Drop the Mic, feel the vibe, cut the loop, turn on the bass, high frequency… You’ve probably heard these terms, but what do they mean?
Before you buy any equipment or start any investment you better have some knowledge about the DJ and Music World. With the knowledge I’ve got and all the research I’ve made, I created for you a list (non exhaustive) to extend your knowledge.
Amp – Short terms for amplifier.
Ableton live – A software music sequencer and digital audio workstation
Acapella – A track containing only vocals.
Active (Studio Monitors) – Studio monitor speakers have a built-in amplifier meaning that they can be connected directly to mixing consoles or sound sources without the need for an external amp.
Anti-skating – A control to keep a turntables stylus centered within a records groove.
Audio Interface – An external soundcard connected to a laptop through USB or Firewire. This soundcard gives your computer a selection of usable audio inputs and outputs.
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 used 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.
Blinders – Illuminate any stage. Blinders are essential part of any professional lighting rig. They provide incredibly bright and intense flashes of light, adding energy and atmosphere to your performance.
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.
Bootleg – A remix of a song, almost exclusively in the electronic dance music genre, in which the remixing DJ uses an entire song or samples from a song in a remix without the explicit permission of the original artist. This is however considered an acceptable practice as nearly all EDM DJs care more about the music than they care about the money. Having someone remix your song, bootleg or not, is typically a sign of great respect and appreciation.
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.
Breakdown – a bit of a song where things change and some instruments stop to let the bass and drums take over.
Cans – Another terms for Headphones
Cartridge – The part that holds the stylus in place on your turntable, is an electromechanical transducer that is used to play records on it.
CD – A format of disc that contains music.
CDJ – CD Turntables play digital formats just like a vinyl turntable does. CDJ’s play many digital formats and sometimes beyond CD’s sometimes they also play music from USB.
Channel – A channel refers to an audio input/output or combination of both. On a mixer a channel usually features volume and EQ control.
Chorus – A part of a song that is repeated by the singer a few times in the song, usually after each verse.
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 fader found on most DJ mixes which is normally layed out horizontally rather than vertically. The crossfader controls the fade from one track to another. DJ mixers with more than two channels can sometimes have more than one track assigned to each side of the crossfader.
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.
Cue Point – A Cue Point is a marker on the track that, when triggered/clicked, will take you to that position in the song.
Cut – To swap instantly from one tune to another at a good place.
DVS – Digital Vinyl System, this system operates through DJ software being run on a computer. However, it can be controlled by CDJs or vinyl turntables that are hooked up.
Deck – Player of CDs or vinyl records. Sometimes it’s called a “turntable”.
Delay – Creates the illusion that the same track is playing twice, one with a slight delay. This creates repetition
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 – A disc jockey, often abbreviated as DJ, is a person who plays existing recorded music for a live audience.
DJ Software – Working with “Digital Vinyl Systems” or “USB Controllers” DJ Software uses the processers on Computers to play and manipulate sounds. Some DJ Software is intended to act alone without any “CD” or “Vinyl” players at all.
Drop – A drop or beat drop in popular music, especially electronic dance music styles, is a point in a music track where a sudden change of rhythm or bass line occurs, which typically is preceded by a build section and break.
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 color 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 used 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.
Flanger – It’s an audio effect produced by combining a delayed signal with the original and continuously varying the delay to create additional overtones. Jargon aside, it basically creates a noise that creates and distorts the beat, sometimes producing a “whoosh” noise.
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 used 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. Pop, Rock, Acid, 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.
Hot Cue – This is a cue point set to a button which is available for quick access. You could also set a hot cue point using a sampler to play a loop.
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.
Jog Wheel – A big dial on a professional CD deck. When a track is playing, rotating the wheel speeds up or slows down the track (pitch bending). The jog wheel also allows for searching through the track frame by frame when in “stutter” mode. In vinyl mode, it emulates a record on a turntable.
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.
