Welcome to our music production glossary page, where you’ll find a comprehensive overview of the terminology used in the captivating world of music production, home studio recording, and audio engineering. Some lingo can be complex and even bewildering for newcomers, but worry not. Our glossary is made to make it a breeze for you to comprehend the jargon and slang used by music producers and audio engineers. Consider this the ultimate home studio dictionary.
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A Cappella: Choral music performed without instrumental accompaniment. It relies solely on the blending of voices to create harmony and convey the musical message. A Cappella performances can vary from small quartet groups to large choirs.
Absolute Music: Instrumental music with no intended story, also known as non-programmatic music. It focuses solely on the composition itself, without any external narrative or descriptive aspects. Its appreciation lies purely in the structure, melodies, harmonies, and rhythms it exhibits.
Accelerando: A musical term signifying the gradual acceleration of the rhythmic beat. It adds a dynamic element to the music, drawing listeners in as they anticipate the increased pace.
Accent: The technique of momentarily emphasizing a note with a dynamic attack. This brings particular focus or stress to the highlighted note, often enhancing the emotional impact or rhythmic complexity of a piece.
Adagio: A slow tempo marking in music. Adagio pieces are often expressive and convey a sense of leisure or solemnity. This tempo allows for nuanced performance and an in-depth exploration of musical phrases.
Allegro: A fast tempo indication in music. Allegro pieces are typically upbeat, energetic and spirited, often creating an aura of excitement and joy in listeners.
Alto: A low-ranged female voice, which is also the second lowest instrumental range. It provides a deeper tone in the female vocal range, contributing a unique warmth and richness to choral music.
Ambient micing: Ambient micing, also known as ambient recording, is a technique used in audio recording to capture the natural sound of an environment or space. It involves placing a microphone or multiple microphones in a location where they can pick up the sounds of the room, such as reflections and background noise, to create a sense of space and depth in the final recording.
Amplifier: An electronic device that amplifies the sound of an electric or acoustic guitar, typically with additional tone-shaping controls and built-in effects. It looks like a speaker.
Amplitude: Amplitude in music refers to the magnitude of a sound wave, which is directly associated with the perceived loudness of the sound. Essentially, it’s the height of the wave from its equilibrium point, with larger amplitudes translating to louder volumes and smaller amplitudes corresponding to softer volumes.
Amplifier slew rate: Refers to the rate at which an amplifier can change its output voltage in response to a rapid change in the input signal.
Andante: A moderate tempo indication, interpreted as walking speed. Derived from the Italian verb ‘Andare’, which means ‘to walk’, andante music exudes a comfortable and steady rhythm.
Aria: A beautiful manner of solo singing, typically accompanied by an orchestra and featuring a steady metrical beat. Arias are often characterized by expressive melodic lines and emotional delivery, often serving as highlights in opera and oratorio.
Arrangement: The process of structuring and organizing the elements of a musical composition, such as the melody, harmony, rhythm, and lyrics.
Art Music: This term is used to describe the “formal concert music” traditions of the West, as opposed to “popular” and “commercial music” styles. Art music is typically written in a formalized manner with complexity in structure and aesthetic considerations.
Art Song: A genre that is a musical setting of artistic poetry for solo voice accompanied by piano or orchestra. Art songs are designed to musically interpret and enhance the expressive content of the poetry.
Articulation: How a musical note or phrase is played or sung, including factors such as duration, attack, and release.
Atonality: This refers to modern harmony that intentionally avoids a tonal center, having no apparent home key. Atonal music, often associated with 20th-century composers, creates a sense of instability and unpredictability.
Attack: Attack and release are fundamental concepts in music production that involve manipulating the dynamics of a sound wave. Attack refers to the initial increase in the volume of a sound, while release refers to the decrease in volume following the attack. The attack can also be described as the time it takes for a compressor, limiter, or gate to engage and begin altering the level of an audio signal.
Audio interface: A device that allows for the input and output of audio signals to and from a computer, typically used for recording and playback of high-quality audio in a home studio or professional recording setting.
Audio snake: A cable system designed to consolidate multiple audio signals, typically used to simplify connections between audio sources and a mixing console or recording device.
Augmentation: The technique of lengthening the rhythmic values of a fugal subject. It slows down the original theme, adding dramatic weight and a greater sense of breadth to the music.
Aux sends: A feature on a mixing console that allows a separate signal to be sent from a channel to an external effects processor or a separate mix.
Avant-Garde: A French term that describes highly experimental modern musical styles. It’s associated with artists who are innovative, pushing boundaries and often challenging established norms.
Balanced Cable– A type of audio cable that uses three wires instead of two to help eliminate noise and interference in the signal. Typically used for connecting professional audio equipment.
Ballad: A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads derive from the medieval French chanson balladée or ballade, which were originally “dance songs”.
Ballet: A programmatic theatrical work genre for dancers and orchestra. It’s a richly expressive form that combines dance, music, and often narrative to tell a story, convey emotions, or simply to present the beauty of movement in tandem with the orchestra.
Bandwidth – The range of frequencies that can be transmitted or processed in an audio signal. Higher bandwidth means more frequencies can be captured or transmitted, resulting in higher audio quality.
Bar: A common term for a musical measure. It provides a way of organizing the music into smaller, more manageable sections, aiding both in composition and performance.
Baritone: A moderately low male voice; its range lies between a tenor and a bass. In both solo and choral work, the baritone voice contributes to the depth and richness of the sound.
Baroque (Music Era): A musical period that spans from around 1600-1750, recognized for its extremely ornate and elaborate approaches to the arts. This era saw the rise of instrumental music, the invention of the modern violin family, and the creation of the first orchestras with composers like Vivaldi, Handel, and J.S. Bach.
Bass: The lowest male voice and the lowest-sounding non-pitched percussion instrument, the bass drum. The bass voice forms the foundation of the harmony in choral music, while the bass drum provides a deep, resonant pulse in orchestral and band music.
Bass (Instrument): “Bass” represents the low-end frequencies in music. The upright bass, also called double bass, is a large, low-pitched bowed string instrument widely used in genres like jazz, blues, country, and classical music, delivering a deep, resonant foundation for the ensemble. The electric bass guitar, usually with four strings, is primarily played with fingers or thumb and is integral in providing the rhythmic and harmonic backbone in various music styles.
Basso Continuo: The backup ensemble of the Baroque Era, typically comprised of a keyboard instrument (like a harpsichord or organ) and a melodic stringed bass instrument (such as a viol’ da gamba or cello). It provides a continuous harmonic foundation, defining the underlying chordal structure of the music.
Bassoon (Instrument): The lowest-sounding regular instrument of the woodwind family. A double-reed instrument, the bassoon provides a rich, dark timbre and is capable of a wide range of expression and dynamics.
Beat – The basic unit of rhythm in music, typically consisting of a steady pulse or series of pulses. Often used as the foundation for musical timing and structure.
Bebop (Genre): A complex, highly-improvisatory style of jazz popularized by Charlie Parker in the 1940s-50s. Known for its fast tempos, intricate melodies, and advanced harmonies, bebop is considered a significant evolution in the world of jazz music.
Bidirectional microphone – also known as a figure-eight microphone, is a directional microphone that picks up sound from the front and rear but not from the sides, making it useful for capturing sound from two opposite directions, such as in an interview setting.
Binary Form: A form comprised of two distinctly opposing sections, referred to as “A” vs. “B”. It provides a basic structural framework for many pieces of music, lending balance and variety to the composition.
Binaural recording – A recording technique that captures sound using two microphones placed in a dummy head or similar structure, mimicking the way human ears hear the sound, resulting in a more realistic and immersive listening experience when played back on headphones.
Bit Depth – The number of bits used to represent each sample in a digital audio file. Higher bit depth means more dynamic range and less quantization noise.
Bitcrusher (Effect): An effect that intentionally reduces the bit depth of an audio signal, resulting in a distorted, lo-fi sound reminiscent of early digital technology.
Bitonality: A technique in modern music that involves the music sounding in two different keys simultaneously. It can create a unique, often dissonant sound that challenges traditional tonal structures.
Bitrate – The number of bits of data transmitted per second in a digital audio file. A higher bitrate generally means higher audio quality but also larger file sizes.
Blues (Genre): A melancholic style of Afro-American secular music, based on a simple musical/poetic form. Originating in the early 1900s, the style evolved from “Delta” blues to “Classic” blues in the late 1920s, and further into “Rhythm and Blues” in the 1940s.
Boom microphone – A boom mic, also known as a boom pole or fish pole, is a type of microphone typically used in film, television, and video production to capture high-quality dialogue from actors. It is a directional microphone mounted on the end of a long pole, allowing the operator to position the microphone close to the actor but outside the camera frame. This allows for a clear and focused sound recording while also allowing the actor to move freely on set.
BPM: Beats per minute. refers to the tempo of a song.
Brass (Instrument): A powerful metallic instrument with a mouthpiece and tubing, requiring the player to blow air into it. Notable examples include the trumpet, trombone, French horn, tuba, baritone, and bugle. These instruments are characterized by their bright, rich, and resonant sound.
Buffer Size – The amount of data that a computer or audio interface can process at once before it needs to stop and wait for more data. Smaller buffer sizes result in lower latency but require more processing power.
Bus – A pathway in a mixing console or DAW that allows multiple tracks to be routed and processed together. It is useful for grouping tracks and applying effects to them collectively.
Bus Compression – Applying compression to a group of tracks that have been routed through a bus. Helps to glue the tracks together and create a cohesive sound.
Cadence: In music, a cadence refers to a sequence of notes or chords that implies the end of a section of a piece or the piece as a whole. It’s a kind of musical punctuation, similar to the function of a period at the end of a sentence in language.
Cadenza: An ornamental passage, often improvised, near the end of a song or a solo, where the soloist performs a technically challenging part with freedom in timing. It’s often seen in concertos.
Call and Response: A musical form in which a phrase by a singer or instrumentalist (the call) is answered by another singer, instrumentalist, or group (the response). It’s a fundamental element in many types of music, including blues, gospel, folk, and classical music.
Canon: A form of contrapuntal composition where a melody in one part is replicated exactly in other parts at fixed intervals. The follower part(s) repeat the melody started by the leader. Pachelbel’s Canon in D is a famous example.
Cantata: A multi-movement composition for soloists, chorus, and orchestra. Traditionally, cantatas were associated with religious music but they can also be secular.
