Before we can even get into our industry, we all have to be speaking the same language. Here are a few terms you should know to communicate with other DJs effectively.
This lists terms commonly used by a DJ for various parts of equipment, measurements, and situations. Etc. It has been compiled as a helpful guide for you to start with.
A must to know before we speakEdit
Amp - Short for amplifier.
Acapella A track containing only vocals.
Anti-skating - A control to keep a turntables stylus centered within a records groove.
Auto Warp An Ableton Live function that allows the program to calculate and time stretch music.
Balance Control - A control that adjusts the left/right balance of your sound.
Balancing Levels – this is a technique professional DJs use to make sure they get their music as loud as possible without it distorting or sounding rubbish. If you don’t know how to do this, the “sound manager” at a venue will have to turn you down in case you damage the “sound system”. Sometimes this is known as sorting the “Gain Structure”.
Bar – in dance music a bar is 4 “beats”.
Bass - The lower end of the Frequency range you can normally control on a Dj mixer.
Bassline - The driving force to most dance music Produced by Bass frequencies.
Battle - An event where DJs battle against each other, battles are usually associated with hip hop culture.
Battle Record - A 12” vinyl filled with samples and loops usually used for scratching.
Beat – if you nod your head to music you are nodding to the beat, if you count 4 nods at a time you are counting 4 beats to a “bar”. The beat is also called the “pulse”
Beat match - set the “tempo/speed/pitch” of two songs and play them so they are at exactly the same speed and time, making them sound like just one song Or A mixing technique used to establish a similar tempo with two or more tracks.
Belt Drive - A turntable driven by a belt using a pulley system to rotate its platter.
Booking agent A person who deals with all the details of your DJ bookings and manages your DJ Diary.
Booth - The area where the DJ & their equipment are in an event or club.
BPM – stands for beats per minute. If you nod your head or tap your foot to music you are following the “beat”. If you count how many nods or taps you do in a minute you have calculated the BPM.
BPM Counter – A device used to automatically calculate the BMP of a track.
Break – 1) a bit of a song which sounds great and could maybe be used as a sample to make a new “hook” or “riff” with. 2) A change in a song where one or more instruments stops playing. 3) A change in a song where one instrument does something different e.g. a drum fill.
A break is distinguishable from a solo as the change will normally not last too long.
Breakdown – a bit of a song where things change and some instruments stop to let the bass and drums take over.
Cartridge – The part that holds the stylus in place on your turntable.
Channel – Referring to the channel within which audio is to be played on your DJ mixer.
Chorus – the bit of a song that is repeated by the singer a few times in the song.
Copyright – the legal proof that someone wrote the song you are using and that you should not copy, lend or borrow bits of their work without asking and/or paying them first
Counterbalance (counterweight) - The adjustable weight mounted at the rear end of the tonearm on a turntable.
Crossfader - A transitional slide control on a mixer for fading in one channel while simultaneously fading out another.
Crossfader Curve Control - A control that allows adjustment of the crossfaders fade curvature.
Cue -1) to prepare a song to be played. Normally a Dj chooses a point from which to begin a tune that is the beginning of the first beat of the first bar, or occasionally the beginning of the audio if these are not the same. More experienced DJs get creative by cueing from anywhere 2) to cue up can also be used to describe the action of setting an audio path so you can hear something in your headphones 3) on a CDJ, DVS or Controller deck the cue button is used to stutter the beginning of a song or to set a “cue point” which is where the song will begin to play from 4)On some DJ mixers the cue button for a channel will select that channel to be played through the headphones.
Cut – to swap instantly from one tune to another at a good place.
DVS –Digital Vinyl System
Deck – Player of CDs or vinyl records. Sometimes it’s called a “turntable”.
Demo - The item you will be sending off after completing/mastering your DJ courses!! A promotional mix sent to potential bookings.
Direct Drive - A motor system used to rotate a turntables platter.
DJ - Erm... not sure you should be here if you have to read this!
Echo – (1) a type of FX. (2) The reflected sound or resounding/resonant
Effects Unit – An external device added to your audio stream to add effects to your mixes.
EQ – controls that let you affect different frequencies of sound on your songs. On DJ mixers these are normally “HI/High/Treble/Top”, “Mid” and “Bass/Low.” Or Controls that allow the filtering of differing frequencies on your DJ mixer.
EQing - Altering the colour of sound from EQ control manipulation.
Fade -turn volume up or down so song begins or ends smoothly. / A gradual increase or reduction in the level of the audio signal.
Fader- the fader is the controller we use to “fade” a song. It can either increase or decrease volume smoothly.
Filter – a type of FX that can separate audio to some other frequency.
Flight case - A light weight, hard wearing carry case for a DJs equipment, vinyls and CDs.
FX - controls that let you do all kinds of things to the sound of your songs.