Label – A brand or a trademark associated with music Releases. Records released by a given dance music label typically belong to the same genre, and the label itself works with a certain segment of producers in that genre.
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.
Line Fader – A control on a DJ mixer used to vary the volume of a channel.
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.
Looping – This will allow you to loop a track so that it repeats a few notes. You can usually choose between 16½, ¼, 1/8, 1/16, and 1/32.
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.
Mashup – Something created by combining elements from two or more sources like music.
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 – A sequence of tracks mixed together without gaps or changes in tempo. Can be performed by a DJ live or recorded in a studio.
Mixing – Combining two or more sound tracks. In DJing, mixing means combining the two tunes when doing a blend from one tune to another. In music production, mixing means combining the track elements (e.g. the bassline, drums, vocals etc.) into a finished song.
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 – Special speakers in the DJ booth that let the DJ clearly hear how their Mix sounds on the dancefloor, without the delay or distortions of the main sound system.
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.
Original Mix – The original mix or the extended mix usually contrast with the radio edit, which is a compressed mix of the track into about 3–4 minutes meant for playing on the radio, without the long intro sections. Sometimes the original and extended mixes contrast with one another – the original mix might be 6 minutes long and the extended mix 10 or more. This often happens when the original mix is on an album and the extended mix is released as a single for playing in club settings.
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.”
Re-edit – A version of a track produced by re-arranging and/or removing parts of the original. Unlike a Remix, which may change a track beyond recognition, a re-edit simply re-arranges the track’s parts – verses, choruses, Breakdowns etc. – in a different way.
Release – A collection of tracks released by an artist as a single piece. Examples of releases include albums, EPs, Singles etc.
Remix – An alternative version of a tune created by adding/removing track elements, layering samples and/or sound effects on top of the track as well as changing the key, tempo or other characteristics of the piece.
Requests – the public and the people dancing at clubs or parties may often request a song from the DJ. It depends on 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.
Reverb – Creates the effect that a track/sound is being vibrated or disturbed
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.
RPM – Revolutions per minute. The rotational speed at which a vinyl record is played. Standard values of RPM include 33, 45 and 78 for vintage records.
Sample – Any bit of music used to make new music, often a break or stab.
Sampler – A device used to record samples of music.
Scanner Lights – Scanner Lights are able to create moving lighting patterns that add excitement to your light show. They have become an essential component in creating atmosphere for any club environment or stage production.
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.
Single – A release containing one tune plus a few Remixes to it. Electronic dance music is mostly released in the form of singles.
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 any way 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.
Strobe – A flashing light on a vinyl turntable that lets you check how precisely the deck is spinning. Under strobe light, the dots on the side of the platter are supposed to “freeze” on certain pitch positions.
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.
Tears – A “Scratch” Technique involving pulling and pushing a sound while altering the speed of the pull or push by hand during the scratch.
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 – Timecode disks allow you to control your favorite DJ software with turntables or CDJ’s.
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 null 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 – In a vinyl turntable, a hollow metal tube with a counterweight to which the Cartridge is attached. Can be straight or S-shaped.
Track – A song or tune on a CD.
Tracking – The ability of a stylus to follow the grooves of a vinyl.
Trainwreck – The DJ’s nightmare that occurs when the Beats of two mixed tracks fall out of sync. In its mild forms, sounds like “boo-boom, boo-boom, boo-boom.”
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.
USB – A standard port on computers which can be used to attach music production or DJ Controllers to a Computer.
VBR – Variable bitrate. An audio/video encoding scheme where the bitrate may change from one file segment to another depending on the richness of the encoded signal. The sound quality of VBR MP3s is usually better than of CBR files of the same size.
Verse – The bit of a song where the singer/ rapper sings the main part of the song.
Vinyl – A format of disc that contains music for playback.
WAV – A high quality digital format for music on CDs, all bought CDs have WAV quality sound.
I’m going to be honest, while I was creating this post I’ve learned a lots of terms I didn’t really know. So if you think about anything missing or any word you don’t really understand, just leave a comment a below.