DJ slang is a language of its own. With roots firmly in the hip hop turntablism of the 1980s, DJ jargon is based on the technical novelties and subculture of the artform. You want to play the part while learning to DJ like a pro? In this fun list, we take a look at a few things you might hear inside the booth.
Bite: To blatantly copy another DJ’s techniques. Big no-no in DJing (example of use)
Break: Part of a song where only the drums play, usually for 4-8 bars. Can be looped or sampled as a springboard for a new track or for an MC to rap over. Sampling the drum breaks from gospel and jazz records formed the basis of early hip hop.
Crab: A scratch technique named after the shape of the hand as it controls the crossfader or fader. Crab scratching involves using the thumb and fingers to alternately raise and lower the fader, tapping quickly to create a rapid gating effect.
Coffin: massive flight case containing DJing equipment, typically two turntables and a mixer.
To lower the volume or EQ gain.
To transition instantly between two tracks without cross-fading.
Downbeat: The first beat of the bar.
Hamster switch: A switch which reverses the crossfader channels temporarily. Using a hamster switch is a common scratch technique to create clear cuts between the tracks.
Hard swap: Quickly trading part of one track for another using EQ. For example, cutting the bass on A while simultaneously raising it on B.
“If you aint redlining you aint headlining”: Common yet controversial phrase describing how loudness (rather than selection or technical skill) is the most valuable weapon in a DJ’s arsenal.
Juggle: Turntablism technique wherein musical samples are rearranged to sound like something new. Two copies of the same songs are required. Favorite technique of Kid Koala and many others.
Scribbling: Simple scratching technique where the record is moved back and forward around a chosen sound.
Spinback: finishing a song by giving the disc a backwards finish.
Throwing: Giving a disc a small push to reduce lag time as it speeds up. Critical technique for beatmatching with any skill.
Tip: Speaking in the context of something. For example, “On a breakbeat tip” means “in the context of breakbeat.”
Tag: Two or more DJs performing a set by playing alternate records.
Trainspotting: Annoying practice by wannabe DJs who crowd the booth in an effort to see what track is playing. Trainspotters often interfere with the DJ.
Trainwreck: Failing to match beats, resulting in two kicks playing slightly out of sync. Sounds horrible, but happen to the all DJs at some point.
Hanging out with other DJs is pretty normal when you share a bill, and there’s often a lot of time between soundcheck and show. So while you’re actually learning to DJ, do some reading on the history of DJing and its subcultures and then head out and pick up some cool lines.
John Bartmann is an award-winning music producer and DJ.