Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is an audio coding standard for lossy digital audio compression. Designed to be the successor of the MP3 format, AAC generally achieved higher sound quality than 20th century MP3 encoders at the same bit rate
AAX (Avid Audio extension) – A plugin format popular among audio engineers as opposed to producers – native to Avid Pro Tools only and requires a 64-bit system. The newer version of RTAS.
Ableton AG - is a German music software company that produces and distributes the production and performance program Ableton Live and a collection of related instruments and sample libraries, as well as their own hardware controller Ableton Push
Alternating current (AC) - is an electric current which periodically reverses direction and changes its magnitude continuously with time in contrast to direct current (DC) which flows only in one direction. Alternating current is the form in which electric power is delivered to businesses and residences, and it is the form of electrical energy that consumers typically use when they plug kitchen appliances, televisions, fans and electric lamps into a wall socket. A common source of DC power is a battery cell in a flashlight. The abbreviations AC and DC are often used to mean simply alternating and direct, as when they modify current or voltage.
A cappella music is a performance by a singer or a singing group without instrumental accompaniment, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. The term a cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato musical styles. In the 19th century, a renewed interest in Renaissance polyphony coupled with an ignorance of the fact that vocal parts were often doubled by instrumentalists led to the term coming to mean unaccompanied vocal music.
Acoustic instruments can be split into six groups: string instruments, wind instruments, percussion, other instruments, ensemble instruments, and unclassified instruments. String instruments have a tightly stretched string that, when set in motion, creates energy at (almost) harmonically related frequencies. Wind instruments are in the shape of a pipe and energy is supplied as an air stream into the pipe. Percussion instruments make sound when they are struck, as with a hand or a stick.
Acoustics is a branch of physics that deals with the study of mechanical waves in gases, liquids, and solids including topics such as vibration, sound, ultrasound and infrasound. A scientist who works in the field of acoustics is an acoustician while someone working in the field of acoustics technology may be called an acoustical engineer. The application of acoustics is present in almost all aspects of modern society with the most obvious being the audio and noise control industries. In Music, Acoustics refers to the sonic properties of any space that alter the qualities of a sound being played. Can refer to natural reverb, phase cancellation and/or background noise etc.
Acoustic Treatment – The process of reducing acoustic inaccuracies and reflections in physical spaces by introducing dampening materials, such as foam and bass traps etc., in key areas.
Active – A device that has its own built-in power amplifier. The opposite of a passive device. Most studio monitors these days are active.
A/D – Analogue to Digital Converter. Typically found in most Audio Interfaces to capture acoustic/analogue audio sources.
Additive Synthesis – A method of audio synthesis that outputs sound by mathematically adding harmonics, usually with sine waves, to each other.
ADSR – Acronym for Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release. It refers to the characteristics of envelopes usually applied to a sound to shape it over time. Can be applied to the amplitude, filter, pitch, etc.
Aftertouch – A MIDI parameter found on most keyboards. It senses the pressure applied to a key after it has been initially played, and then that can be mapped to control a specific modulation source, such as volume, a filter etc.
AIFF – Acronym for Audio Interchange File Format. It is a high-quality audio file format created by Apple and similar to the WAV format.
Air - Refers to frequencies above 12 kHz. A quality that allows the song to breathe a little. A feeling of spaciousness. Similar to shimmer.
Aliasing – Subtle distortion that occurs in the digital realm when the input frequency is higher than the sample rate. The sample cannot be measured accurately and thus introduces imperfections into the sound.
Ambience (also known as atmosphere, atmos, or background) consists of the sounds of a given location or space. It is the opposite of "silence". Ambience is similar to presence, but is distinguished by the existence of explicit background noise in ambience recordings, as opposed to the perceived "silence" of presence recordings. Every location has distinct and subtle sounds created by its environment. These sound sources can include wildlife, wind, music, rain, running water, thunder, rustling leaves, distant traffic, aircraft and machinery noise, the sound of distant human movement and speech, creaks from thermal contraction, air conditioning and plumbing noises, fan and motor noises, and harmonics of mains power.
Ambient music is a genre of music that emphasizes tone and atmosphere over traditional musical structure or rhythm. A form of instrumental music, it may lack net composition, beat, or structured melody. It uses textural layers of sound which can reward both passive and active listening and encourage a sense of calm or contemplation. The genre is said to evoke an "atmospheric", "visual", or "unobtrusive" quality. Nature soundscapes may be included, and the sounds of acoustic instruments such as the piano, strings and flute may be emulated through a synthesizer.
Amen break is a drum break that has been widely sampled in popular music. It comes from the 1969 track "Amen, Brother" by the soul group the Winstons, released as the B-side of the 1969 single "Color Him Father". The drum break lasts about seven seconds and was performed by Gregory Coleman.
Amplifier or Amp is an electronic device that can increase the power of a signal (a time-varying voltage or current). It is a two-port electronic circuit that uses electric power from a power supply to increase the amplitude of a signal applied to its input terminals, producing a proportionally greater amplitude signal at its output. The amount of amplification provided by an amplifier is measured by its gain: the ratio of output voltage, current, or power to input. An amplifier is a circuit that has a power gain greater than one.
Amplitude – Refers to the loudness or height of a waveform – higher means louder, lower means quieter. An amplitude of 0 (or -∞dB) means silence.
Analog – Audio that occurs in physical space as opposed to bits in the digital space. Analogue signals and technology are continuous and infinitely measurable, whereas digital signals are limited to the defined sample rate and bit depth.
Arpeggio is a type of broken chord, in which the notes that compose a chord are played or sung in a rising or descending order. An arpeggio may also span more than one octave. The word arpeggio comes from the Italian word arpeggiare, which means to play on a harp.
Arpeggiator (Arp) is a feature available on several synthesizers that automatically steps through a sequence of notes based on an input chord, thus creating an arpeggio. The notes can often be transmitted to a MIDI sequencer for recording and further editing. An arpeggiator may have controls for speed, range, and order in which the notes play; upwards, downwards, or in a random order. More advanced arpeggiators allow the user to step through a pre-programmed complex sequence of notes, or play several arpeggios at once. Some allow a pattern sustained after releasing keys: in this way, a sequence of arpeggio patterns may be built up over time by pressing several keys one after the other. Arpeggiators are also commonly found in software sequencers. Some arpeggiators/sequencers expand features into a full phrase sequencer, which allows the user to trigger complex, multi-track blocks of sequenced data from a keyboard or input device, typically synchronized with the tempo of the master clock. Arpeggiators seem to have grown from the accompaniment system used in electronic organs in the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.
Arrangement is a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work. It may differ from the original work by means of reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure. Arranging differs from orchestration in that the latter process is limited to the assignment of notes to instruments for performance by an orchestra, concert band, or other musical ensemble. Arranging "involves adding compositional techniques, such as new thematic material for introductions, transitions, or modulations, and endings. Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety".
ASIO – Acronym for "Audio Stream Input / Output". It's a computer sound card driver protocol for digital audio on Windows operating systems. It provides a low-latency and high fidelity interface between a software application and a computer's sound card.
Atmosphere – A sonic effect created by reverb, long tails and quieter sounds. Referred to as the background of a track.
Attack – The initial part of an ADSR envelope – describes the amount of time for a sound to reach maximum amplitude in milliseconds or seconds. Faster attack sounds plucky and comes in straight away (low milliseconds), slower attack sounds spacey and takes a while to fade in (high seconds).
Attenuation – The lowering of the loudness of a signal, usually measured in dB (decibels). Most media have viscosity, and are therefore not ideal media. When sound propagates in such media, there is always thermal consumption of energy caused by viscosity. This effect can be quantified through the Stokes's law of sound attenuation. Sound attenuation may also be a result of heat conductivity in the media as has been shown by G. Kirchhoff in 1868. The Stokes-Kirchhoff attenuation formula takes into account both viscosity and thermal conductivity effects.
AU – Acronym for Audio Unit. It is a plugin format created by Apple and is compatible with macOS/OSX only.
Audio – This just refers to all sound that we hear in the range of human hearing (~20Hz-20000Hz). Commonly, audio is used to refer to a recording of a sound, particularly when on an audio track and it being played in a track’s arrangement.
Audio Effect – Any plugin, stock effect or piece of gear that processes audio and alters the sonic properties of a sound. Can refer to EQ, compression, reverb, delay, distortion etc.
Audio Engineering – The process of recording, mixing and mastering studio or live recordings.
Audio Interface – A piece of hardware that can take sound as an input and also output sound. Most computers include a built-in sound card, but it is not a full audio interface, which is a more comprehensive and high-quality solution for music production and can be used to record instruments and output to studio monitors.
Audio Track – A track that stores and plays audio, as opposed to a MIDI Track.
Automation – “telling” a program to do a certain thing at a certain time in a song. For example, automating a track to pan from left to right over the course of 4 bars. All major DAW’s have the capability to automate different parameters and plugins.
Aux Channel – A send or return channel that allows for additional parallel processing of multiple sources at once.
Auxiliary track (Aux track) – A track that has no audio on it, but has audio being sent to it for processing.
Band Pass Filter – A filter type that combines a low-pass and a high-pass filter, allowing only a set range of frequencies of a sound through. Can be used to get things to sound lo-fi.
Bandwidth – The range of frequencies in an audio signal or stream, typically as a result of a limitation of technology (like a phone call recording).
Bank – A group of presets that can be loaded on a synth. Also called a sound bank.
Bar – A musical term describing a measure of beats. In western music, this is typically a measure of 4 beats, but it can also vary depending on the time signature (i.e. 3/4, 5/4, 7/8, etc.)
Bass – The lower frequencies in a sound – typically from ~20Hz to ~400Hz.
