There’s a lot of jargon in the audio world. So we’ve put together this glossary of music production terms for composers and producers to reference.
Most of these are common words and phrases used in the context of modern music production. Others are specific instruments, brands, or terms we frequently mention here on Sonic Atlas. When relevant, we’ll link to other resources that expand on these topics.
We frequently update this glossary. So be sure to check back if you find another word you’re not familiar with.
This list is in alphabetical order.
# | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
1/4″ or 1/4-inch TRS — A standard type of audio cable connector. Commonly used for guitars, other instruments, and studio headphones.
1/8″ or 1/8-inch TRS — A standard type of audio cable connector, most commonly used for consumer headphones. Also known as a 3.5mm TRS.
16-bit (Bit Depth) — The most common bit depth used in digital audio. 16-bit means there are 16 bits of information encoded in each audio sample.
16-bit (Chiptune) — Describes chiptune-style music made by 16-bit video game consoles such as the SNES and Sega Genesis.
8-bit (Chiptune) — Describes chiptune-style music made by 8-bit video game consoles such as NES, Game Boy, or Commodore 64.
808 — An electric drum machine made by Roland. It was known for its distinctive bass sound, which was created by a low-frequency oscillator. Today, the term “808” has become fairly synonymous with any sort of low-frequency bass.
AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) — A digital audio format that is commonly used for streaming music and storing music files on devices. AAC is a lossy format, meaning that some data is removed from the audio file to reduce its size. However, AAC is generally considered to be a high-quality format that sounds very close to the original audio.
AC (Alternating Current) — A type of electrical current that flows in both directions, reversing its polarity periodically. AC is the most common type of electrical current used in homes and businesses.
Acoustics — Refers to how sound interacts with physical spaces, such as recording studios or concert halls, and the manipulation of those spaces to achieve desired sound qualities.
Additive Synthesis — A type of synthesis that creates sound by adding together sine waves of different frequencies. Additive synthesis is a versatile technique that can be used to create a wide variety of sounds, from simple tones to complex textures.
ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release) — A common envelope used to control the dynamics of a sound. The ADSR envelope determines how a sound starts (attack), how it changes over time (decay), how long it sustains (sustain), and how it ends (release).
Aggregate Device — A virtual device or driver that combines the inputs and outputs of multiple physical devices into a single device.
AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) — A high-quality, lossless audio file format used for storing and streaming digital audio.
Aliasing — A type of distortion that occurs when an analog signal’s input frequency is higher than the digital environment’s. When recording into a DAW, the system reconstructs the audio into a digital signal. If the sample rates are different, the DAW will improperly reconstruct the sound and introduce artifacts.
Amp (Amplifier) — A device that increases the amplitude of an electrical signal. Amplifiers are used in a wide variety of applications, including audio production, telecommunications, and electronics.
Amplitude — The magnitude of a sound wave. Amplitude is measured in decibels (dB).
Analog or Analogue — A type of signal that is continuously variable. Analog signals are often used in audio production, as they can accurately represent the original sound wave. It can also refer to “real” gear that exists outside the digital realm (such as microphones, instruments, and cables).
Arpeggiator — A device or software that plays arpeggios. Arpeggiators can be used to create a variety of musical patterns, and are often a staple in electronic music.
Arpeggio (Arp) — A musical technique in which the notes of a chord are played one at a time. Arpeggios can be used to create a variety of effects and textures to help generate interest or create a sense of movement.
ASIO4ALL — A 3rd-party audio driver for Windows, often used in place of the system’s standard audio drivers. It allows users to achieve better audio performance and reduce audio latency when using their computer to record or playback audio. ASIO4ALL is the recommended audio engine for most DAWs on Windows.
Attack — The initial part of a sound. The attack determines how quickly a sound starts.
Attenuation Pad — Also known as an “Input Pad”. Reduces the amplitude of an audio signal to help prevent clipping and overloading the preamp circuitry.
AU (Audio Unit) — A proprietary plugin format developed by Apple, used in place of the VST format. It integrates natively with macOS’ Core Audio infrastructure, offering low latency performance and increased stability. AU plugins are supported by Logic Pro and Garageband (of course), plus a few other DAWs.
Audio Effect — A device or software that modifies an audio signal. Audio effects are used to add variety and interest to audio recordings.
Audio Engineering — The process of recording, mixing, and mastering audio recordings in a studio or live setting.
Audio Interface — A device that connects a computer to audio equipment. Audio interfaces allow computers to record and play back audio, and they can also be used to add effects to audio signals.
Audio Track — A single audio recording that is part of a larger project. Audio tracks can be edited, mixed, and mastered individually.
Automation — The process of controlling parameters within your DAW automatically over time, such as the volume fader or effects output.
