One of the best ways to DJ is by using vinyl records and the traditional DJ setup.
It may require tons of expensive gear, let alone a vast record collection.
However, with modern technology, you can combine vinyl with digital software.
You can play your digital music collection from your laptop and play them with the use of a vinyl digital system.
Whether you choose to use a digital vinyl system or straight-up vinyl, the real question is; does DJ scratching damage records?
The short answer is YES.
Scratching records can damage records.
Fortunately, with the right tools and accessories, there are ways to help extend the lifespan of a record.
Playing a vinyl record alone causes wear on the record itself.
It can affect the sound quality over time, but it’s not something to be too worried about.
These records are meant to be played thousands of times before it can actually get damaged.
As long as you store them at a safe place, these records can last forever.
Think of scratching as playing a record back and forth, meaning you are shedding its playback lifespan a little when you scratch the records.
But DJing wouldn’t be as fun without the fun scratching, right?
In this article, I will give you a few tips on how to prolong a record’s lifespan if you decide to use one for scratching.
Scratching with a DJ Controller
When using a DJ controller, you are only emulating how a record is scratched with the use of software, digital audio, and hardware.
A lot of DJs can scratch with DJ controllers, even the most budget DJ controllers can be used for scratching.
It all goes down to technique and talent.
However, nothing really beats the feel and audio quality when a real record is being scratched.
The sound is more organic and it is a true nod to the DJ tradition.
There might be some DJ controllers that are meant to feel like real vinyl, but it still uses digital music, that will not sound organic.
If you want to learn how to scratch on a budget, you can use a DJ controller.
Once you get your baby scratches, flares, and other scratches down, you can level up with a vinyl setup.
7 Ways to Avoid Damaging Your Records when Scratching
It is impossible to avoid damaging a record completely when playing them, let alone scratching them.
When record players and vinyl were invented, I am pretty sure that people did not intend it to be used in a way that you are scratching the records in a back and forth movement to produce a cool sound effect.
Although these tips can minimize the damage, I just want to say up front that there is nothing you can do to stop them from breaking eventually.
The word scratching itself, is not really a term that would make you think about something getting fixed, doesn’t it?
However, without scratching, beatmatching, and other techniques that involve spinning records, there is no point in having a DJ.
Records might perform their best when they are left to spin on their own, (like it was intended) but scratching fill adds a special effect that you cannot produce anywhere else.
People use the scratching sound as the beat or the melody itself in some songs and live DJ performances and mixtapes.
Here are some tips that you might want to know if you are a DJ:
#1 Use a Special Mat
You can use a special mat that will prevent damage on the underside of your vinyl records.
This special mat will protect the records from hitting the turntable when scratching or spinning, allowing it to spin smoothly.
Although this tip is for protecting the bottom side of the record and not the top.
However, keeping the bottom protected is already half of the job.
#2 Keep your Hands Clean
I know this goes without saying, but always make sure that you wash your hands before touching any of your records.
All the oil, dirt, and other stuff in your hand will transfer to the records you are touching.
It will cause unnecessary and decrease the sound quality of your records.
#3 Choose the Right Turntable
If you want to reduce the damage of scratching on records, make sure you choose the right turntable for the job.
Although there are many types of turntables in the market, not all of them are suitable for DJing and scratching.
Get a Direct-Drive Turntable
When looking for a turntable to use when DJing, make sure you get a direct-drive turntable.
The motor that is equipped in these types of turntables is run at the same speed even when the record is played in reverse.
When a record is played in reverse, the motor uses more torque, which can help the record recover and playback at the normal speed quicker than other types of turntables.
The higher torque and fast recovery reduce the risk of accidental damage caused by scratching forward and reverse.
Plus, belt-drive turntables will wear out faster when they are used for scratching.
The belt will wear out quickly and it will have to be replaced from time to time.
Get a Turntable with Pitch Control
A turntable with pitch control can help in beatmatching, meaning you don't have to match the tempo and pitch manually by doing forced spins.
Although pitch control does not really reduce damage in records, it does lessen the instances that you will keep the record from spinning naturally.
#4 Change or Adjust the Needle and Tone Arm Weight
You can also change your turntable’s needle, and there are so many places to buy these online or in-store.
If you don’t want to buy a new needle, you can also adjust the settings to lessen the damage on your records.
You can adjust the weight of the tonearm.
With less weight put on top of your records, the needle will not dig into your records as much.
#5 Hold the Outer Edges
When scratching, try to hold the outer edges of the record instead of the middle. This will reduce damage on the inner part and the majority of the entire vinyl.
The outer edges do not come in contact with the needle, meaning the music is not stored there.
This tip goes for scratching and when handing the record.
When you are taking it out of their case and placing them on the turntable, make sure you stick to holding the outer edges.
Holding the edges can hurt you if you don’t be careful, so make sure that the record completely stops spinning before you attempt to grip the edges.
#6 Use a Special Cleaner
When a record produces pop noises when being played, it is a clear sign that the record is damaged.
Make sure you keep your records clean with a special cleaner specifically made for cleaning records.
Using solutions for cleaning your house can damage the record so make sure you steer clear from them.
#7 Place the Records in a Cover or Sleeve
Never leave your records out of the cover or sleeve.
It will collect dust and dirt, which will cause a decrease in sound quality and might not even play at all.
When placing them in their respective cases, make sure you do it carefully, too.
Simply dropping them into their sleeve might cause further damage.
Bonus Tip: Improve Your Scratching Technique
Beginner scratchers would often have heavy hands when scratching.
It works, but it isn’t very helpful in prolonging the lifespan of the record.
Make sure you always practice to scratch lightly.
Caring for Vinyl
Caring for your vinyl is one of the most important factors in extending its lifespan.
Aside from all the tips above, cleaning your vinyl will allow you to make the most out of them, especially your scratch sample record.
DJs use a certain record for scratching that includes iconic scratch sounds that you hear on tracks.
Proper caring for your viny collection should be part of your routine as a DJ.
It does not have to be complicated, and you do not want to overclean them as well.
Just simply keeping them in a sleeve and storing them in a safe place will do.
To clean your records, all you need to do is dust them off a bit, and keep them that way.
Over time, dust can cause damage, and that goes for your gear as well.
Unlike CDs, damaged vinyl records decrease sound quality when damaged, and you don't want that, especially if you are a DJ that plays in front of crowds of people.
To sum it up; Yes, scratching can damage your records; and YES, there is a way to extend the life of your records when you use them for scratching.
Even the top DJs who make a lot of money care for their records.
I know they have the money to buy new records every time, but no one likes to break vinyl after every show.
It is simply a waste of time.
I hope you learned how to avoid damaging your records and everything you need after reading this article.
Remember to break world records, not vinyl records!