Bassline – The pattern of notes that fills up the bass area of the frequency spectrum – can be played by a synthesizer, bass guitar, an 808 or any sound with tonal quality.
Bass Music – A form of EDM that typically features loud, compressed bass growls and sounds. Genres include dubstep, trap, bass house, drum and bass and many more.
Beat – The consistent timing and rhythm of the music. Also can refer to a track, especially in hip-hop.
Beatmatch – A DJing process whereby two or more tracks are matched in tempo and key to ensure a seamless transition between the two.
Beat Repeat – A type of effect that takes audio as an input and repeats the snippet back at timed intervals to create a glitch effect.
Beats – Sometimes used to refer to a genre of music that combines hip-hop with electronic, or something that a rapper would use as a track.
Bell – A synth sound that aims to have the sonic texture of a real bell, like tubular bells, a glockenspiel or similar.
Bell Curve – The most common curve on a parametric EQ, used to boost or cut a band of frequencies in a natural manner.
Bit Depth – The number of bits allowed for the dynamic range of an audio recording. Most modern music recorded in digital environments is formatted to 24-bit. A larger bit depth allows for a wider dynamic range.
Bi-Directional – A microphone that picks up sound from the front and back, but not the sides.
Bitrate – The number of bits that are contained in an audio file every second, measured in kbps (kilo-bits per second). "320kbps" is an example of what an MP3 can store, while a WAV file usually has 1411kbps or a higher rate. Higher usually means better quality. Can be CBR (constant bitrate) or VBR (variable bitrate).
Body - The frequency range of an instrument where it produces its richest tone, often around 800 Hz to 1 kHz.
Boomy - Too much low-frequency energy. To get rid of boominess, cut frequencies below 120 Hz.
Boost – An adjustment on an EQ that increases the gain of a frequency spectrum. Also, see ‘Cut’.
Bounce – A term that refers to different audio sources being summed together and exported as a singular audio file.
Boxy - Too much 400-Hz to 600-Hz energy.
BPM – Beats Per Minute. Refers to the tempo, measured in the number of beats per minute.
Break (Breakdown) – A lower-energy section of a track. Usually has some or all of the drums removed, and adds macro dynamics to a track.
Brickwall Filter – A specific, advanced filter type of low-pass or high-pass filter that has a very steep slope (dB/oct), which visually looks like a brick wall, due to the sudden roll off. Used to remove frequencies above and below the human spectrum of hearing. Doesn’t sound too nice in the realm of human hearing.
Bright - Lots of high end, usually referring to frequencies above 8 kHz.
Brown - A term for the sound that Eddie Van Halen used to get from his guitar amp. Brown usually refers to a low midrange quality (200 to 400 Hz) — not to be confused with muddy, however.
Build(up) – A section that leads into a drop – creates energy and tension in a track.
Buffer size – How much data a computer program can handle at a time. Lower buffer sizes have lower latency, but are more susceptible to crashing. Higher buffer sizes have greater latency, but are less susceptible to crashing. The rule of thumb is to set your buffer size as low as possible when recording and as high as possible when mixing. This setting can be found in your DAW’s preferences.
Bus (or Buss) – The pathway along which an electrical signal flows. For example, the output of a DAW is referred to as the mix bus or stereo bus. The term is also used to describe an aux track with several tracks of the same instrument flowing into it. For example, if I set the output of each of my drum tracks to a single bus, than the aux track with that bus as the input is referred to as the Drum Bus.
Bus-Powered – This usually refers to a USB-connected device that draws its power from the USB connection itself, and does not require any kind of external power source.
Bypass – Term referring to temporarily disabling an effect so that the signal can be heard with the effect off. It is often found as a switch on effect plugins.
Cable – Connects devices together by transmitting audio or some form of digital/analogue data.
Cardioid Pattern – A common microphone polar pattern used for recording vocals – shaped like a heart and designed to record in a specific direction and reject background noise.
CBR – Short for ‘Constant Bit Rate’, refers to the encoding of an MP3 at a bitrate that is consistent over the entire duration of the file. Opposite of VBR (Variable Bit Rate).
CD – Stands for Compact Disc – a physical disk used for storing audio and data.
Channel – An audio path going from a source (such as a plug-in) or an input to an output.
Chord – A combination of musical notes played together (2-3 or more).
Chord Progression – A series of chords over time – serves as the harmonic foundation of a track or song.
Chorus (Structure) – The main section of a song that usually includes vocals or a melodic hook of some sort. Typically is featured multiple times throughout a track.
Chorus – A time-based effect that adds 2 or more shifting delays, hence creating a "detuning" effect.
Class-Compliant (or Class-Compliance) – A term commonly used to describe a USB or Thunderbolt device which is 'plug-and-play'. Class-Compliant devices can be connected to the computer and will operate as expected without the need to install a driver.
Clip – A section of audio or MIDI on a channel in a DAW.
Clipping – A type of distortion introduced when the audio peaks above the headroom within an analogue or digital domain. Analog clipping is called soft clipping, whereas digital clipping is called hard clipping, and is less pleasant.
Clock Signal – A signal that provides BPM information for devices to synchronize and stay in time together. One device usually outputs the signal and the others receive that signal. Can be transmitted over MIDI or CV.
Cold - Lacking warmth. Often used as a derogatory term to describe digital recordings. It could also mean too much high end in a recording. In this case, reduce frequencies above 10 kHz slightly.
Comping – Combining several different takes of an instrument into one. Basically, copying the best parts of each recording and pasting them onto a single track, so that the performance of that instrument is the best it can be.
Compression – A dynamic range effect that reduces the level of a signal when it exceeds a certain volume and increases the level when the signal is at a specified lower volume. It is often used to reduce the dynamic range of a sound and make its volume more consistent throughout.
Condenser mic – A microphone commonly found in studios with a large frequency range and high sensitivity. Known for being very accurate.
Cone – The part of a loudspeaker that vibrates due to the signal from the voice coil. Very sensitive – not for ice cream.
Console (or Mixing desk, Mixer, or Sound board) – A device for recording, mixing, or live sound purposes that amplifies, balances, processes, and combines sounds. Basically, it’s the studio version of a DAW
Controller – A MIDI hardware device that controls the parameters of a piece of software or another device
Control Signal – Data in the digital domain that tells a parameter to be modulated. Think LFO’s, Envelopes and other modulation sources.
Control Voltage – Control Voltage, often abbreviated as CV, is an electrical signal used to change the characteristics of a sound depending on its voltage level. It is most often used in the context of analog / modular synthesizers.
Correlation – The measurement of the phase relationship between the left and right channels. 1 means perfect correlation, 0 means no correlation and -1 means negative correlation (resulting in phase cancellation).
Crash – A percussion element from a traditional drum kit – a metallic noise sound with a long tail, good for signalling the beginning of a new section.
Crossfade – A specific type of fade where one sound fades in as another sound fades out. These are used when editing audio so that the transition between the two audio clips is smooth, rather than jarring.
Crossover – A point in the frequency spectrum where the frequencies are split into two signals. Used in subwoofers to only send bass information.
Cue – A control on any DJ system that allows a track to be played from a certain point in time while being held down.
Curve – In most cases, refers to the frequency response
Cutoff Frequency – A control on a filter that specifies where the frequencies will ramp off.
Cycle – A complete playthrough of a waveform. When talking about how many cycles occur in one second, it is measured in Hertz (Hz).
D/A – Digital to Analogue converter. Typically found in most Audio Interfaces to transform digital information from a computer to studio monitors or speakers for playback.
Damping – This has multiple definitions, but generally refers to the reducing of natural reverberations, particularly in the high frequencies.
Dance Music – A term for EDM referring to genres that are specifically made to dance to, like house, techno, trance, hard dance, garage and many more.
Dark - Lacking high-frequency brightness. Could also be dull.
DAW – Acronym for Digital Audio Workstation. A DAW is the software in which music is created, recorded, and edited in a modern studio environment. Logic Pro, Cubase, Ableton Live, FL Studio, and many more are all DAWs.
DC Offset – An amplitude offset of a sound caused by very low, usually inaudible frequencies. Many audio effects have the option to add a DC filter to remove these frequencies.
Decay – The second stage of the standard ADSR envelope after the attack. Refers to the amount of time taken, once the maximum volume is reached, to reduce the signal’s amplitude to the specified sustain level (in dB).
Decibel (dB) – The standard measurement for loudness. Note that dB is a ratio measurement, always requiring a reference point from which to measure. Common dB measurements include dBFS (digital audio, where 0dB is clipping) and dB SPL (in acoustics, where 0dB is near silence).
De-esser – A type of multiband compressor that specifically acts on the frequency bands where sibilance is likely to be heard. It is used to remove higher frequencies dynamically.
Delay – A time-based audio effect that creates a series of echoes occurring at intervals one after the other.
Demo – An nearly finished track sent to a label as a submission to be released. Can be sent to other producer/DJs for playing out live too.
Depth - Full-bodied sound. Often the result of enhancing frequencies just above and below the main body of the instrument.
Detune – Refers to the amount of tuning difference between voices on an oscillator when unison is activated. Gets really big supersaw-type sounds.
Digital – Audio that exists in the digital realm as bits and bytes, as opposed to continuous analogue signals.
Distortion – The processing of audio such that extra harmonics and loudness are added, creating a fuller or aggressive sound.
Dithering – Adding white noise to a recording to reduce distortion when the recording is exported at a lower bit rate. Only used during the mastering process.
DJ Mix – Not to be confused with a mixdown, a DJ mix is a live recording of a DJ mixing multiple tracks together over a period of time.
Doppler Effect – The sonic effect of frequencies sounding higher pitched when moving closer to an audio source, and lower pitched when moving away. Like when you drive past a police siren.
Doubling – The process of recording a vocal twice, both times sounding very similar, to achieve a layered effect.