Gain - a control which can be used to boost or cut volume levels. This is different to the fader as it has much more power and is normally set using headphones and warning lights before you play any sound through your speakers. Or A control which increases or reduces the output level of your tracks giving extra movement in volume.
Gain Structure - this is a technique professional DJs use to make sure they get their music as loud as possible without it distorting or sounding rubbish. If you don’t know how to do this, the “sound manager” at a venue will have to turn you down in case you damage the “sound system”. Sometimes this is known as “Balancing Levels”.
Genre - A category of music e.g. Afro-Beat, Lingala, Techno, House, Hip Hop, D&B, Trance, Hard House etc.
Hamster Switch - A reverse feature for a crossfader on DJ mixer. Scratching hamster style is to scratch with a reversed crossfader.
Headphone Monitor – a control on a DJ mixer for choosing which channels sound is heard from in the headphones. Sometimes this is called the “Headphone Selector”.
Headshell – The adaptor used to hold the cartridge in place on the tonearm of a turntable.
Headphone Selector – a control on a DJ mixer for choosing which channels sound is heard from in the headphones. Sometimes this is called the “Headphone Monitor”.
Hi - HI/High/Treble/Top (The high frequencies of your track controlled by your EQ controls).
High - HI/High/Treble/Top (similar to Hi).
Hook – the recognizable bit of a song you remember, hum, sing along to.
Intelligent - A term used to describe detailed music that requires extra attention of the listener with complex and cleaver sounds.
Intro – the beginning bit of a tune before all the instruments, riff or hook have really started.
Juggle – a technique used by turntablists to rearrange musical samples to sound like something new. This requires two copies of the same songs and lots of skill, or two different songs, lots of skill and incredible creativity. For examples of juggling search youtube for “DMC Champions”
Kill Switch - A switch or button to turn on and off output or individual frequency ranges within a channel, i.e. treble, mid and bass.
Line – line level is all CD players, MP3 players, TVs, DVDs etc. Be sure you put the cable from a line level device into a line level input on your DJ mixer.
Loop – any bit of a record that you repeat. CD decks have buttons which let you set any part of the song to loop. A good loop can become the basic beat or riff of a whole new song.
Low – The bottom end of the frequency range usually controllable by the “EQ” controls on a DJ mixer. This is also called “Bass” and is where you will hear the kick drum and Bassline.
Master – The master (main) volume control of your mixer.
MC – Master of ceremony but in DJ terms, referring to a person rapping.
Mid - the middle part of the frequency range usually controllable by DJ mixers “EQ” controls. If you only hear the Mid range thinks sound a little like you are under water.
Middle-8 – part of a song that lasts 8 beats which is different to the rest of the song, sometimes called a break.
MIDI - A communication signal used by electronic instruments to broadcast information to each other.
Mid-Range Frequencies – Frequencies that fit between the bass and high frequencies. These are also controlled by your EQ controls.
Mix – Any way you choose to swap between two songs.
Mixer – piece of equipment which mixes the music from two decks as the DJ requires. The essence of a mixer is that it can combine two or more audio signals into one output signal. It should be noted though that most mixers can do much more than just combine signals.
Monitor - A speaker in the DJ booth that allows the DJ to hear without the delays or echoes caused by space in a large room.
MP3 – A lower quality digital format for music. Downloaded music often comes in MP3 format which you can write to your own CDs. 128 Kbps MP3 is the lowest quality you should use.
Needle - A term referring to a turntables stylus.
Outro – the end of a song, often the same few words being faded out.
P.A. (System) – Another word for a “sound system” the initials P.A. used to mean Personal Address but also get confused with Power Amplifier. So P.A. actually means Personal/Public Address System. P.A. became the recognized nickname for all kinds of “sound reinforcement” equipment. A portable P.A. can be simply two speakers with internal amps while a P.A. (not prefixed with the word “portable”) normally means a larger “sound system” which will require a professional “Sound man” or “Sound Engineer” to set it up and control it.
‘Phones – nickname for headphones
Phono – phono level relates only to vinyl decks – be sure to put the cable from any vinyl player into a phono input on your DJ mixer.
Phono Cable- also called RCA, the industry standard cable for DJ and home hifi equipment and I think we discussed this topic earlier.
Phrase – any bit of music you can hear repeating during a song, normally each instrument has its own phrase, the drums do a beat, the bass does a bass line etc. Each repeats the same thing during the chorus or verse but may change in the break/middle-8.
Platter or Plate - The top section of a turntable driven by its motor or belt.
