Chp.2 | Backspining and Juggling

Backspinning is taking a pair of records and repeating the same portion of each record alternately -- in effect "looping" the segments together continuously.

This style of rewinding the record backwards to locate a cue point has been used by radio Disc Jockeys for many years prior to the Hip-hop movement, but not until the emergence of Kool Herc, Bamabatta and especially Grandmaster Flash, had it been done so cleverly and rapid in a live setting. What the Hip-hop DJ did so masterfully was in finding exciting portions of recordings, usually "a break" or "a bridge" in a recording and then extended this grooves over and over, in effect making a brand new abstracted version of the original.

Jamaican born, Dj Kool Herc is the earliest pioneer of this style and in effect created a dub like instrumentals from these rear records, that early Emcees raped/toasted over at a party. As hip-hop grew, the Emcees turned in Rappers, as the DJs turn toward samplers to precisely manipulate their loops. Today backspining is the basic method used for many Dj especially when you see exciting battle-style body tricks or lively party-rocking doublings, triplings, etc...



A common example of backspinning is notated below. One measure of the beat is played on turntable 1, then the same measure is rubbed in and played (on beat) on turntable 2.

While the measure is playing on turntable 2, the same measure just played on turntable 1 is backspun and re-cued. At the end of the measure played on turntable 2, the first two counts of the measure is played on turntable 1.

This segment is then repeated from turntable 2.

This pattern of alternating between the two turntables by playing a segment on one turntable while re-cuing the other is the essence of "backspinning".

In the example notated above, the segment being repeated becomes shorter and shorter until only the first count of the measure is being repeated. This rapid back and forth pattern continues for 4 measures.



The notation above describes the same composition as the previous page, but introduces symbols for several standard components of a drumbeat.

The symbols can be used to clarify a backspinning, juggling, or drumming routine. It is not necessary to notate extraneous sounds if they don't play a significant role in the routine.

A pair of "4 : "repeat symbols are also introduced in this example, at the end of the staffs . These symbols replace the long hand notation shown in the final measure of the example above.


IN THE CRATE (in order of appearance)
"Monster Jam" by Spoonie Gee and Sequence, "Rapture" by Blondie, "Good Times" by Chic, "Apache" by The Incredible Bongo Band, "Another One Bites The Dust" by Queen, "Freedom" by Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Unknown children book record (a guy from "Adams, North Dakota"), "8th Wonder" by The Sugarhill Gang, and a Flash Gordon record too.

In the world of Hip-hop recordings "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels of Steel" is the most important DJ record of all time.

A first of it’s kind, the record, over 5 minutes in length, was a innovative arrangement of other recordings. At the this time, listeners were taken on a revolutionary journey on a live DJ mix of by legendary DJ Grandmaster Flash. The ideas of cutting and pasting together music were never clearer than in this recording as it opened the eyes of so many future DJs. Flash explains how it all came about:

"It took a couple of meetings with (Sugar Hill records president) Sylvia Robinson to convince her to schedule me studio time to go in and record the musical montage. This was not a party routine, the songs were specifically picked to create this DJ record -- my biggest obstacle was picking songs that were familiar to people in America as well as overseas"

"I used 3 Technics turntables and 2 Mixers, and I practiced it quite a few times for structure. For the recording session, it took me two times to nail it. The first time I slipped a cut, and then I simply said 'rewind the multi-track, no punch.’ The engineer Steve Jerome at the time asked me if I was sure, I said 'no punch, lets go from the T-O-P.’ it was all good on the second take. As a result the first DJ record was born and Joseph Saddler(a.k.a. Grandmaster Flash) gets an identity."

Well, it certainty put Flash’s identity on the map for good, and made it clear that a Hip-Hop DJ is not your ordinary disc jockey. Grandmaster Flash did not just play records, he actually played with the records, pioneering a new form music as a result.

The basic arrangement is strongly structured around a kind of linear story, thus it is helpful to read the lyrical text under the transcriptions. What is typical of the this arrangement, and many of other old school DJ routines, are the long rubs and cuts that lead off each new record being thrown in.

You will also be reminded that when a record plays longer than one measure the line will then continue from the bottom of the staff. On some lines, small icons are placed to designate components of a track; this will help express a significant part of what is played.