Driver – The component inside a pair of headphones that is responsible for producing the soundwaves.
Drop – The main section of an EDM song which contains most of the energy and loudness in comparison to the rest of the track. Does not usually feature vocals, unlike a chorus.
Drum(s) – A percussive instrument and sound that usually drives the rhythm of a track.
Drum & Bass (DnB) – A subgenre of electronic music that consists of fast breakbeat patterns at around 174bpm, and low, rumbling basslines. There are many different subgenres within DnB.
Drum Buss – Can refer to an audio track summing together all of the drums, or the Ableton audio effect which adds distortion, compression and bass to a sound or collection of sounds, like drums.
Drum Machine – A hardware electronic instrument responsible for synthesising and sequencing drum sounds. Notable drum machines include the Roland TR808 and 909.
Drum Pattern – A phrase that a combination of drums and percussion plays. This pattern can repeat and is usually a bar or more long.
Drum Rack – An Ableton instrument that allows drum samples to be triggered by MIDI notes like a drum kit, similar to a multisampler but for drums.
Dry - An unprocessed version of a signal, as opposed to wet, which is the processed version. A Dry/Wet knob blends these two signals, and it can be found on effects such as reverb.
DSP – Acronym for Digital Signal Processing. Any audio processing that occurs in the digital domain by way of algorithms.
Dynamic Microphone – A type of microphone which has lower sensitivity and is better at recording loud sources, such as drums and guitars. Does usually not require phantom power.
Dynamic Range – Refers to the number of decibels (dB) between the highest and the lowest point in a source's amplitude. A small difference means a lower dynamic range, while a larger difference means a higher dynamic range.
Dynamic Tube – An audio effect that emulates tube distortion introduced by hardware units.
Dynamics – Describes that characteristics of amplitude differences in audio. A set of dynamics processors can include a compressor, expander and limiter (+ more).
Early Reflections – Part of a reverb tail, the early reflections describe the initial body of reverberation that comes from natural or algorithmic reverberation.
Echo – A time-based effect introduced by delay, however, echo usually refers to an analogue delay as opposed to a digital-sounding one.
Edit – Can mean either an edit of a track, perhaps to change the structure or introduce a new element, or can refer to the audio editing process.
Edgy - An extreme of punchy, bordering on uncomfortable, depending on the music.
EDM – Stands for Electronic Dance Music. EDM technically describes the overall genre of anything electronic-sounding and produced by computers and electronics, but typically is used to describe more commercial sounding electronic dance music.
Effect – An effect (or 'FX') modifies the audio signals it receives. For example, MASCHINE includes many different stock effects, like EQ, Reverb, Compressor, etc. You may also use VST / AU plug-in effects.
Envelope – A modulation source that affects the character of a sound (e.g. volume, waveshape or filter) and changes it over time.
EQ (Equalization) – A widely used audio processing device that alters the gain of frequency content across the frequency spectrum by altering different bands of frequencies. EQ can be used to boost or cut the lows, mids, highs or anything in between.
Erosion – An audio effect included in Ableton Live that adds distortion by modulating the signal with a sine wave or noise. Very crisp sounding.
Eurorack – A standard modular synthesis system for which modules are designed so that they are all compatible with one another.
External – Usually refers to hardware or ‘out-of-the-box’ instruments or gear, like an External Instrument or External Audio Effect.
Expander – The opposite of a compressor – an expander increases the gain of a signal once it passes a certain threshold.
FabFilter – A software company that makes both mixing and creative plugins such as Pro-Q, Pro-L and Saturn. They are pretty fab.
Fade – The process of adjusting the volume over time, usually to bring a sound in from silence, or from max volume to silence.
Fader – A physical or virtual slider on a mixer that adjusts the volume of a particular track, and is a primary tool in doing a mixdown.
Fat – A term usually used to describe when a sound or mix fills the frequency spectrum and is wide in the stereo image.
Feedback – When an effect feeds the output signal back into the input signal, such as a delay or distortion, to exaggerate the effect. When a delay has more feedback, the delay's repeats are prolonged, thus it has a longer tail.
Fidelity – Refers to the quality of the audio. High fidelity meaning high quality, and low fidelity meaning low quality, in terms of bitrate/sample rate.
Field Recording – A type of recording that records the sound of a particular areas’ natural soundscape. For example, a recording of a beach or a storm.
Filter – An effect that only allows a certain band of frequencies to pass through it. Different filter types include low pass filter, high pass filter, bandpass filter, band reject and many more.
Flanger – A time-based effect that copies a sound with a few milliseconds of difference, in the range of 0ms to 5ms. It is then mixed with the original source, which creates additional harmonic content or detuning effects.
Flat (Mixing) – Refers to when studio monitors or a playback device has an even response curve across the frequency spectrum and doesn’t feature boosts or cuts in areas to colour the sound.
Flat (Music Theory) – A note that has been reduced by a half step.
Fletcher-Munson Curve – The curve that illustrates how the human ear reacts to different frequencies at different amplitudes. Turns out we hear certain frequencies louder than others.
Flip – Another word for a bootleg – usually an informal remix of another track.
FL Studio – A very popular DAW among electronic music producers created by Image-Line, popular due to its flexibility and workflow abilities.
FM – Acronym for Frequency Modulation. A form of synthesis achieved by modulating the frequency of basic waveforms (e.g. sine waves) with each other, creating additional harmonic content. Popularised by the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer, it is the same synthesis architecture used in FM8.
FM Synthesis – A form of synthesis achieved by modulating the frequency of basic waveforms with each other, creating interesting harmonic content. Popularised by the Yamaha DX7 synthesiser. FM Synthesis is used to create a lot of bell-type sounds, as well as complex basses used in bass music.
Foldback – A type of speaker used in live performance so performers and DJs can hear what is coming through the front-of-house speakers.
Foley – Recorded sounds of various objects used to emulate certain types of sounds or achieve a certain aesthetic. Examples of foley sounds could be coins in a can, banging on a door or a car driving by
Follow – A feature in many types of DAWs where the arrangement view follows the playhead as the track is being played.
Formant – A vocal quality of a sound relating to vowels, and a filter type that achieves a vowel-like sound. If you’ve ever heard an ‘oooh’ or ‘aaah’, then you’ve heard what a formant sounds like.
Format – Can mean a variety of things, but usually refers to the type of file format a file might come in (WAV, AIFF, MP3) or a plugin format (VST, AU etc.)
Freeze/Flatten – A process of bouncing audio internally in Ableton Live. Freezing temporarily renders it as audio while remembering previous settings (such as MIDI notes, plugin settings and FX settings), and flattening commits it to audio permanently.
Frequency – A tone measured in hertz that is reproduced by a speaker or audio source.
Frequency Range – Refers to the number of frequencies present in a sound between a low point and a high point. “The frequency range of this sub is 30Hz to 60HZ.”
Frequency Shifter – An audio effect that shifts all the frequency content by adding a frequency amount to the sound. The resulting sound is typically inharmonic, as it is different to a pitch shifter, which multiplies the frequency content instead so that harmonic relationships between frequencies are maintained.
Front of House (FOH) – Speakers in a venue that reproduce sound for the audience.
Fundamental – The primary frequency of a sound that determines the tone of a sound. For example, a piano note may contain many frequencies that colour the sound, but the fundamental frequency is the pitch that we recognise. Typically it is the lowest frequency, but you can have sub-harmonics depending on the sound.
Future – Refers to a type of sound in electronic music that sounds fresh and new.
Future Bass – A subgenre of EDM characterised by large pulsating supersaws and 808 drum sounds, typically with a hip-hop type rhythm. Although early producers in this genre were inspired by the music of Flume, future bass tends to be a separate genre similar to trap with more melodic content and bright sounds.
Future Beats – An broadly-defined electronic music subgenre that combines electronic elements with elements borrowed from hip-hop, alternative and other genres. Usually sounds very experimental and unique.
Fuzz – A specific type of distortion that cuts the tops off of waveforms to produce a particular sound. Fuzz sounds exactly like its name – fuzzy. Mostly used with electric guitars.
FX – A shortened form of ‘Effects’.
Gain – Initial level at which a sound source is being pre-amplified. Higher gain can result in overdriven sounds as it augments all of the harmonic content present in the sound source.
Gain Reduction – The resulting decrease in gain after downward compression is applied to a sound. The effect is usually counteracted by adjusting the output gain afterward.
Gain Staging – This refers to 1) the process of making sure a recording is the same volume after a plugin as it was before, and 2) the process of making sure all of the recordings in a session are relatively the same volume.
Gate – An audio effect that reduces the volume of a sound once it passes below a certain threshold. It’s good for reducing background noise or unwanted sounds in a recording or sample. Just like your gate at home stops unwanted people coming into your house.
Gating – Stopping unwanted noise coming through in a recording by cutting signals below a specified threshold.
Genre – A term used to describe a subset of music that has similar elements or sounds (e.g. the genre of dubstep features ~140bpm half-time drum patterns with bass wobbles).
Glue – A sonic phenomenon achieved when a mix is done well or compression is applied to a mix. Sounds like everything fits together well.
Glue Compressor – A compressor included in Ableton modelled off an analogue SSL compressor with a unique pumping colour that allows elements to blend well together. Available outside of Ableton as ‘The Glue’ by plugin company Cytomic.
Golden Ratio – A mathematical concept that can be used in music with the harmonic series. Hey, this is a production glossary, not a maths one.
Grain – An extremely short snippet of audio, often repeated in quick succession to achieve oscillation.
Grain Delay – A type of delay that repeats very short fragments of sound called grains, and plays them back in quick succession.
Grainy - Poor digital resolution.
Granular Synthesis – A synthesis method that takes an audio file and cuts it into grains to create different waveshapes, then perceived as oscillation.
