Learn How DJs Talk Right Up to the Vocal Perfectly

Talent and technology help DJs "hit the post"

Radio DJs seem to be able to smoothly introduce a song, speaking all the way through the song's intro and then finishing just as the lyrics begin. They even seem to follow the flow of the instrumentals' beats and cadence.

This radio art form, where the DJ's timing is so perfect that they never "step on" the vocals, is referred to as "hitting the post." Here's a look at what's involved when DJs seem to magically hit the post perfectly every time.

Male disc jockey using turntable in studio and smiling as he speaks into the microphone
Marc Romanelli / Getty Images

Hitting the Post in the Past

Hitting the post has always required practice and talent because it's all about timing and having a feel for the song. Still, DJs have always had some help.

Before music was computerized, DJs used carts to hold songs, or they played music directly off special vinyl 45s. Record companies provided 45s pressed with a mono side and a stereo side (AM/FM). They often included a certain amount of intro time for the DJ's convenience.

Later, carts with magnetic tape became popular. The carts were always labeled, so DJs knew where the posts were in seconds. A typical label might have looked like this:

:10/3:42/fade

This meant that there was a 10-second intro until the vocals began. Also, the song was 3:42 in length, and it faded toward the end.

When the DJs pushed a button to start the cart, a digital LED readout would tick off, so they could physically see the point at which vocals were approaching.

Some studios even provided countdown clocks tripped by an inaudible tone on the cart. This would let the DJ see the exact amount of time left before the vocals were to begin.

Hitting the Modern-Day Post

While DJs have always had a little help, making hitting the post sound good requires practice, timing, and even somewhat of a "third sense."

Think about it this way. 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 you can stop just behind the car in front of you without hitting it. That's the kind of timing, or feel, DJs develop when it comes to talking over the music intros up to the exact point vocals begin.

These days, technology helps even more. With voice tracking, DJs can record what they want to say and physically place that recorded sound bite between songs. 

Today, voice tracking can make even a less-experienced DJ sound perfect. Still, the old-school DJs who learned how to hit the post have developed a sense of timing and rhythm that elevates their talent and the listener's experience.