An example of using the drum symbols for a reference is clear at bar 18. At that point you will see that Turntable #1 has the beat of "Another One Bites The Dust" is marked on the line. At the same time on Turntable #2, Flash starts to rub the beginning of the "Good Times" segment, this is performed in time with beat above. Eventually Flash releases the record and the squiggly "rub" line then straightens out as it plays on.


The example above illustrates two popular techniques seen in DJing with two turntables: delaying and chasing.

Delaying consists of playing two copies of the same record at the same time, but offset by a short amount of time (typically 1/8 note). The delay effect then occurs when the cross fader is flipped between the two channels at regular intervals. Typically the interval of the cross fader movement matches the interval of the offset between the two records. In the example above, both the offset between the records and the interval of the fader movement are 1/8 note.

Chasing is similar to the delaying, but between each interval of record play, the record is tapped or held for a brief moment. This slows down the tempo of the beats by adding a consistent pause after every interval of sound. In the example above, the pause, (the interval of the fader movement or hold), and the interval of record play are all 1/8 note.

24 •JUGGLING (Condensed)


Because backspinnig and juggling techniques often require more written space, the example below offers the option of a condense notation.

The example above is the condensed notation from the previous page. It has been reduced with the use of the steady fader symbol and the continuation symbol. The condensed notation for the delay is created by first charting the sample to be used, then noting on the mixer line the amount of the delay (1/8 in this example) beside the steady crossfading symbol, and finally marking the beginning and ending points for the steady fader pattern. In instances (such as chasing) where there is a constant mixer pattern being repeated while the record(s) continue to play, the notation can be condensed with the use of the continuation symbol.

To show continuation, draw enough of the pattern for it to be clear what is to be continued, then draw a horizontal bracket over the established pattern. Next, extend a line to indicate the general playing path and termination of the pattern.


By 1990, The DJ battle scene was full of ill DJs who embraced transformer scratches and high-speed back-spinning trickery. Then emerged DJ Steve Dee of Harlem New York, a DJ on a mission.

Steve explains "I realized that the sampler had (originally) mimicked what the DJ did -- so what if the DJ imitated what the sampler was doing?"

Steve did just that and created a new turntablist standard eventually called "beat juggling". Instead of taking the same portion of a recording and repeatedly back-spinning it, Steve initiated a style of advance back spinning where he used different portions of a recording (a "kick" from one record, a "hi-hat" from another), and sped up or slowed down portions to fall on tempo. The result was a unique new live track that sounded as if a programmed sampler had made it.

"The hardest part was getting the audience to get back to listening, DJs were doing really fast back-spinning and tricks and I was trying to get people to listen, more than watch. Musically though, I didn’t sound like everyone else, who were going a1000mph, but ironically I was going really fast to hit my marks -- I was doing 30 second triplets."

The record selection for this technique is key, but not limiting as Steve explains, "I m trying to create a beat with whatever. It doesn’t matter if the recording is a beat or a bunch of noises, I’m going to create a pattern that will sound funky."

The first staff contains a classic example of back spinning – a live form of looping with two of the same record (play a segment as you cue up the next segment, then play that next segment as you cue up the first one over again, then repeat). Later is an example of chasing – setting the records to play slightly ahead, creating a slight repeat or stutter. Toward the end is popular technique used in beat juggling where the record is held, stopping the sound (a flat line is shown), then it is released on time to maintain tempo.


( from Scratch Magazine 2005)

There are many ways to set up your turntables. Here are a few popular ones. Just check yourself before you wreck yourself; you don’t want to hit the tone arm in the middle of your funky demonstration.

1. Old School:
Straight out of the box, the way Technics branded wanted a DJ to position them.
Used by: Grandmaster Flash, Steve Dee

2. The L Style:
A style made famous by some members of the DJ battle crew the X-men (X-ecutioners), the start/stop buttons are close to the mixer
Used by: Rob Swift, Mr. Sinister

3. DJ Cash Money Style aka Philly Style:
Those boys in Philly really set a standard back in the nid-80s, when they turned the tables 90 degrees, making an easy way to reach most of the record.
Used By: Cash Money, Jazzy Jeff, Roc Raida

4. One-Handed:
A setup for those DJs that are more comfortable scratching with one hand more than the other. Whatever works!
Used by: DJ David (Germany)


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