Glossary Of Terms
'3 Time' - A term given to counting 3 beats (Crochets) or 6 half beats (Quavers) per bar
'4 Time' - A term given to counting 4 beats (Crochets) per bar, also known as 'Common Time'
A.D.C. (Analogue to Digital Converter) - A device which takes a real world (Analogue) signal and converts (Digitises) it to be stored Digitally (eg. on the hard drive of a computer), opposite of a D.A.C
A.D.S.R. - Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release, the component parts of a sound envelope
Air - High frequencies in a mix that don't shape individual sounds but can add a 'sheen' to the overall mix
Ambience - A term for atmosphere sound, colouration of sound by the space/room that it is recirded in
Amplifier - A device that takes a source signal and increases its Amplitude (makes it louder)
Amplitude - The maximum level of a signal or oscillation
Analogue - A signal that is continuously variable over time, an Analogue device is one that processes or stores continuously variable signals
A.R.C (Acoustic Room Correction) - A system which measures a room with a calibration microphone and uses EQ to offset any non ideal natural EQ to aid in hearing your monitor output accurately when mixing
Attack - How long it takes for a sound to reach full volume after initiation, affects whether it sounds sharp or soft
Attenuate - The opposite of amplify, reducing the amplitude of a signal
Autotune - A software device used to correct out of tune vocals or instruments
Auxilliary - As in Auxilliary Bus, see Group Bus
Bar - A segment of time into which a set number of beats are contained
Beat - A basic unit of time that defines the 'pulse' of a piece, a person would tap their toe to the beat when listening to a piece of music
B.P.M. - means Beats Per Minute, how many units of time there are in a minute. This is a number used to define the Tempo (speed/pace) of a song.
Bit - A binary ( 1 or 0 value) used by computers to store and process digital signals, 8 Bits make 1 Byte in computing terms to form a Digital Word.
Bouncing - A process of sending a Pre-Mix of some of your instruments out of your Workstation and then re-Importing this Pre-Mix to add other parts before sending out a final mix. Reasons to do this may be because of a limited track count within your software or to take the strain off your Computer's Processor.
Boost - Using EQ to lift a particular band of frequencies
Cab - means Cabinet, a name given to large amplifiers
Channel - An area within a workstation to record an instrument, side by side with instruments on other channels
Chorus - Can mean the main part of a song, but also is an effect which makes a sound seem richer and thicker by blending it with a short delayed version of itself.
Clean - An untreated, unprocessed sound or one that is free from undesirable contamination by other sounds
Click Track - A timing reference used on a song file to make sure all recorded performances stay in time with eachother
Clipping - An undesirable form of distortion that can make your recording sound unpleasant, caused by over amplifying a signal
Compressor - a processor used to reduce the dynamic range of a recording. Keeps it within acceptable limits without losing its original character by scaling it down proportionally.
Crossfade - Reducing one signal/sound at the same time at the same time as increasing another by the same amount
Cut - Using EQ to reduce a particular band of frequencies
D.A.C (Digital to Analogue Converter) - The process of converting a stored Digital signal back in an Analogue real world signal (eg. playing back what you have recorded to your computer over your Monitors), opposite of an A.D.C.
D.A.W. (Computer) - Digital Audio Workstation, the computer (and software) you use to capture recordings, edit and mix them.
Decibel (Db) - A logarithmic unit of measurement of loudness, used in mixing
De-Esser - A specialist filter used on vocals to reduce sounds such as 'esses' which can be made to sound harsh when compressed
Defrag - A process your Operating System can do to re-organise stored data on your hard drives. This makes your computer run more smoothly and with better efficiency.
Decay - The time it takes for a sound to drop to its sustain level after its initial peak
Delay - An effect in which a signal is recorded, then played back after a period of time, can be played back multiple times with a decaying envelope
D.I. - Direct Input, recording directly with a lead going straight from your instrument to your sound card (possibly via effects pedals)
Digital - A discrete Binary Signal that is a representation of is Analogue counterpart for storage and processing within a computer based system.
Distortion - An effect of overdriving an amplifier to create a warm and dirty sound with more sustain than a clean sound
Double Tracking - Usually referred to with vocals, recording unison vocals in pairs to create a richer sound, the same method is also used with instruments (see Layering)
Driver - A small piece of software that tells your computer how to make hardware and software communicate with eachother so they can work together properly.
D.S.P - See Signal Processor
Dual Core - A type of computer processor that has two processors housed within one physical chip, Quad Core has 4 in one chip etc. These allow more powerful and faster processing of signals but can be more prone to overheating.
