Pedestrian Tutoritool™
Reviewer: LoDate: June 2005 • Price: £15.99 plus p&p • Available from: Pedestrian

We’ve all started somewhere when it comes to learning how to scratch. Be it by replicating the feats of battle DJs from eagerly tracked down videos, imitating your mates, getting someone to show you how to do it or trying to figure it out for yourself. But since the late 90s tutorials have been the main way in which most people seemingly learn the basics of this artform. It started with videos by the likes of DMC and various world famous DJs and crews (Scratch Perverts, Shortee, Mixologists, etc…) which showed and explained various techniques from the baby scratch to the hydroplane via juggling and word cutting and it culminated in recent years with the advent of Qbert’s DIY DVDs (volumes 1 and 2) which took the basic concepts of tutorial videos and expanded on it by adding a certain degree of interactivity. It seemed as if DVDs might be the ultimate incarnation of tutorials, that is until the good people at Pedestrian came up with a new idea of their own.

In comes the Tutoritool, a simple yet effective concept that makes you think ‘why did no one else think of this before?’ Instead of using visual mediums to communicate techniques and learning, the Tutoritool uses the turntablist’s prime resource and medium, vinyl and audio. Designed over a period of nearly two years, the Tutoritool has been well thought out and incorporates similar principles as those of videos and DVDs (teaching the various basic and advanced scratch techniques as well as juggling) but through the aural medium. Neatly packaged in a gatefold cover, the Tutoritool offers a new take on an old concept and is frankly a breath of fresh air when it comes to tutorials.

So what do you get?

They say first impressions account for a lot, and the Tutoritool does deliver on that front. The records come in a lovely gatefold cover, which is nicely designed with logo, colours and font carrying a theme throughout. Inside the gatefold you get a listing of the contents of each record, an explanation of the concept behind the Tutoritool, a set of markers (more on that later) and a pull-out 4 pages ‘How To…’ to help illustrate the various techniques as well as give info on marking records (kind of like the extras you get on videos or DVDs), all designed in the Tutoritool theme.

The records themselves feel sturdier than your average battle break, which in my book is a good thing, but not too heavy either. Each record features one side (side B) which is identical and comprised of 4 beats (one hip hop, one rock, one jazz and one drum n bass), 2 sets of juggling breaks (one 66bpm, one 133bpm) and 4 sets of scratch samples which alternate between the various beats.

The other sides of each record are essentially the tutorial sides. Record 1 has 6 scratch tutorials: baby scratch, cuts & stabs, chirps, transformer, flare and crab. Each of these is set in a locked groove, infinitely repeating the example of the scratch. The tutorials are alternated with 6 different sample banks: drum sounds, bass sounds, vocals, lead sounds, another set of vocals and a ‘virtual 303’ which offers filtering bass tones to create your own bass sounds.

Record 2 has 5 tutorials: drums, bass line, vocals, verses and a turntable composition. Again each of these is alternated with 6 different sets of scratch sounds (using old and new classic scratch samples) and one unskippable sample loop.

The ‘How To’ pullout gives you all the information needed to use the records. For the scratch tutorials the concept is fairly simple. You put Record 1 side A on one deck and Record 2 side A on the other. Set Record 1 to an infinite loop of a scratch technique (i.e. Baby scratch) and use the scratch samples on Record 2 to then practice said scratch. The pull out also gives various tips for each technique, such as placement of the hand, use of the fader and hand/wrist movement. For the Record 2 tutorials, you just have to invert the records. For example placing the drums tutorial on Record 2 side A on one deck and then using the drum samples on Record 1 side A to practice and replicate the example. Again each tutorial is given more depth in the pull out. Lastly the pull out includes an explanation and tips & techniques for using the beat juggling sets and a detailed explanation of how to use the markers to locate sounds and to loop sounds as well.

So overall a lot of content on just two records, and a lot of the same ground covered by a lot of video tutorials. But how does it all sound and feel in practice?

So what’s it like?

Tutorials:

The tutorials are good overall, with each scratch technique fairly well demonstrated. Not having a visual stimulus is a good thing in my opinion as it can help to develop your own style more easily than with other tutorials, who are often noted for causing people to replicate what they see per se without putting in any of their own twist or vision. The other thing I found is that some of the techniques are demonstrated fairly fast on the infinite loops, which might hinder some people at first. Of course you could use the pitch to slow them down, but I guess that’s one drawback to using the vinyl medium. Lastly to a trained ear some of the scratch tutorials may sound a bit ‘incorrect’, for example baby scratches do sound like a combination of different types of baby scratches, but again this is more something that would register to a trained ear rather than that of a beginner.

The second set of tutorials is more aimed towards composition, an often forgotten aspect of most tutorials. Again they are well done, concise and effective. Of course a big aspect of composition is the personal involvement put in by the person, but these offer a decent basic idea of what you can achieve with a turntable and instrument sounds composition wise. Again their only downside is the speed of execution at times and for the overall turntable composition tutorial the fact that it sounds a bit rushed. Nonetheless I think that this set of tutorials is one of the Tutoritool’s strongest points. Here is a tutorial that shows the duality of learning scratch techniques and then applying those to composition, letting the technicality take a back seat to creativity.

