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The acoustics and performance of DJ scratching, Analysis and modelling
KTH, School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Speech, Music and Hearing, TMH, Music Acoustics.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4259-484X
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis focuses on the analysis and modeling of scratching, in other words, the DJ (disk jockey) practice of using the turntable as a musical instrument. There has been experimental use of turntables as musical instruments since their invention, but the use is now mainly ascribed to the musical genre hip-hop and the playing style known as scratching. Scratching has developed to become a skillful instrument-playing practice with complex musical output performed by DJs. The impact on popular music culture has been significant, and for many, the DJ set-up of turntables and a mixer is now a natural instrument choice for undertaking a creative music activity. Six papers are included in this thesis, where the first three approach the acoustics and performance of scratching, and the second three approach scratch modeling and the DJ interface. Additional studies included here expand on the scope of the papers.

For the acoustics and performance studies, DJs were recorded playing both demonstrations of standard performance techniques, and expressive performances on sensor-equipped instruments. Analysis of the data revealed that there are both differences and commonalities in playing strategies between musicians, and between expressive intentions. One characteristic feature of scratching is the range of standard playing techniques, but in performances it seems DJs vary the combination of playing techniques more than the rendering of these techniques. The third study describes some of the acoustic parameters of typical scratch improvisations and looks at which musical parameters are typically used for expressive performances. Extracted acoustic and performance parameters from the data show the functional ranges within which DJs normally play.

Unlike traditional musical instruments, the equipment used for scratching was not intended to be used for creating music. The interface studies focus on traditional as well as new interfaces for DJs, where parameter mappings between input gestures and output signal are described. Standard performance techniques have been modeled in software called Skipproof, based on results from the first papers. Skipproof was used for testing other types of controllers than turntables, where complex DJ gestures could be manipulated using simplified control actions, enabling even non-experts to play expressively within the stylistic boundaries of DJ scratching. The last paper describes an experiment of using an existing hardware platform, the Reactable, to help designing and prototyping the interaction between different sound models and instrument interfaces, including scratching and Skipproof.

In addition to the included papers, studies were conducted of expressivity, description of the emotional contents of scratching, DJ playing activities, and the coupling between playing techniques and sample. The physical affordances of the turntable, mixer and samples, as well as genre conventions of hip-hop, are assumed to explain some of the findings that distinguish scratching from other instrumental sounds or practices.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH , 2010. , p. xii, 74
Series
Trita-CSC-A, ISSN 1653-5723 ; 2010:01
National Category
Fluid Mechanics and Acoustics Other Veterinary Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-11927ISBN: 978-91-7415-541-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-11927DiVA, id: diva2:290150
Public defence
2010-02-12, Sal F2, Lindstedtsvägen 26, KTH, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC20100729Available from: 2010-01-26 Created: 2010-01-26 Last updated: 2010-07-29Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The basics of scratching
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The basics of scratching
2002 (English)In: Journal of New Music Research, ISSN 0929-8215, E-ISSN 1744-5027, Vol. 31, no 4, p. 357-365Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article deals with the popular and rarely studied art form of manipulating a vinyl record by rhythmically dragging and pushing it, commonly labelled “scratching.” With sufficient practice, a Disc Jockey (DJ) can have great control over the sound produced and treat the turntable as an expressive musical instrument. Even though a digital-based model of scratching might seem preferable to the vulnerable vinyl record, and such models are being manufactured today, the acoustical behaviour of the scratch has not been formally studied until now. To gain information of this behaviour, a DJ was asked to perform some typical scratching patterns. These common playing techniques and the corresponding sounds have been analysed. Since the focus of the article is on the basics of how the instrument works, an overview on standardized equipment and alternative equipment is also given.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2002
National Category
Fluid Mechanics and Acoustics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-11921 (URN)10.1076/jnmr.31.4.357.14171 (DOI)000183144100006 ()
Note

QC20100729. QC 20160115

Available from: 2010-01-25 Created: 2010-01-25 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
2. Analysis of a genuine scratch performance
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Analysis of a genuine scratch performance
2004 (English)In: Lecture Notes in Computer Science, ISSN 0302-9743, E-ISSN 1611-3349, Vol. 2915, p. 477-478Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The art form of manipulating vinyl records done by disc jockeys (DJs) is called scratching, and has become very popular since its start in the seventies. Since then turntables are commonly used as expressive musical instruments in several musical genres. This phenomenon has had a serious impact on the instrument-making industry, as the sales of turntables and related equipment have boosted. Despite of this, the acoustics of scratching has been barely studied until now. In this paper, we illustrate the complexity of scratching by measuring the gestures of one DJ during a performance. The analysis of these measurements is important to consider in the design of a scratch model.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer Berlin/Heidelberg, 2004
National Category
Fluid Mechanics and Acoustics Computer Sciences Human Computer Interaction Interaction Technologies Music
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-11922 (URN)10.1007/978-3-540-24598-8_48 (DOI)000189451300048 ()2-s2.0-7444242121 (Scopus ID)978-3-540-21072-6 (ISBN)
Note

