Long ago, in a land before YouTube, my buddy bought a VHS tape of a DJ crew called the Invisibl Skratch Piklz. The video was titled ‘Turntable TV’, and it was one of the first video music blogs of it’s time. Taking a cue from skate videos, it featured the crew practicing routines in their bedroom studios, visiting their fellow DJ crews and heroes, then hitting the road to perform their burgeoning craft of ‘Turntablism’ on tour. I was a young lad, but having been influenced by early, golden-era hip-hop, I had a basic understanding of what ‘scratching’ was. However, NOTHING could have prepared me for the absolute mind-melt of DJ Qbert; arguably the most talented member of the Invisibl Skratch Picklz. The crappy VHS image revealed hand gestures we could not believe. This guy’s fingers were moving so fast against the cross-fader, it looked like he was playing some kind of metal-guitar solo. The sound he created was so unique we leapt off the couch and screamed like a mid-western house wife who’d just won the lottery. I guarantee it was the same feeling people had the first time they saw Jimmy Hendrix play his famous behind-the-head guitar solo then light the guitar on fire. The hairs on my neck stood up. We freaked!
As the ‘Turntable TV’ series progressed, the Piklz sound and audience expanded exponentially. Starting in their bedrooms, they took the DJ tools of their time and bent them into custom instruments in ways no one had ever seen. They even pressed custom vinyl records with their own ‘sample packs’ on them, selling them world-wide to Turntablists hungry for content. Their time and dedication to their craft propelled them on world-wide tours performing for crowds thirsty for the level of amazement they brought to DJing.
The whole movement of Turntablism would eventually inspire incredibly talented scratch DJ’s and crews like C2C, Birdy Nam Nam and more. These artists still carry the torch, creating a new, modern sound with their fresh brand of Turntablism. For me and my crew, however, the sound seemed to reach it’s peak potential and the excitement wore off. The advent of more expressive MIDI controllers, Mixer FX and DJ Software had a greater influence on our performance and new styles of electronic music overshadowed the sound of beat juggling and scratching.
Eventually, I went to work for M-audio as a support agent. Our department started hearing rumors of a new controller that was being designed with 16 pads, four faders and 8 knobs. We were all pretty excited, but had no idea it would give birth to the almighty Trigger Finger! Luckily, I nabbed an NFR before it was released and was instantly blown away. DJ’s finally had a hybrid controller. One they could mix with, control FX with, trigger loops from and drum with live! It truly was, in my opinion, the springboard for what would become ‘Controllerism’. Although it’s now discontinued, the Trigger Finger is still widely used and highly sought after, solidifying it’s place in the controller hall of fame.
The coming years would usher a torrent of MIDI controller designs, pad types, button triggers, knob and fader configurations and companies clamoring to make the ULTIMATE controller. Simultaneously, whole legions of beat hungry kids grew up in an era of non-stop controller exploration, music technology and the constantly evolving art of DJing. These forces combined are finally allowing us to reach the type of new instrument-expression that utterly blew my mind as a budding scratch DJ. With the swagger of a badass and the ability to instantly impress, ‘Finger Drumming’ could be on it’s way to becoming the new ‘Turntablism’.
Currently, this form of music performance is relegated to bedroom studios rather than stadiums, mostly because the biggest names in DJing haven’t spent the time it takes to become great at it. But, if history is any lesson, today’s crop of bedroom Finger Drummers will be tomorrow’s rock stars.
We’re already seeing the most talented Finger Drummers like Mad Zach following the path of those early Turntablists, producing and releasing custom sample content for other budding Finger Drummers to tweak and manipulate. No doubt, we’ll soon see the formation of Finger Drumming crews, rocking full routines on multiple controllers for huge crowds.
So, all you Finger Drummers out there, DON’T STOP! Music needs you! Your energy, insight, talent and creativity are incredibly important to the future expression of music. You are pushing DJ technology, bending it to your will and giving the world a new way to express music and emotion. Its time to blow minds.
Originally published on http://producerdj.com/2014/01/9230/
Re-Published by Deep Tribe