Many of today's popular scratch techniques focus purely on precise fader manipulation, but a host of faderless scratches, such as the hydroplane, are also at your disposal. Although the hydroplane and its variants — the rub and the trub — require no fader control, they demand a high degree of precision and speed. And when performed well, all three techniques result in a unique sound.
The hydroplane scratch is easy to pick out because it creates a distinctive bubbly, vibrating sound that can add an interesting twist to any scratch sample. The basic technique involves placing the pad of your fingertip lightly on the record, pointing in the opposite direction of the rotation of the platter, and applying enough pressure to create friction that causes your finger to vibrate. (Many DJs find it easiest to use their middle finger for the hydroplane, but you can perform it with any finger.) The resulting vibration essentially causes the record to speed up and slow down rapidly, creating the watery sound of the hydroplane.
A good set of slipmats is an integral part of allowing the vinyl to vibrate properly; if the slipmats are too grippy, the needle might skip. Skipping may also result from applying too much pressure. To hydroplane properly, your finger needs to be slightly moist. If your hands are dry, the best thing to do is lick the tip of your finger to moisten it lightly. You don't want it to be wet, just a little damp. This creates the right amount of friction without forcing you to press too hard.
The angle at which you place your finger is another critical factor in getting the proper vibration, so practice with a long tone until you get the angle right, starting with your finger almost horizontal. Also, I find the technique easiest to perform if I place my finger closer to the label of the vinyl, as opposed to near the outer edge. Once you get the sound the first time, you'll know exactly what the hydroplane is all about, after which you can practice perfecting your finger placement so that you can quickly get the right angle and pressure to create the effect at will. After you get the precision of this technique down, try hydroplaning various samples to explore the great variety of sounds that this technique can generate. In particular, vocal scratches can result in some interesting effects.
The rub takes the hydroplane scratch to the next level. Rubs involve the use of both hands on the vinyl: one to control the record and one to create the hydroplane vibration effect. The basic rub is performed on the pullback of the record. You have to quickly move your fader hand over to the vinyl, place your finger on the surface of the vinyl and then pull it back to the start of the sample with your other hand to create the distinctive sound. Knowing exactly where to place your hand is critical. When learning this technique, you will likely often find that the rub effect will not occur even though your finger is placed on the vinyl. As always, practice makes perfect, and the moistness of your fingertip and the amount of pressure applied will determine your success.
Rubs work really well when thrown in as part of a series of other scratches. They are typically more difficult to master than the basic hydroplane, as you have to quickly move your fader hand in place, perform the technique and then get back on the fader in time to bust a baby scratch or a crab. Creativity is the key here as you incorporate multiple techniques to vary your performance. Start by rubbing the pullback of a baby scratch and then build until you can rub any sound at will. For a challenge, try to master rubbing a baby scratch in both directions. This requires more practice and precision because you have to quickly switch the direction of your finger placement in time with the push and pull of the vinyl. Remember, your finger should always be pointing against the direction of the pull.
One interesting variation of the rub technique has been labeled the trub, which is essentially a tear and a rub performed at the same time. With the tear scratch, you introduce a distinctive pause, breaking into two parts the backward or forward pull of the record. With your other hand placed correctly on the vinyl, you can rub the tear, creating another variation in the sound. Practice is paramount, as the goal is to get the two separate sounds from either the push or the pull, with both parts having the watery rub sound. The end result is a unique sound that is quite different from a basic tear.
The faderless scratch techniques described here are worthy additions to your scratch repertoire; they not only add to the variety of techniques in your arsenal but also present an opportunity to focus some practice time on record control. Many DJs spend too much time mastering the crab and its variants — all of which have only subtle differences in the resultant sound. By mastering the hydroplane, rub and trub, you will be able to throw in some greater variety to your scratch sets.