QC20100729. QC 20160115

Available from: 2010-01-26 Created: 2010-01-26 Last updated: 2018-01-12Bibliographically approved
3. Analysis of the acoustics and playing strategies of turntable scratching
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Analysis of the acoustics and playing strategies of turntable scratching
2011 (English)In: Acta Acoustica united with Acustica, ISSN 1610-1928, E-ISSN 1861-9959, Vol. 97, no 2, p. 303-314Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Scratching performed by a DJ (disk jockey) is a skillful style of playingthe turntable with complex musical output. This study focuses on the description of some of the acoustical parameters and playing strategies of typical scratch improvisations, and how these parameters typically are used for expressive performance. Three professional DJs were instructed to express different emotions through improvisations, and both audio and gesturaldata were recorded. Feature extraction and analysis of the recordings are based on a combination of audio and gestural data, instrument characteristics, and playing techniques. The acoustical and performance parameters extracted from the recordings give a first approximation on the functional ranges within which DJs normally play. Results from the analysis show that parameters which are important for other solo instrument performances, suchas pitch, have less influence in scratching. Both differences and commonalities between the DJs’ playing styles were found. Impact that the findings of this work may have on constructing models for scratch performances arediscussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
S Hirzel verlag, 2011
Keywords
MUSIC PERFORMANCE; FREQUENCY; PERCEPTION; DURATION; PROSODY
National Category
Computer Sciences Human Computer Interaction Music Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-11923 (URN)10.3813/AAA.918410 (DOI)000288130700014 ()2-s2.0-79952119561 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC20100729 (Uppdaterad från submitted till published 20110328). QC 20160115

Available from: 2010-01-26 Created: 2010-01-26 Last updated: 2018-01-12Bibliographically approved
4. The Skipproof virtual turntable for high-level control of scratching
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Skipproof virtual turntable for high-level control of scratching
2010 (English)In: Computer music journal, ISSN 0148-9267, E-ISSN 1531-5169, Vol. 34, no 2, p. 39-50Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A background on scratching and disc jockey (DJ) interfaces is presented, Skipproof application is described, performance situations where Skipproof is used are presented, and current implementations and possible future uses of Skipproof are discussed. DJing has grown from record players, turntables, and vinyl records to the use of product catalog of commercial physical controllers with other sound formats and sequencer-based interfaces with non-real-time interaction. Skipproof provides the main functionality of a turntable and a mixer, allowing a user to play different sound samples and alter the speed and amplitude manually. Skipproof is used in GUI and visual feedback, sensor and parameter mapping, and audio. The use of radio Baton as the turntable controller in a public performance featuring the Skipproof software showed problems due to the lack of beat synchronization of the scratch techniques and the impossibility of setting a general tempo.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
MIT Press, 2010
Keywords
Computer Science, Interdisciplinary Applications; Music
National Category
Computer Sciences Human Computer Interaction Music
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-11924 (URN)10.1162/comj.2010.34.2.39 (DOI)000279398400003 ()2-s2.0-77954680435 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC20101217 från in press till published 20101217. QC 20160115

Available from: 2010-01-26 Created: 2010-01-26 Last updated: 2018-01-12Bibliographically approved
5. Mapping strategies in DJ scratching
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Mapping strategies in DJ scratching
2006 (English)In: Proc. of the Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression, IRCAM , 2006, p. 188-191Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

For 30 years Disc Jockeys have been expressing their musical ideas with scratching. Unlike many other popular instruments, the equipment used for scratching is not built as one single unit, and it was not intended to be a musical instrument. This paper gives an overview of how DJs use their turntable, vinyl record and audio mixer in junction to produce scratch music. Their gestural input to the instrument is explained by looking at the mapping principles between the controller parameters and the audio output parameters. Implications are discussed for the design of new interfaces with examples of recent innovations and experiments in the field.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
IRCAM, 2006
National Category
Computer Sciences Human Computer Interaction Interaction Technologies Music
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-11925 (URN)2-84426-314-3 (ISBN)
Conference
Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression
Note

QC20100729. QC 20160115

Available from: 2010-01-26 Created: 2010-01-26 Last updated: 2018-01-12Bibliographically approved
6. Using the Reactable as experimental interface for instrument design prototyping
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Using the Reactable as experimental interface for instrument design prototyping
(English)In: Organised Sound, ISSN 1355-7718, E-ISSN 1469-8153Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Abstract [en]

This paper describes an experiment of using an existing hardware platform, the Reactable, to help designing the interaction between three different sound models and instrument interfaces. The aim was to test if prototyping could be facilitated by interacting with models of control actions derivedfrom performance gestures on an intermediate interface. The Reactable isa tangible table-top electronic musical instrument, and the software models include a DJ scratch interface, a virtual turntable, a physics-based sound model representing a bow-and-string interaction, and a physics-based friction sound model for sonification of the user gestures. The interaction was evaluated by two experts: one Reactable musician and one DJ. Their task was to practice expressive, musical performances. Data from the performers were collected through questionnaires and video recordings. The advantages of usinga single, versatile, hardware setup as a designer tool for various interface tasks are discussed. It is suggested how this hardware can be described as an alternative mapping layer.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge University Press
National Category
Fluid Mechanics and Acoustics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-11926 (URN)
Note

QS 20120326. QS 2016

Available from: 2010-01-26 Created: 2010-01-26 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved

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Falkenberg Hansen, Kjetil

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Citation style
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  • en-US
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Output format
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