Aux Channel — A type of audio track that is used to send audio signals for parallel processing.
Band Pass Filter — A type of filter that allows a specific range of frequencies to pass through, while blocking all other frequencies.
Bank — A collection of presets or patches for a synthesizer or other electronic musical instrument. Banks can be used to quickly access different sounds or to save and organize presets.
Bar — An individual musical segment with a set number of beats. Bars are used to measure the length of a piece of music and to indicate the structure of a song.
Bass — The lowest range of frequencies in an audio signal.
Beat — A regular pulse or rhythmic pattern in music. Beats are often used to keep time in a song and to create a sense of groove.
Bit Depth — The number of bits used to represent a single sample in a digital audio file. Bit depth measures the resolution of an audio file and affects the overall sound quality.
Bit Rate — The number of bits per second that are used to represent an audio signal. Bit rate measures the amount of data used to store an audio file.
Boost — An increase in the amplitude of an audio signal. Used to make sounds louder or to emphasize specific frequencies.
Bounce — The process of exporting an audio file from a digital audio workstation (DAW). Bounces are often used to create final mixes or to share audio files with others.
BPM (Beats Per Minute) — BPM is a measure of the tempo (speed) of a song.
Brown Noise — Like white noise. But instead of playing all frequencies equally, brown noise emphasizes the low-end frequencies while reducing the high-end sounds.
Bus or Buss Track — A type of audio track that is used to send audio signals from aaamunjnhltiple destinations. Buss tracks are often used to mix audio signals or to add effects to audio signals.
Bypass — A switch that allows you to turn an effect or processing plugin on or off. Bypass is often used to compare the sound of an audio signal with and without the processing.
Cable — Used to connect audio equipment and other hardware to transmit a signal. Common cables used in audio production include XLR cables and Quarter-inch instrument cables.
Cardioid Pattern — A type of microphone pickup pattern that’s most sensitive to sound waves coming from the front. Cardioid patterns are great for recording isolated vocals and instruments.
Channel — A single audio track that is part of a larger project. Channels can be edited, mixed, and mastered individually.
Chiptune — A type of electronic music that is created using digital synthesizers that emulate the sound of early video game consoles.
Chord — A group of three or more notes that are played together. Chords are used to create harmony in music.
Chord Progression — A sequence of chords used to create the structure of a song. Chord progressions can be simple or complex, and they can vary depending on the genre of music.
Chorus (Audio Effect) — An audio effect that creates a thickening or doubling effect by adding a delayed signal to the original signal. Chorus effects are often used to create a sense of depth or movement in an audio signal.
Clipping — The distortion that occurs when an audio signal is over-amplified. Clipping can cause audio to sound harsh and unpleasant.
Commodore 64 — A vintage home computer originally released in 1982. It used the SID chip to produce audio, which had 3 built-in oscillators.
- Related: How to Make Commodore 64 Music
Comping — A technique used to combine multiple takes of a recording into a single, perfect take. It’s like building Frankenstein’s monster, but for audio tracks.
Compression — An audio effect that reduces the dynamic range of an audio signal to be more consistent. It’s often used to make quiet signals sound louder while reducing the volume of loud. In other words, it “compresses” both the top and bottom ends of the dynamic range.
Compressor — An audio device or plugin that reduces the dynamic range of an audio signal.
Condenser Microphone — A type of microphone that uses a capacitor to convert sound waves into electrical signals. Condenser microphones are often used for recording vocals and instruments.
Controller — See “MIDI Controller”
Crossfade — A gradual transition between two audio signals. Crossfades are often used to blend two audio tracks together or to create a smooth transition between different tracks.
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) — A software application used to record, edit, mix, and master audio recordings. Many also include MIDI sequencers to use virtual instruments. DAWs are essential for modern music production.
De-esser — An audio effect that reduces sibilance, which are the harsh, high-frequency sounds that are often produced by consonants such as S, Z, and T. De-essers are often used to make vocals sound smoother and more polished.
Decay — The gradual decrease in the amplitude of a sound wave. Decay is one of the four main parameters of an audio signal, along with attack, sustain, and release (see ADSR).
Decibel (dB) — A unit of measurement that is used to quantify the loudness of a sound. dB is a logarithmic scale, which means that a 10 dB increase in loudness is perceived as being twice as loud.
Delay — An audio effect that creates a copy of an audio signal and then plays it back after a short delay. Kind of like an echo.
Diaphragm — The thin, flexible membrane that is used to convert sound waves into electrical signals in a microphone. The diaphragm is one of the most important components of a microphone, and its size and shape determine the frequency response of the microphone.
Direct Monitoring — When your headphones or speakers receive a direct signal from the microphone or audio interface. It takes the analog audio signal from your device and sends it to your monitors before it converts into a digital signal.