Dynamic (Dynamic Range) - The difference between the loudest and quietest parts of a signal
Editing - The process of cutting and then rejoining parts of a recording or different recordings to make them flow seamlessly
Emulator - A processor that can mimic the effect of a particular recording process such as micing up a guitar cab or drum kit
Envelope - The characteristic shaping of a sound, see A.D.S.R. for the components that make this
E.Q. - Equaliser, a set of frequency specific volume knobs used in mixing
Export - The process of sending a file out of your Digital Audio Workstation in a particular format to be stored elsewhere, this could be a final mixdown or a Multi- Channel file intended to be Imported into another Workstation.
Fade - a way of manipulating the volume at the beginning or end of a sound, can be a fade in, a fade out or see crossfade
Filter - Used to boost or cut certain bands of EQ when mixing or recording
Firewire - A standard port (serial bus) for connecting Digital devices to eachother (I.E.E.E. 1394 standard)
Folder - A way to organise and group together files on a computer system, also known as a Directory or Catalog)
Frequency - The building block of any sound/signal, an alternating quantity that generates a particular tone, combinations of frequencies blended together create a unique 'fingerprint' to make a particular sound what it is, measured in Hertz (Hz).
Gain - The ratio of output over input to determine the efficiency of an amplifier
Group Bus - A pre-mix channel that a group of particular instruments (eg. Guitars) are sent to before being sent to the Master Bus, sometimes known as Auxilliary Busses or Stems
Headphones - A set of small speakers you wear on your head so you can hear what is being recorded/played back over any other live sounds
High End (Treble) - A name given to a group of high frequencies in a mix
Hi-Fi - Stands for High Fidelity, a sound system for playing back MP3's, CD's, Records or Radio
Hz - Unit of measurement of frequency can also be expressed Kilohertz (KHz), means the number of cycles per second
Import - A process of bringing a file from another location into your Workstation to use within your project
Jack - A type of plug used to connect electric instruments to amplifiers, effects pedals, soundcards etc. 1/4 inch jacks are common for this though 1/8 jacks are also widely available
Latency - The time delay between input stimulus and its resultant output (how long it takes to hear something back after you've pressed a note or play button), usually measured in Milliseconds (ms).
Layering - A process of recording the same performance using slightly different sounds/tones (eg guitars) to create a deeper thicker sound
Lead - A wire with a plug of some kind (jack, XLR etc) at each end used to connect electric instruments
Limiter - A high ratio compressor that is used to limit the peaks of a signal to a fixed ceiling level
Loop - Playing a particular part of a recording repeatedly (eg. Drum Loop)
Low End (Bass) - A name give to a group of low frequencies in a mix
Master Bus - The final output stage of a mix, usually the Group Busses will feed into this
Mastering - The process of compiling a collection of songs (eg. Album), and balancing them in terms of Volume, E.Q. etc so they they sound the best them can together. The very last stage of Post Production
Maximiser - A specialist type of compressor that is used to reduce short duration peaks (usually too short to be noticable) in a mix in order to increase the overall volume level at source
Memory - A physical device within a computer that stores either data or instruction sequences, usually on a temporary basis (whilst the software you are using is open) but can be permanent. This is not the same as a Hard Drive which stores your media files etc.
Microphone - A device (transducer) which converts sound into an equivilent electrical signal (waveform)
Mids - A name given to the middle frequencies in a mix, these are often subdivided into high mids and low mids
M.I.D.I. - Stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a standard way for electronic musical instruments and other interfaces to communicate with eachother
Mixing - A process of blending and balancing a set of recorded sounds into one finished recording
Monitor - A type of high quality speaker, usually used in pairs for you to listen back on when mixing (can also mean computer screen or a speaker system used when playing live so you can hear the other performers)
Mono - Short for Monoaural, a system of mixing down to one channel and/or playing music back only through one channel
Multi Track Recorder - An integrated hardware device that usually has a simple mixer and recording device in one, capable of recording several tracks at once. Older Analogue recorders usually recorded to Cassette Tape, Digital ones to a built in Hard Drive.
Noise - Unwanted signal, usually most common in high gain amplification (distortion) and sounds like humming or buzzing
Noise Gate - A device that will cut off a signal when its Amplitude falls below a set Threshold to eliminate unwanted noise
Octave - When the distance between two frequencies means that the higher one is double the frequency of the first one
Operating System - The system which your computer boots from when you first switch it on, this could be a version of Windows, Mac or Linux.
Peaks - The highest parts of a waveform cycle or oscillation
Phantom Power - A powering system used to charge the plate of more sensitive microphones such as condenser mics, can be 48 Volt or 12 Volt type. Usually delivered via an XLR lead but some mics can use internal batteries instead.
Phasing - A symptom caused by two same or very similar recordings being played side by side, usually noted by tinniness and a lack of depth, can also be caused by multiple micing in close proximity at the recording stage.