Graphic Equalizer – A type of EQ that separates the frequency spectrum into defined bands and allows gain adjustment for each band.
Ground Loop – A (usually undesired) sonic effect where the ground signal from a power cable becomes audible due to the way certain cables are plugged in. Sounds like a low buzzing/hum.
Group – When audio tracks, effects, instruments or any physical or virtual device are grouped together for group processing or routing.
Groove – A timing offset from a quantized sound that adds a human feel to a track. Many DAW’s include groove adjustments. Grooves are popular in genres like house and garage.
Haas Effect – A stereo effect where the left or right channel of a mono signal is delayed by ~20ms from the other channel to achieve stereo width. Also called the precedence effect.
Half Step – When moving one note up or down from another on a keyboard. Moving two notes is called a whole-step.
Hall – A type of reverb that features within or an emulation of a physical hall. Good for achieving big, spacious sounds that also sound natural.
Hard Knee – A setting on a compressor where the compression applied at the threshold is not gradual and is more sudden. Good for heavy compression and pumping sounds.
Harmonic – A frequency with is an even multiple of the fundamental.
Harmonic Distortion – Any type of distortion that introduces frequency content that is harmonic to the fundamental, as opposed to inharmonic.
Harmony – When two or more notes are played together, mostly in a pleasing manner. Chords usually form harmony throughout a track.
Harmor – An additive synthesiser included in some versions of FL Studio, popular among users and sound designers. Available as a plugin on Windows for use in other DAWs.
Harsh - Another derogatory term for digital recordings. This could also refer to frequencies in the 5-kHz to 8-kHz range that are too pronounced. Reduce harsh frequencies to suit your taste.
Headroom – The number of decibels between the peak level of a sound and 0dB in audio. This term is used to describe the amount of gain that is available on the master channel for a mastering engineer to work with before the signal distorts.
Hertz (Hz) – A measurement of a frequency in cycles per second. For example, 50Hz is 50 cycles per second of a sine wave.
High-End – The upper content of a sound, also called treble. Although it isn’t a strict definition, it usually means the content from about 2.5kHz and up.
High-Pass Filter – A filter type that removes all frequency content below a certain cutoff point. Good for removing unwanted bass from a signal and for thinning out certain sounds. Also used in sound design to achieve a somewhat ‘hollow’ sound.
High Shelf – A type of curve on some EQs that boost all frequencies from a specific point and above. Good for boosting the treble.
Hi-hat – A type of percussion present on most traditional drum kits that keeps rhythm and time. Can be opened or closed for timbral variation.
Hip-hop – A genre of music slightly removed from electronic music that features the use of drum machines, samplers and synthesisers. Many hip-hop tracks feature a rap over the top as the key element.
Hook – An element in a track that serves as the focal point and is usually the part people remember. Present in a lot of EDM and pop music.
Horn – A type of sound that is emitted from brass instruments or synths that emulate them – usually means a lower pitched brass sound that is present in hip-hop/trap as an energy-adding element.
House – A popular genre of electronic/dance music originating in the early ’70s from the US that features a four-on-the-floor kick drum with a clap on beats 2 and 4, and a hat on the offbeat. There are many subgenres of house, that range from mainstream to underground.
Hum – A low pitched frequency that is usually unwanted in a recording.
ID3 Tags – Tags on an MP3 or similar audio file that determine the artist name, song name, album name, genre and much more. Some file formats, such as WAV, do not have ID3 tags.
Imaging – Refers to the process of adjusting the stereo image by using panning, stereo width effects and time-based effects.
IM Distortion – Distortion introduced when the sample rate is not high enough to capture all the frequency content – the audio has to lock on to the nearest frequency and can introduce unwanted artefacts.
In Phase – When the left and right audio channels are in time with each other. When they are not, phase cancellation can be introduced.
Impulse – An instrument in Ableton that allows 8 drum sounds to be selected and processed. Great for limitations and creative drum work.
Impulse Response (IR) – An audio file that can be loaded into a convolution reverb to apply a room or space’s natural reverb to any sound. Useful for producers who don’t have access to studios and recording spaces with a particular sound, but want to apply that sound to their productions.
Input – A broad term used to describe any audio signal that is fed into a channel or effect. For example, audio from a guitar can go into an input on an audio interface and into a DAW.
Input Gain – The amount of gain applied to a sound prior to effects processing. For example, input gain may be applied to a sound before it is compressed, to emphasise the amount of compression applied.
In The Box (ITB) – Any software or device that is on a computer, as opposed to outboard gear and instruments. It can also mean the process of producing music only on a computer or laptop. Many producers use only ITB tools, especially when travelling, due to convenience and simplicity.
Insert – An access point in software or hardware that allows a signal to be routed to an effects unit.
Instrument – Any physical or virtual device that produces sound. A guitar is an instrument, a hardware synth is an instrument, and a software synth like NI Massive is an instrument.
Instrument Rack – An Ableton feature that allows a virtual instrument to be grouped with other instruments and effects as a preset. Useful for saving sounds and using them on the fly.
Intro – In the structure of a track, the intro is the first section that you usually hear. This can be short in pop tracks, and longer in DJ-friendly tracks.
IR – Acronym for Impulse Response. It is an audio file that can be loaded into a convolution reverb to apply a room or space’s natural reverb to any sound. It is useful to reproduce the specific acoustics of a room or environment without having to actually be in it.
I/O – Acronym for Input / Output. This refers to a section of a DAW or piece of hardware where different routing between channels can be configured.
Isolation – The process of making a space absorb unwanted ambient sounds for the purposes of recording. Isolation is used to record vocals and instruments cleanly without other sounds also being recorded.
Jack – Also called a 1/4” cable, a jack is a standard connection for studio monitors, audio interfaces and much more.
Jazz – a genre of music that was established in the late 1800s to early 1900s, which at the time was musically revolutionary due to its inclusion of improvisation and unique chord progressions that often spanned multiple keys. It has since evolved over time but typically features soft drums, saxophones, trumpets, piano and bass guitar.
Jitter – In the context of digital audio, it refers to the time distortion of recording / playback of a digital audio signal. It is essentially the deviations of time between the digital and analog sample rates.
kbps – An abbreviation for ‘kilobits per sound’ (not kilobytes), it refers to the data transfer rate of an MP3 file. Basically, more is better quality audio. 320kbps CBR tends to be a standard of acceptable quality for MP3 files.
Key – Determines the notes that can be played in a piece of music. For example, in the key of C Major, the notes that can be played are C, D, E, F, G, A and B.
Keyboard – Can refer to a computer keyboard for typing, which is used when producing in a DAW, but in music production, it mostly refers to a MIDI Keyboard that plugs in via USB and is used to play sounds in a DAW or plugin.
kHz – Abbreviation for kilohertz, the unit of measurement used in the context of Sample Rate.
Kick – A type of drum that forms the basis of many tracks, usually features a thump in the low end of the frequency spectrum and keeps the beat and rhythm of a track. Also the main part of a traditional drum kit, used for the same purpose.
Knee – This control on a compressor determines how hard the compressor acts when hitting the threshold. A hard knee setting activates the compressor instantly at the determined ratio, whereas soft knee ramps up the ratio as the signal gets louder, and allows for smoother, less obvious compression.
Kontakt – A multi-sample plugin created by Native Instruments; an industry standard for multi-samples of traditional instruments, like strings, pianos and a lot more.
Korg – An instrument, synth and drum machine manufacturer from Japan that is responsible for a lot of vintage hardware synths (that are now available in a variety of emulations).
Latency – The amount of delay between between the input and the output of a signal. Latency usually refers to the delay that occurs when someone tries to record something when there are too many plugins on the session. The input (the instrument) is delayed so that the output (the recording) is several milliseconds behind, causing an frustrating delay in a performer’s headphones.
Layering – The process of placing two complementary (or contrasting) sounds on top of each other in a track’s arrangement to achieve a unique and/or ‘larger’ sound. You might layer a deeper synth with a noisy/bright one to fill out the audio spectrum and achieve a different effect than you could have with just one or the other.
Lead – A synth or sound that carries the melody in a track, and usually is prominent in the mix.
Level – The measurement of the loudness of a sound in decibels. There are many different types of levels to a sound, including peak level (actual loudness), RMS (average loudness) and perceived loudness.
Library – A feature of most DAWs that carries all of the stock sounds and devices, usually with an option to add more to it. Usually navigated with a built-in browser.
LFO – Acronym for Low-Frequency Oscillator. An LFO is an oscillator typically below the range of audio signals perceivable by human hearing. It is used as a modulation source to change the character of a sound over time; e.g. add vibrato or tremolo.
Limiter – An audio effect similar to a compressor at a ratio of ∞:1, meaning that no audio signal can pass the threshold. Typically the threshold is set to 0dB allowing no audio to distort and allowing maximum loudness if gain is applied.
Line – Any physical channel which audio passes through. A line might refer to a microphone being recorded, for example.
Link – A technology standard developed by Ableton that allows software across platforms and devices to synchronize together in real-time.
Listener fatigue – The natural degradation of the accuracy of the human ear over several hours of listening. The ear is like a muscle – when it is used a lot, it gets tired. When a mixer reaches the point of listener fatigue, he or she needs to rest their ears, or they will start to make poor mixing choices as their ears are no longer accurate.
Live – Any act or performance done in front of people in real time. Usually refers to when an artist plays a ‘live set’ instead of a DJ set.
Loop – An audio/MIDI clip, or a section of a track, that can be looped to repeat.
Looper – A device that allows the looping of audio at a determined time interval. Can be used in live situations to loop recorded elements.
Lossless – Any audio format that doesn’t use compression and has full audio quality.
Lossy – Any audio format that compresses the quality of the file to save space.
