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Poradniki online Thomann: DJ Setups

4. Cutting through the Jargon

DJ culture has spawned many slang words and nicknames for pieces of technology and DJing techniques. Here are some of the most common terms and their meanings:

 


Decks

this is the general name given to an audio player such as a vinyl turntable or DJ CD player. Somewhat confusingly, some people also refer to an entire DJ setup as ‘decks’.

Spin Back

this is a method of finishing a transition from one song to another, where the DJ will quickly spin the previous record backwards and then cut straight into the new song. It is commonly used in house and hip hop styles, although it can be used creatively in any style of DJing.

Cutting

this describes a swift movement of the cross fader from one channel to the other, and is an essential part of scratching. Standard DJing styles sometimes make use of cutting to bring in a section of the next tune to tease the audience, and it can also be used for fast transitions between two records.

Drop

this term has two meanings; it can either be used to describe the act of playing a record in a set, e.g. ‘Did you drop that record in your last set?’, or it can refer to ‘the drop’ which describes the return of a tune’s main hook after a breakdown (or its first appearance after the introduction).

Set

a set is a collection of records strung together by a DJ.

Play Out

this is the aim of all budding DJs; to play their choice of records to a crowd of dancing people in a club or bar.

Breakdown (or Break)

this is the section of a song when the beat is either partially or fully removed and the producer builds tension and the anticipation of the listener until the drop. The breakdown is possibly the most important part of a dance tune as it provides contrast to the power of the hook, and builds the excitement of the audience.

Hook

this describes the main melodic and/or rhythmical content of a particular song that gives it its appeal. Normally the hook is saved for directly after the introduction or breakdown.

Mix

this is the actual transition between two songs. A good mix will involve the choice of compatible records, starting the new record at exactly the right moment, and a subjectively pleasing setting of levels and effects.

Pitch

although its literal meaning refers to a sound’s frequency, in DJing terms ‘pitch’ is generally used to refer to the speed at which a record is played; 0% pitch is the original speed of the song, and anything faster or slower than that is expressed as a positive or negative percentage. It is worth noting that as the term suggests, any difference in speed from the original is going to change the way the song sounds – faster speeds produce higher pitch (the ‘chipmunk’ effect), and slower speeds produce lower pitch (voice of doom!). However, some DJ CD players and DJing software offer the option of varying the speed without changing the (musical) pitch.

Key

the key of a song refers to the root note of the main melody, e.g. ‘in the key of C’. The key a song was recorded in is quite important to a DJ, as two songs of clashing keys rarely sound good when mixed together. Making changes to speed/pitch and picking a song that can bridge two incompatible songs is known as ‘mixing in key’.

Loop

this is a section of music or rhythm that is played over and over again with the beginning immediately following the end without a gap. Most DJ software and DJ CD players as well as some mixers allow for sections of music to be looped.

BPM

an abbreviation of Beats Per Minute, which is the standard way in which the speed of a piece of music is measured. The higher the number, the faster the tune. Most genres of dance music are separated from others by their typical speeds in BPM - here are some examples:

  • 80-100 Hip Hop
  • 100-120 Chillout/Leftfield
  • 120-140 House/Breaks
  • 130-160 Old Skool
  • 160-180 Drum ‘n’ Bass/Hardcore

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