DJ Terms



DJ Terminology

Balanced Audio Connectors
These connectors are very important because they greatly minimize external noises and hums. Balanced connections use three-conductor connectors, the most common is the XLR and TRS connector. XLR connectors are normally used with microphones and powered speakers, while TRS connectors are usually used for mixer input/outputs and unpowered/passive speakers because they are smaller in size.

Beat Mixing / Beat Matching

Beat Mixing and Beat Matching are often used synonymously, however beat-matching is a part of the beat-mixing process. Beat-Matching is the act of matching the beat of a new song to the beat of a song that is currently playing. Beat-Mixing is the whole process of locating an appropriate song, paying attention to the phrasing, matching the beat, and effectively mixing the song into the mix.

Beat Mixing Technique
With the current song playing, the DJ would cue a new song only using the headphones to monitor the sound.  The DJ would then match the BPM of the new song to the song currently playing. The beat shouldn’t vary more than 8-10 BPM (current song 130bpm – the new song 120bpm and then raising the BPM to 130bpm might be o.k.). Drastically changing the BPM of a song may make the song sound odd.  It is advised to press the “Key Lock” button or “Pitch Lock” to keep the track in the original “key/pitch”, unless however the DJs purpose is to speed up the song AND change the pitch.

It’s time to find a beat. If the song begins directly on a good down-beat, the DJ can hit the cue button (or play button) and hold it for a few seconds to test it. If the beginning of the song is not use-able OR if the DJ would like to use a different section in the song, the DJ would use the Jog wheel to search to the desired section.

The stutter button is very useful when cue-ing a new section on the song.  It will stutter the beat when the track is paused, and the jog wheel can be used to find the perfect beat.  With the new song only playing through the headphones, the DJ will find the very beginning of the beat,  It will most likely be the kick beat in the beginning of a phrase.

When the song is ready to be beat-mixed, the DJ will hit the play button on the new song while paying attention to the timing and beat location of the song currently playing. The DJ will then raise the volume on the new song ensuring both songs play at the same time. The DJ will then lower the volume of the first song and continue playing the new song.

BPM’s (Beats Per Minute)

BPM’s are the pace of music measured by the number of beats occurring in 60 seconds.

This feature allows the DJ to mark a certain point in a song.

The DJ controller remembers this point whether it’s a CD or a Digital Audio File.  A great example of this is how a DJ may  Call/Memo the song “Runaround Sue”. The introduction is too slow for a dance set. therefore a DJ will set the Memo/Call point where the music actually begins, and play the song from there.


The cartridge is a part on the end of the arm on a turntable that holds the stylus (needle) in place.  The stylus in the groove of the vinyl registers the vibrations .  The cartridge converts the vibrational energy into an electrical signal and then sent to the sound system.

CD Dual Player Controllers
CD Dual Player Controllers are hardware controllers for dual cd players.

CD+G’s are used used with Karaoke machines to display the words along with the music.


CDJ or (CD DJ)  is a term used to describe a CD player that allows analogue control of music from CDs, usually using an emulated vinyl control surface.  All CD controller decks are CDJs.

Crate is another term for a playlist, generally used with DJ software like Serato Scratch.

Crossfader Automatic Feature
This is an automated feature on a digital player that allows each song to fade in while the other song fades out.  Crossfading eliminates awkward silences between songs and allows for smooth transitions.

Cue means to position audio in readiness to play.

A song can be Cue’d to play from the beginning of the track or a DJ can use headphones to cue a song to specific location on a track.  For beat-mixing purposes, a DJ cues a song to a specific point and uses the cue to transition smoothly into a new song.

Digital Media Controllers CD players + Digital Audio Files
Certain Digital Media Controllers play CDs and have USB connections to play digial audio files through the use of external hard drives. Certain media controllers are even constructed with an internal hard drive plus external capabilities.  

While they are ideal for playing CDs, the ability to play digital audio files (through external/internal hard drives) makes these controllers very versatile.  Some controllers can even be used to control certain software on a laptop through a MIDI function. (example DJ products are the Pioneer MEP 7000 and the Denon HD2500)

Digital Media Software Controllers
Digital Media Software Controllers are solely used to manipulate digital audio files on a PC or laptop, like:
Numarks NS7 and the Pioneer SEP1.

DJ Mix Set
A DJ mix set is a sequence of songs played to sound like one continual track.  This can be done live or pre-recorded.  It is not uncommon for new DJs to pre-record mix sets for an event.  Experienced DJs prefer to perform their mix sets live as they can respond to dance floor activity and can adapt to the mood of the event.


Delay/Echo is an effect commonly used by DJs and found on CD/digital media players.  The DJ sets the length of how long the echo/delay lasts.  When the effect is activated, the sound, which may be a beat or a phrase, is repeated and used for creative and compositional purposes.

The fader is a sliding control used to adjust the volume found on mixer channels. These are used to Fade-In (raise the volume to desired volume) and Fade-Out tracks (lower the fader all the way down to take the song out of the mix).


