Don’t be put off by music production jargon – use this cheat sheet of music technology terms.
Do you want to get started as a music producer but always end up thinking, “What do all these words mean?”
Check out RouteNote’s glossary on a few technical music production terms that might otherwise trip you up before you’ve even started.
ADSR: Attack – the start of the sound; Decay – a fading sound; Sustain – how long it can last; Release – fade to silence. The elements form the “envelope” which describes the shape of a sound.
Audio interface: Hardware for recording with a computer, which means high quality recordings.
Bit rate: The number of bits per second, measuring the precision of a recording, the higher the bit, the more detailed it is.
Bounce: Exporting a track to a format such as an mp3 or wav file.
Another word for ‘distortion’ or ‘peaking’.
Compression: Reducing the dynamic range of a signal, the difference between the loudest and quietest parts. This means more consistent dynamics, lowering the sound if it exceeds a certain level.
JACKDAW: Digital Audio Workstation – software like Ableton Live, GarageBand, Logic Pro. Used for recording audio, mixing, creating sound effects and mastering. Musicians can also compose within DAWs via MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) devices. Discover our selection of the 10 best.
Demo: Recording a song or piece of music as the first example of the project, in preparation for a proper full recording.
Equalizer: Equalization (EQ) is a method of cutting or boosting specific frequency levels in a sound without changing the rest, by adjusting the gain (volume) of a sound at selected points.
Feedback: A high-pitched scream caused when a loop of sound is caused by a signal passing through an amplifier to a microphone and vice versa. For example, the sound of the amplifier “returns” the guitar strings which are still vibrating.
Effects : Abbreviation for “effects”. Common effects include reverb, chorus, distortion, and flanger – processes or devices applied to a signal to alter its sound.
To earn: The loudness of a signal before it passes through an amplifier. Maybe another word for volume and another word for guitar distortion.
Gating: Stopping unwanted noise in a recording by cutting signals below a specified threshold.
Contribution: The initial part of the recording chain, via a Jack, MIDI or USB type cable.
Jack: A connector. It is usually available in 6mm, 3.5mm and 2.5mm mini jack.
Latency: Delay between the input and output of a signal, often in a performer’s headphones.
Loop: A repeated section of a song, often using imported samples.
Lossless and lossy files:
To master: Mastering means making sure music sounds consistent across all music formats and platforms.
MIDDAY : Musical instrument digital interface. Data and notes recorded with software and electronic instruments. Notes recorded by a MIDI keyboard are recorded in a DAW as MIDI notes.
Mixed: Combine multiple recorded sounds together, mix to change levels for a balanced and interesting track. A master mix is the end result.
Panoramic: Place a sound in the left or right speaker.
Connect: Software to extend your DAW with additional effects, processing or instrumentation.
Reverberation: Reflection of sounds from surfaces; the sound of a room. More reverb can be added electronically with a plug-in.
To taste: A short pre-recorded sound, taken from one recording and used in another. The smallest unit of digital sound measurement.
Sequencer: A MIDI sequencer can be used to record and edit a performance without using an audio input source. It doesn’t record the actual audio but the data – what note was played at what time, etc.
Tempo: The speed of music. In BPM (beats per minute), 60BPM for example corresponds to one beat per second.
Monitoring: Recording of songs, on computer, tape recorder or cassette. In a DAW, tracks contain audio and MIDI layers. Each instrument has its own track.
Speed: The force at which a note is played.
VST: VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology – plug-ins for bringing additional instruments and effects into DAWs.
Waveform: The shape of a sound wave, displayed on an oscilloscope.
Wet/Dry: A dry signal is a pure, unprocessed sound, like a voice recorded as it is. A wet signal is a sound with effects on it.
XLR: A microphone cable, with three pins.
It’s just the tip of the iceberg, but don’t be intimidated by music producer jargon. There are plenty of resources online to help you if you get stuck in your production journey, like the handy videos on our YouTube channel:
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