Loudness – The amplitude of a track
Loudspeaker – The longer form of the word ‘speaker’. A loudspeaker is a device that reproduces audio information as physical sound waves.
Low-End – Also called the Bass, the low end is the lower frequencies in the frequency spectrum. This is not specifically defined, but usually ranges from 25Hz-350Hz.
Low-Pass Filter – A type of filter that only allows a band of frequencies below a certain cutoff point through. Good for making things sound more intimate and less bright. Movement of a low-pass filter can achieve a ‘wob’ type sound, especially with high resonance levels.
Low Shelf – A curve on most parametric EQs that boost all frequencies below a certain point. Used to boost the bass in a signal.
Lyrics – The words that an artist/vocalist writes to be sung or rapped in a track.
Makeup gain – A parameter that allows you to increase the output volume of a sound processor that made the input sound quieter. For example, a compressor makes sounds softer, so makeup gain is needed to keep the sound at the same volume that it previously was.
Masking – A phenomenon when two sounds with similar frequency content cause one to become ‘buried’ due to phase cancellation or differences is loudness. For example, two piano sounds playing at the same time might cause one of them to sound less powerful and thin in the mix.
Master – The channel which all other channels in a track pass through. Usually, the channel where a mastering chain is applied to master the track. Also can mean a mastered copy of a track.
Mastering – The art and science of preparing a track for release by standardizing the mixed track’s loudness, and often applying other effects to make sure it is ready to be released into the world. In the past, mastering included preparing and copying the track to a CD and/or vinyl as well, but in the digital era, it mostly refers to making a track at a ‘professional’ standard of loudness. This is why it is possible to self-master your own tracks for release.
Mastering Chain – The series of effects and processes applied on the master channel of a track. A mastering chain almost always includes a limiter (or soft clipper) and might include a compressor, an EQ, distortion, or any other relevant effect.
Measure – A range of time consisting of beats and bars.
Melody – A phrase of notes (one at a time) in sequence played by an instrument that forms the focal point of the track. This is the part of a song that gets stuck in your head that you hum or sing throughout the day.
Meter – Refers to the time signature of a track, or how many pulses are in a bar and how long each pulse is. Most electronic music is 4/4, meaning 4 1/4 notes per bar.
Metronome – A device in DAWs and the physical world that audibly reproduces a set tempo, by playing a set of timed clicks. Usually has a different sound for beat 1 to denote the start of a new bar.
Mic/Line (Inst/Line) – A switch on many audio interfaces that allow inputs to record either a microphone or a direct line in from an instrument. Basically, this switch changes the amount of pre-gain in the signal, as microphones tend to have a quieter signal.
Microphone (Mic) – An audio device that captures acoustic sound and turns it into an electrical signal. There are many different types of microphones for different purposes.
Midrange (Mids) – The central range of frequencies from ~500Hz – 2000Hz.
MIDI – Acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is a standard protocol allowing for software and hardware devices to send data to one another, such as pitch, gate, tempo and parameter controls. When you plug a keyboard into your computer to play sounds in your DAW, it works via MIDI over USB.
Mini-jack – Also called a 3.5mm, a mini-jack is a smaller version of the 1/4” jack used mainly as a headphone connector. It’s the thing you plug into your phone or laptop to listen to music (well, at least you used to.)
Mix (Mixdown) – The adjusting of the tracks (volume, EQ, dynamics) in a finished song to help the final product sound cohesive and professional.
Mixer – A physical or virtual devices which allows multiple audio channels to have their volume, dynamics and frequency content adjusted.
Mixing – The art and science of blending the individual audio channels of a track into one so that they function as one whole track. The mixing process often includes volume/gain adjustments, EQ, compression, group processing, layering and parallel processing, among other things.
Modulation – In music production, modulation refers to the adjustment of a parameter or sound characteristic over time, based on a source. A filter might be modulated by an LFO, for instance.
Module – A module is a particular device (usually hardware) that creates or processes sound. Most commonly refers to modules as part of a modular synthesis system, like Eurorack.
Modulation Wheel – A control on most keyboards and synths that allow a particular parameter to be modulated manually. For example, moving a modulation wheel on a KOMPLETE KONTROL keyboard might increase the amount of vibrato in a lead synth sound.
Monitor(s) – A type of loudspeaker used in studios because of their ‘flat’ frequency response. This allows audio to be recreated as accurately as possible.
Mono – Refers to when a sound only has one channel for both the left and right speakers. It sounds ‘centre’ because there are no differences between the left speaker and the right speaker.
Monophonic – Term used to convey that only one note can be played at a time on a synthesizer, sampler, or instrument.
Muddy - Lack of definition in a sound, often as a result of too much low-mid (400- to 800-Hz) energy.
Music Production – Following the theme of obvious definitions, music production is the art of creating music and arranging sound into a musical form. Although music production is still a very new discipline (in comparison to being a musician), some producers do not write their own music (instead they arrange other people’s songwriting into a full track) and some are responsible for the entire creative process, including writing, sound design, mixing and mastering.
Music Theory – A collection of knowledge and terms used to describe how music works (e.g. chords, melodies, notes, scales, rhythm etc.)
Multiband Dynamics (Compression) – An effect that splits the frequency band into multiple sections and applies compression/expansion to them individually. Great for technical details and for achieving a squished sound without ruining certain parts of it.
Multi-sample – A sampler that maps each keyboard note to a different sample. This allows a traditional instrument, like a piano, to be recorded and mapped to a digital sampler so that it can be played on a computer. Think of it is a bank of real, organic instruments and sounds right on your hard drive. Usually, multi-sample libraries are quite large in file size, so be wary.
Multitimbral – When a synth or electronic instrument is capable of producing two different sounds at the same time. This might mean playing different parts of the keyboard create a different sound, or changing MIDI channels may activate a different sound.
Multitrack – The process of recording multiple sound sources into individual channels.
MP3 – Stands for MPEG Audio Layer III, it is a lossy audio file format that compresses the audio to save space. High bitrate MP3 files sound indistinguishable from WAVs to most listeners on most systems.
Mute – A switch on a track in most DAWs that turns it off, allowing the audio to not pass through to the output.
Native – Refers to a device that was designed to be used in its current environment. For example, the Erosion audio effect is native to Ableton.
Native Instruments – A software and hardware company responsible for the Komplete, Maschine and Traktor series.
Nasally - Too much midrange energy, around 1 to 2 kHz in some instruments.
Nearfield – A type of studio monitors that are designed to be used closer to the user’s ear, rather than far away. Most studio monitors are near field.
Noise gate – A sound processor that cuts off the volume of a sound once it passes below a certain volume threshold.
Normalization – The process of increasing or decreasing the amplitude of a sound so that the highest peak hits 0dB, or a defined target level. This can be used to standardise the loudness of audio samples, for example.
Notch Filter – A type of filter that takes an entire band of frequencies out of the spectrum in a certain range. Creates a hollow effect and sounds cool when moving the cutoff frequency.
Nudge – An adjustment of timing, usually to keep something in time with something else. A DJ might nudge a record to keep it in time with the other, or a performer might nudge the Ableton tempo to keep in time with a live musician.
Nyquist Frequency – Based on the Nyquist-Shannon theorem, which states that in order to adequately reproduce a signal it should be periodically sampled at a rate that is twice as much. The Nyquist frequency is the highest frequency (i.e. pitch or note) you wish to record. This is why, in the digital realm, the sample rate is twice the rate of the highest frequency in human hearing (20kHz), which is approximately 44100Hz or 44.1kHz. The higher the sample rate, the higher the frequencies can be recorded and played back.
Octave – A type of note interval that indicates the same note at a higher pitch. Octaves are always multiples of a given frequency. For instance, if A4 = 440Hz, then A3 will be 220Hz and A5 = 880Hz.
Offset – Can mean multiple things, but often means a timing offset in ms from the grid, or DC offset, an artefact introduced by very low frequencies.
Omnidirectional – A type of microphone pattern that picks up audio from all directions. Good for ambience and for field recordings.
Omnisphere – A hybrid synth and sampler created by Spectrasonics. Insanely powerful and also massive in file size. Includes great sounds that are tweakable and ideal for atmospheric and chill music.
Operator – In Ableton, Operator is an FM/Additive synthesizer, but an operator can refer to a part of an FM Synthesizer that produces sounds, similar to an oscillator.
Oscillator – An oscillator is a source generating a particular waveform in a synthesizer, such as a sine, sawtooth, pulse / square, or triangle. An oscillator’s pitch can be changed based on performed or sequenced notes, as well as modulation.
OTT – Abbreviation for Over The Top. It is a preset for Ableton’s Multiband Dynamics effect which was made into a standalone plugin by Xfer, who make Serum. It is a very intense compression that results in a squished, bright sound with lots of energy.
Outboard – Any piece of physical gear that is not part of a laptop or computer.
Out of Phase – When the phases of two or more signals are not aligned with one another. This begins to cause a phasing effect (like a phaser) and can cause phase cancellation in extreme cases.
Out of The Box (OTB) – Any production work that is done on gear outside of a computer, like on an analogue mixer, or using hardware FX units.
Output – The signal that comes out of a device, usually after processing of some kind.
Output Gain – Gain applied to a signal after processing, usually compression. Also called ‘Makeup Gain’ as it makes up for lost volume in compression.
Outro – A section in the structure of a track at the end.
Overdrive – A type of distortion achieved by increasing the gain on an amplifier too much.
Overdub – Recording something over the top of an existing recording.
Overtone – A harmonic that is a multiple of the fundamental frequency of a sound.
Ozone – A mastering suite plugin created by iZotope. Great as an all-in-one mastering solution, as it includes EQ, multiband compression, stereo widening, saturation and much more.
