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Why Does Qbert Scratch Reverse?

I’m often asked by students: why does Qbert scratch in reverse? What they mean is, why is the crossfader in the reverse setting (aka hamster style). Before I get into that, let me break down a few things. Traditionally, DJs use two turntables with a mixer in the middle. The crossfader on the mixer cuts the sound in and out from the right and left turntable by sliding the fader to the right or left.  Scratching (or ‘skratching’ as we like to say at QSU) is the manipulation of a sound on a turntable, pushing the record back and forth in a percussive way to create a new sound. The crossfader is used to cut the sound in and out while manipulating the record, and there’s a whole vocabulary and language for the different scratches and combos (for those interested in learning to speak the skratch language, join QSU!).  

In the ‘regular’ setting, when the crossfader is on the left you hear what’s playing on the left turntable. When the crossfader’s on the right, you hear the right turntable. When it’s in the middle, you hear both turntables. Simply put, left=left and right=right. On the reverse setting, it’s the exact opposite (left=right and right=left). 

So when you watch Qbert (and many others) scratch, you see them cutting the sound in ‘reverse’ (meaning, if Qbert is scratching with his right hand, the crossfader cuts from right to left). This is the infamous hamster style, pioneered by Bay Area DJs such as DJ Quest (not to be confused with THIS hamster style).

 

Mixers have come a long way from back in the day, when before you needed to reverse the wiring, all you need to do now is push a button or flip a switch for instant hamster. Many prefer it for scratching because it mimics the way the upfader feels (down to up), which is how many DJs learn to scratch. But it’s all personal preference. Qbert scratches reverse because that’s how he learned and that’s the style he prefers.  I scratch using the regular setting because that’s how I learned to DJ. I’ve tried hamster, but it felt alien and uncomfortable (but so did the regular setting when I was first learning 11 years ago).

I used to get caught up in this, like maybe I’m missing something by not going hamster style. Many say that certain scratches (crabs for example) are easier using hamster, and I’ve heard that it’s easier for a beginner to learn hamster than regular. But then again, the regular way has its advantages too (stabs and beat juggling for example). Even Qbert will switch the setting back to regular for beat juggling.

And then I remember that D-Styles scratches regular, and also many of my favorite DJs. That’s all the proof I need to know that it’s not the style you use, but how you use it.  Watch this video of Qbert and D-Styles from Skratchcon 2000 and you’ll see what I mean.

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