Capo: Musicians use a capo to make it easier to play songs in different keys without having to learn new chord shapes. By positioning the capo on a specific fret, the player can instantly transpose the music to a higher pitch, enabling them to sing in a more comfortable vocal range or adapt to the preferences of other musicians in a group setting. Capos are widely utilized in various genres of music, allowing performers to add versatility and flexibility to their repertoire.
Cardioid microphone – a directional microphone that is most sensitive to sound from the front and rejects sound from the rear and sides, resulting in a heart-shaped pickup pattern that is useful for isolating a sound source and minimizing background noise.
Cello: The tenor voice of the string family. The cello has a wide range capable of playing from low to high pitches with a rich, warm, deep sound.
Chamber Music: Music composed for a small group of instruments, with one performer to a part. A string quartet is a common type of chamber ensemble.
Chance Music: Also known as aleatory music or indeterminate music. A form of modern music in which elements traditionally determined by the composer are left to chance. John Cage is a well-known proponent of this style.
Channel strip – a device or plugin that combines several audio processing tools into a single unit, typically including EQ, compression, and gain controls.
Chant: A type of singing in a free rhythm, usually monophonic and often based on liturgical texts. Gregorian chant is a well-known example of this style.
Character Piece: A type of musical composition, usually for piano, meant to describe or convey a particular mood, character, or idea. They became popular in the 19th century, with composers like Schumann and Chopin.
Chimes: A percussion instrument consisting of a series of metal tubes of varying lengths that are struck to produce sound. Also known as tubular bells.
Chorale: A simple and homophonic religious song intended to be sung by a congregation, often in a four-part harmony. It is most commonly associated with Protestant worship, particularly in the Lutheran tradition.
Chord: A combination of three or more musical notes played simultaneously to produce a harmonic sound.
Chorus (singers): 1)A large group of singers who perform together, often in parts. 2) A chorus is also an audio effect that creates the illusion of multiple voices or instruments playing the same part simultaneously. 3)The catchy part of a song. It’s typically repeated at least three times.
Chromaticism: A compositional technique that involves using notes outside of the key signature. This can create rich, interesting harmonies and melodies but can also introduce tension and dissonance.
Clarinet: A member of the woodwind family with a single-reed mouthpiece. The clarinet is known for its warm and rich sound, and it has a wide pitch range.
Classic (Music): The period in Western music from about 1750 to 1820. This period was characterized by structural clarity and balance in music. The composers of this era, such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, focused on developing musical forms, like the sonata and the symphony.
Click tracking – a metronome-like audio track that provides a consistent tempo and timing reference for musicians during recording or mixing.
Clipping – Clipping is an audio distortion that happens when the volume level exceeds the maximum that a system can handle. It can occur during recording or playback due to factors like high input levels, incorrect gain staging, or inadequate headroom. To prevent clipping, proper gain staging and headroom management, as well as using limiters or compressors, are important.
Coda: The final section of a musical composition. It serves as a conclusion and is often designed to bring a piece of music to a satisfying end.
Collegium Musicum: A term used to refer to an early music ensemble at a university. These groups focus on the study and performance of music from before 1750.
Compression – a process used to reduce the dynamic range of audio by attenuating the louder parts of a signal.
Compressor – An effect applied to audio that reduces the dynamic range of an audio signal by attenuating loud sounds and boosting quiet ones. It can be used to even out the levels of a recording and add sustain to instruments.
Computer Music: Music that is composed or performed with the use of computers, sometimes involving algorithmic composition or sound synthesis.
Concerto: A musical composition typically composed in three parts or movements, in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra. The concerto was a popular form during the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic eras.
Concert Band: A large ensemble of musicians who play woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. These groups perform in concert settings and are common in schools and communities.
Concerto Grosso: A type of concerto in which a group of soloists (the concertino) is contrasted with and supported by the full orchestra (the ripieno). This form was popular in the Baroque era with composers like Vivaldi and Handel.
Condenser microphone – a type of microphone that uses a diaphragm and a capacitor to capture sound.
Conductor: The individual who leads a group of musicians during performances. The conductor indicates the tempo, phrasing, dynamics, and style with gestures and facial expressions.
Consonance: A combination of notes that sounds pleasant to the ear. Consonance is the opposite of dissonance and is associated with harmony, stability, and resolution in music.
Contrabassoon: Also known as the double bassoon, this is the lowest-pitched instrument in the woodwind family. It has a unique, rich tone and is often used to play bass lines in orchestras.
Convolution reverb: A type of digital reverb effect that uses impulse response measurements to simulate the acoustic properties of a specific room or space.
Cool Jazz: A style of jazz that emerged in the 1950s, characterized by its relaxed tempos and lighter tone in contrast to the more complex and intense bebop style. Notable “cool” jazz musicians include Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis.
Cornet: A brass instrument similar to the trumpet but distinguished by its conical bore, compact shape, and mellower tone.
Countermelody: A secondary melody that is played in conjunction with a primary melody. A countermelody can be a harmonic support to the main melody and adds texture and complexity to the music.
Counterpoint: A style of composition that involves combining several melodic lines in such a way that they establish a harmonic relationship while retaining their linear individuality. It was most commonly used during the Baroque period, with J.S. Bach being a notable composer who used it.
Cover: A cover refers to a rendition or performance of a previously recorded song or piece of music by an artist or band other than the original creator.
Cover band: A cover band is a musical group that specializes in performing songs originally recorded and made popular by other artists, often recreating the sound and style of the original while adding their own interpretation.
Crescendo: A term used in musical notation to indicate that the volume should gradually increase.
Crossfade: Crossfade, sometimes referred to as Xfade, is a gradual transition between two audio clips, often used to smooth transitions between sections of a song or audio clips.
Crossover: Crossover, sometimes referred to as X-Over, is a is a type of filter used in audio systems to separate frequencies and direct them to different speakers. This can help improve clarity and prevent distortion.
Cue mix: A customized mix of audio signals that are sent to a musician’s headphones or monitors during recording.
Cymbals: A percussion instrument consisting of two large metal discs that are struck together to create a loud crashing sound. They are used in many types of music, from orchestral to rock, to emphasize rhythm or to add dramatic effect.
Da Capo: An Italian term meaning “from the head,” it is a directive to repeat the music from the beginning of the piece.
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation): A DAW, sometimes just called a workstation, is a software used for recording, editing, and mixing audio, often used in home studio recording and music production.
De-esser – an audio processor that reduces or eliminates excessive sibilance or hissing sounds, typically found in vocal recordings.
Delay – an audio effect that creates the illusion of an echoed or repeated sound and is often used for creative or rhythmic purposes.
Decrescendo: A directive in sheet music indicating the music should gradually decrease in loudness. Synonymous with diminuendo.
Development: In sonata form, the development is the section where themes from the exposition are expanded, transformed, and moved through different keys. More broadly, development can refer to the process of evolving or manipulating a musical idea within a composition.
DI (Direct Injection) – a method of connecting an electronic instrument directly to a mixing console or recording device, bypassing the need for a microphone.
Diatonic: Refers to notes that are included within the major or minor scale of the piece’s key.
Dies Irae: A Latin hymn traditionally attributed to Thomas of Celano, it was used in the Roman liturgy as a sequence for the Requiem Mass for centuries. Its lyrics describe the Day of Judgement.
Digital signal processing (DSP) – the use of mathematical algorithms to modify and manipulate digital audio signals.
Diminuendo: Another term for decrescendo. It is a directive in sheet music that the volume should gradually decrease.
Diminution: In music, diminution has several meanings but typically refers to the shortening of the time values of notes in a melodic part.
Disjunct: A term used to describe a melody that moves in leaps and jumps, rather than moving stepwise (which would be conjunct motion).
Distortion – an effect created by intentionally overdriving an audio signal, resulting in a gritty or crunchy sound.
Doctrine of Affections: A theory prevalent in the Baroque era that music could arouse specific emotions in the listener. Each musical piece was intended to invoke a single emotion or “affect” in the audience.
Dotted Note: A note with a dot to its right, which increases the duration of the note by half of its original value. For example, a dotted quarter note would last for one and a half beats.
Doubling – a recording technique in which a performer records a second take of a vocal or instrumental part to create a thicker, fuller sound.
Downbeat: The first beat in a measure of music, and generally the strongest in terms of emphasis or stress.
Drum machine – an electronic instrument that emulates the sound of drums and percussion instruments, often used in electronic and hip-hop music production.
Ducking – a technique used to reduce the volume of one audio signal when another signal is present, is commonly used in voiceover work to lower background music during dialogue.
Duple Meter: A musical meter characterized by a primary division of 2 beats to the bar, as in traditional marching music or music like a gigue.
Dynamics: A term that pertains to the volume of sound in a musical performance. In written music, dynamics are typically indicated by abbreviations or symbols that dictate how loud or soft the music should be played.
Dynamic microphone – a type of microphone that uses a magnet and a coil to capture sound, typically more rugged and less sensitive than condenser microphones.
E-Drums (Electronic Drums) – electronic versions of acoustic drum sets, using sensors or electronic triggers to produce sound.
Echo – a delay effect that creates a repeating, decaying version of a sound, often used for creative or rhythmic purposes.
Editing – the process of manipulating and arranging audio recordings to create a polished final product, including cutting, pasting, and rearranging clips.
Effects – audio processors used to alter the sound of an instrument, voice, or entire mix. Common examples include reverb, delay, chorus, and distortion.
Effects loop – a circuit in an amplifier or effects processor that allows external effects pedals to be inserted into the signal chain.
English Horn: Despite the name, the English Horn is not a horn but a woodwind instrument. It’s a double-reed instrument, larger and lower in pitch than an oboe, and is known for its rich and slightly melancholic tone.
Ensemble: A group of musicians who perform together. The size and composition of an ensemble can greatly vary, from a small chamber ensemble or jazz combo to a full symphony orchestra or big band.
Envelope – a graphical representation of how the volume of an audio signal changes over time. The envelope typically shows the attack, decay, sustain, and release of a sound.
Episode: In music, an episode is a section of a composition that is different from the main theme(s). It often serves as a contrast and diversion and is particularly used in forms such as the fugue and rondo.
EQ (equalization) – a processing tool used to adjust the balance of frequencies in an audio signal, allowing engineers to emphasize or reduce specific frequencies.
Equal Temperament: A tuning system used in Western music that divides the octave into twelve equally spaced half-steps or semitones. This allows for music to be transposed, or played in different keys, without sounding out of tune.