Digital — A non-continuous signal. In audio, it means the sound is separated into individual units or “digits”. Digital audio generally refers to music created using a computer. Some synthesizers also produce digital audio signals.
Distortion — A type of audio signal that is characterized by its harsh, unpleasant sound. Distortion can be caused by a variety of factors, including over-amplification, clipping, and poor-quality audio equipment.
Distribution — The process of making audio recordings available to the public. Distribution can be done through a variety of channels, including streaming services, digital downloads, and physical media.
Dry — An audio signal that has not been processed with any effects.
DSP (Digital Signal Processing) — The use of digital technology to process audio signals. DSP is used in a wide variety of applications, including music production, telecommunications, and audio engineering.
Dynamic Microphone — A type of microphone that uses a diaphragm attached to an electromagnetic coil to convert sound waves into electrical signals. Dynamic microphones are generally good at rejecting background noise and feedback, which makes them ideal for live sound reinforcement and recording.
Dynamic Range — The difference between the loudest and quietest sounds in an audio signal. Dynamic range is an important factor in audio quality, and it is often measured in decibels (dB).
Dynamic Tube — A type of amplifier that uses vacuum tubes to amplify audio signals. Dynamic tubes (and tube emulators) are often used in audio production because they can provide a warm, natural sound.
Dynamics — The variation in the amplitude of an audio signal over time. Dynamics are an important factor in audio quality, and they can be manipulated using a variety of techniques, including compression and limiting.
Early Reflections — The first part of a reverb tail. Early reflections are the initial sound that’s heard after hitting a surface.
Echo — An audio effect that creates a delayed copy of an audio signal. Echoes are often used to create a sense of depth or movement in an audio signal.
Edit — The process of modifying an audio recording. Editing can be used to remove unwanted noise, to change the length of a recording, or to add new elements to a recording.
EDM (Electronic Dance Music) — A genre of electronic music that is characterized by its use of synthesizers, drum machines, and other electronic instruments. EDM is often characterized by its high energy and its repetitive nature.
Effects — Sometimes abbreviated as “FX”. They modify an audio signal to change its characteristics, like adding reverb, delay, or distortion. Effects can be generated by a hardware device or a plugin.
Electromagnetic Induction — The process of creating an electrical signal by changing the electromagnetic field within an area. Dynamic microphones, ribbon microphones, headphones, and loudspeakers all operate by this process.
Envelope — A curve that describes the way in which an audio signal changes over time. The most common envelope is the attack, decay, sustain, and release or a sound (ADSR).
Fader — A control that is used to adjust the level of an audio signal. Faders are often used to mix audio tracks together or to create smooth transitions between different sections of a song.
Feedback — When an output signal gets fed back into the input signal. In a live setting, this could be the sound from a loudspeaker being picked up by a microphone and then amplified again. Feedback can also be used as a creative effect, like with distortion or delay.
Fidelity — The quality of an audio signal. Fidelity is often measured in terms of the frequency response, the dynamic range, and the signal-to-noise ratio.
Filter — A device or software that modifies an audio signal by removing or attenuating specific frequencies. Filters are often used to shape the sound of an instrument or to create special effects.
Flanger — An audio effect that creates a distinct, sweeping sound. It’s made by delaying an audio signal and combining it with the original sound.
Flat Response — When the output frequencies are the same as the input frequencies. If an audio device has a flat response, that means it accurately recreates the sound without cutting out or boosting any frequencies.
FM Synthesis — Also known as “Frequency Modulation”. A type of synthesis that creates sound by modulating the frequency of a waveform.
Foley — The art of creating sound effects. Foley artists use a variety of techniques to create realistic sound effects, such as recording sounds in real-world environments or using electronic devices to create artificial sounds.
Frequency — The number of cycles of a sound wave per second. Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz).
Frequency Range — The range of frequencies that an audio signal can reproduce. Frequency range is often measured in hertz (Hz).
Frequency Response — The way in which an audio device or system reproduces different frequencies. Frequency response is often measured in decibels (dB).
FX — Abbreviation for “Effects”.
Gain — The amplitude of an audio signal. Gain is measured in decibels (dB).
Gain-Staging — The process of setting the gain levels of different audio signals so that they work together effectively. Gain-staging is an important part of audio production, as it can help to prevent clipping and distortion.
Gain Reduction — The amount by which the amplitude of an audio signal is reduced. Gain reduction is often used in compression and limiting to control the dynamic range of an audio signal.
Gate — A device or software that reduces the amplitude of an audio signal below a certain threshold. Gates are often used to remove unwanted noise from audio recordings.