Pad – Usually refers to a type of synthesised sound with slow attack and release, often used to create a chill atmosphere.
Panning – The process of moving a sound either left or right in the stereo field. Panning is a great mix technique to achieve width and space.
Pan Pot – A knob used to pan sounds left or right.
Parallel – Any process that occurs in conjunction with the original, unprocessed signal. Both the processed and original signal play at the same time, allowing for processing to sound more subtle.
Pan Law – Determines how panning functions. Usually either by reducing the volume of one side to emphasise the other or by moving one signal to the other side by adding it to the existing material on that channel.
Parallel Compression – A compression method mixes the effected signal in parallel to the original sound.
Parameter – Any control on a device that can be altered by modulating it, physically or by using a modulation source, like an LFO.
Parametric EQ – It is a type of EQ that includes a set amount of customizable frequency bands. The shape, frequency, gain, width, and slope of these curves can usually be altered, allowing for very specific and surgical EQ processing. Most EQs included in a DAW as stock effects are parametric, like Fruity Parametric EQ 2 and Ableton EQ Eight.
Partial – A harmonic in a sound that contributes to the sound, usually in the high-end of the sound. Usually, a sound will contain multiple partials to make up the sound.
Passive – Describes a device (usually speakers) that require a separate power amplifier to power them. The opposite of active.
Patch – A combination of settings, saved to a file, which can be loaded into a device (like a synth or effect). Similar to a preset.
Path – The set of devices a signal goes through before being output to the speakers. Also called Signal Path.
Peak – The momentary level of audio at any given moment. Different to the average or perceived loudness or audio.
Peak Filter – A type of filter that acts as a narrow bell curve. Technically a peak filter doesn’t filter out any frequencies but acts as a resonator at a particular narrow band of frequencies.
Peak Meter – A meter that measures the peak level of audio.
Pedal – Refers to a guitar pedal or a digital effect emulating a guitar pedal. Usually, an audio effect compacted in a simple, easy-to-use version with a foot switch to turn it on and off.
Percussion – Any sound or instrument that keeps the rhythm of a track. Percussion is unique as it doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘in tune’ with the melody and harmony of a track (like a kick drum, snare, hats and other various sounds).
Phantom Power – A setting on audio interfaces and mixers that power condenser microphones with +48V of power to input if required. Condenser microphones generally require phantom power, whereas dynamic microphones don't.
Phase – Refers to the vibration of air caused by a generated sound and the position of the signal at a given time. It is measured in degrees, where 0º is the start point and 180º is the inversion of the signal. If two copies of the same sound have their phases set opposite each other (one at 0º and the other at 180º), they will cancel out each other and produce silence.
Phase Distortion – A type of distortion introduced by phase differences in a sound. Sometimes it is a desirable effect for sound design purposes (included as an effect in Logic Pro), but usually, it is an unwanted artefact.
Phaser – A time-based effect that copies a signal, changes its phase, and mixes it with the original source. Essentially, this is a delay under 1ms that is often modulated by an LFO. Phasing introduces audible peaks / dips into the spectrum, hence altering the original source's harmonic content.
Phono – Refers to RCA cable inputs/outputs. You will find phono plugs on many audio devices like interfaces and mixers and are great for outputting audio to or capturing an audio source like a record player.
Phrase – A musical section of time, usually one that is grouped together as one coherent section of a track or song. Usually measured in bars.
Piano – A traditional instrument featuring 88 keys that form the basis of most keyboard instruments and a modern understanding of music theory. The thing with the white and black notes.
Piano Roll – A MIDI sequencer type the lists all the possible notes on the left-hand side of the screen, arranged exactly like a piano on its side.
Ping-Pong – A form of delay that bounces between the left and right channels with each echo.
Pink Noise – A type of noise similar to white noise, except with the high frequencies slightly dampened. Producers and mixing engineers use pink noise as a reference level for mixing due to its ideal response curve.
Pitch – Refers to the frequency of a note in Hertz. High frequency is a high pitch and vice versa.
Pitch Bend – A control on instruments that allows the user to manually change the pitch of the note played.
Pitch shifter – A sound processor that changes the pitch of a sound.
Plate Reverb – A type of reverb originally created by sending an electrical signal through a metallic sheet, known as a plate. This created a particular kind of reverb that sat well in the mix, as it sounds more ‘two-dimensional’ and less intrusive, while still keeping a sense of space.
Play (Playback) – If it’s not obvious, it’s when you press that triangular button on something. It moves through the audio and reproduces it in real time. Pretty useful, you’ll use it a lot as a DJ/Producer.
Playlist – A selection of songs grouped together to be played at similar times. You can find these on Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Music, or in DJ software to group together similar-sounding tracks.
Plosives - The result of saying or singing p or other stop consonant sounds(t, g, k, d, b).
Pluck – A type of synth sound that has a fast attack and decay, emulating something like a guitar or string. Deadmau5 is famous for these, pretty much.
Plug – Something you put cables into. Yeah.
Plugin – A piece of software that can be used in a DAW to expand its functionality.
Polar Pattern – The way a microphone picks up a sound. Some pickup sound in many directions, others only in one direction, and everything in between.
Polarity – The “direction” of a waveform. When you “flip the polarity” of a waveform, it turns the waveform upside down. Basically, the peaks are where the troughs once were, and vice versa. Polarity buttons (sometimes called phase buttons) are common on audio interfaces to keep stereo inputs in phase with each other.
Polyphonic – The ability of an instrument to play more than one note at once.
Pop Filter – A pop filter is something placed in front of a condenser microphone when recording vocals to avoid undesirable ‘p’ sounds or similar effects created when certain words are sung/spoken.
Port – Similar to a plug, a port is something that a USB or other device is plugged into. Maybe you have a hard drive with samples – put in into the USB port.
Portamento – A parameter on synths that allows additional notes to sweep between pitches when played. Try switching it on and play one note, then play another up an octave higher, and repeat. Kill Bill time.
Post – Anything performed after some sort of recording or processing. Usually used in signal routing when choosing whether the signal before FX is applied or after FX is applied. Opposite of ‘Pre’.
Post-Production – A process performed after recording and production to tidy up any issues or errors present in the previous process. Post-production usually includes mixing and mastering.
Pre – Opposite of ‘Post’.
Preamp – Short for pre-amplifier. It is used to boost the gain of a signal before being recorded, processed, or amplified to a set of speakers.
Pre-delay – A setting on reverberation units that sets a delay before the initial early reflections of the reverb can be heard. It is used to create separation between an audio source and the processed signal as it passes through the reverb.
Presence - A nice balance between an instrument’s attack and its main tone. Usually attained by adding 2- to 7-kHz frequencies.
Preset – Similar to a patch, a preset usually comes with a synth and is a combination of settings that can be loaded to recall a certain synth sound.
Processing – The altering of an audio signal by routing it through various FX and other devices.
Producer – Someone who engages in music production. A very broad term, it can refer to someone who is in charge of the entire music creation process, someone who engineers a track for another songwriter, or anything in between.
Production – Short for ‘Music Production’.
Program – Can refer to a particular piece of software or a setting on a synth that can be changed to recall a patch/preset.
Project (File) – A file on your computer that can be loaded up/saved by a DAW that contains a track in progress.
Pro Tools – A DAW popular with audio engineers and mixing professionals due to it’s DSP environment and ideal workflow.
Proximity effect – The closer you get to the microphone, the more low frequencies are recorded. This phenomenon is only present when using a condenser or ribbon mic.
Psychoacoustics – Psychological effects caused when listening to sound and music. Can make you think you hear something that isn’t there.
Pulse – Can also mean ‘beat’, it refers to the consistent measurement of tempo underlying a track.
Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) – The process that occurs in an A/D converter that represents analogue information as digital bits and bytes. This happens when you export a song from your DAW.
Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) – A synthesis process that changes a square wave into a pulse wave by adding silence into the wave cycle, ‘thinning’ out the square wave.
Punch In/Out – A loop function that determines when a loop should start and then end to repeat.
Punchy - A nice attack and sense of presence. A punchy sound can come from your performance, your instrument, or the effective use of compression (or all three). To create punch with a compressor, set the threshold to compress just a couple of decibels (dB), set the attack long enough so that the initial transient passes through uncompressed, and set the release so that it doesn’t remain longer than the instrument and so that it isn’t short enough to pump the compressor.
PWM – Acronym for Pulse Width Modulation. It is a synthesis process that changes the phase symmetry of a square or pulse wave.
Q (Bandwidth) – The width of a curve on a parametric EQ.
Quantize – The process of taking MIDI / audio and shifting it so it is ‘on the grid’ and in time. Useful when MIDI or audio has been recorded with improper timing.
Quantization Error (Distortion) – An artefact introduced by a difference in bit depth of a project and the bit depth of a sound in the project.
Quantization Noise – The resulting noise created by quantisation error.
Quarter Inch – also known as a TRS cable, these are cables that are commonly used for instruments like guitars and basses. Thicker versions of this cable are used for speakers.
Rack – A collection of devices interlinked with each other for creating sound or processing sound. Can be a physical rack of units, for example, a modular system, or a digital one in your DAW, saved like a preset.
Radio – A platform for broadcasting music, broadcast on a supersonic frequency level.
Radio Edit – An edit of a song that is more friendly for radio – usually a version of a song with a shorter structure and with explicit lyrics removed.
RAM – Acronym for Random Access Memory. A piece of hardware installed on a computer and used to store things momentarily when needed for faster access.
Ratio – A control on a compressor that determines how much gain will be reduced once the audio hits a set threshold. For instance, if a signal exceeds a threshold of 6dB and the ratio is set at 2:1, it will reduce the audio by 3dB.
RCA – A standard connector with a white left connector and red right connector. Plugs into a phono socket.