Étude: A short musical composition designed to provide practice in a particular technical skill in the performance of an instrument. Famous examples include the études of Frédéric Chopin for piano.
Expander – an audio processor that increases the dynamic range of an audio signal, typically used to reduce background noise or increase the perceived loudness of a recording.
Exposition: The first section of a piece in sonata form, in which the main themes (typically two) are presented, usually in contrasting keys. In a fugue, the exposition is the section where the subject (or main theme) is presented in its entirety in each voice.
Expression pedal – a foot-operated device used to control parameters of an effects processor or amplifier, such as volume, tone, or modulation.
Expressionism: A style of music that emerged in the early 20th century, typically associated with the Second Viennese School of composers including Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton Webern. Expressionist music is often characterized by extreme dissonance, atonality, and a desire to express intense, subjective emotion.
Fader – a control on a mixing console or DAW that adjusts the level of an audio signal. Faders are often used to balance the levels of different instruments and create a final mix.
Falsetto: A vocal technique that allows a male to sing in a much higher, lighter register (by vibrating only half of the vocal cord). Falsetto is commonly used in pop and R&B music to create a distinctive and expressive sound, often used for melodic embellishments and vocal harmonies.
Feedback – a sound loop that occurs when a microphone or speaker picks up and amplifies its own output. Feedback is often heard as a loud, high-pitched whine or squeal.
Filter – an audio processor that allows certain frequencies to pass through while attenuating others. Common types of filters include high-pass, low-pass, and band-pass filters.
Flanger – an audio effect that creates a sweeping, “whooshing” sound by combining two identical signals with a slight delay and modulating the delay time.
Flat (Symbol): (B) A musical symbol that lowers the pitch one half-step. It indicates that a note should be played or sung a semitone lower than the original pitch. The flat sign is an essential element in musical notation and is used in various scales, chords, and key signatures.
Flute (Instrument): A metal tubular instrument that is the soprano instrument of the standard woodwind family. The flute produces sound by blowing air across the edge of a mouthpiece and has a range of approximately three octaves. It is widely used in classical, jazz, and folk music genres, known for its clear and agile sound.
Foley: The process of creating and recording sound effects in a studio, often used to add realism to films, TV shows, and video games.
Form: The elemental category describing the shape/design of a musical work or movement. Form refers to the overall structure and organization of a piece of music, including the arrangement of musical sections, repetition, variation, and development. Understanding musical form helps listeners perceive and appreciate the coherence and logic within a composition.
Formant – a frequency band of a sound that is amplified or attenuated by the shape of the vocal tract, giving each vowel its characteristic tone and timbre.
Forte: (F) A loud dynamic marking. Forte indicates that a specific passage or section of music should be played or sung loudly. It represents a strong and forceful sound, adding intensity and power to the musical expression.
Fortissimo: (ƒ) A very loud dynamic marking. Fortissimo instructs musicians to play or sing a specific part of a composition with maximum volume and force. It denotes the highest level of intensity in music and is often used for dramatic and climactic moments.
Fourier Transform – a mathematical process used to break down a complex sound wave into its component frequencies.
French Horn (Instrument): A valved brass instrument of medium/medium-low range (alto to bass). The French horn is known for its distinctively mellow and rich tone. It is a versatile instrument that is featured prominently in classical orchestras, brass ensembles, and occasionally in jazz and popular music genres.
Frequency: The number of complete cycles of a sound wave that occur in one second, measured in hertz (Hz).
Frequency response – The range of frequencies that an audio device or system can reproduce accurately. A flat frequency response means that all frequencies are reproduced at equal levels.
Fugue: A complex contrapuntal manipulation of a musical subject. A fugue is a highly structured and intricate composition technique where a musical theme, called a subject, is introduced in one voice and imitated in subsequent voices. Fugues showcase the composer’s skill in creating complex harmonies and interweaving melodies.
Funk (Genre): A music genre that originated in the African American communities in the mid-1960s. Funk is characterized by its rhythmic and danceable grooves, with a strong emphasis on the bassline.
Fusion: A blending of jazz and rock styles. Fusion emerged in the late 1960s and combines elements of jazz improvisation and harmony with the rhythmic energy and instrumentation of rock music. It often features extended solos, complex chord progressions, and a fusion of diverse musical influences, resulting in a dynamic and eclectic genre.
Gain – the amount of amplification applied to an audio signal, often controlled by a knob or fader on a mixing console or preamp.
Gain reduction – the amount by which a compressor or limiter reduces the level of an audio signal, measured in decibels (dB).
Gamelan: An Indonesian musical ensemble comprised primarily of percussion instruments. It showcases intricate rhythms and interlocking melodies.
Gating – a dynamic processing technique that reduces or eliminates low-level audio signals, such as background noise or unwanted instrument bleed, when a higher-level signal is present.
Genre: A category of musical composition representing the specific classification of a musical work. Genres can range from classical to pop, jazz to rock.
Glam Rock: (Genre) A flamboyant style of rock music that emerged in the 1970s, characterized by theatrical performances, elaborate costumes, and catchy, anthemic songs.
Glissando: A rapid slide between two distant pitches. It creates a smooth and expressive transition between notes.
Glitch – a sudden, unexpected sound or disruption in an audio signal, often used as a creative effect in electronic music production.
Glockenspiel: A pitched-percussion instrument comprised of metal bars in a frame struck by a mallet. It produces bright and shimmering tones.
Gong: (also called “tam-tam”) A non-pitched percussion instrument made of a large metal plate struck with a mallet. Its deep and resonant sound adds dramatic impact.
Granular synthesis – a digital sound synthesis technique that breaks down sound samples into tiny, overlapping grains, allowing for manipulation and recombination of small sound fragments.
Grave: A slow, solemn tempo. It conveys a sense of deep mourning or contemplation.
Gregorian chant: (Genre) Monophonic, non-metered melodies set to Latin sacred texts. It exemplifies the serene and meditative qualities of medieval religious music.
Groove – the rhythmic feel or pattern of a musical performance, often characterized by the placement and emphasis of notes within a beat.
Group delay – a measure of the time delay experienced by different frequencies of an audio signal as they pass through a system or device, often used to evaluate the performance of speakers and other audio equipment.
Grouping – the process of combining multiple audio channels into a single group, allowing them to be adjusted together with a single fader or knob.
Grunge – a subgenre of rock music that emerged in the 1990s and is characterized by heavy distortion, raw production values, and introspective lyrics.
Guitar: A six-stringed fretted instrument. It is widely used across various music genres and allows for versatile melodic and harmonic possibilities. Electric guitar – a stringed instrument that produces sound using pickups that convert the vibration of the strings into an electrical signal.
Half Step: The smallest interval in the Western system of equal temperament, equivalent to the distance between adjacent keys on a piano. It adds tension and creates chromatic movement in melodies and harmonies.
Harmonics – additional frequencies that are produced when an instrument or sound source vibrates at integer multiples of its fundamental frequency.
Harmonizer – an audio processor that creates harmonies or pitch-shifted versions of a sound signal, often used in vocal processing and music production.
Harmony: The elemental category describing vertical combinations of pitches, forming chords and providing the foundation for the tonal structure of a musical composition.
Harp (Instrument): A plucked instrument having strings stretched on a triangular frame. Its ethereal and resonant sound is often associated with angelic or dream-like qualities in music.
Harpsichord (Instrument): An ancient keyboard instrument whose sound is produced by a system of levered picks that pluck its metal strings, commonly used in the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Its distinct timbre and dynamic capabilities make it a staple of early music.
HDD – HDD stands for Hard Disk Drive, which is a type of storage device that uses spinning disks to read and write data. It consists of one or more rotating disks coated with magnetic material, which are read and written to by a mechanical arm with a read/write head. HDDs have been the primary storage device in computers for many years but are being increasingly replaced by faster and more durable Solid State Drives (SSDs).
Headphone driver – the component in a pair of headphones that converts electrical signals into sound waves, typically consisting of a magnet, voice coil, and diaphragm.
Headroom – the amount of available space between the highest peak of an audio signal and the maximum level that a device or system can handle without distortion.
Hertz (Hz) – a unit of measurement for frequency, representing the number of cycles per second in a sound wave.
Hi-fi – short for high-fidelity audio, refers to the reproduction of sound with high accuracy and minimal distortion, typically used to describe high-quality audio equipment and recordings.
Hi-hat – a pair of cymbals that are played with a foot pedal in drum sets, often used to provide a rhythmic “chick” sound.
High-pass filter – an audio filter that allows high frequencies to pass through while attenuating low frequencies.
Hot Jazz: A “Dixieland” style of jazz with a fast tempo, characterized by energetic improvisation and rhythmic vitality. It was popularized and promoted by jazz legend Louis Armstrong.
Home studio – a recording setup that is located in a personal residence and often consists of a computer, an audio interface, a microphone, and speakers or headphones.
Homophonic: A texture in which voices on different pitches sing the same words simultaneously, creating a unified harmonic backdrop while highlighting the melodic line.
Horn: See French horn. A brass instrument known for its rich and warm sound, commonly used in orchestras and brass ensembles.
Hum: A low-frequency noise that is often caused by electromagnetic interference or ground loops in audio systems.
Hum eliminator: A device used to remove or reduce hum caused by ground loops or electrical interference in audio systems.
Hybrid mixing: A mixing approach that combines digital and analog processing techniques and equipment to achieve a desired sound.
Idée Fixe: A transformable melody that recurs in every movement of a multi-movement work, serving as a unifying musical theme or motif.
Imitation: A polyphonic texture in which musical material is presented in one voice and then echoed or imitated in subsequent voices, creating a contrapuntal and interwoven effect.
Impedance – a measure of the resistance to an audio signal in an electrical circuit, often used to match devices or components for optimal performance.
Impressionism: A modern French musical style based on blurred effects, beautiful tone colors, and fluid rhythms, pioneered by composer Claude Debussy around the turn of the 1900s. It emphasizes atmospheric and sensory impressions over traditional forms and structures.
Improvisation: The “on-the-spot” creation of music while it is being performed, often showcasing the musicians’ spontaneous creativity and skill in crafting melodies, harmonies, and rhythms in real-time.
Impulse response – a measurement of the acoustic characteristics of a room or space used to simulate the sound of that space in digital audio processing.
In-ear monitors – small speakers that fit inside the ear and are used to provide a custom mix of audio signals for musicians during live performances or recording sessions.