Phaser - An effect which alters the phase relationships between different bands of frequencies varying over time to create a sweeping effect
Plugin - An additional piece of software usually made by a third party manufacturer but designed to interface with your workstation to give you additional tools when mixing/mastering
Pop Filter - A physical filter (usually a fine mesh) placed in front of a microphone during recording to displace fast moving air caused by hard vocal sounds thus preventing 'popping' sounds from being recorded
Pre-Amp - A small amplifier bult into a device that lifts low level signals in preparation for further amplification. Usually placed near the source to reduce noise and other interference.
Pre-Mix - The process of mixing part of a song before the final mix. This could either in the form of a Group or Stem within an overall mix or for the purpose of sending a partial Pre-Mix out to re-Import it into the project (see Bouncing)
Presence - A group of frequencies (varies depending on the instrument) that can be boosted or cut in a mix to increase of decrease the presence and clarity of an instrument making it stand out more or less in a mix
Processor (C.P.U) - Central Processing Unit, this is the 'brain' of your computer, a physical chip with processes all signals and requests from your software applications and other hardware.
Proximity - When an instrument sounds very close, usually caused by close micing (reduced ambience and increased low end), the opposite of air and ambience
R.C.D. - Stands for Residual Current Device, an electrical safety device that will trip and cut the power supply within a few Milliseconds (ms) of an overload (caused by a fault such as a short circuit or human contact with a live mains circuit).
Ratio - A way of telling a compressor how hard to work eg 4:1 means for every 4dB at input, only 1dB will be output
Recording - The process of capturing a performance so that it can be played again afterwards
Release - The time it takes for the sound of a note to decay to nothing after the note has been released
Sample - A value taken from an Analogue signal and stored Digitally by a Computer at a given point in time (eg. a sample rate of 48Khz means a signal is sampled 48,000 times a second. Also can mean a clip or soundbyte of another recording which could be used or looped into your recording
Sibilance - The formation of hard constanants and hissing sounds by forcing air at the microphone when performing vocals, using a pop filter will prevent these being recorded
Signal - Electrical waveform representation of a sound
Signal Processor or Digital Signal Processor (D.S.P.) - Takes a signal (eg. Voice, Audio) that has been Digitised (see A.D.C.) and manipulates it mathematically and very quickly (relative to C.P.U. speed) in order to convert or diplay the signal in another form.
Smashed - Excessively compressed to the point of distorting
Squashed - Heavily (but not excessively) compressed
Software - A program you use within your computer/workstation
Soundcard - An interface device to record sound from an instrument/mic to your computer
Spectrum - The collective name for all the frequency bands
Surround Sound - Higher mixing formats than stereo, popular formats include 5.1 and 7.1, more commonly used for film soundtracks rather than music.
Stereo - A system of mixing down to 2 channels (left and right) for playback on 2 channels
Surge Protection - A device which protects other electrical equipment from voltage or current spikes that can sometimes occur in a domestic electricity supply
Sustain - The constant volume of a sound prior to its release
Sync - short for synchronisation
T-Powered - An alternative mic powering system to phantom power, usually runs at 12 Volts
Take - Recording the same part several times to get the best performance, each attempt is known as a take
Tempo - The pace at which you play your instruments, measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM) determines the speed of your click track
Tempo Map - You create one of these when you have a song that changes speed and/or time signature mid song. A tempo map determines the points in a song at which the time signature and/or tempo changes
Time Signature - A way of telling you how music is to be counted, usually written like a fraction it has 2 numbers. The top one tell you how many Beats are in a Bar (usually between 2 and 12, but 2, 3, 4, and 6 are most common) and the bottom one tells you what type of note to count (1 = Whole Note, 2= Half Note, 4 = Quarter Note, 8 = Eighth of a Note, 16 = 16th of a Note, 2, 4 and 8 are most common).
Threshold - A level set to determine when a particular effect or processor should start to operate, can be set to start when a signal falls below a Threshold (eg. Noise Gate) or goes above a Threshold (eg. Compressor)
Time Signature - The number of beats per bar your song has
Tone - A term to describe the timbre (texture of a sound) usually affected by spectrum and envelope. Types of tone can include warm, bright, agressive, mellow, dark, muddy, nasal, boxy and many more
Troughs - The lowest parts of a waveform cycle or oscillation
U.S.B. - Stands for Universal Serial Bus, the most popular connection interface used by computers, scanners, printers, cameras and other digital devices
Virtual Drum Kit - An emulator that uses a midi interface to mimic the sounds of an actual drum kit
Warmth - A widely used term to describe a particular timbre or tone
X.L.R. - A type of balanced connector used on microphones to connect them to a soundcard or amplifier. For audio purposes these have 3 pins but tube condenser mics use a 7 pin version, there are also 4, 5 and 6 pin versions for non audio applications