Granular Synthesis — A type of synthesis that creates sound by breaking an audio signal into small pieces, or grains, and then reassembling them. Granular synthesis is often used to create unique and experimental sounds.
Graphic Equalizer — A type of equalizer that uses a series of sliders to control the amplitude of different frequencies in an audio signal. Graphic equalizers are often used to adjust the tonal balance of an audio signal.
Headroom — The difference between the maximum amplitude of an audio signal and the point at which clipping occurs. Leaving headroom is critical for audio production, as it allows for additional instruments, tracks, and effects without causing distortion.
Hertz (Hz) — The unit of measurement for frequency. One hertz is equal to one cycle per second.
Hi-Z — An abbreviation for “high impedance”. It refers to an input or output impedance of a device that is several thousand ohms or higher. Hi-z inputs are typically used for connecting passive devices, such as guitars and microphones, to audio equipment.
High-End — The high-frequency range of an audio signal. The high-end is often associated with clarity and brightness in sound.
High-Pass Filter — A filter that removes low frequencies from an audio signal. High-pass filters are often used to isolate the high-end of an audio signal or to remove unwanted noise from a recording.
Hook — A catchy melody or phrase used to grab the listener’s attention.
I/O — Input/Output. It refers to the ability of a computer, synth, or other audio device to send and receive signals. In many cases, it refers to the physical cables and ports on a device.
ID3 Tags — A set of metadata stored in audio files. ID3 tags carry information about the song, such as the artist, title, and album.
Imaging — The process of using panning, timing, and stereo effects to “place” sounds in a mix.
Impedance — The opposition to the flow of electrical current. Impedance is an important factor to consider when connecting audio devices, as it can affect the sound quality of the signal.
Impulse Response (IR) — An audio file that contains a snapshot of the acoustic characteristics in a physical space. You can upload the file to a convolution reverb plugin to mimic that space’s audio qualities.
Input — The process of capturing an audio signal, whether through a microphone, a guitar pickup, or another direct source.
Input Pad — See “Attenuation Pad”
Interface — See “Audio Interface”.
IR — Impulse Response. It is a sound recording that captures the response of an audio system to a short, high-energy impulse. IRs are often used to create reverb and other effects.
Jack — A type of connector used for audio devices, like a headphone jack.
Jitter — A slight variation in the timing of an audio signal. Jitter can be caused by a number of factors, including the quality of the audio equipment and the way in which the signal is processed.
kbps — Kilobits per second. A measure of data transfer rate.
Keyboard — A musical instrument that is played by pressing keys. Keyboards can be used to play a wide variety of sounds, including piano, organ, and synthesizer.
Kilohertz (kHz) — A unit of measurement for frequency. One kilohertz is equal to one thousand cycles per second.
Knee — A term used in compression to describe the way in which the gain reduction is applied. A soft knee will apply gain reduction gradually, while a hard knee will apply gain reduction more abruptly.
Komplete — A series of music production software bundles created by Native Instruments. There are multiple versions available.
Kontakt — A software sampler that lets you create and edit multi-sample instruments. It also powers hundreds of other software instruments created by various developers.
Latency — The delay between the input and output of an audio signal. Latency can be caused by a number of factors, such as the quality of the audio equipment, the signal chain, or your system settings.
Lead — A melodic instrument part that is often used to drive the song forward. Leads are typically played in the higher registers and can be used to create a sense of excitement or tension in a song.
Level — The amplitude of an audio signal. Usually measured in decibels (dB).
LFO — Low-frequency oscillator. An LFO is a type of oscillator that generates a signal with a low frequency. LFOs are often used to create vibrato and other effects.
Limiter — A type of compressor that is used to prevent an audio signal from exceeding a certain level. Limiters are often used to protect audio equipment from damage and to ensure that audio recordings are consistent in level.
Line In/Out — Usually refers to a 1/4-inch cable port. Found on instruments, audio interfaces, speakers, and other audio devices.
Loop — A short audio or MIDI clip that can be repeated over and over again.
Lossless Audio — Audio that hasn’t been compressed or experienced any loss of quality. Lossless audio formats, such as WAV, AIFF, and FLAC, are often used for archiving and mastering audio recordings.
Lossy Audio — Audio that has been compressed with some loss of quality. Lossy audio formats, such as MP3 and AAC, are often used for streaming and distributing audio recordings.
Loudness — The perceived volume of an audio signal.
Loudspeaker — A device that converts electrical signals into sound waves.
Low Shelf — A type of filter that reduces the amplitude of frequencies below a certain threshold. Low shelves are often used to adjust the bass response of an audio signal.
Low-End — The low-frequency range of an audio signal. The low-end is often associated with power and impact in sound.
