FromDJs4DJs DJ Dictionary. A comprehensive dictionary that is useful for any DJ, or music enthusiast, looking to learn a little more about what everything really means.
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DJ – This stands for disc jockey. A DJ is in charge of supplying the music at a given event. At FromDJs4DJs, we believe that a good DJ will possess a thorough knowledge for the music they play, and that said DJ will also have the technical skills to mix and mash on the spot. A DJ is responsible for taking the audience on a musical journey, and must be well equipped to do so; a party with no music or bad music isn’t really a party at all.
BPM – This stands for beats per minute. In house music, this number is typically 128.
Mixing – Mixing is the art of seamlessly transitioning from one song to another.
Beat Matching – This is the most common form of mixing, especially in house music. It entails matching the lows (the beats that comprise the bass line, i.e. the bass) from one song with the lows from another of the same BPM. This will result in a smooth transition between tracks.
Remix/Mash-up/Bootleg – These three terms are commonly confused. Luckily, we’re here to clear things up for you. A remix is a re-worked version of a track that was officially produced upon request of the original artist, whereas a bootleg is an unofficial remix. A mash-up denotes blending two or more tracks together. The typical style usually includes the instrumental from one track, and the vocals from another.
Bar – The typical bar in EDM is 4 “beats”.
Types of DJs
Bedroom DJ – This is pretty self-explanatory. You DJ in your bedroom for fun, and there’s no shame in this; that’s how most of us get started. Here are a few good tips: Upload your mixes to Soundcloud for increased exposure, start DJing in other people’s bedrooms, and join forums (Like FromDJsForDJs.com) to further spread your material. Who knows… you might get some very positive feedback that will encourage you to take it to the next level.
Mobile DJ – This is the stage in which you start getting your first gigs as a DJ. You will start getting paid, and people in the area will get to know you. However, the material you play will likely be limited to Top 40, or whatever the owner of the establishment thinks the crowd will want to hear. Upgrade your equipment as you start making money, but be aware of the fact that the crowds you’re playing for likely won’t be people who came just for the music; they are at a party or a bar, and the DJ is a necessary accessory.
Wedding DJ – At this point, you possess some MCing skills as well, and you know how to motivate a crowd. You’re DJ booth is the focal point of entertainment at a wedding, sweet 16 or bar mitzvah. You’ll likely get a wide array of requests because people at these events come from allover the place. However, there is a decent amount of money involved in this kind of DJing because people are always going to throw parties for the aforementioned occasions. All of the free, catered food is a definite added bonus.
Bar DJ – When people are drinking, they connect with the music. As the Dane Cook line said: “Tonight man, screw chicks… I just wanna dance.” Those people are everywhere, and you’re the one fueling their fire. Free drinks and hilarious stories aside, you’ll be able to get away with playing more of what you want. Just don’t be the jerk who plays ‘Levels’ six times, or decides that 8 songs in a row will be country. Mix it up, get people into it, but most importantly, have fun.
Radio DJ – The best part about being a radio DJ is your ability to select what you want to play. You earned that position because enough people liked the songs you play night in and night out at various locations, and now is your time to shine. You’ll start to get loyal listeners, and even though radio is in decline, your name will undoubtedly get exposure if you get a decent time slot. If you’re looking to be the person in front of a crowd, this obviously isn’t the route for you.
Club DJ – At this point, your name is trusted, and people are coming to certain clubs just to hear you spin. It’s a great honor. You get the freedom to play what you want, in front of a live audience that is there for the music. Your role as a DJ has transformed into rockstar. Perform well, and you’ll be obtaining residencies, as well as opening gigs for some of the world’s biggest DJs when they’re in your area. In other words, if you’ve made it this far, you’ve made a pretty successful career out of DJing. More power to you.
Balancing Levels – This will mainly be applicable in a club or major venue. Basically, this is the technique used to make your music as loud as possible without damaging the speakers or making your music sound distorted.
Bass – Also known as the lows, this is going to be the most important part of a track when you are “beat matching”
Bassline – this is the foundation for any song in dance music, and it’s produced by the bass.
Beat Matching – this is going to be one of the most important techniques you can master as a DJ. It consists of setting two or more songs at the same speed/tempo/pitch so that they sound like just one song.
Break – A change in a song where some instruments stop playing, or where the beat switches. A common break would be a removal of the bass, or the “lows”.
CDJ – A CD player that allows analog control of music playing from CDs, usually using a recreation of a typical vinyl turntable.
Chorus – This is the part of a song (with vocals) that is typically repeated a few times. A lot of the time, this is the only part of a song that many audience members know, and these lyrics will often be the most effective when trying to mix and mash.
Copyright – Because the lines between DJ and producer are blending these days, it’s important to note what a copyright is. It’s legal proof that someone owns a track. Anyone intending to use it must ask permission or pay first. Fortunately for many DJs, this is not enforced so much in the EDM world.
Cross-fader – This tool allows you to fade between two songs by simply moving a toggle to one side or the other.
Cue – This is basically a tool used when you want to prepare the next song to be played. On most mixers, the cue button lets you set the point at which a song will start playing. Once you have set this cue, you keep tapping the cue button until the beat in your headphones is matched with the beat that’s playing on the speakers.
Cut – Transition to a new song instantly without beat matching. Only do this at a good spot, like a break (as mentioned above) for example.
Deck – This is the main player, using CDs or vinyls. Sometimes called a turntable.
Digital Vinyl System (DVS) – 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.
EQ – This is a set of controls that allows you to impose different frequencies on your songs. The range usually includes highs/treble, mids and lows.
Fader – Increases or decreases volume of a song smoothly.
FX – Controls that allow you to alter the sounds in your song in various ways. They include:
Flanger: Also known as the Paris Hilton effect (just kidding). 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. Good for use before a big drop.
Phaser: This creates a sweeping effect on a track.
Gainer: This control increases or reduces the output level of your tracks, providing for extra movement in volume.
Echo: This is pretty self-explanatory à it adds an echo to your track
Delay: Creates the illusion that the same track is playing twice, one with a slight delay. This creates repetition
Reverb: Creates the effect that a track/sound is being vibrated or disturbed
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.
Headphone Monitor – This control allows you to choose which channel the sound is heard in your headphones.
Hook – This is often the most recognizable part of a song. This is what you might hear people humming along to.
Intro – The beginning of a song, before any of its sounds have really started. For the start of a mix you might want a song with a good intro.
Loop – Any part of a song that you repeat. This can often become the gateway to a new song, or the part that you use to beatmatch.
Low – The bottom end of the frequency spectrum. This is also known as the bass.
High: The highest part of the frequency spectrum. Isolated highs will have no bass, just melodic aspects.
Mid: The middle part of the frequency range. Can be controlled by EQ controls.