Incidental Music: (Genre) Music performed during a theatrical play, serving to enhance and accompany the dramatic action and mood on stage.
Instrumentation: The combination of instruments that a composition is written for, determining the specific timbral palette and sonic possibilities available to the composer.
Interval: The measured distance between two musical pitches, determining the specific harmonic and melodic relationships between notes.
Intonation: The accuracy of a musician’s pitch, often adjusted using tuning tools such as a guitar tuner or electronic tuner.
Inversion: A variation technique in which the intervals of a melody are turned upside down, creating a mirror image of the original melody and often leading to new harmonic and melodic developments.
I/O (Input/Output): The connections on an audio device or system that allow audio signals to be sent in or out.
Jam session – an informal musical gathering in which musicians play together and improvise, often used as a way to develop new ideas and techniques.
Jazz – a genre of music characterized by improvisation, syncopated rhythms, and complex harmonies, often featuring brass and woodwind instruments.
Jazz band: an instrumental ensemble comprised of woodwinds (saxophones and clarinets), brasses (trumpets and trombones), and rhythm section (piano/guitar, bass and drum set).
JBL (Brand): A brand of professional audio equipment known for producing high-quality speakers, amplifiers, and monitors used in recording studios and live sound reinforcement.
JFET (Junction Field-Effect Transistor) – a type of transistor used in audio circuits for amplification and processing.
Jingle: A short, catchy musical phrase or sound effect used in advertising, broadcasting, or other media.
Jitter: A small, rapid variation in the timing of a digital audio signal, often caused by clock synchronization issues or data transfer problems.
Joint stereo: A method of compressing stereo audio signals that combines common information from the left and right channels into a single channel, reducing file size without sacrificing audio quality.
Jukebox: A device or software application that plays a collection of music files in a randomly selected or user-selected order.
Jump music: A style of upbeat, energetic music characterized by a strong rhythm and a fast tempo, often associated with rock and roll and rhythm and blues.
Just Scale: The “Just Scale” (sometimes referred to as “harmonic tuning” or “Helmholtz’s scale”) happens naturally as a result of the overtone series for simple systems like as vibrating strings or air columns. All the notes in the scale are related by rational numbers.
Karaoke – a form of entertainment in which amateur singers perform along to recorded instrumental tracks, often with lyrics displayed on a screen.
Kettledrums: Large drums played with mallets, commonly used in orchestral and ensemble settings.
Key: The central note, chord, or scale of a musical composition or movement, providing a tonal center and establishing the overall harmonic framework.
Key Signature: A series of sharps or flats written on a musical staff to indicate the key of a composition, providing a consistent alteration of certain pitches throughout the piece.
Keyboard (Instrument): A musical instrument that produces sound by pressing keys that activate internal electronic or mechanical components.
Kick drum – the largest drum in a standard drum set, played with a foot pedal and providing the low-frequency foundation of the rhythm section.
Kilohertz (kHz) – a unit of measurement for frequency, representing one thousand cycles per second.
Kinetic – relating to motion or movement, often used in describing the physical sensation or energy of a musical performance.
Knead – a mixing technique in which the fingers and palms are used to gently fold and press together ingredients, often used in baking and cooking.
Komplete – a software bundle from Native Instruments that includes a wide range of virtual instruments, effects, and sample libraries for music production and sound design.
Korg – a brand of electronic musical instruments and audio equipment known for producing synthesizers, digital pianos, and drum machines.
Koto: A Japanese plucked instrument with 13 strings and movable bridges. It is known for its distinct timbre and is often used in traditional Japanese music.
Largo: A very slow, broad tempo. It conveys a sense of grandeur and solemnity, allowing for ample expression and emotional depth.
Latency – the delay between when an audio signal is processed and when it is heard, often caused by processing time or buffering in digital audio systems.
Lavalier microphone – a small microphone that is clipped to clothing or other surfaces, often used in the film, television, and live performance for capturing dialogue or other sound sources.
Legato: A smooth, connected manner of performing a melody. It emphasizes a seamless and flowing transition between notes, creating a sense of unity and continuity in the music.
Leitmotif: A short musical “signature tune” associated with a person or concept in a Wagnerian Musikdrama. It serves as a recurring musical motif, representing a specific character, idea, or emotion throughout the work.
LFO (Low-Frequency Oscillator) – an oscillator that produces waveforms at frequencies below the audible range, often used to modulate other parameters in audio processing.
Libretto: The sung/spoken text of an opera. It provides the storyline, dialogue, and lyrics for the vocal parts, shaping the dramatic narrative of the opera.
Lieder (Genre: (Genre) A German-texted art song, usually for one voice with piano accompaniment. Lieder often express lyrical and introspective themes, showcasing the intimate connection between poetry and music.
Limiter – an audio processor that limits the maximum level of an audio signal, preventing it from exceeding a certain threshold and causing distortion or clipping.
Line level – a standard level of an audio signal used in professional audio systems, typically lower than the level of instrument or microphone signals.
Live sound – the process of setting up and running audio systems for live music performances, events, or public address systems.
Logic Pro – a digital audio workstation (DAW) software application for macOS, used for music production, sound design, and audio post-production.
Loop – a short section of audio that is repeated continuously, often used as a building block in music composition and production.
Loudspeaker – a device used to convert electrical audio signals into sound waves, typically consisting of a cone or diaphragm that vibrates to produce sound.
Low-pass filter – an audio filter that allows low frequencies to pass through while attenuating high frequencies.
Lute (Instrumnet): An ancient pear-shaped plucked instrument widely used in the Renaissance and Baroque eras. It features a rounded back and a fretted neck, producing a warm and delicate sound.
Madrigal (Genre): A composition on a short secular poem, sung by a small group of unaccompanied singers (one on a part). The madrigal flourished in Italy from 1520 to 1610 and was adopted in England during the Elizabethan Age (c. 1600).
Major Key: Music based on a major scale, traditionally considered “happy” sounding, with a sense of brightness and optimism.
Major Scale: A family of seven alphabetically-ordered pitches within the distance of an octave, following an intervalic pattern that matches the white keys from “C” to “C” on a piano.
Marching Band: A large ensemble of woodwinds, brass, and percussion used for entertainment at sporting events and parades, usually performing march-like music in a strong duple meter.
Marimba: A pitched percussion instrument comprised of wooden bars struck by mallets, known for its rich and resonant tones, similar to a mellower version of the xylophone.
Mass: (Genre) In music, a composition based on the five daily prayers of the Roman Catholic Mass. The Ordinary consists of Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. Mass Ordinary: The five daily prayers of the Catholic Mass: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei. Mass Proper: The approximately two dozen prayers of a Mass that change each day to reflect the particular feast day of the liturgical calendar. Also called a Proper (Mass).
Mastering – the final stage of audio post-production, in which a finished mix is prepared for distribution, often involving EQ, compression, and other processing.
Mazurka: A type of Polish dance in triple meter, sometimes used by Chopin in his piano works, characterized by its lively and rhythmic nature.
Measure: A rhythmic grouping set off in written music by a vertical barline, indicating a distinct unit of musical time.
Medieval: Some times called the Middle Ages; This is a term used to describe things related to the Middle Ages (c. 450-1450), including the dominant era of Catholic sacred music that began as simple chant and grew in complexity in the 13th to 15th centuries through experiments in harmony and rhythm.
Melisma: A succession of many pitches sung while sustaining one syllable of text, often used in vocal music to add ornamentation and embellishment.
Melody: The musical element that deals with the horizontal presentation of pitch, forming the main theme or tune of a composition.
Meter: Beats organized into recurring and recognizable accent patterns, such as 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, etc., establishing the rhythmic framework of a musical piece.
Metronome: A mechanical or electric device that precisely measures tempo, providing a steady beat and assisting musicians in maintaining a consistent rhythm..
Mezzo-Forte: (F) A medium-loud dynamic marking, indicating a moderate level of volume in musical performance.
Mezzo-Piano: (f) A medium-quiet dynamic marking, indicating a moderately soft level of volume in musical performance.
Mezzo-Soprano: A dramatic woman’s voice that combines the power of an alto with the primary high range of a soprano, often possessing a rich and expressive vocal quality.
Microphone bleed refers to the unintended pickup of sound from one source by a microphone intended for a different source, resulting in unwanted noise or interference in the recording.
Microtone: A non-Western musical interval that is smaller than a Western half-step, allowing for more subtle and nuanced pitch variations.
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) – a digital protocol used for communication between musical instruments and computers or other digital devices, allowing for the recording, sequencing, and control of musical performances.
Minimalism: A modern compositional approach promoted by composers such as Glass and Reich, in which a short melodic, rhythmic, or harmonic idea is repeated and gradually transformed as the basis of an extended work, often characterized by repetitive patterns and gradual changes.
Minor Key: Music based on a minor scale, traditionally considered “sad” sounding, with a sense of melancholy and introspection.
Minor Scale: A family of seven alphabetically-ordered pitches within the distance of an octave, following an intervalic pattern that matches the white keys from “A” to “A” on a piano, and often associated with a more somber and melancholic tonality.
Minuet: An aristocratic dance in 3/4 meter, commonly used as a third movement in classical compositions, known for its elegant and graceful character.
Minuet and Trio Form: The traditional third-movement form of the Classical 4-movement design, based on an aristocratic dance in 3/4 meter. It consists of a minuet section followed by a contrasting trio section, which is then followed by a return of the minuet section.
Mixing – the process of combining and balancing multiple audio tracks into a cohesive final mix, often involving EQ, compression, panning, and other processing.
Mode: A scale or key used in a musical composition, with major and minor being common modes, as well as ancient modal scales found in Western music before around 1680.
Moderato: A moderate tempo, indicating a moderate speed of performance.
Modern Era: The musical era from around 1890 to the present, characterized by daring experimentation, advances in musical technology, and the incorporation of popular and non-Western influences. Notable composers from this era include Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Copland, and Cage.
Modulation: The process of changing from one musical key to another within a composition, often creating a sense of tonal movement and variety.
Monophonic – Relating to a sound or musical performance that consists of a single note or pitch at a time, often used to describe synthesizers or other electronic instruments.
Motet: A polyphonic vocal piece set to a sacred Latin text that is not from the Roman Catholic Mass, often featuring intricate counterpoint and multiple voices.
Monitor – a speaker or headphones used to listen to audio signals during recording, mixing, or mastering.