A Flanger is an effect commonly used by DJs and is built into many DJ CD/digital media players.  A flanger creates a "sweeping" effect that is similar to the sound of a plane coming in for a landing or a car that is driving down a street, passing, and then driving away.

Headphones are used mostly for Cue’ing; Listening to one song while the other song is being played through speakers.

iPod Players / External Hard Drive Players
These are devices that are specifically used to access digital audio files (Mp3, AIFF, etc.) from iPods or external hard drives.  These are very popular because they are more portable in size and still maintain the integrity of a real DJ mixing console.  An Example of this is the Numark’s IDJ2.  The IDJ2 has a built in mixer and a DJ can connect speakers directly to it. Others players may need to be connected to an external mixer.

Jog Wheel
A jog wheel or jog dial, allows the user to search through audio.  The Jog wheel is used to cue specific points in a song and used for the purpose of beat-matching.  If the device is designed to pause, the audio is often stuttered (repeating a small section over and over again).  This feature allows a DJ to find an exact beat/spot to cue for beat-mixing or to use for creating purposes.

Key Lock Feature (time stretching)

By activating the “key lock” feature, the DJ can increase or decrease the tempo of a song without effecting the original pitch or “KEY” of the song.

Kill Switch
A kill switch is a function on an analog and digital (software) mixers. It is used to cancel certain frequencies to add a musically dramatic effect when mixing music.  A popular use of a kill switch is to cancel/cut the low frequencies of a song for a few measures which would remove any Bass or Kick Drum sounds.  While the low frequency is “killed”, the mids and highs remain.


The loop feature allows a DJ to be creative by repeating certain pieces or parts within a song.  Many measures can be looped, a couple of beats, or even a catchy phrase.  To loop, a DJ would push “loop in” to start the loop and then press “loop out” to complete the loop.  The loop will then automatically begin.

MC (Master of Ceremonies)

In turntablism, the MC is considered a rapper.  For events/parties, the MC is the person who in responsible for making special announcements, setting the mood, and guiding the special activities of an event (i.e. giving the mic to the person giving the toast, cake cut, garter/bouquet toss, announcing anniversary dances, opening up the dance floor, announce speakers, ice-breakers,etc.).   Some MCs will lead ice-breakers or games, especially at children’s events, birthdays, and bar – bat mitzvahs.

(DJ/MC Microphone)
The Microphone is used by the DJ or MC to make special announcements at an event.  It is also used by guests to give blessings for meals, speeches, toasts, or even for the purposes of singing. All DJ mixers have at least one input for a microphone.

Midi Controller
For DJing purposes, MIDI is used to control software on a PC or a Laptop. Midi Controllers are surfaces that have all the functions and capabilities of an DJ/Media Controller but is connected into the computer using midi cables.

Mixers  (DJ Mixers)

A DJ mixer, which can have 2-6 channels (RCA input), is used to manipulate the levels and equalization of the sound from a media player and direct the sound through to speakers.   A DJ mixer also has a crossfader located under the volume controls to allow a DJ to smoothly transition from one song to another.

The cue’ing feature on a DJ mixer allows the DJ to listen to a song in headphones without the song being played through to the speakers. Cue’ing is an important function to use when beat-mixing.   Most DJ mixers should have a microphone input as well.

How does a Mixer work in the setup of a DJ system?  A Dual CD controller, Media Player, iPod, or Laptop is plugged into the inputs to the rear of the mixer. Also located on the rear of the mixer, are the outputs for speakers.  The Output L/R may run directly to Powered/Active speakers, or may be run to an amplifier to power Passive Speakers.

Pitch scaling or pitch shifting

Pitch scaling is the process of changing the pitch without affecting the speed.

Platter or Plate
The platter is the circular part of a turntable driven by its motor and belt.

A playlist is a group of audio files/songs carefully selected for the purpose of an event either written on paper or stored on a hard drive in a designated folder.  For instance, a playlist for a wedding ceremony may be a grouping of classical songs.  Another example would be a grouping of Top 40 Dance Songs to be played during a set at a birthday party.  When creating a playlist, a DJ makes some considerations and presumptions to which songs guests may enjoy during the event or event activity.

Programming Music

Programming music is being able to put together a grouping of songs for an intended purpose.  The main purpose is to audibly please an audience during different “sets” and to successfully perform each set by choosing the right songs.  During a Dance set, A DJ must choose songs that would continue to motivate guests to dance.  During a dinner set, if more soothing music is played, the DJ must choose songs that would compliment the mood.
While programming music, it’s not exclusively about matching song styles and BPMs.

Programming involves reading a crowd, checking the level of excitement, responding to requests, recognizing age-groups, and playing songs to make the most of every DJ Set.  An experienced DJ also knows when to move on to a different set altogether.

RCA connector

These are connectors used to carry audio and video signals.