Read – The process of interpreting data from a disc drive. Usually refers to the playing of sounds and samples from a hard drive.
Reaper – A DAW made by Cockos that is less popular but a good cheap option with an indefinite trial. Good if you want to get started on a budget.
Reason – A DAW created by Propellerhead that is designed for users who like to work in a hardware-sequence environment, with cable routing and physical modelled equipment.
Record (Track) – Another name for a track. Historically, this is because all music used to be available as a vinyl record.
Record (DAW) – A function in a DAW that allows audio, MIDI or automation to be recorded into the arrangement. Demoted by a big red circle.
Reference – The process of checking a mix on multiple systems.
Reference Track – A track that is used as a reference point for your own while you create it. This can help with composition, sound design and mixing.
Reflections – Part of a reverb that creates echoes based off sounds hitting walls and bouncing around rapidly.
Release – The final stage of an ADSR envelope that determines how long a sound will fade to silence once the note is no longer being pressed. How long it takes a sound processor to cease processing the sound. Usually measured in milliseconds (ms). For example, if the release of a compressor is set to 100ms, then the compressor will stop processing the sound 100ms after it has been activated.
Remix – A derivative track of another’s original by taking the stems and using them in a new context through arrangement, processing, reducing the elements used and adding new elements.
Resampling – The process of sampling your own ideas and sounds for further processing and use.
Resonance (Reso) – A control on a filter that determines the level of accentuation on the current cutoff filter. Sounds ear piercing when turned up too loud.
Return – A track where other tracks are sent to be group processed in parallel to the original.
Reverberation (Reverb) – A time-based effect featuring a series of echoes rapidly occurring one after the other and feeding back into each other. In the digital domain, there are two types of reverb, algorithmic which calculates everything via math and convolution, which uses an impulse response to capture the natural sound of a room and superimpose it onto another sound. Other physical methods exist as well, such as a plate or spring reverbs.
Rhythm – A musical element consisting of when all elements are playing and on what beat, bar or measure. Can be fast or slow.
Ribbon mic – A microphone commonly found in studios with a high frequency range and sensitivity. Known for “coloring” the sound it records.
Riff – A musical section of a melody, perhaps repeating through a track.
RMS (Root Mean Square) – A standard measurement of average loudness, as opposed to peak loudness.
Rolloff – A filter’s cutoff.
ROM (Read Only Memory) – Data on a hard drive or elsewhere that can be accessed but not changed (easily).
Room – A type of reverb that sounds as if it is a smaller space with less tail and more absorption.
Room resonances (or Standing waves) – Every room has frequencies that build up more than others. These frequencies can mask the pleasant elements of a sound. By finding these frequency build-ups and cutting them using an EQ, we can improve the sound of a recording.
Room tone – The tone of the reverb produced in a room. Also refers to how the room “colors” a sound.
Round - Sometimes refers to sounds that have a pronounced midrange quality. When a sound is round, bass and treble are slightly reduced.
Rumble – A low-frequency effect caused by a series of random frequencies in the low end.
Sample – A piece of pre-existing audio used as a sound in a composition. Samples can be any recorded material that is then repurposed or sequenced.
Sample Pack – A downloadable folder of samples all grouped together. They usually contain many different samples of different kinds.
Sampler – An electronic instrument that can record or load samples and allows for their playback
Sample Rate – The "speed" at which an audio file is recorded and played back in the digital domain. Sample Rate is directly related to the Nyquist frequency. The western standard for music is 44.1kHz, which is approximately double the limit of human hearing.
Saturation – Distortion that is used in a more subtle way to add harmonic content.
Saw (Sawtooth) – A basic wave included in most subtractive synths. Saws sound bright and full.
Scratch – The process of rhythmically moving a vinyl record back and forth while being played, such that the pitch is warped and creates an effect.
Scrub – Searching through an audio file or a DAW’s sequencer to find a specific point.
Semitone – See ‘Half-Step’.
Send – A auxiliary control that allows a signal to be sent to a return for processing in parallel with the original signal.
Sensitivity – Refers to how sensitive a microphone can be. Condenser microphones are more sensitive, whereas dynamic microphones are not.
Sequence – A series of samples, notes, or sounds that are placed into a particular order for playback.
Sequencer – A basic functionality of a DAW, which allows users to compose and organize samples, notes, and sounds to create music.
Series – A processing technique done in order, one after the other. For example, 2 filters in series would mean one processes the original signal, then the other processes that signal.
Shelf – A type of EQ curve that boosts either all the high or low frequencies after a specific cutoff frequency.
Shock Mount – A microphone sits on this so it does get bumped around and pick up bass-y sounds.
Shimmer - Frequencies above 12 kHz. Similar to air.
Sibilance – The sound of an “s” in a word. For example, sit, stay, masks, etc. Usually problematic in vocal recording, as microphones pick up the sibilance sounds more than the rest of the frequency spectrum. One of the most popular ways to fix sibilance is a de-esser.
Sidechain – A tool on compressors that uses a second input to trigger when the compression occurs. For instance, a kick drum can be used to sidechain a reverb, hence creating a "pumping" effect on the reverb whenever the kick drum is played. Also great for making kick and bass sit in the mix – when the kick passes the threshold, the bass ducks in volume.
Signal – An audio stream passing through any analogue or digital circuits.
Signal Flow – Refers to the path that audio takes to be processed. A signal flow might mean: EQ -> Compressor -> Overdrive -> EQ -> Output.
Sine – A basic wave in synthesis, and the fundamental wave shape that makes up all sounds. Sounds like a pure tone, because it is. Sounds mellow and deep.
Slapback – A type of delay that includes one loud feedback echo at a short delay time. Great for cheesy 70’s-80’s stuff and big sounding things.
Smooth - The opposite of punchy. Smooth sounds are those that have an even level to them. The body of the sound is not overshadowed by the initial attack.
Snare – A common type of drum, characterised by a peak around ~150Hz-200Hz and some high-end noise.
Soft Clipping – A type of distortion created by driving a signal beyond 0dB. Soft clipping differs from hard clipping, as it ‘rounds’ the waveform off as opposed to slicing it off, allowing it to sound more subtle.
Soft Synth – A synthesiser that exists inside a computer, like Serum or Massive.
Solo – An action that temporarily mutes all sounds other than the one currently selected. Only the soloed sound is heard.
Song – Traditionally, a song is a track that features vocals.
Sound – See ‘Audio’.
SoundCloud – a major streaming platform that allows artists to upload their works directly to the platform, unlike Spotify etc.
Sound Pressure Level (SPL) – A measurement of decibels in the physical world.
Soundproofing – The act of using damping materials in a room to reduce reflections, and to stop sound from escaping and coming into the area.
Sound System – A collection of loudspeakers, subwoofers and amplifiers that work together to produce sound, usually in a live venue.
Soundtoys – A plugin company that creates FX plugins inspired by older hardware units.
Sound Waves – See ‘Waveform’.
Source – Any place where audio or data originates from.
Speaker – Short for ‘Loudspeaker’.
Spectrum – Refers to the range of frequencies in the audible realm.
Spectrum Analyzer – Graphically represents the amplitude of all frequencies in the audible spectrum.
Splice – A company that has a sample subscription service, a project file sharing service, and many other useful tools for producers.
Spotify – A popular streaming service that artists can distribute their music to.
Spring Reverb – A type of reverb that is created by sending an electrical signal through a spring.
Square – A wave found in most subtractive synthesisers. Sounds bright and hollow.
Stems – The individual audio tracks rendered from a finished track, usually used for remix purposes.
Stereo – The opposite of mono. A sound that has two sources, rather than one. Creates the illusion of horizontal space in recordings.
Stereo Image – Refers to the level of difference between the content in the left channel and the right channel. The more difference in content, the wider the mix will sound.
Stock – Any sound, device or preset that comes with the software it was designed to be used with. Ableton’s audio effects are called ‘stock’ for this reason.
Stop – A control that stops playback.
Strings – An instrument that features a string played by a bow. Many synths have also recreated this sound.
Sub Bass – Bass in the range of under around 70Hz.
Subgroup – A group of audio tracks, usually that itself belongs to another group.
Subtractive synthesis – A form of synthesis that removes harmonic content from basic waves, such as sine, saw, square, triangle, etc. via the use of filters and amplifiers which can both be modulated by envelopes and LFOs.
Subwoofer – A loudspeaker designed to reproduce frequencies under ~200Hz only.
Summing – The process of adding waveforms from different sources together.
Supersaw – A saw wave with unison and detune, usually with around 8 voices. Sounds very wide and big.
Surround Sound – A sound system featuring a ratio of 5 speakers arranged in a space at different angles, and 1 subwoofer for bass. The angles of the speakers give an illusion of 360-degree sound.
Sustain – How long a sound can hold before it begins to fade.
Sweet - Good or great, depending on how enthusiastically you use the word.
Swing – In DAWs and sequencers, the Swing parameter allows you to shift some of the events in your Pattern to create a shuffling effect in order to achieve different grooves.
Sync – A type of oscillator modulator that duplicates the wave in the same cycle space, creating a sort of pitching effect that still keeps the same fundamental pitch.
Sylenth1 – A subtractive soft synth created by LennarDigital that is ideal for creating analogue-type sounds.
Synthesizer (Synth) – An electronic instrument that creates sound by using oscillators and a series of processing.
Take – A singular recording of audio. Usually, multiple takes will be done to achieve a good recording.
Talkback – A mic in the control room of a studio that allows the engineer or producer to talk to the performers who are recording in the studio.
Talkbox – A vocoder-like effect that uses the voice to modulate an instrument, like a guitar. Unlike a vocoder, speech is not usually as intelligible and only vowel sounds are heard.
Tap Tempo – It is a control on a time-based device (e.g. delay or drum machine) that allows the user to tap multiple times to determine the tempo at which the device functions.