Low-Pass Filter — Removes high frequencies from an audio signal and helps isolate the low-end. Low-pass filters are often used to remove unwanted noise from a recording.
Master — The final version of an audio track that’s ready for distribution.
Mastering — The process of preparing an audio track for distribution. Mastering involves a variety of tasks, such as adjusting the levels, equalizing the frequencies, and adding compression.
Metering — The process of measuring the levels of an audio signal. Metering is used to ensure that audio signals are not overdriven and to monitor the overall sound quality of a recording.
Microphone — A device that converts sound waves into electrical signals for recording or live sound reinforcement.
MIDI — Stands for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface”. MIDI is a standard that allows electronic musical instruments and computers to communicate with each other. MIDI allows musicians to control synthesizers, virtual instruments, and other devices from a computer keyboard or controller.
MIDI Controller — A device that sends MIDI signals to a synthesizer or another instrument. They can send note data and control other parameters such as pitch, volume, and filter settings.
MIDI Sequencer — A software application that allows you to create and edit MIDI sequences, compose music, and control electronic instruments. Most modern DAWs have MIDI sequencing capabilities.
MIDI Wind Controller — See “Wind Controller”
Mixing — The process of combining multiple audio signals into a single recording. Mixing involves balancing sound levels, equalizing frequencies, and adding effects. Ideally, a well-mixed track should create clarity and engage the listener.
- Read more: 32 Tips for Mixing Music That Sounds Awesome
Mod Wheel — A control found on many synthesizers and MIDI controllers. Used to modulate or change an instrument’s characteristics. The mod wheel can control parameters like vibrato, filters, volume, or other settings.
Monitor — A loudspeaker used to monitor audio signals.
Monitoring — The process of listening to audio signals during the recording or mixing process.
Mono — A single audio channel with no stereo panning.
Monophonic — An instrument that can only play one note at a time.
MP3 — A lossy audio format commonly used for distributing music. MP3 files are smaller than lossless audio formats, such as FLAC and WAV, but they also have lower sound quality.
Multi-sample Instrument — A type of digital instrument that uses multiple samples to create a more realistic sound. For example, a virtual piano would have samples from all 88 keys played at different volumes.
Multiband Compression — A type of compression that works on multiple frequency bands. This allows you to make adjustments to multiple frequencies at once to get the ideal sound.
Native Instruments — A German company that develops music production software and hardware.
NKS (Native Kontrol Standard) — A standard that allows virtual instruments or effect plugins to integrate with Native Instruments’ Komplete Kontrol or Maschine software and hardware.
Normalization — The process of adjusting an audio signal to ensure a consistent volume level.
Notch Filter — A type of filter that reduces the amplitude of a specific frequency or range of frequencies. You can use it to remove unwanted noise from a signal.
Nudge — A small adjustment to the level or position of an audio signal. Nudging is often used to fine-tune the sound of an audio signal.
Nyquist Frequency — The highest frequency that can be accurately represented in a digital audio signal. The Nyquist frequency is equal to half the sampling rate.
Octave — A musical interval that spans twelve semitones. Notes that are an octave apart are the same note, but higher or lower.
Omnidirectional — A term used to describe a microphone that can pick up sound from all directions. Omnidirectional microphones are often used for recording ambient sounds.
Oscillator — The part of a synthesizer’s circuitry that generates sound. It’s accomplished by periodically oscillating between two states to create a specific waveform shape.
Output — The audio signal that’s heard after processing.
Output Gain — Gain applied to an output signal after processing. Usually, this is done with a compressor.
Overdrive — A type of distortion created by increasing the gain of an audio signal.
Overdub — Recording new audio tracks on top of existing audio tracks.
Overtone — A harmonic that is a multiple of the fundamental frequency of a sound. Overtones are often used to create a richer or more complex sound.
Pad — A long, sustained sound that is often used to create a sense of atmosphere or ambience in music. Pads are often created using synthesizers or samplers.
Panning — The process of positioning an audio signal within a stereo field. Used to create a sense of space in music.
Parallel Compression — A type of compression that mixes the compressed signal with the original uncompressed sound. Parallel compression is often used to add punch and sustain to an audio signal without affecting the overall dynamics.
Passive — Describes a device that requires an external power source. Usually speakers.
Patch — A set of specific settings for an instrument or effect. You can save the patch settings to a file to quickly recall them. Similar to a preset.
Path — The route that an audio signal takes through a system. The path of an audio signal can be affected by the order of the effects, plugins, and devices used.
Peak — The highest/loudest point in an audio signal.
Pedal — A device used to modify the sound of a guitar or bass guitar. They’re mostly used to create effects like distortion, delay, or reverb. Some plugins also emulate guitar pedals.
