Hand/Eye Coordination

A Repetitive Loop.

Beat juggling video clip: Looping samples from 'Stop That Train' (12.8 MB DivX 5, 4:00) An attempt at looping a sample on vinyl.

The term "Hip-Hop" apparently originated from the Disc Jockey ("DJ"), who at dance parties would extend the break section of a song (usually an instrumental drum break, the essence of a song), by seamlessly looping the break using two copies of the same record - playing one while cueing up the other, thus "hopping" between two turntables in a "hip" way. This was done primarily for the breakdancing "B-Boys" who would then improvise impressive body tricks for the duration of the instrumental break.

Assuming breakdancing is likely well beyond my capabilities, I thought instead I'd try my hand at beat juggling - the real-time manipulation and looping of a sample. It is indeed harder than it looks.

Timing is of the essence.

The theory behind beat juggling and looping is fairly simple; two turntables, a mixer and two copies of the same record are all you need to get started. Of course, you also need some sort of sample to use: A break, chorus line or whatever, which can be looped and improvised on.

In reality, the most difficult part is the timing. While record "A" is playing, you must be cueing up "B" to the point where the sample starts - then at the right moment, releasing "B" and moving the cross-fader so that only "B" can be heard. This leaves "A" to now be rewound and cued up, and the process is repeated. A slip in timing (eg. starting the sample too soon or too late) will result in an offset in the loop, which makes for a poor impression. The same logic applies to beat juggling, which more specifically is layering select samples from a loop on top of another (usually the same loop), effectively juxtaposing the loop with samples of itself.

Several things can contribute to a loss of timing. When rewinding (cueing) a record, you risk having the needle skip over a few grooves; this can mean a loss of the seamless loop effect, depending on how quickly you can find the cue point. Another common point is cueing itself: If you push (fast) or drag (slow) the record out when starting the sample, the timing may be affected. This of course depends on your cue point, as well.

Practice makes perfect.

As with most things, practice makes perfect.. Or as in this case, "near-reasonably perfect." I've been playing around with records for several years, and still have a lot to learn. Beat juggling and looping has to be one of the hardest aspects of the whole DJ "thing." Getting a seamless loop is the first step; juggling a loop and creating something new out of it requires just that much more practice and creativity.

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