Motife: A short, recurring musical fragment, like a “Lego” block, used to build a larger musical idea. Motives can be reworked and transformed throughout a composition, serving as a recurring musical element.
Movement: A complete, independent division of a larger work, often indicating a distinct section or piece within a larger composition such as a symphony, sonata, or suite.
MP3: A modern technology that allows digital CD-quality sound to be compressed into files that are approximately 8 times smaller than the original, with no loss of quality. It is a popular audio file format for music storage and playback.
Multiband compression – is a type of audio signal processing that applies different compression settings to different frequency bands, allowing for more precise control over the dynamic range and tonal balance of a mix.
Multitrack recording – the process of recording multiple audio tracks simultaneously or separately, allowing for separate processing and mixing of individual elements.
Musikdrama: (Genre) A type of ultra-dramatic German operatic theater developed by Richard Wagner in the mid to late-Romantic era. It emphasizes the fusion of music, drama, and spectacle, often featuring large-scale orchestras, complex vocal writing, and epic storytelling.
Musique Concrète: (Genre) Music comprised of natural sounds that are recorded and/or manipulated electronically or via magnetic tape. It is a compositional approach promoted by Varèse in the 1950s, exploring the possibilities of sound as a musical element.
Mute: A control or button that silences an audio signal or channel, often used in mixing or recording to isolate or remove specific elements.
Mute (Device): A device used to muffle the tone and volume of an instrument, often applied to brass instruments or strings to produce a softer or muted sound.
Nationalism: Musical styles that include folk songs, dances, legends, language, or other national imagery relating to a composer’s native country. It seeks to express a sense of cultural identity and evoke patriotic or nationalistic sentiments.
Native Instruments (Brand): A software and hardware company specializing in music production and sound design, known for products such as Komplete, Maschine, and Traktor.
Natural reverb – the acoustic reverberation or echo that occurs in a physical space and is often captured in recordings made in concert halls, churches, or other large spaces.
Natural Sign: (n) A musical symbol that raises the pitch one half-step, canceling any previous sharp or flat markings and restoring the note to its natural state.
Near-field Monitors: Small speakers or headphones designed for close listening, often used in home studio recording and mixing.
Neo-Classicism: An early 20th-century compositional style in which Classic forms and the aesthetics of balance, clarity, and structural unity are combined with modern approaches to harmony, rhythm, and tone color. It represents a revival or homage to the classical music tradition in a contemporary context.
Neumann (Brand): A German manufacturer of high-end microphones and other audio equipment known for their clarity, warmth, and sensitivity.
New Age: A style of popular music in the 1980s/90s that rejected the hard-edged beat of rock music, instead focusing on nature sounds, sweet synthesized tone colors, acoustic instruments, and short hypnotically-repetitive ideas. It aims to create a soothing and relaxing atmosphere.
Nocturne: (French for “night piece”) A type of character piece for solo piano that evokes the moods and images of nighttime. Nocturnes often feature lyrical melodies, gentle harmonies, and an introspective and contemplative character.
Noise gate – an audio processor that eliminates or reduces unwanted noise or hum by silencing the signal below a certain threshold.
Noise reduction – the process of removing or reducing unwanted noise or hiss from an audio signal, often using specialized software or hardware.
Non-Metrical: Music without a regular beat or steady meter, where the rhythm is free-flowing and lacks a discernible pulse, making it challenging to tap one’s foot to the beat.
Nord (Brand): A brand of electronic musical instruments known for producing synthesizers, digital pianos, and other keyboard-based instruments.
Normalize: A process of adjusting the gain of an audio signal to achieve a consistent maximum level, often used in mastering or post-production.
Notation: A system for writing music down so that critical aspects of its performance can be recreated accurately. It employs symbols, marks, and signs to represent pitch, rhythm, dynamics, and other musical elements.
Note: In music notation, a black or white oval-shaped symbol (with or without a stem/flag) that represents a specific rhythmic duration and/or pitch. Notes are the building blocks of musical melodies and harmonies.
Nyquist frequency – the maximum frequency that can be accurately represented in digital audio, equal to half the sample rate.
Oboe: A nasal-sounding double-reed instrument that is the alto of the standard woodwind family. It possesses a unique timbre and is known for its expressive and lyrical qualities.
Octave: A musical interval between two pitches in which the upper pitch vibrates twice as fast as the lower. It represents a fundamental relationship in music and is often considered a perfect consonance.
Omnidirectional speaker: A type of speaker that radiates sound equally from all directions.
Omnidirectional microphone – a type of microphone that picks up sound equally from all directions, resulting in a more natural and ambient sound.
Open-back headphones – headphones with an open design, allowing for greater breathability and a more natural sound, are often used in critical listening and mixing.
Opera: (Genre) A large-scale, fully-staged dramatic theatrical work involving solo singers, chorus, and orchestra. It combines music, acting, and stagecraft to tell a story, often featuring elaborate sets, costumes, and elaborate vocal performances.
Opera buffa: (Genre) Comic Italian opera, usually in two acts. It emphasizes humorous and lighthearted storytelling, often featuring comedic characters and situations.
Opera seria: (Genre) Serious Italian opera, usually in three acts. It focuses on dramatic and tragic storytelling, often featuring noble and heroic characters.
Opera verismo: A style of true-to-life Italian opera that flourished at the turn of the 20th century. It focuses on realistic and gritty portrayals of everyday life, often depicting intense emotions and dramatic situations.
Operator – a digital oscillator and FM synthesis engine used in the software synthesizer Ableton Live, allowing for complex sound design and modulation.
Optical cable – a type of digital audio cable that uses light to transmit audio signals, often used for high-fidelity audio connections.
Optical compressor – is a type of dynamic range compressor that uses a light source and an optical element to control the gain of an audio signal.
Oratorio: (Genre) A large-scale sacred work for solo singers, chorus, and orchestra that is not staged. It presents a religious or biblical narrative through music, resembling an opera in its scope and structure.
Orchestra: A large instrumental ensemble comprised of strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. It serves as the backbone of orchestral music, providing a diverse range of timbres and performing a wide variety of musical genres.
Orchestration: The technique of conceiving or arranging a composition for orchestra, determining which instruments play which parts to achieve a desired sonic effect. It involves considerations of balance, timbre, and overall sound palette.
Ordinary: (See “Mass Ordinary”) The five daily prayers of the Catholic Mass: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.
Organ: A wind/keyboard instrument, usually with many sets of pipes controlled from two or more manuals (keyboards), including a set of pedals played by the organist’s feet. It is capable of producing a wide range of sounds and is often used in religious and concert settings.
Organum: (Genre) A type of early French Medieval polyphony dating from around 1000-1200, featuring a slow non-metered chant in the lowest voice with one or more faster metrical voices sung above in melismatic style, with many notes sung on each syllable of text.
Oscillator – a device or circuit that generates a periodic waveform, often used in synthesizers or other electronic instruments to produce sound.
Ostinato: A short rhythmic/melodic idea that is repeated exactly over and over throughout a musical section or work, creating a persistent and driving musical pattern.
Oud: A lute-like, pear-shaped, fretless stringed instrument commonly used in music from the Middle East. It has a rich and expressive sound and is often featured in traditional Middle Eastern and Arabic music.
Outboard gear – external audio processing equipment, such as compressors, EQs, or reverbs, used in conjunction with a mixing console or DAW for additional processing and sound shaping.
Overdrive – a distortion effect used in guitar amplifiers or pedals that produces a warm, crunchy sound by overloading the signal with gain.
Overdub – the process of recording additional layers or tracks over an existing recording, often used to add harmonies, solos, or other musical elements.
Overture: (Genre) A one-movement orchestral introduction to an opera. In the later 19th century and beyond, composers like Wagner, Bizet, and others began to use the term “prelude” to indicate a more unified and integrated connection between the overture and the subsequent theatrical drama.
Panning – the process of distributing audio signals between the left and right channels of a stereo or surround sound mix, often used to create spatial separation and balance in the mix.
Pentatonic Scale: A folk or non-Western scale having five different notes within the space of an octave. It is commonly used in various musical traditions and genres.
Percussion: A type of instrument on which sound is generated by striking its surface with an object. It provides rhythmic and textural elements in music.
Phantom power – a DC electrical voltage supplied to condenser microphones through their audio cables, used to power the microphone’s internal electronics.
Phase – the relationship between two audio signals, often described as in-phase (when two signals are in sync and additive) or out-of-phase (when two signals cancel each other out or produce comb filtering).
Phaser – a type of modulation effect used in audio processing that produces a sweeping or swirling sound by shifting the phase of different frequency components of an audio signal.
Phrase: A small musical unit (sub-section of a melody) equivalent to a grammatical phrase in a sentence. It adds structure and meaning to a musical composition.
Pianissimo (π): A very quiet dynamic marking. It indicates a soft and delicate volume level in music.
Piano: (Dynamic; p) A quiet dynamic marking. It represents a soft volume level in music.
Piano: (Instrument) A versatile modern keyboard instrument that makes sound via fingered keys that engage felt-tipped hammers that strike the strings. It allows for expressive and nuanced musical performances.
Pianoforte: The original instrumental prototype of the piano (late Baroque/early Classic eras). It was the predecessor of the modern piano, with the ability to produce both soft and loud sounds. it was an early prototype of the modern piano (designed to play both “loud” and “quiet”). The fortepiano was the precursor to the modern piano, featuring a range of dynamics that could be controlled by the performer. Its versatility in producing both soft and loud sounds paved the way for the expressive possibilities of the piano.
Pitch: A musical term describing the perceived frequency of a sound, often measured in Hertz (Hz) or musical intervals.
Pizzicato: Usually refers to a type of violin playing in which a string is plucked by the fingers. It creates a distinctive percussive and plucked sound.
Plug-in: A software component used to add functionality or processing to a digital audio workstation (DAW), often used for effects, instruments, or other audio processing.
Polka: (Genre) A lively Bohemian (Czech) dance (traditionally for the common classes). It is characterized by a spirited and rhythmic tempo, often accompanied by an upbeat melody.
Polonaise: A Polish nationalistic military dance used in some of Chopin’s piano character pieces. It combines regal and energetic elements, reflecting patriotic and celebratory sentiments.
Polyphony: Music with two or more sounds happening simultaneously. It involves multiple independent melodic lines creating harmonically rich textures. Or, the number of simultaneous voices or notes that can be played on a synthesizer or other electronic instrument, often determined by the number of oscillators or voices available.