Phantom Power — Used to power condenser microphones. Most audio interfaces and mixers have a phantom power setting that sends 48-volt power to the microphone. Dynamic and ribbon microphones generally don’t require phantom power.
Phase — The position of an audio signal measured in 360 degrees. Can also refer to the relationship between the waveforms of two audio signals.
Phaser — A type of delay effect that creates a colorful sweeping sound.
Phono — Usually refers to the connectors that receive red and white RCA cables. You’ll often find them on audio interfaces, mixers, speakers, and other A/V devices.
Piano Roll — A graphical representation of a MIDI sequence. Piano rolls are used to view and edit MIDI sequences.
Ping-Pong — A type of delay that bounces the signal back and forth between two stereo channels.
Pink Noise — Like white noise. But instead of playing all frequencies equally, pink noise emphasizes the high-end frequencies while reducing the low-end sounds.
Pitch — The frequency of a musical note.
Pitch Bend — A control that allows you to change the pitch of an audio signal. Often used to create a vibrato or portamento effect.
Plate Reverb — A type of synthetic reverb created by a large metal plate. Typically, an electric signal would run through the plate to create a distinct, bright-sounding reverb. There are many plugins that emulate plate reverbs.
Plosive — The airy-sounding distortion caused by a sudden rush of air hitting the microphone’s diaphragm. Usually caused by a vocalist singing or speaking the letter “P”.
Pluck — A type of synth sound with a short attack and short delay. Usually mimics the plucking sound of a string instrument.
Plugin or Plug-in — A software program that expands a DAW’s functionality. Plugins can be used to add effects such as compression, EQ, and reverb. Many virtual instruments are available as plugins.
Polar Pattern — Describes the direction a microphone picks up sound.
Polarity — The direction of an electrical signal. Polarity is often used to describe the phase of an audio signal.
Polyphonic — An instrument that can play multiple notes at the same time. Polyphonic instruments are often used in classical music and jazz.
Pop Filter — Placed in front of a microphone to help prevent plosives.
Portamento — A type of pitch bend that is used to smoothly transition between notes to create a gliding or legato effect.
Post — Describes anything done to a signal after processing.
Post-Production — The final process of mixing, mastering, and fixing issues with an audio project after it’s been completed.
Pre — Describes an audio signal before processing. Opposite of “post”.
Pre-delay — The time delay between the dry signal and the wet signal in a reverb effect.
Preamp — A type of amplifier that is used to boost the signal level of an audio signal. Preamps are often used in front of microphones to increase the signal level before it is sent to a mixer or amplifier.
Presence — A setting on amps and audio interfaces that boosts the treble range. It helps increase the clarity and brightness of an audio signal.
Preset — Similar to a patch. A premade setting found on a synthesizer or other instrument. You can load the preset to quickly recall a sound.
Processing — The process of modifying the sound of an audio signal. Processing can be done using a variety of techniques, such as compression, EQ, and reverb.
Proximity Effect — Occurs when a sound source gets close to a directional microphone. As it gets closer, bass frequencies become exaggerated.
- Read more: 5 Simple Ways to Reduce Proximity Effect
PWM — Stands for “Pulse Width Modulation”. A type of synthesis that creates sound by varying the width of a pulse wave.
Quantize — The process of shifting MIDI or audio data so that it’s in time and “on the grid”. It’s helpful for fixing recorded clips with improper timing.
Rack — An enclosure that houses multiple electronic devices. Rackmount devices can include audio interfaces, preamps, synthesizers, and other units.
RAM — Stands for “Random Access Memory”. RAM is a type of memory that is used to temporarily store data, such as Kontakt sample libraries or other audio signals.
Ratio — The amount of gain reduction applied to an audio signal by a compressor. The ratio is often expressed as a number, such as 4:1 or 10:1.
RCA — A standard for audio cables with left (white) and right (red) connectors. Commonly used with audio interfaces, mixers, speakers, and other A/V devices.
Reference Track — A track used as a guide when mixing, mastering, or writing a new track.
Reflection — A sound wave that has bounced off a hard surface.
Release — The time it takes for a compressor to stop reducing the gain of an audio signal. Release is often used to control the sustain of an audio signal.
Resonance — The function on a filter that emphasizes a narrow band of frequences.
Reverb or Reverberation — The echo effect that is created when sound waves reflect off of surfaces. Reverb is often used to create a sense of space or depth in an audio signal.
Ribbon Microphone — A type of microphone that uses a thin metal strip (or ribbon) to conduct an audio signal.
RMS (Root Mean Square) — Measures the average loudness of an audio signal.
Rolloff — Denotes the point where frequencies are cut off in a filter or an audio signal.
Room Tone — The natural noise of a room or environment. Often used to add atmosphere and realism to a recording. It’s an important part of post-production for film, TV, podcasts, and other projects.
