Glossary of Terminology

Akai Sampler. A sampler is an electronic musical instrument similar in some respects to a synthesizer but, instead of generating sounds, it uses recordings (or “samples”) of sounds that are loaded or recorded into it by the user and then played back. Akai was the dominant manufacturer of these samplers.

Ambience. A broad term used to describe the acoustic characteristics of an area with regard to its reverberation. A room with very little reverb is desribed as being ‘dead’, while a room that exhibits plenty of reverberation is described as ‘lively’.

Amplitude. The maximum level of a periodic curve, voltage or waveform, measured along its vertical axis

Analogue. The way in which all sound was reproduced before digital became available.

Bandwidth. The measurement of the total frequency range of a system.

Bit Rate. In digital audio, this refers to the rate or frequency that bits appear in a bit stream and defines the overall quality of the results.

Boomy. A term that is used to describe audio that exhibits an excessive bass response.

Boost / Cut EQ. Refers to a graphic equalizer with any number of bands. When the faders are all central there is no effect on the audio, but by raising the fader’s boost it is applied at the particular frequency covered by the fader. Similarly decreasing the fader results in a cut in the frequency.

Bright. A term that is used to describe audio that exhibits an excessive high-frequency response.

Chord. Two or more notes sounded together. The different types are named according to the intervals they span: the triad, for example- the fundamental chord in Western harmony-is built from a ‘root’ note with two suspended 3rds.

Chorus. An audio effect that uses multiple delays and pitch-shifting algorithms so it appears several instruments are playing simultaneously.

Clipping. A type of distortion that occurs when a signal is recorded too loud in the diditla domain. A clipped waveform exhibits a crunchy or harsh sound, as the top of the waveform ss removed from the signal.

Composition. The activity of composition and the result of that activity. It is not an exclusively musical term-applications to prose, poetry, painting, architecture, etc are common and in all cases it describes a process of constuction, a creative putting together, a working out and carrying through of an initial conception or inspiration.

Compression. To reduce the dynamic range of a signal or the state of air pressure during a sound wave.

Compressor. A signal processor that is used to reduce the dynamic range of any signal during recording or mixing.

Critical Theory. A philosophical approach to culture, and esp. to literature, that seeks to confront the social, historical, and ideological forces and structures that produce and constrain it.

Decibel (dB). A measurement of the relative loudness of an audio signal. Named after Alexander Graham Bell, it is a logarithmic scale, since our ears become less sensitive to sound as the intensity increases: 0 dB is the threshold of hearing and 130 dB is the threshold of pain.

De-esser. A frequency dependent compressor that operates above 3kHz to reduce sibilance.

Digital Audio. Analogue signals that are stored digitally as numbers.

Digital Audio Workstation. A computer, sound card, and editing software that allows you to record, edit and mix audio programs entirely in digital form. Stand-alone DAWs include real mixer controls; computer DAWS have virtual controls on-screen.

Dry. In the audio industry, refers to a recorded signal before any effects processing is applied.

Dynamic (Range). The ratio between the loudest signal before clipping and the quietest perceptible signal.

EDM. Abbreviation of Electronic Dance Music.

Equal Temperament. A system of tuning the scale whereby the octave is divided into 12 equal semitones. This tuning system has become the standard western 12 note chromatic scale.

Fader. A control with an upward / downward movement that can be used to increase or decrease values.

Fletcher Munson Curve. A measurement that displays how the human ear is more sensitive to some frequencies than others depending on the volume of the source.

Form. The shape or structure of a musical work; the way in which the various elements in a piece of music–its pitches, rhythms, dynamics, timbres–are organized in order to make it coherent to the listener.

Frequency. The speed at which an object vibrates.

Gate (Noise Gate). A device that is used to remove sounds below a specified threshold, commonly used to prevent extraneous sounds from being recorded.

Gain. To increase the amount of amplification of an audio signal, usually expressed in dB (pertaining to the ratio of the output level to the input level).

Harmonics. (Also called overtones). These are vibrations at frequencies that are multiples of the fundamental. Harmonics that are not integers of the fundamental are called partials, which also contribute to the complexity of the sound.

Haas Effect. (also known as precedence). Describes how we localize any sound even though our heads get in the way, making the sound appear later in one ear than the other (provided that the subsequent arrivals are within 25 – 35 milliseconds).

Headroom. The ability of an amp to go beyond its rated power for short durations, permitting it to reproduce peaks without moving into distortion.

Hertz. A unit of measurement denoting the frequency equal to one cycle per second.

High-Pass filter. A circuit that allows high frequencies to pass but rolls off the low frequencies.

Impedence. A measurement of electrical resistance that is specified in ohms.

kHz (Kilohertz). One thousand (1000) cycles per second.

Limiter. A compressor with a fixed ratio that prevents the audio signal from becoming any larger than the threshold setting.

Low-Pass Filter. A circuit that allows low frequencies to pass but rolls of the high frequencies.

Master. The final track after it has been mastered.

Melody. A succession of notes of varying pitch, with an organized and recognizable shape.

Mix-Down Engineer. an audio engineer in sound recording, audio editing and sound systems who balances the relative volume and frequency content of a number of sound sources.

Mixer. An audio device used to combine and adjust the level of multiple inputs into two or more outputs.

Motif (Motifs). A short melodic or rhythmic idea, the smallest part of a theme or phrase to have a specific identity. A motif is the main building block for themes and melodic lines, and brings unity and comprehensibility to a work through its repetition and varied occurrence.

Musicologist. A person who studies the history and science of music.

Music Charts. A record chart is a ranking of recorded music according to popularity during a given period of time.

Pastiche. ‘Imitation’, ‘parody’. The work written partly in the style of another period.

Schenkerian Analysis. A system of musical analysis devised by Heinrich Schenker (1868 – 1935), which divides a composition into structural layers: background, middleground, and foreground.

Tempo. The speed at which a piece of music is performed.

Timbre. A term derived from the French meaning colour, it is used to describe the sonic qualities of any particular sound.

Warmth. A term very broadly used to describe the second-order harmonic distortion introduced onto a signal from using valve equipment. It is also sometimes used to describe a system that sounds natural between 100 and 400 Hz.

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