How to create turntable-style scratches using delay

If you fancy working a touch of turntablism into your tracks but don't have the scratching chops (or equipment!) to make it happen in the real world, a tape delay-style plugin could be the answer.

Here, we'll show you how to emulate the sound of vinyl being manipulated using nothing more than a pair of delay plugins. For more effects-based sound design action, see the Autumn 2017 edition of Computer Music.

Step 1: Many delay plugins feature some kind of tape-style ‘repitch’ mode, meaning that delay repeats pitch up and down as you increase or decrease the delay’s speed. This pitch manipulation can be used to emulate the sound of a turntablist scratching a record back and forth. Let's do just that, starting with a vocal sample.

Step 2: We’re going to use ValhallaDSP’s free FreqEcho as our main ‘scratching’ delay, and D16 Tekturon as a secondary delay. We assign important parameters to knobs and sliders on our MIDI controller, to facilitate fast, realistic, hands-on scratch effects. It’ll also help to assign the delays’ bypass buttons to a MIDI button - you’ll see why shortly…

Step 3: During the midst of a slider-sweeping scratch frenzy, we crank up FreqEcho’s Feedback, then quickly bypass this first delay plugin and turn Tekturon on. With this live parameter ‘juggling’, our second delay catches the remains of the first delay in its buffer, and the scratches echo off into the distance. Very cool!

Step 4: Using a delay’s wet/dry mix knob, we can also fade in an echoed scratch effect - a bit like a dubby riser creeping in from outer space! We fade FreqEcho’s Mix from 0% to 100%, then punch Tekturon in to make a firm repeating statement at a key point in the song.

Step 5: Not only does FreqEcho repitch its delay repeats when the delay time is altered, it also features a frequency shifter for more pitch-manipulating fun. Sweep the Shift dial in tandem with the Delay time to coax out various scratches, squeals, chirps and scribbles.

Step 6: Finally, try out this ace FreqEcho trick over any short stab or vocal: pull Shift back to around -600Hz, whack Feedback up to 100%, then twist the Delay knob around for circuit-bent, robotic scratch effects!

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