Tape – The medium that sound was recorded on before the transition to computers in the mid-80’s. While technically less accurate than digital recording, tape is sought after for the warmth and aggression it adds to the sounds recorded on it.
Tape Delay – Delay that occurs by writing the audio file onto tape and playing it back at a determined interval. Usually has a pitch warble due to the imperfections.
Tape Hiss – A byproduct when recording something to a tape or cassette tape due to a low noise floor.
TDM (Time-Division Multiplexing) – TDM refers to Pro Tools plugins specifically used on systems with dedicated DSP processors for high-quality processing without straining your computer – found in very high-end studios only.
Tempo – Measured in Beats per Minute, the tempo determines the speed of the track.
Test – A render of an incomplete track that is used to be tested on multiple systems.
Thin – Used to describe when a sound doesn’t have much of a body, usually containing only mids and highs.
Threshold – It is the control on compressors, noise gates, and other devices that determines when the effect will start affecting the sound source at a specific decibel level.
Timbre – The quality of a sound that distinguishes it from other sounds, based on factors like frequency content, amplitude, modulation and other factors.
Timeline – In the context of a DAW, this term refers to the area going from left to right in an arrangement window where a track is being recorded and edited.
Top-line – A vocal or lead line that acts as the hook point of a track, usually with a strong melody or with memorable lyrics.
Toms – A type of drum in the low-mid rs he that keeps rhythm. Usually comes in sets of 3-4, set at different pitches.
Tone – A single frequency.
Tone Generator – A device that generates a tone, usually for pitch correction purposes.
Track – Either means a full piece of digital music, or an individual audio channel in the production process.
Tracking - Recording songs, on computer, recorder or tape. In a DAW, tracks contain audio and MIDI layers. Each instrument gets its own track.
Transient – The initial start point of a drum sound, where the audio goes from near silence to sudden loudness. Sounds clicky.
Transient Shaper – An effect designed to analyze where transients are in a sound and make them louder or softer.
Transpose – The process of moving notes or audio up or down in semitones.
Transport – In the context of a DAW, this refers to the area that contains the playback controls (e.g. play, pause, stop, rewind, fast-forward, etc.)
Trap (Genre) – A genre of music that combines hip-hop and rap elements with bass music (a la dubstep) elements.
Tremolo – Subtle volume modulation with an LFO to achieve a movement in a sound.
Triangle – A wave in most subtractive synths that sounds like a sine wave with a few more harmonics.
Trigger – When pressing a button on a MIDI controller activated something on a piece of software, usually a sound.
Trim – A gain control on some audio effects to counteract an increase in volume introduced by some effects.
Truncate – What happens to a wave when it has been hard clipped – it chops the top of the wave off at 0db with sharp edges.
Tube – A distortion type that sounds (and emulates) like it is being driven through an analog vacuum tube.
Tune – A control on an electronic instrument that determines the pitch of an oscillator (in cents).
Tuner – A device that listens to audio to measure if it is in tune.
Turntable – A player that plays vinyl records. Can be used for playback and/or DJing.
Tweak – Adjusting a control on a device. DJs pretend to do this to look cool.
Tweeter – A speaker come designed to reproduce high frequencies around 10-20kHz. Usually featured above the main cone on a pair of studio monitors.
Unison – It is a functionality on synthesizers that layers a set amount of oscillators together at the same pitch with slight detuning in order to make a sound denser.
Unity Gain – When the audio level of audio is preserved after processing. For example, distortion may be applied to a sound, adding loudness as well as extra harmonics, but the output gain it turned down so the level is the same after the processing.
USB – Acronym for Universal Serial Bus. It is a standard socket and jack format on computers and devices that allow things to be connected to a computer and transfer MIDI information or data.
USB Hub – Stands for Universal Serial Bus. A device used to expand a single USB port into multiple USB connections. All devices connected through a USB hub share the bandwidth available through its respective USB port.
Utility – A device in Ableton that allows the adjustment of technical parts of the sound, like gain, phase, panning, DC offset and more.
VBR – Variable Bit Rate. When an MP3 or lossy audio file has a bit rate that changes with the type of content in the file. Good for maximizing audio quality while still saving space.
VCA – Acronym for Voltage-Controlled Amplifier. The section on an analog synthesizer that controls the amplitude of the output signal, and can be shaped by LFOs or envelopes.
VCF – Acronym for Voltage-Controlled Filter. The section on an analog synthesizer that controls the filtering of the generated signal, and can be shaped by LFOs or envelopes.
VCO – Acronym for Voltage-Controlled Oscillator. An oscillator whose pitch is controlled via voltage. The higher the voltage, the higher the pitch, and this can be shaped by LFOs or envelopes.
Velocity – It is the MIDI parameter for each performed and recorded note that determines the loudness of the notes. It can also be used to modify other parameters on synthesizers so as to affect a sound based on performance.
Verse – A section of a vocal track that normally comes after the intro. Individual verses usually only feature once per track, with future verses sounding similar but containing different lyrics.
Vibrato – An audio effect achieved by modulating the pitch of a sound with an LFO at a small amplitude. Sounds wavy.
Vinyl – A physical format of music created by inscribing the waveform onto a wax disc, reproduced by playing it with a needle on a turntable, so that the needle vibrates in real time, reproducing the audio.
Vinyl Distortion – A type of distortion represented by poor dynamics on an old/broken vinyl record.
Virtual Instrument – An instrument in the digital domain, usually in plugin form, that is used to create sound much like a traditional instrument would.
Vocal – A recorded piece of audio of somebody singing.
Vocal Booth – A small space with soundproofing and isolation designed to record vocals in.
Vocoder – An audio effect that uses a carrier (the effected sound) and a modulator (the effecting sound) to create a superimposition of sound. Usually, the voice acts as a modulator and a synth acts as the carrier, and this creates a robotic sort of voice sound. The Daft Punk sound.
Voice – Something generated by a synthesiser. Adding unison to an oscillator, or using multiple oscillators, will increase the amount of voices created by a synth.
Volume – The amplitude of a sound. Usually, a parameter that can be adjusted on a device.
Vox – Short for vocals.
VST – Acronym for Virtual Studio Technology. It is the plugin format developed by Steinberg, originally for Cubase that has now been adopted as one of the industry standards.
VU Meter – Stands for ‘Volume Unit Meter’, and is a way of measuring audio in the analog domain. All VU meters, where digital or analog, feature a needle that moves with the audio, and has a slower response to represent average loudness as opposed to peak volume.
Warm - Lacking harshness or coldness. This is a catchall term used to describe anything from analog equipment to a pleasing quality that can’t be put into words. Use this term around nonrecording people whenever you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about. When someone else uses this term repeatedly, take his or her recording advice with a grain of salt (a large one).
Warp – Has many meanings, but usually refers to the warp algorithms in Ableton or other DAWs that change the timing and pitch of audio, mostly to keep it in time with the DAW’s clock tempo. DAWs have different warping algorithms that are suited to different types of audio, like drums, synths or vocals.
WASAPI – Acronym for "Windows Audio Session API". It is Microsoft’s multi-channel audio interface for communication with audio devices, i.e. an audio driver.
Wavefolding – A audio effect that processes audio when it reaches a threshold in a variety of ways, usually by folding the waveform back in on itself instead of clipping or compressing.
Waveform – An audio signal represented visually as a wave.
Wavelength – Refers to the length of one cycle of a sine wave. As frequency increases, wavelength decreases.
Waveshaper – An audio effect that recreates a variety of distortion algorithms through an input/output envelope.
Wavetable – It is a series of waveform cycles that can be scanned through and morphed into each other.
Wavetable Synthesis – A form of synthesis similar to subtractive synthesis, but instead oscillators can feature a wider variety of waveforms, sometimes with the ability to customize them. Xfer Serum, NI Massive and Ableton Wavetable are three very popular Wavetable Synthesizers.
WAV – Acronym for Waveform Audio File Format. It is the standard lossless audio file format in the digital domain. Samples, stems, and other audio files typically are recorded or come in the WAV format.
Wet – An instrument with effects applied to it.
Wet/Dry – A dry signal is a pure unprocessed sound, like a vocal recorded as is. A wet signal is a sound with effects on it.
White Noise – A noise produced by many synthesisers that is the result of playing the entire frequency spectrum at once.
Whole Step – A movement of two notes in a given direction.
Woodwind – A group of traditional instruments that generate sound by wind passing through. Includes flutes, saxophones, clarinets, oboes and more.
Woofer – A loudspeaker driver that reproduces the low-mid frequencies, usually from ~40Hz up to ~500Hz. Similar to a subwoofer but with a higher range.
WOW – A type of filter that creates formants. Usually refers to the plugin created by Sugar Bytes which is a filter that does exactly that. Sometimes people make this noise when trying to recreate dubstep with their mouths.
XLR – It is the standard electrical connector in audio that features three pins and is round. Found on many mixers and audio interfaces, usually used to connect microphones or speakers.
Zero-crossing – A point on a waveform that passes through the central zero line (silence).
Zero-Latency Monitoring – This refers to the functionality on some audio interfaces that let you monitor the audio signals during the recording process before it reaches the analog-to-digital converters (ADC). This is beneficial when recording audio in the digital domain as there will always be some delay when recording audio into a DAW.
303 – A vintage baseline synth created by Roland. It is famous for creating the ‘acid’ baseline sound. There are many 303 emulations available in hardware and software.
4/4 – Also called common time, 4/4 is a time signature determine that there are 4 beats in 1 bar.
707 – A drum machine created by Roland. Used in many disco and house tracks.
808 – Another drum machine created by Roland. Used in many house, hip-hop and trap tracks.
909 – A drum machine created by Roland. Used primarily in house and techno.