Round Robin — A feature on many sample-based instruments. It lets you play the same note repeatedly while triggering different samples each time. It helps give the instrument a more realistic sound.
Sample — An audio recording used within a project. Samples can be used as is, or be modified to create new and unusual sounds. They can be anything from drums, FX, acoustic instruments, melodies, or even segments of other songs.
Sample Library — A collection of sampled sounds. Sample libraries can contain instruments, vocals, sound effects, and more. They’re typically based around a specific theme or instrument.
- Read more: Our Favorite Sample Library Companies
Sample Offset — The point at which a sample starts playing. The sample offset can be used to change the timing of a sample.
Sample Rate — How many times per second that an audio signal is sampled. The sample rate determines the sound quality of an audio signal. The standard for music files is 44.1kHz.
Sampler — A hardware device, software application, or plugin that can be used to play and manipulate samples.
Saturation — A subtle type of distortion that adds harmonic color to your recordings.
Saw or Sawtooth Wave — A basic waveform shape found on most synthesizers. It has a “sawtooth” shape with sharp rising and falling edges.
Sequence — A series of notes that are played in a specific order.
Sequencer — Refers to a device or software that can be used to create and edit sequences.
Shelf — A type of EQ curve used to cut or boost frequencies above or below a certain threshold.
Shock Mount — Used to isolate a microphone’s vibrations and prevent unwanted noise from being recorded.
Sibilance — A harsh high-frequency sound that is often produced by consonants such as S, Z, and T.
SID — A vintage sound chip found in the Commodore 64 home computer. It had 3 oscillators that could produce four different types of waveforms and alternate between them.
Sidechain Compression — A technique where one sound triggers a compressor to control another sound. Sidechaining is often used to create pumping effects or to make vocals stand out in a mix.
Signal — An audio stream passing through a system.
Signal Chain — The path a signal takes to get processed. For example, a possible chain could be EQ > Compressor > Reverb. Also known as a “Signal Path” or “Signal Flow”.
Sine Wave — A basic waveform shape produced by most synthesizers. It has a smooth, sinusoidal shape.
Soft Synth — Short for “software synthesizer”.
Sound Pressure Level (SPL) — Measures of the loudness of a sound. SPL is often measured in decibels (dB).
Spectrum — The distribution of frequencies in an audio signal. Spectra are often used to analyze the sound of an audio signal.
Spectrum Analyzer — A device or software that can be used to analyze the spectrum of an audio signal. Spectrum analyzers are often used to troubleshoot audio problems or to create new sounds.
Square Wave — A basic waveform shape produced by most synthesizers. As the name suggests, it has a square shape.
Stems — Individual tracks of an audio mix that have been exported as separate files. Often used for mixing and post-production.
Stereo — Describes an audio signal with left and right channels.
Stereo Image — The perceived spacial width or depth of a stereo signal.
Subgroup — A group of audio tracks that are mixed and processed together. They help simplify the mixing process by letting you apply effects to multiple tracks at once.
Subtractive Synthesis — A type of synthesis that creates sound by subtracting frequencies from a waveform.
Subwoofer — A loudspeaker designed to reproduce low-frequency sounds.
Supersaw — A type of sawtooth waveform that is layered multiple times to create a thicker, more powerful sound.
Surround Sound — A type of multichannel playback that usually uses 6 speaker channels: 3 in front (Left, Right, Center), 2 in back (Left and Right), and one Subwoofer for bass. Surround Sound is often used in film, TV, and video games to create more immersive experiences.
Sustain — In an ADSR envelope, Sustain determines the level a note will drop to after the decay.
Swing — A rhythmic variation where beats are offset to create a shuffling feal, like in Jazz or Blues music. In a DAW or MIDI sequencer, Swing is a function that lets you offset note timing in a similar way.
Sync — Describes the process of synchronizing two or more audio signals.
Take — A single recording of a performance. You can record multiple takes and choose the best performance from those takes.
Talkbox — A device or plugin that modulates an instrument’s sound by using the player’s mouth to filter and shape the sound. Similar to a vocoder.
Tap Tempo — A feature that allows you to set the tempo of a metronome, sequencer, or drum machine by tapping it in.
Tape Delay — A type of delay effect created by recording an audio signal to a tape machine and then playing it back.
Tape Emulation — A common type of plugin designed to emulate the sound and characteristics of magnetic tape machine. They can be used to create a warm or vintage sound.
Tempo — The speed of a piece of music, usually measured in beats per minute (BPM).
Threshold — The level at which a compressor starts to reduce the gain of an audio signal.
Timbre — The quality of a sound that distinguishes it from other sounds. Timbre is often affected by the frequency spectrum, the envelope, and the harmonics of a sound.