Polyrhythm: When several independent rhythmic lines are sounding at the same time. It adds complexity and rhythmic interest to the music.
Polytonality: When music is played in two or more contrasting keys at the same time. It produces a dissonant and harmonically ambiguous effect.
Pop filter – a physical filter or screen placed in front of a microphone to reduce or eliminate popping sounds caused by plosives or breaths.
Postlude: A concluding section (usually at the end of a keyboard movement). It provides a final musical statement and closure to a composition.
Preamp – an amplifier used to boost the level of a low-level audio signal, often used in conjunction with microphones, instruments, or other audio sources.
Prelude (Genre): 1) A free-form introductory movement to a fugue or other more complex composition; 2) A term used instead of overture (by Wagner, Bizet, and other later Romantic composers) to show dramatic unity between the introductory orchestral music and the theatrical drama that follows it. It sets the mood and prepares the listener for the subsequent musical journey.
Prepared Piano: A modern technique invented by John Cage in which various natural objects (spoons, erasers, screws, etc.) are strategically inserted between the strings of a piano to create unusual sounds. It expands the sonic possibilities of the instrument.
Presto: A very fast tempo. It denotes a lively and energetic pace in music.
Pro Tools – a digital audio workstation (DAW) software application used for music production, audio post-production, and sound design, known for its advanced editing and mixing capabilities.
Prog rock: Prog rock, or progressive rock, is a subgenre of rock music that originated in the United Kingdom and United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is characterized by complex song structures, varied time signatures, philosophical lyrics, and the incorporation of elements from other musical genres such as classical, jazz, and world music.
Program Symphony: (Genre) A programmatic multi-movement work for orchestra. It presents a cohesive musical narrative or theme across multiple movements.
Program Music [or “Programmatic Music”]: (Genre) Instrumental music intended to tell a specific story or set a specific mood or extra-musical image. It evokes emotions and narratives through musical means.
Progression: A series of chords that functions similarly to a sentence or phrase in written language. It establishes harmonic movement and tonal relationships in music.
Q-factor – a measure of the width of the frequency band affected by a parametric equalizer, often used to adjust the tone of individual tracks or instruments.
Quadruple Meter: A basic metrical pattern having four beats per measure. It provides a steady and predictable rhythmic structure in music.
Quantization – a process that adjusts the timing of recorded or programmed musical events to fit a specific time grid or tempo.
Quarter-inch (¼”) – a common type of audio cable connector used for analog audio signals, typically found on instruments and some audio interfaces.
Quaver – a musical note with a duration of half a beat in a four-beat measure.
QuickTime – a multimedia technology developed by Apple that allows for the playback and editing of video and audio files.
Quiescent – a state of being inactive or at rest, often used to describe the low or idle state of electronic equipment.
Quintuplet – a group of five notes played or sung in the space of four beats in a measure.
Quotation Music: (Genre; common since c. 1960) A composition extensively using quotations from earlier works. It incorporates existing musical material to create new meanings and connections within the composition.
QWERTY: A keyboard layout commonly used on computers, named after the first six letters in the top left row.
QZone – a social networking platform popular in China, similar to Facebook or MySpace.
Rack – a piece of audio equipment designed to hold and power multiple audio devices, such as compressors, equalizers, and effects processors.
Radio-ready – a term used to describe a finished mix or master that is suitable for broadcast on the radio, typically meeting certain technical standards for volume, clarity, and frequency response.
Raga: A melodic pattern used in the music of India. It provides a framework for improvisation and expression within Indian classical music.
Ragtime: A style of piano music developed around the turn of the 20th century, with a march-like tempo, a syncopated right-hand melody, and an “oom-pah” left-hand accompaniment. It combines elements of European marches and African-American musical traditions.
Range: The distance between the lowest and highest possible notes of an instrument or melody. It determines the sonic capabilities and expressive possibilities of an instrument or vocal part.
Rap: (Genre) A style of popular music developed by Afro-Americans in the 1970s, in which the lyrics are spoken over rhythm tracks. It serves as a form of cultural expression and storytelling.
Reamping – a technique in which a recorded guitar or bass signal is played back through an amplifier or effects chain, and the resulting sound is re-recorded to achieve a different tone or effect.
Recapitulation: The third aspect of Classic sonata form; in this section, both themes of the exposition are restated in the home key (the second theme gives up its opposing key center). It brings closure and unity to a sonata or symphonic movement.
Recitative: A speech-like style of singing with a free rhythm over a sparse accompaniment. It is commonly used in opera and oratorio to convey dialogue and narrative elements.
Recorder: An ancient wooden flute. It has a distinct sweet and mellow tone and is often used in early music ensembles.
Reed: A flexible strip of cane (or metal) that vibrates in the mouthpiece of a wind instrument. It produces sound by creating vibrations in response to the player’s breath.
Register: A specific coloristic portion of an instrumental or vocal range. It refers to a particular area of pitches within the overall range of an instrument or voice, each with its unique timbral qualities.
Release: In music, the term “release” refers to the phase in a sound or note where it diminishes and finally disappears. This phase is part of the ADSR envelope (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release), commonly used in sound synthesis and musical instruments. The release phase commences as soon as the key is released or the note is stopped, controlling how long it takes for the note to fade to silence.
Renaissance: c1450-1600; an era that witnessed the rebirth of learning and exploration. This was reflected musically in a more personal style than seen in the Middle Ages. It was characterized by polyphonic vocal music and the emergence of prominent composers such as Josquin Desprez, Palestrina, and Weelkes.
Requiem Mass: (Genre) A Roman Catholic Mass for the dead. It is a solemn and contemplative musical composition performed as part of a funeral or memorial service.
Retrograde Inversion: A melody presented backward and intervalically upside down. It combines the techniques of retrograde and inversion, resulting in a mirrored and inverted version of the original melody.
Retrograde: A melody presented in backward motion. It involves reversing the order of the pitches in a musical phrase or theme.
Reverb – a time-based audio effect that simulates the sound of a space or room, often used to add depth and ambiance to a recording.
Rhythm: The element of music as it unfolds in time. It encompasses the patterns of beats, accents, durations, and rhythmic structures that create the pulse and groove in music.
Rhythm and Blues (R&B): (Genre) A style of Afro-American popular music that flourished in the 1940s-60s; a direct predecessor to rock and roll. It blends elements of blues, jazz, and gospel, featuring soulful vocals and rhythmic instrumentation.
Ribbon microphone – a type of microphone that uses a thin metal ribbon suspended in a magnetic field to capture sound waves, known for their warm and natural sound.
Ritardando: Gradually slowing down the tempo. It is a musical instruction indicating a deceleration in the speed of the music.
Ritornello Form: A Baroque design that alternates big vs. small effects (tutti vs. solo); usually, the tutti section is a recurring melodic refrain. It creates a dialogue between the full ensemble and soloists in a concerto or orchestral composition.
Rock and Roll: A style of popular music that emerged in the 1950s out of the combination of Afro-American, Country-Western, and pop-music elements. It is characterized by its energetic rhythms, electric instrumentation, and often rebellious attitude.
Romantic Era: c1820-1890; an era of flamboyance, nationalism, the rise of “superstar” performers, and concerts aimed at middle-class “paying” audiences. Orchestral, theatrical, and soloistic music grew to spectacular heights of personal expression. It featured composers such as Schubert, Berlioz, Chopin, Wagner, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky.
Rondo Form: A Classic form in which a main melodic idea returns two or three times in alternation with other melodies (ABACA or ABACABA, etc.). It creates a lively and recurring theme that provides structural stability and contrast in a composition.
Room tone – the natural ambient sound present in a recording environment, often captured separately and used to create a consistent background sound in a final mix.
Routing: The process of directing audio signals from one device or track to another, often through a mixing console or digital audio workstation.
Rubato: A flexible approach to metered rhythm in which the tempo can be momentarily sped up or slowed down at will for greater personal expression. It allows for expressive freedom and subtle rhythmic deviations in the performance of a musical piece.
Rumble – a low-frequency noise or hum caused by mechanical vibrations, such as from a fan or other equipment, which can be picked up by microphones or other audio devices.
Sackbut: An ancient brass instrument; ancestor to the trombone. It was commonly used during the Renaissance period.
Sample rate – the number of times per second that a digital audio signal is measured and recorded, typically measured in kilohertz (kHz).
Saxophone (Instrument): A family of woodwind instruments with a single reed and brass body; commonly used in jazz and marching band/concert band music. It possesses a unique and versatile sound.
Scale: A family of pitches arranged in an ascending/descending order. It forms the basis of melody and harmony in music.
Scat Singing: A style of improvised jazz singing sung on colorful nonsense syllables. It allows for vocal improvisation and rhythmic expression in jazz music.
Scherzo: A country dance in triple meter. It is a lively and playful movement commonly found as the third movement in symphonies and chamber music.
Scherzo and Trio Form: A musical movement based on a country dance in triple meter; replaced the aristocratic minuet in the early 1800s as the usual third movement of the Classic 4-movement design. It features contrasting sections and a return to the initial dance theme.
Score: 1) Music that serves either as background or foreground material for a movie. Film music enhances the emotional impact of visual storytelling, conveying mood, tension, and atmosphere. It can encompass various styles and genres, ranging from orchestral scores to popular songs, and plays a vital role in shaping the cinematic experience. 2) Written notation that vertically aligns all instrumental/vocal parts used in a composition. It provides a comprehensive view of the musical elements and allows for ensemble performance.
Scratch track – a temporary audio recording used during the production process to help guide musicians, actors, or editors, often replaced by a final recording later on.
Sequence: The immediate repetition of a melodic passage on a higher or lower pitch level. It adds variation and forward motion to a musical phrase or theme.
Serenade: (Genre) A Classic instrumental chamber work similar to a small-scale symphony; usually performed for social entertainment of the upper classes. It is characterized by its light and elegant character.
Serialism: A method of modern composition in which the twelve chromatic pitches are put into a numerically-ordered series used to control various aspects of a work (melody, harmony, tone color, dynamics, instrumentation, etc.). It emphasizes the organization of pitch in a highly structured manner.
Sforzando (ß): Sudden stress on a note or chord. It indicates a strong accent or emphasis on a specific musical element.
Shakuhachi: A Japanese flute. It is traditionally made of bamboo and is used in traditional Japanese music.
Shamisen: A banjo-like Japanese stringed instrument. It has a distinctive sound and is often used in traditional Japanese music.
