3 Old Skool Techniques Every Hip-Hop DJ Should Learn

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hip hop Pro scratching
Last updated 11 November, 2019

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We’ve got a bunch of community members asking us for some hip-hop DJing tips. Traditional hip-hop DJing has differences in style from other genres. At times it can be smooth beatmixing like many other genres, but other times it can sound more abrupt in an attempt to get a reaction out of the crowd.

Here are three hip-hop techniques to master whether you spin with a DJ controller, media player or vinyl.

1. Dropping on the one

One of the simplest and most effective ways of playing hip-hop songs is a technique called dropping on the one, sometimes also known as slam mixing. This technique is a great way to drop a popular or recognisable song or to change tempos quickly.

This is done by mixing in the song you want to play next by playing it from a specific point, usually at the beginning of a verse, or a memorable line, while mixing out of the previous song quickly. This is usually done with the crossfader, rapidly cutting from one side to the other.

Timing is very important with this technique so it may take some practise to get this one right. Make sure that you mix out of the song at the end of the bar or measure (a bar is simply a set of four beats, that you’d count “one, two, three, four” – we cover all of this in The Complete DJ Course). Then, bring in the next song right at the beginning of a bar. It may take some time to get down, but is one of the best ways to mix in a song that you know the crowd wants to hear.

2. Extending the break

Before there was a looping feature on CDJs or in any DJ software, DJs had to have two copies of their tracks on vinyl or CD and manually “rewind” or re-cue the track over and over. Originally this was done in the early days of hip-hop to extend the best parts of a track, often what is called “the break” (usually an eight-bar section where the drummer shows off a bit, in the second half of the song). The more modern use of this technique is to repeat the most memorable lines in a song.

To extend the break you will need to load the same song to both decks, with the first deck playing like normal and the second ready to play at the part of the song you’d like to extend. Then once the part you’d like to repeat plays on the first deck is coming to the end of the section start teasing the beginning of that same section on the second deck. This is done by letting the first half or one beat play. This is done as a way to let the crowd you are doing something live and to let them know that part of the song they love is getting repeated. Then as that section comes to an end on deck one, repeat the section on deck two. As the second deck plays that same part, rewind the first deck to the beginning of that section to prepare to play it again.

You could use the looping feature on your hardware or DJ software to repeat the section, but you wouldn’t be able to tease the section being repeated to the crowd. The teasing aspect of this technique calls back to the days of turntables and old school hip-hop DJing. By teasing the track you add a human feel and your audience will know you’re not just “pressing buttons”.

You can repeat a section like this as many times as you like, but this is usually done two or four times. You do not want to extend a vocal part of a track too many times as it can get too repetitive. If you are doing this with a section that doesn’t have vocals feel free to extend the section further.

3. Half beat/quarter beat chases

The chase technique is a way to add a little bit of personality to your mixes. This technique is kind of like hitting a loop roll over and over again, doubling up sections of the song as it plays. This is normally done over instrumental sections of songs or over the chorus of a song.

To do the chase technique you will need to load the same song in both decks. Then make sure that the songs are playing at the same tempo and playing from the same point. If your DJ software or hardware has an “Instant Double” feature, use it for speed here.

Once you have the two songs playing together, you will then need to offset one of the decks by either half a beat or a quarter of a beat. Then quickly move the crossfader back and forth with the same timing that you offset the two songs by. So if you offset the songs by half a beat then move the crossfader back and forth every half beat.

Finally

These three techniques have been cornerstones of hip-hop DJing for decades now. If you want to play hip-hop, they are important to know because crowds have come to expect to hear them, so wrap your head around each of these and start incorporating them into your sets.

What other hip-hop DJing techniques do you using in your spinning? Share them with us below.

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