Tone — Can describe a single pitch or note. Tone can also describe the overall quality and timbre of a sound.
Track — An individual audio or MIDI channel in a DAW. Can also describe a finished product for listening.
Tracker — A type of music sequencer where notes and other information are represented on a vertical grid. Trackers were widely used to write music for retro video game consoles, and are still popular among chiptune enthusiasts.
Transport — The controls used to play, stop, rewind, and fast forward an audio or video file.
Transpose — The process of changing the pitch of an audio signal. Transpose is often used to change the key of a song or to create new harmonies.
Tremolo — A type of modulation effect that creates a rhythmic variation in the volume of an audio signal. Tremolos are often used to create a sense of movement or excitement in music.
Triangle Wave — A basic waveform shape produced by most synthesizers. As the name suggests, it has a triangular shape.
Trim — The process of adjusting the level of an audio signal. Trim is often used to balance the levels of different tracks in a mix.
Truncate — The process of cutting off the end of an audio signal. Truncate is often used to create a sharp or abrupt sound.
Tube — A type of electronic component often found in vintage audio equipment. They amplify mid-to-low frequencies and add additional warmth to a signal.
Tune — The pitch of an instrument. Most electronic and virtual instruments offer controls to adjust their tuning.
Tweeter — A loudspeaker designed to produce treble frequencies and other high-frequency sounds.
Unison — A feature found on synthesizers that layers multiple oscillators on top of each other. Usually, each oscillator is slightly detuned to create a thicker sound.
USB — A type of connection used to connect hardware devices to computers. Most modern audio interfaces, MIDI controllers, and other keyboards use USB.
VCA (Voltage-Controlled Amplifier) — An amplifier whose gain is controlled by a voltage signal. VCAs are often used in synthesizers to control the volume of an audio signal.
VCF (Voltage-Controlled Filter) — A filter whose cutoff frequency is controlled by a voltage signal. VCFs are often used in synthesizers to shape the sound of an audio signal.
VCO (Voltage-Controlled Oscillator) — An oscillator whose frequency is controlled by a voltage signal. VCOs are often used in synthesizers to generate the basic waveforms that make up an audio signal.
Velocity — The force with which a key is pressed on a MIDI keyboard. Velocity is often used to control the volume or timbre of a synthesizer or other virtual instruments.
Vibrato — The wavy, tremolo effect created by rapidly shifting a pitch up and down. Singers and acoustic instruments can do this naturally through their performance. Synthesizers often accomplish vibrato through an LFO.
Vinyl — A vintage physical audio format. Vinyl discs are created by inscribing information on the disc, which is played back using a needle and turntable.
Vinyl Distortion — A type of distortion that is created by the inherent imperfections of vinyl records.
Virtual Instrument — A software synthesizer or sampler that can be used to create or play back audio.
Vocoder — A device that combines the sound of a voice with the sound of a synthesizer to create electronic vocal effects.
Volume — The loudness of an audio signal, usually measured in decibels (dB).
Vox — Short for “voice” or “vocals”.
VST — A type of software plugin for music and audio production. They expand the capabilities of a DAW to provide new effects or virtual instruments.
WAV — A lossless audio file format. WAV files are often used to store high-quality audio recordings, and are a default output format for most DAWs and recording gear.
Waveform — A visual representation of an audio signal.
Wavetable — A collection of samples that can be scanned through a wavetable synthesizer.
Wavetable Synthesis — A type of synthesis that creates sound by combining and morphing samples from a wavetable.
Wet — A term used to describe the amount of reverb, delay, or other effect applied to an audio signal. The more wet, the more echo-y or saturated it’ll sound.
White Noise — A type of noise that plays sound equally across the entire frequency spectrum. It’s a sound that many synthesizers can produce.
Wind Controller or Wind Synth — An electronic instrument or MIDI controller with an air sensor. Most of them are designed for woodwind players and feature a key layout similar to a saxophone or clarinet.
- Related: The Best MIDI Wind Controllers
Woofer — A loudspeaker designed to produce bass frequencies and other low-frequency sounds.
XLR — A standard 3-pin connector type used for audio. Most professional microphones, interfaces, and mixers use XLR.
YM2612 — A vintage sound chip found in the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive game console. It was made by Yamaha and used FM synthesis to produce sound.
YouTube — That thing people watch. There’s lots of music there too.
Zero-Latency Monitoring — A feature that allows you to hear your audio signal with no delay. Zero-latency monitoring is often used when tracking vocals or instruments, as it allows you to hear yourself play in real time.
Zone — The keyboard mapping assigned to a sample or group of samples within a sampler. Zones can also contain information relating to pitch and velocity.