As a final point on the tutorials I must admit that the concept of using an infinitely looping sound to practice your technique does take a little getting used to. However I have a feeling that for me personally that is more due to my having used other tutorials before, such as Qbert’s DIY 1, and therefore might not be the case for someone who is a beginner and has never seen or used a video tutorial.

Samples:

I won’t go in too much detail over each sample bank, as there are quite a lot on there. On the whole the Tutoritool’s samples stand well against your average battle record. The selection is wide and varied, the samples are spaced out just enough to allow a quick search and to flip through them while scratching. The quality of the samples is also good and there are a lot of classics on there as well as some new ones which would fit nicely in anyone’s collection. The instrument samples are good as well, again a nice variety and range is on offer throughout the record, and the way in which the rock and jazz beats on sides B are given their own sample bank of rock and jazz sounds to use them with is a very nice touch. The drum samples are probably the weakest out of the lot (not in term of quality but range wise), but again for a beginner I wouldn’t necessarily say that drums are a crucial part of the learning process. Most people come to scratch drumming once they’ve mastered the techniques (and by then they’ll have a better understanding of how to use the sounds but also where to get them from).

The sets of samples on sides A are also well done and put together. Each sample bank, which is to be used to practice the various techniques, has been well thought out, with longer samples for the transformer scratch and shorter ones for chirps for example.

So in conclusion the samples are properly mastered, sound good, are wide and varied and well thought out. It’s also worth noting that for beginners (whom this is aimed at) the records do offer a very large selection of samples for practice, which is not something everyone always has the leisure of when they start, especially on a small budget.

Beats:

As mentioned before there are 4 beats to practice with on the record (two copies of each beat). Using hiphop, rock, jazz and dnb as genres the beats are nice but not amazing. Still they offer a good base for beginners. The hiphop beat is a solid break, reminiscent of the old school, the rock is also pretty straight forward and good for practice, both of these are quite fast beats too. The jazz beat on the other hand is more laid back, and my favourite of the lot. A nice slow drum break with fillers to get down to. Lastly the dnb beat is good for practicing at faster speeds and is quite reminiscent of jungle so don’t expect something like the dnb of today, but think more along the lines of ‘Original Nuttah’ or early Hype productions.

The juggle sets are probably my least favourite part of the record. They’re well done but I don’t find them to be the best example of a beat to juggle, the sounds aren’t really spaced enough and they don’t lend themselves too well to more then basic looping and minimal manipulation. Also the second juggle beat is found on the end of the side and as such a bit close to the hand movement needed to juggle, which can be hindering to a beginner. However the simple aspect of it is quite fit for someone who is starting with juggling, and can then move on to more complicated patterns with the help of other records.

So overall a nice selection of beats, even if a bit basic, which should make for good practice for beginners or a nice addition for someone who’s bored of their own selection.

In practice:

This part is probably the hardest for me as I’m not really a beginner anymore. But using the records to practice and mess around is fun and enjoyable and they do stand well against other more basic battle records. You can use your own beats collection or other records to cut over too, and as I mentioned the samples are good and make for a nice variation from what you hear on battle and practice records today. As a first step I would say the Tutoritool is great and makes for a very good addition to any beginner’s first pack. The inclusion of two identical records is a touch that shows this has been thought out through and through and not just put together to make a quick buck. Also I don’t think that the Tutoritool is incompatible with video and DVD tutorials either. After all you need records to use those as well, and combining them with the Tutoritool could make for an even better learning experience and combine both the visual and aural mediums.

Lest I forget… the markers

One quick note before I wrap this up on the marker set included with the package. Again personally I think this is a great touch even if some people might dismiss it as a gimmick (yes you could buy your own stickers, but not everyone knows that when they start). After all nearly every single video tutorial I’ve seen explains stickers and how to use them and the Tutoritool is no different, explaining how to use them in the pull out and actually giving you a set as well to put to use straight away. Their design is great too, with a lovely Wipe Out-esque font, and there is a nice range of size and shapes too.

Conclusion

In conclusion this is a great tool for beginners and a clever approach to a tired format. It might not be groundbreaking but it’s a solid tool and has been well thought and put together, and the little touches such as the markers and pull out only make it stronger.

It gives beginners plenty of sounds to practice with and enough information to understand the basics of scratching, both in technique and composition, and still add their own learning to it. You can tell the people behind it have taken great care in ensuring that the user can make the most use of it and understand it quickly and efficiently.

Lastly it could also be used by people teaching tablism in academies and schools (which we’re also seeing more of every year), as it’s a very intuitive tool and was designed by people who have been teaching tablism themselves to kids and communities for the last 5+ years. Oh yeah and for the price it costs you it’s really a bargain for any beginner or person wanting to learn more about scratching and tablism. If you want to buy a tutorial then I would strongly suggest checking this one out before rushing out to buy a video or DVD.

Overall score: 80% - leaning towards 85%

 

 
 

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