Reading A Crowd

Reading a crowd involves checking the level of excitement, responding to requests, recognizing age-groups, and playing songs to make the most of every DJ Set.

Reverb simulates the echos of sound in a hall or room after the original sound is removed and is generally found on a mixer or an effect processor. This effect is mainly used by singers and performers playing instruments to blend their sound better through the speaker system.   If a DJ is planning to use live performers during an event, using reverb is highly recommended.

Scratching is a DJ or turntablist technique used to produce distinctive sounds by moving a vinyl record back and forth on a turntable while manipulating the crossfader on a DJ mixer.

A set-list is a playlist, or a grouping of songs, to serve a specific purpose during an event or performance.

A slam is a term used when a DJ has to immediately start a song and instantly drop out the current song.  This is important to practice and perfect, especially when a song has a strong melodic or rhythmic introduction that everyone knows and loves. Songs like “Disco Inferno” by the Trammps, has a very short but familiar melodic introduction and it is important for this to be played.  Another popular song with a popular introduction is “We Are Family”.  This song has a catchy snare drum introduction.

Note:  It is not considered a slam if the currently playing song fades out.  It is only a slam when the “slammed” song is brought in at the same volume as the song that is ending.

Slip-Cuing is a DJ technique used by turntable DJs.  The DJ holds the record still while the platter rotates underneath the slipmat and releases it at the right moment. This allows the record to spin, almost immediately, to the full speed of player.

A slipmat is a circular piece of slippery cloth or synthetic material DJs place on the turntable platter. While slipmats are designed to slip on the platter, this allows the DJ to hold the record still for slip-cueing, make minor adjustments when beat-matching, and easily spin the disc for scratching.

S/PDIF is used to carry digital audio signals between devices and components over either optical or electrical cable.

Stutter Feature
The stutter feature is found on DJ CD/Digital Media players and activated when using a Jog Wheel or Jog Dial. The function repeats a small section of audio over and over again. This is used to cue specific points in a song, especially when searching for a good beat to use for beat-mixing.

The Stylus is also known as the needle in the cartridge located on the arm of the turntable which makes contact on the vinyl.

Sync button
This is usually a function found in DJ software.  The sync button is used to automatically synchronize or match the tempo of one song to another. This feature is used often in dance sets.  Although this technology makes it easy to match the tempo, a DJ has to be careful to also match the phrasing in the measures as well.   An effective Dj will match the kick drums and snare drum hits during a mix.

Tempo is the speed at which music is set to be played.  Most, if not all DJ controllers and software will read and display the tempo or the BPM of the song.  As tempo may not be important when just playing music, it is very important to match tempos when beat-mixing.

Tone Arm
The tone are is the component that pivots on a turntable.

Time stretching
Time stretching is the process of changing the speed of a song without affecting its pitch.

TRS connector  (tip, ring, sleeve)
also called an audio jack, phone jack, phone plug, jack plug, stereo plug, mini-jack, mini-stereo, or headphone jack, is a common analog audio connector.

Turntable CD/Digital Turntable
Digital turntables are CD players that have a slip pad disc like a platter on an analog turntable. The DJ moves the the slip pad to produce scratchy sounds and other special effects that are electronically simulated.

They also include numerous other functions not found on regular CD players such as flash memory storage for multiple sound tracks, cue point marking and automatic looping. Products like the Pioneer Pro DJ CDJ-800MK2 is one of the first. These are CDJs.

Turntable Technology
Vinyl is not used much anymore, but DJs are still using turntables. Technology like Serato SL 3 or Numarks Virtual Vinyl has made this possible.  DJ technology has gotten so advanced that setups like Serato and Traktor are able to work very well with real vinyl. Many songs stored on a laptop or external hard drive can be played using the special time-coded vinyls.

These time-coded vinyls are used to control mp3 files as if you were playing them like a standard turntable DJ . You have the choice to purchase the software like Traktor or Serato and….
#1 use timecoded CDs for the CDJs (cd controllers), or
#2 purchase timecoded vinyls and use them with DJ turntables.

Turntablism is an art and a skill of using a turntable as a musical instrument by using different techniques spinning on vinyl.

Unbalanced Audio Cables
Unbalanced lines are more susceptible to line noise and interference. Generally, 1/4’ cables are unbalanced.

Vinyl emulation
Vinyl emulation allows a DJ to physically manipulate the playback of digital audio files on a computer using turntables as an interface, thus preserving the hands-on feel of deejaying on vinyls. While using DJ software,  DJs can scratch, beatmatch, and perform other turntablism that would be impossible to do with a keyboard and a mouse.

Vinyl Records
A shellac-composition or vinyl-plastic disk, usually 7 or 12 inches in diameter played on turntables or used on digital turntables using vinyl simulation technology.

XLR connector
An XLR is an electrical connector design. XLR plugs and sockets are used mostly in professional audio and video electronics cabling applications, for microphones and line level signals.

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