Once you can perform a few scratch techniques, you will want to start using and combining them to express yourself in freestyles.
How do you move from practicing techniques in a set timing, to something more fluid and flowing?
This article shows you how.
Here is an exercise to get you started.
First off grab a piece of paper and list the simplest scratches you can do comfortably – I recommend starting with stabs and transforms. Or even the baby scratch.
Put on a beat at a comfortable tempo that you really, really love. Use music that moves you emotionally.
We want the beat to inspire the scratch rhythms inside us. Believe me they are there! If it makes you feel like nodding your head or tapping your foot, or dancing, that is a good sign. Use that one.
Before you even put your hands on your record and mixer, play the beat. Really listen. Take a few deep breaths and start to hear the rhythms and patterns that come up in your head. Tap your hand if you want to.
Next, take the first simple scratch, like the stab.
Start to use the stab to perform those different rhythms you hear in your head over 4 bars. Don’t think too much about the technique, think about how you can best express yourself using that technique as a tool.
Best of all don’t think, let the music guide you. there is no right and wrong. Think of it as a conversation. We are not trying to just show off techniques, we want to tell a story. It’s really about speaking with your hands.
It is super easy to get distracted by the technique you are doing, especially when you have not physically mastered it, as the tendency can be to think more about executing the technique than freely expressing your rhythms and flow. It can feel frustrating. When this happens, stop, take a breathe and get back in touch with the beat, then have another go.
Expression works best when we are relaxed and inspired.
Next, repeat the exercise with a second technique, such as transforms.
Finally, we will start to combine the two, in this example, stabs and transforms. Try the following exercise:
- 2 bars stabs, 2 bars transforms.
- 2 bars stabs, 1 bar transforms, 1 bar stabs.
- Alternate 1 bar stabs and 1 bar transforms.
- 2 beats stabs and 2 beats transforms.
You can mix it up however you want.
Ideally you want to ditch looking at practice sheets or prompts, but this way of starting to think about freestyles can be a great way to get going and soon you will do it automatically.
It doesn’t matter if your hands can’t perform the patterns you hear in your head yet, that is just a matter of practice and time.
Listening to others rhythms and flows can influence and inspire our own, but you have your own unique expression that ultimately results from your individual interpretation.
Within you are all the scratch rhythms and patterns you ever need. Slow down and listen and you will be surprised. This is one of the most important things you will ever do in your scratch practice. Let everyone else worry about techniques, whilst you work on your expression and flow. With practice, your technique execution will catch up to your flow and that is when the magic happens!
This is my number 1 go to video to remember what self expression is all about, from a true master:
“Man listen. You see—really—to me, ok, to me, ultimately martial art means honestly expressing yourself. Now it is very difficult to do.
It is easy for me to put on a show and be cocky and be flooded with a cocky feeling and then feel like pretty cool and all that.
Or I can make all kinds of phony things—you see what I mean—blinded by it, or I can show you some really fancy movement, but to express oneself honestly, not lying to oneself and to express myself honestly, now that, my friend, is very hard to do; and you have to train, you have to keep your reflexes so that when you want it, it’s there.
When you want to move, you’re moving, and when you move you are determined to move—not taking one inch—not anything less than that.”
Scratching is a martial art. Bruce Lee uses punches, we use stabs, chirps, tears, flares and transforms.
Flow well my friends.
Happy Scratching yo! 😀
– Emma Short-E
P.S. I’ll be teaching the topic of developing your scratch flow in even more detail inside my School of Scratch.
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