How Do Those DJs Always Talk Right Up To The Vocal Perfectly?

With Some It's Talent, With Others It's Technology

Young man broadcasting in recording studio, portrait
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A site visitor writes:

I was looking at your radio glossary and I was wondering how djs consistently "hit the post” without going over into the vocals. When it's done right, it's really amazing. I've never heard it explained. Thanks. - Ross

Answer:

To "hit the post" or "hitting the post" is an expression deejays use to describe the art of talking up to the point when the lyrics begin without "stepping" on the beginning of the vocals.

It also refers to talking up to an accentuation in the instrumental beginning of a song (the ramp) as in when a large beat kicks in or an instrument creates a predominant punctuation.

Hitting the post requires a lot of practice because it’s all about timing and feel. Before music was on computers at radio stations, DJs used either carts to hold songs or they played the music directly off of special vinyl 45s. 45s provided by record companies to radio stations were usually specially pressed with a mono side and a stereo side (AM/FM) and often included the intro time for the convenience of the DJ.

Later, carts with magnetic tape became popular. The carts were always labeled so the jock knew where the posts were in seconds. For instance: a typical label might look like this:

:10/3:42/fade

It meant a 10 second intro until the vocal began, the song was 3:42 in length and it faded.

When the deejays pushed a button to start the cart, a digital LED readout would tick off so he could physically see the point where the vocal was coming.

Some studios provided countdown clocks, tripped by an inaudible tone on the cart which would let the DJ see the amount of time left before the vocal, only ending at :00.

So, deejays have always had some help with how long the intro to a song was. But, making it sound good also requires practice, timing and a third sense.

I did a lot of Top 40 and Oldies radio in my career and having heard most songs dozens and dozens of times, eventually it came to a point where I didn't need the clocks or timers. I was able to talk and edit on-the-fly as I approached the post or vocal.

Liken it to this: when you're driving a car in traffic and you have to apply the brakes, over time you develop a feel for slowing down at a consistent pace so that you can stop just behind the car in front of you, short of hitting it. That's the kind of timing or feel DJs develop when it comes to talking over music intros up to the vocals or musical posts.

Now, there is one other item. With the advent of voice tracking, DJs don't have to possess this developed skill. That's because voice tracking allows them to record what they want to say and physically place that recorded sound in between songs. 

Voice tracking can make a less experienced jock sound perfect - but there's something to be said for the thrill of learning how to do it the old fashioned way and becoming very accomplished at it. It's just fun.