Pitch – sometimes confused with speed or tempo, the pitch of music is actually the frequency of the waveform which enables us to hear music. The pitch of a sound defines it’s note. A high pitch is a high note (the “chipmunk” vocal sound- effect is achieved by increasing pitch to very high levels). A low pitch is a low or bass note. On old record players if you increased speed or tempo you always increased pitch too so the speed control was called the “Pitch Fader”. Modern CD decks can alter speed without changing pitch but still sometimes call the tempo/speed adjuster the “Pitch Fader” because of the way it used to work.
Pitch control -The ability of a device to change the tempo of a song. This is very important if you are Beatmixing.
Pitch lock -The ability of a device to change the tempo of a song, without changing the pitch. This lets you drastically speed up songs with vocals without a "chipmunk" effect.
Pitch bend -The temporary changing of pitch to get beats in phase. Vinyl DJs typically use their fingers to speed up or slow down the record by pushing/pulling the record by the label. Some twist the spindle in the center to change the pitch momentarily. CD players offer this as buttons. Once the DJ stops bending the pitch, the decks will automatically snap back to the current pitch control settings. This is necessary since its possible for two songs to be playing at the exact same tempo yet have their beats out of phase. By bending the pitch momentarily, the beats come into phase and the DJ doesn't have to worry about readjusting the pitch control.
Pitch Fader – the control used to alter the speed or tempo of music. See also “Pitch”
Promo - A pre-released version of a track.
Pulse – same as “beat.”
Requests – the public and the people dancing at clubs or parties may often request a song from the DJ. It depends what type of request it is, what type of party it is, and what type of DJ you are whether you play it or not.
Rewind – spinning the song back to the beginning to play it again because the crowd liked it.
Riff – the recognisable bit of a song you remember, hum, sing along to.
Sample – any bit of music used to make new music, often a break or stab.
Sampler - A device used to record samples of music.
Scratch – move the disc back and forth with your hand to alter the music, normally done with another song playing as a background.
Scribbling – a basic scratch technique where you just move back and forward around a sound – experiment, you may find you like it!
Slipmat - A felt-type material used to reduce friction between the turntables plate and the vinyl.
Song – a track or tune.
Sound Desk - An external array of faders and controls for the audio signals being generated by instruments on a stage or in a studio. DJ mixers are all “Sound Desks” but with the outstanding addition of a “crossfader”.
Sound Engineer - A qualified and/or extremely experienced self-taught professional who manages the “Sound System. For example Deejay Sky” The term sound engineer is also applied to the person who uses a “Sound Desk” to mix the signals coming from a band on stage or during a studio recording.
Sound Manager - Another name for a sound engineer. Although instances may occur where a sound manager runs the system and a sound engineer runs the desk.
Sound Reinforcement - The term given to all the processes which are needed to amplify sound for projection at events. Sound reinforcement will require a “sound system” or “P.A.”
Sound System - The amplifiers, speakers, outboard units and crossovers that together create the sound in clubs and venues. Not in anyway like a home HiFi or a portable P.A. The Sound System requires a “Sound Engineer” to correctly use it.
Speed – also called tempo or sometimes pitch. This is the speed a song is playing in, it is measured in BPM.
Spinback – spinning the disc backwards to finish a mix with a flourish!
Stab – a short sound used as a sample, normally for scratching.
Stutter – using scratching on vinyl decks or the cue button on CD decks to rapidly repeat a sound like a drum roll or a voice.
Stylus - The part of a turntables arm that makes contact with the vinyl being played.
Tempo – also called speed and sometimes called pitch. This is the speed a song is playing in, it is measured in BPM.
Tip – when beginning to learn how to scratch try to use just the tip of a sound to get used to how little you should move when scribbling.
Time Code – The time structure with in which music is created.
Time Coded Vinyl – Special 12” vinyl used with systems to allow a computer to play m music file directly from your turntables movements.(similar to DVS).
Throwing - Giving a record a little push when it starts up so you don't have any lag time while it gets up to speed. CD players do this by featuring instant start. (normal CD players may take a few tenths of a second before a song starts) Throwing a record nulls the lag time while it accelerates from zero to 33ish RPM. It sounds silly at first but it is actually very critical for Beatmixing.
Top - HI/High/Treble/Top. Also used to describe something good
Tone Arm - The pivoting arm on a turntable.
Track – a song or tune on a CD.
Tracking - The ability of a stylus to follow the grooves of a vinyl.
Treble - HI/High/Treble/Top. The upper part of the frequency range which is controllable by DJ mixers. This range normally contains hi hats, shakers and some parts of voices.
Trim – another word for Gain.
Tune – a track or song.
Turntable – a “deck.”
Turntablism – using records or CDs to make your own music by scratching, juggling, sampling etc instead of just playing the songs.
Verse – the bit of a song where the singer/ rapper sings the main part of the song.
WAV – a high quality digital format for music on CDs, all bought CDs have WAV quality sound.
I know you have what it takes(talent)..but one thing that can push it forward is to hang in there, never give up and always stress forward!
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