Sharp: (#) A musical symbol that raises the pitch one half-step. It alters the pitch of a note by making it higher in pitch.
Shawm: An ancient double-reed woodwind instrument. It has a powerful and piercing sound and was commonly used during the Medieval and Renaissance periods.
Sidechain – a technique in which a secondary audio signal is used to trigger or control an effect or processing on a primary audio signal, often used in compression or gating.
Signal flow – the path that audio signals take through a recording or production system, typically starting with an input source, passing through various processing stages, and ending with an output device.
Singspiel: (Genre) A traditionally low-level type of comic light opera, featuring spoken German dialogue interspersed with simple German songs. It combines spoken dialogue and musical numbers in a lighthearted theatrical form.
Sitar (Instrument): A long-necked stringed instrument of India. It is known for its distinctive timbre and is often used in Indian classical music.
Snare Drum: A non-pitched drum with two heads stretched over a metal shell; the lower head has metal wires strapped across it to produce a rattling sound. It is commonly used in various musical genres, including marching bands and orchestral percussion.
Solo Concerto: (Genre) A 3-movement work for a single soloist vs. an orchestra. It highlights the virtuosity and expressive capabilities of a solo instrument in dialogue with the accompanying ensemble.
Sonata: (Genre) A Classic multi-movement work for piano (or for one instrument with piano accompaniment). It typically consists of several contrasting movements showcasing different musical ideas.
Sonata Form (also called sonata-allegro form): The common first-movement form of Classic multi-movement instrumental works; essentially a musical debate between two opposing key centers characterized by three dramatic structural divisions within a single movement: Exposition (two opposing keys are presented), Development (harmonically restless), Recapitulation (all material is presented in the home key). It provides a framework for the organization of musical ideas and their development.
Sonata-Rondo Form: A formal design that combines aspects of sonata form and rondo form: (an ABACABA design in which the opening ABA=exposition (two opposing keys presented in “A” vs. “BA”); C=development (harmonically restless); the last ABA=recapitulation (all material is presented in the home key). It combines the structural elements of both forms to create a dynamic and varied musical composition.
Song: (Genre) A small-scale musical work that is sung (a German song is a “Lied”; a French song is a “chanson”; an Italian song is a “canzona”). It features vocal melody and lyrics, conveying a specific message or emotion.
Song Cycle: (Genre) A set of poetically-unified songs (for one singer accompanied by either piano or orchestra). It tells a cohesive musical and lyrical story through a collection of songs.
Soprano: 1) The highest ranged woman’s voice or a high pre-pubescent boy’s voice; 2) The highest-sounding instrument of an instrumental family. It represents the highest vocal range in vocal music and the highest-pitched instrument in an ensemble.
Sound card – a device that converts analog audio signals into digital data for use in a computer, and vice versa, often used for recording or playback of audio in a home studio setup.
Soundproofing – the process of reducing or eliminating unwanted external noise or sound transmission in a recording environment, often achieved through the use of specialized materials or techniques.
Sousaphone: An ultra-bass brass instrument designed for use in marching bands. It is a modified version of the tuba, with the bell facing forward and resting over the player’s shoulder.
Splice – a technique in which two separate audio recordings are joined together to create a seamless transition, often used in editing or arranging.
Sprechstimme: A half-spoken, half-sung style of singing on approximate pitches, developed by Schoenberg in the early 1900s. It blurs the line between spoken and sung expression, creating a unique vocal sound.
SSD – A Solid State Drive (SSD) is a storage device that uses flash memory to store data instead of spinning disks like traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDDs). It is faster, more reliable, and consumes less power, making it a popular choice for modern computers and devices.
Staccato: Short, detached notes. It is a musical instruction indicating that the notes should be played or sung with distinct separation and short duration.
Stem – a sub-mix of multiple audio tracks, typically grouped by instrument or sound type, used for further processing or mixing in final production.
String Instrument: An instrument that is played by placing one’s hands directly on the strings, such as violin, viola, cello, double bass, harp, guitar, dulcimer, psaltery, and the ancient viols. They produce sound through the vibration of the strings.
String Quartet: 1) A chamber ensemble of two violins, viola, and cello, devised in the early Classic era; 2) A multi-movement work (genre) for two violins, viola, and cello. It is a highly regarded and versatile ensemble and genre in chamber music.
Strophic Form: A song form featuring several successive verses of text sung to the same music. It creates a repetitive structure, with the same musical material accompanying different lyrics.
Studio monitor – a type of speaker designed for use in a recording or mixing environment, often designed to provide a neutral and accurate representation of audio signals.
Sub-bass – the lowest frequency range in a musical or audio signal, typically below 60 Hz, and is often used to provide a sense of depth or impact in a mix.
Subcardioid microphone – A subcardioid microphone is a directional microphone that is designed to pick up sound from a wider area compared to a cardioid microphone, while still reducing ambient noise and unwanted sound from behind the microphone. Its pickup pattern is between cardioid and omnidirectional, meaning that it captures sound from the front and sides of the microphone, but has less sensitivity to sound coming from the rear
Subject: The main melodic idea of a fugue. It serves as the foundation for the contrapuntal development in a fugue composition.
Suite: (Genre) A collection of dance movements. It was popular during the Baroque period and typically includes various stylized dances, such as allemande, courante, sarabande, and gigue, among others.
Supercardioid microphone – a directional microphone that is highly sensitive to sound from the front, with some sensitivity to sound from the sides and minimal sensitivity to sound from the rear, resulting in a narrower pickup pattern than a cardioid microphone.
Swing: A term used to describe “Big Band” jazz music of the 1930s-50s. It emphasizes a distinctive rhythmic feel, ensemble playing, and improvisation.
Symphonic Poem: (Genre) A single-movement programmatic work for orchestra. It tells a narrative or evokes a specific mood or image through music, allowing for more freedom and flexibility in form compared to traditional symphonies.
Symphony: (Genre) A multi-movement work for orchestra. It is the most substantial and grandiose form of instrumental composition, typically consisting of several contrasting movements.
Syncopation: An “off-the-beat” accent. It involves accenting weak beats or subdivisions of beats, creating a syncopated rhythmic feel and adding rhythmic interest and complexity to the music.
Synthesizer: A modern electronic keyboard instrument capable of generating a multitude of sounds. It uses electronic oscillators, filters, and amplifiers to produce and shape sounds, making it a versatile tool in contemporary music production.
Tabla: A pair of drums used to accompany the music of India. They consist of a smaller drum called the “dayan” and a larger drum called the “bayan” and are known for their rhythmic complexity and expressive capabilities.
Tala: A rhythmic pattern used in the music of India. It provides the framework for rhythmic improvisation and composition, dividing time into specific beats and subdivisions.
Tempo: The speed of the musical beat. It determines the pace and overall feel of a musical piece, often measured in beats per minute (BPM).
Tenor: A high-ranged male voice. It is one of the vocal ranges in choral and solo singing, known for its warmth and expressive qualities.
Ternary Form: ABA design (statement, contrast, restatement). It is a musical form where the main theme or section is followed by a contrasting section, and then the initial theme or section returns, creating a sense of balance and structure.
Texture: The element focusing on the number of simultaneous musical lines being sounded. It refers to how the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic elements are combined and layered in a piece of music.
Theme: The main self-contained melody of a musical composition. It is a recurring musical idea that provides unity and serves as a focal point in a piece.
Theme and Variations Form: A theme is stated then undergoes a series of sectional alterations. It is a musical form where an initial theme is presented, followed by a series of variations that explore different musical ideas and treatments of the original theme.
Through-Composed Form: A song form with no large-scale musical repetition. It is a compositional approach where each section of the music is unique and does not follow a strict pattern of repetition.
Timbre: Another term for tone color. It refers to the unique quality and characteristics of a sound produced by a musical instrument or voice, allowing us to distinguish different instruments or voices from one another.
Time signature – a notation used in sheet music to indicate the number of beats per measure and the type of note that receives one beat.
Timpani: Various-sized kettle-shaped pitched drums; a tenor instrument of the percussion family. They are played with mallets and provide rhythmic and melodic support in orchestral and ensemble music.
Tonality: Music centered around a “home” key (based on a major or minor scale). It provides a sense of tonal center and harmonic stability in a composition.
Tone: Tone refers to the quality, character, or mood conveyed by the sound, pitch, or expression of a voice, musical instrument, or artistic work, often influencing the emotional response or atmosphere perceived by the listener or audience.
Tone Color: The unique, characteristic sound of a musical instrument or voice. It is determined by the instrument’s physical properties, such as shape, size, and material, as well as the technique and style of playing.
Tone Cluster: A modern technique of extreme harmonic dissonance created by a large block of pitches sounding simultaneously. It involves playing adjacent notes on a piano or other instruments to create a dense and dissonant sound.
Tone Row: An ordered series of twelve chromatic pitches used in serialism. It serves as the basis for organizing the pitch material in compositions that adhere to the principles of serialism.
Tonic: The first note of a scale or key. It serves as the foundation and reference point for the rest of the musical material in a composition.
Tracking – the process of recording individual audio tracks or parts, typically done separately before being mixed together.
Transducer – a device that converts one form of energy to another, such as a microphone that converts sound waves into electrical signals or a speaker that converts electrical signals into sound waves.
Transient – a short-duration spike or peak in an audio signal, often associated with percussive or staccato sounds, such as drums or plucked strings.
Transposition: Shifting a piece to a different pitch level. It involves changing the key or pitch of a musical composition or part while maintaining the same intervals and relationships between the notes.
Tremolo – a modulation effect that rapidly varies the volume or pitch of a musical note or sound, often used in guitar or synthesizer playing (i.e., bowing a string rapidly while maintaining a constant pitch). It creates a trembling or shimmering effect, adding expressive).
Triad: A three-note chord built on alternating scale steps (1-3-5, etc.). It is a basic harmonic unit in tonal music and provides the foundation for harmony and chord progressions.
Trill: Rapid alternation of two close pitches to create a “shaking” ornament on a melodic note. It adds ornamentation and expressive embellishment to a musical line.
Trio Sonata: (Genre) A Baroque multi-movement chamber work for four performers (2 violins and basso continuo). It features two melodic instruments and a continuo section, often with a keyboard instrument and a bass instrument.
Triple Meter: A common meter with three beats per measure. It creates a sense of waltz-like or dance-like rhythm in music.
Triplet: A rhythmic grouping of three equal-valued notes played in the space of two (indicated in written music by a “3” above the grouping). It provides a rhythmic subdivision and adds syncopation or complexity to the music.
