The ScrubBoard — cassette scratching evolved

It’s Monday morning and after a weekend of heavy video editing, my mind is a tad scrambled and not wanting to think too hard. So when The ScrubBoard dropped into my inbox, all hell broke loose in my brain. So wait… it’s scratching with what? I see faders but nothing spinning but it looks like samples or something. Watch the video — all will become clear in a truly WTF way.

Nutshelling this, imagine recording audio samples onto cassette tape, accurately trimming the tape samples, laying them out on a board and moving a tape head back and forth to simulate vinyl scratching. That’s Jeremy Bell‘s basic premise for The ScrubBoard. But crazy ideas have a way of getting honed into something a little less crazy, and on rare occasions become something wonderful.

Analogue scratching in the digital age?

Obviously, the fundamental art of scratching involves vinyl, a mixer and a turntable (and cassettes apparently). And for a lot of people, that will never change. But for me, the principle displayed with The ScrubBoard is that middle ground between turntablism and sample play. So it’s not scratching as we know it, but definitely has merit.

The Seesaw Killswitch idea is very clever, and for me is the key feature of The ScrubBoard. It’s something that could easily be developed to be a tactile controller all on its own. We’ve proposed ideas like loading samples into line faders and scratching with the cross fader years ago, but this is a smart use of a fader controller.

But cassette tape? No. For a long list of reasons that don’t need explaining, this device should be entirely digital. I appreciate that the raison d’être of The ScrubBoard is ingenious and cool repurposing of old analogue technology, but this really does deserve the full digital treatment. Imagine this as a battery-powered device with an SD card slot.

scrubboard tape cassette scratching

The ScrubBoard is on Kickstarter

If you simply cannot resist the core idea of scratching with bits of tape, then you can help Jeremy fund his project on Kickstarter. He’s looking for $11K to take The ScrubBoard to first prototype phase.

Your Take

I could expound on this idea for hours, but then it would leave nothing for you to add. I urge you to watch the video to get a real idea of The ScrubBoard, but in particular some of the ideas it proposes. So what do you think about the The ScrubBoard? Is it a brilliant repurposing of bygone tech that should happen as is? Or is it a foundation for a new digital approach to hybrid scratching and sample play?

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