting with an open fader, you’ll close it twice while moving the record in a forward scratch to create two distinct scratching sounds.

Reversing the record through a backward scratch and closing the fader twice for this motion will add the next clicking noise sequence.

It’s an excellent technique for those learning how to scratch, bringing together some of the core elements you’ll use in other methods.

3. Chirp Scratch

As the name implies, the chirp scratch creates a sound similar to a bird chirping, bringing additional texture to your DJ sets.

When performing the chirp scratch, you’ll start by playing your track forward over the sample and cutting it at the endpoint.

While the track is cut out, back-cue the record to the starting position so it reaches your initial cue point.

Once you’ve reached this point, turn the fader back on and repeat the above steps to perform the next chirp scratch.

You can combine the chirp scratch with a range of advanced DJ techniques and bring a degree of theatricality to your performances.

2. Transformer Scratch

Learning how to scratch DJ doesn’t have to be difficult, with lots of DJing workshops you can sign up for to get started.

These courses will help you learn many techniques, with the transformer scratch another great starting point for scratching.

For the transformer scratch, you’ll need to select a longer sample to use as you push the record back and forth from beginning to end.

As you perform this motion, open and close the fader while ensuring it stays within the rhythm of the overall DJ mix.

Aim to open and close the fader four times throughout the length of your chosen sample, hitting each scratch sound in line with the beat.

1. Tear Scratch

Our final pick for easy techniques to learn if you’re new to scratch DJing is the tear scratch, which begins with the fader open.

Place one hand on the record and slide it forward, before stopping for a brief moment and continuing forward after this pause.

You can then perform the same process in reverse, moving back briefly, pausing the motion, and continuing to the start position.

Like the transformer scratch, the tear scratch is best performed while using a longer sample that delivers more sound to work with.

To ensure your fader performs as expected, make sure you clean your DJ gear regularly to free it from dust and dirt.


Learning how to scratch DJ takes time and effort, but these basic techniques should help you get the ball rolling and build your skills.

The more you practice these techniques with different samples and records, the more versatile their application will be in your DJ sets.

Once you’re confident with these basic scratch techniques, you can begin to chain them together and move on to more advanced methods.

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