Trombone: A family of brass instruments that change pitch via a movable slide (alto, tenor, and bass versions are common). They produce a rich and powerful sound and are often featured in brass ensembles and orchestras.
Trumpet: A valved instrument that is the soprano of the modern brass family. It has a bright and piercing sound and is used in various musical genres, from classical to jazz.
Tuba: A large valved brass instrument; the bass of the modern brass family. It produces a deep and resonant sound and serves as the foundation of the brass section in orchestras and bands.
Tube amplifier: An amplifier that uses vacuum tubes to amplify and shape an audio signal, known for its warm and natural sound.
Tubular Bells: See chimes. They are a set of pitched metal tubes struck with a mallet, producing a clear and sustained sound.
Tuner – a device used to accurately measure and adjust the pitch of musical instruments or audio signals, often used before recording or performing.
Turntable – a device used for playing vinyl records, typically equipped with a tonearm and stylus for tracking the grooves on a record and converting the vibrations into electrical signals.
U47: A classic type of large-diaphragm condenser microphone produced by Neumann, known for its warm and natural sound, is often used in studio recordings.
Ultrasonic: A range of sound frequencies above the range of human hearing, typically above 20,000 Hz.
Unison – The simultaneous playing or singing of the same musical note or phrase by multiple instruments or voices, often used to create a fuller or more powerful sound.
Unity gain: A setting on an audio device that maintains the same signal output level as the input signal, often used to avoid unwanted amplification or distortion.
Upbeat: The weak beat that comes before the strong downbeat of a musical measure. It serves as a preparation for the downbeat and sets the rhythmic and energetic foundation for the following musical phrase or section.
USB – Universal Serial Bus, a common type of connection used for audio interfaces and other audio devices, allowing for high-speed data transfer and power supply.
Usher: A person responsible for directing and guiding performers or equipment in a recording or production session, often responsible for maintaining a smooth and efficient workflow.
U-substitution – a mathematical technique used in audio processing and synthesis to transform one mathematical function into another for easier analysis or manipulation.
Vacuum tube: an electronic component used in amplifiers and other audio equipment to amplify and shape electrical signals, known for their warm and natural sound.
Vibrato: Small, sliding fluctuations in pitch used to make a sound more expressive. It involves the rapid oscillation of the pitch around the central tone, adding warmth, richness, and emotional depth to a musical performance.
Vinyl: a type of analog audio format that uses grooves on a rotating disc to reproduce sound, often used for high-quality playback of music recordings.
Viol: A viol, also called a Viol da Gamba, is a renaissance string instrument (ancestor to the modern violin). It has a distinctive shape and timbre and was widely used during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Viola: The alto instrument of the modern string family. It has a slightly larger size than the violin and produces a deeper and warmer sound. It plays an important role in orchestral and chamber music.
Violin: The soprano instrument of the modern string family. It is the highest-pitched and most well-known member of the string family, with a versatile a nd expressive sound. It is widely used in classical, jazz, and popular music genres.
Violoncello: The full name of the cello; the tenor instrument of the modern string family. It has a deep and resonant sound and is known for its lyrical and expressive capabilities. It is often featured as a solo instrument and in chamber music and orchestral settings.
Virtual instrument (VST): A software-based instrument that emulates the sound and performance characteristics of a physical instrument, often used in digital music production.
Virtuoso: A performer of extraordinary ability. A virtuoso demonstrates exceptional technical skills and artistic interpretation in their musical performance, often showcasing their expertise through dazzling and demanding musical passages.
Vivace: A lively tempo. It is an indication for the music to be played in a brisk and energetic manner, conveying a sense of liveliness and excitement.
Vocal booth: Sometimes called an isolation booth. This is an isolated space used for recording vocals or other acoustic instruments, typically treated with sound-absorbing materials to reduce unwanted background noise or reflections.
Vocoder: A digital or analog device that synthesizes the human voice, often used in electronic music or sound effects.
Voiceover: A recording of spoken dialogue, often used in film, television, or radio productions, typically recorded separately and mixed into the final production.
Voltage: A measure of electrical potential difference, often used to describe the strength or level of an audio signal.
Volume: The relative quietness or loudness of an electrical impulse (see dynamics). In music, volume refers to the perceived loudness or softness of sound. It is controlled by the intensity or amplitude of the sound waves and can be adjusted through dynamics and techniques of playing or singing.
VU meter: A type of analog meter used to display the volume level of an audio signal, often used in mixing consoles and other audio equipment.
Wah: A type of guitar effects pedal that alters the tone of a guitar signal by sweeping a band of frequencies up and down.
Waltz: An aristocratic ballroom dance in triple meter that flourished in the Romantic period. It is characterized by graceful and flowing movements, often accompanied by music featuring a strong emphasis on the first beat of each measure.
Warmth: A term used to describe a pleasing, full, and natural sound quality in an audio recording or signal, often associated with analog equipment or techniques.
Waveform: A visual representation of an audio signal, showing the changes in amplitude and frequency over time.
Western music: Western music refers to a broad category of musical traditions originating from Europe and North America, characterized by its use of standardized musical notation, harmonic structures, and instruments such as the piano, guitar, and orchestral instruments. It encompasses various genres, including classical, jazz, rock, pop, and folk, among others, and has greatly influenced music worldwide.
White noise: A type of random noise that contains all frequencies at equal levels, often used in testing and calibration of audio equipment.
Whole Step: An interval twice as large as a half-step (Ex.: the distance between C and D on a piano). It is equivalent to two half steps and creates a larger pitch difference between two notes.
Whole-Tone Scale: A scale made of 6 whole steps that avoids any sense of tonality (Ex: C D E F# G# A#). It consists entirely of whole steps and lacks the presence of half steps, resulting in a unique and dreamlike quality.
Windscreen – a foam or mesh covering used to reduce or eliminate wind noise in microphone recordings, often used in outdoor or field recording.
Wireless – a technology used to transmit audio signals without the use of physical cables or wires, often used in live performances or remote recording setups.
Wobble – a term used to describe a rhythmic modulation or variation in pitch or speed, often used in electronic music production.
Woodshedding – a term used to describe intensive practice or rehearsal of a musical instrument or technique, often done in a private setting such as a home studio.
Woodwind Instrument: An instrument that produces its sound from a column of air vibrating within a multi-holed tube. Examples include the flute, clarinet, saxophone, and oboe. They are characterized by their versatility and ability to produce a wide range of timbres.
Word-Painting: In vocal music, musical gestures that reflect the specific meaning of words; a common aspect of the Renaissance madrigal. It involves using musical techniques to portray or depict the literal meaning of the text, enhancing the expressiveness and storytelling of the music.
World Beat: The collective term for today’s popular third-world musical styles (also called ethno-pop). It refers to contemporary music that incorporates elements of traditional and indigenous music from various cultures around the world, creating a fusion of global sounds and rhythms.
XLR – a type of electrical connector commonly used for microphones and other audio equipment. It typically has three pins and is designed to be a secure and reliable connection.
Xylophone – a percussion instrument consisting of a set of tuned wooden bars that are struck with mallets. While not directly related to home studio recording or audio engineering, the xylophone can be used as a unique and interesting sound in music production. Xylophonic is a term used to describe a sound that resembles the tone of a xylophone. A Xylophonist is a musician who specializes in playing the xylophone or similar percussion instruments.
X/Y Microphone: A type of stereo microphone configuration where two microphones are positioned at a 90-degree angle to each other. This can create a wide stereo image and is often used for recording acoustic instruments.
Y-Cable: A type of audio cable that splits a single mono signal into two mono signals. This can be useful for sending a signal to two different destinations or for creating a stereo signal from two mono sources. Also referred to as a Y-chord.
Yodeling: A singing technique that involves rapid changes in pitch between the chest voice and the head voice. While not directly related to home studio recording or audio engineering, yodeling can be used as a vocal technique in certain types of music.
Yoke – a mechanical device used to attach a microphone to a stand or boom arm. A yoke typically has two prongs that hold the microphone securely in place.
Youth Orchestra – an ensemble of young musicians who play orchestral instruments. While not directly related to home studio recording or audio engineering, youth orchestras may be a valuable resource for finding talented musicians to collaborate with in a home recording setting.
Zener noise – a type of noise that is generated by a Zener diode. Zener noise can be used in audio circuits for creating random and unpredictable sounds.
Zeppelin Microphone – a type of microphone that is designed for recording acoustic instruments, particularly drums, and percussion. The Zeppelin microphone typically consists of a long tube with a series of internal baffles and a capsule at the end.
Zero Crossing – the point in an audio waveform where the signal crosses the zero amplitude line. Zero crossings can be used for accurate timing and synchronization in music production and audio processing.
Zero Latency Monitoring – a feature found on some audio interfaces that allow the performer to hear their own performance without any delay caused by the digital audio processing. This can be useful for recording live instruments or vocals.
Zither – a stringed instrument that is played by plucking or strumming the strings. While not commonly used in modern music production, zithers can be used for unique and interesting sounds in certain genres.
16-Bit – Refers to the bit-depth of digital audio files, where each sample is represented by 16 bits, allowing for a range of 65,536 possible values. Higher bit-depths are generally preferred for audio fidelity, but 16-bit is still widely used for CD-quality audio.
24-Bit – Refers to the bit-depth of digital audio files, where each sample is represented by 24 bits, allowing for a range of 16,777,216 possible values. This higher bit-depth allows for greater dynamic range and accuracy in audio recordings.
500 Series: A modular audio format that allows for the mixing and matching of different audio processing modules in a single rack space. This format is commonly used in recording studios for its flexibility and ease of use.
808: A drum machine that was originally released by Roland in 1980, and is widely used in electronic dance music (EDM) and hip hop production. The 808 has become an iconic instrument in music production and has been used in countless hit songs.
909: A drum machine that was released by Roland in 1984, and is known for its distinctive analog sound, particularly in techno and house music. The 909 has become a staple in electronic music production and is prized for its punchy, powerful kick drum sound.
96kHz: Refers to the sample rate of digital audio files, where 96,000 samples are taken per second, allowing for higher audio fidelity than standard CD quality (44.1kHz). This higher sample rate is commonly used in professional audio production and mastering.
1176 Compressor: A classic analog compressor that was first introduced in the 1960s. The 1176 is known for its fast attack time and its ability to add warmth and character to vocals and other instruments.