The name pretty much says it all: the Chirp Scratch is a vinyl scratching technique that produces a sound that is closely reminiscent to that of the chirp of a bird. Depending on how well it is performed, the Chirp Scratch can produce a very high pitched, percussive sound. That is, a sound with a more or less sharp attack. When you contemplate the idea of scratching vinyl records, this is quite remarkable. Most scratching techniques will produce more swooshing sounds. Because of its unique sonic properties, the Chirp Scratch can be used to layer very fast, high pitched percussive patterns on top of a rhythmic layer of other scratching techiques. In a very rhythmic scratch like this, the Chirp Scratch has a role that is similar to that of a closed hi hat in a conventional drum groove.
Chirp Scratching was invented by none other than Jeffrey Allen Townes, a.k.a. DJ Jazzy Jeff, indeed of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince fame. Apart from being part of the duo that arguably got hip hop house broken, Jazzy Jeff has an international reputation as a turntablist. On the subject of inventing the Chirp Scratch he said in an interview with Eye magazine:
"It's funny 'cause when you're creating history, you never think that's what you're doing. You know, I'm in the basement messing around, then I go to the party and do this scratch and everybody goes off, and I'm like, 'Wow! I did some shit that everybody likes.' You're not thinking, 'They're gonna call this the Chirp Scratch, and it's gonna be in the books and go around the globe.' Trust me, though, it trips me out when I'm watching a DMC video and that DJs in Norway or Australia know who Jazzy Jeff is."
Jeff is also widely credited with the invention of the Transform Scratch
, but Jeff himself says he copied that move from a local Philadelphia DJ
. He was the first one to do it on record though.
Chirp scratching is one of the most difficult moves in scratching to master. It appears to be quite simple but the motoric skills required in actually doing it right require much practice. First, you open the fader with your fader hand and you put the fingers of your spinning hand on the record. Then, you simultaneously push the record forward with your record hand and close the fader with your fader hand. That is, you move the fader in such a direction that the volume drops. What direction this is depends on wether you are mixing regular or hamster style. Both these motions are performed very fast. Then you repeat the proces in reverse order. That is, you pull the record back and you open the fader simultaneously in one quick move. Both steps should be performed in one continuous motion to create the Chirp Scratch. The entire procedure should be performed in a fraction of a second to create the proper chirping sound. In order to be of any use, you must be able to perform the chirp repeatedly and very fast.