Electronic Music Production Vocabulary

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A

Ableton / Ableton Live: A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software used to record, edit and create audio.

Acoustics: The properties or qualities of a room or building that determine how sound is transmitted in it.

Acoustic Treatment: The act of reducing audio reflections in an area for a more accurate sound. Mostly done with foam panels and bass traps.

Additive Synthesis: An audio synthesis technique that creates timbre by adding sine waves together.

ADSR: Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release – the four characteristics of sound a wave envelope. Many synthesizers and samplers have controls for ADSR.

Aftertouch: An effect that is produced by the player holding and depressing a key further after pressing it. Commonly done on electronic music keyboards.

AIFF: Audio Interchange File Format – audio file format used for storing sound data on computers and other electronic audio devices. Mostly used on Apple Macintosh devices.

Amplitude: Describes the volume of a sound based on it’s wave.

Arpeggio: Musical notes played one after the other, up or down in pitch. 

Arrangement: The revised version of a musical composition for other instruments. Typically involves Intro, Verse, Bridge, Chorus, Middle-8, and/or Outro.

AU: Audio Units – plug-in format provided by Core Audio in Mac OS X. 

Audio Interface: Device that can send sounds to a computer from the outside world and back out again. 

Automation: A triggered sequence of commands that change selected parameters in a DAW.

B

Bar: A bar is a unit of time in music. A bar often has 4 “beats”.

Bass: Low end sounds from an audio frequency spectrum. 60 – 250 Hz rating is best for bass.

Bassline: The lowest sounding note or sequence of notes in a song.

Beat: The main pulse of a track. 

Beat-match: Adjusting the tempos of multiple songs so the beats match up.

Bitrate: The number of bits per second that can be transmitted along digital networks.

Bitwig / Bitwig Studio: DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) available for Windows, Linux and MacOS.

Bootleg: An recording of audio or video that is not released by the original creator.

Bounce: Exporting a song, or part of a song, from the DAW to a digital format. 

BPM: Beats Per Minute – measures the music tempo.

Break: A part of a song with less musical elements. 2) Short for “breakbeat”: A sampled, looped drum beat, used particularly in drum ‘n’ bass, trip-hop and, indeed, Breakbeat.

Breakbeat: Looping drum beat sample.

Build-up: Where the energy of a song increases. Usually between the breakdown and the drop.

C

Chorus: A sequence of musical notes and/or lyrics that is repeated throughout a song.

Chorus (Effect): Combination of two sounds that play at the same time to be heard as one sound.

Clipping: A form of audio distortion that occurs when an amplifier is overdriven. Happens when the volume on the mixer is too high or when a recording is too close to a microphone. 

Comp / Comping: Combining multiple bits of the same take to make one perfect bit.

Compression: The action of reducing the dynamic range of an audio signal. The dynamic range is the difference between the highs and lows of a sound.

Condenser Mic: Used for recording vocals or detailed, delicate sounds.

Controller: An input device for creating sounds in DAWs.

Control Signal: A function that alters the original parameters of a sound.

Cross-fader: A control that fades in and fades out multiple sounds at the same time.

Cubase: A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software used to record, edit and create audio.

Cue: The act of setting a piece of audio to play and determining the play back point.

Cutoff Frequency: Processor that can remove or reduce parts of a signals frequency spectrum.

D

DAW (Digital Audio Workstation): Software used to record, edit and create audio.

Decibel (dB): Unit for measuring the intensity of a sound.

Delay: The playback of a sound after the initial hearing point.

Detune: To raise or lower the pitch of a sound.

Distortion: The altering of an audio signal to be different from the original sound.

Drop: The point of a song where the rhythm and pace change to boost energy.

Drum Machine: A programmable electronic device or software function able to imitate the sounds of a drum kit. 

Dry: Raw and unprocessed sounds that come directly from a recording or DAW.

Dynamic Range: The difference between the quietest and loudest sound.

E

Effects / FX: A change added to the audio signal or an individual sound.

Envelope: Describes how a sound changes over time. The ADSR (attack, decay, sustain and release) are elements used to control the envelope. 

Equalization (EQ): Audio processing of adjusting the volume level of a frequency.

F

Fader: The tool that adjusts the volume or other effects on a controller.

Filter: An effect that removes certain frequencies from a sound.

Flanger: An effect that combines the delayed sound with the original.

FL Studio: Windows-only Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software used to record, edit and create audio.

FM Synthesis: Frequency Modulation (FM) sound synthesis is where the frequency of a waveform is changed by modulating its frequency with a modulator.

Frequency: The rate at which vibration occurs in a sound wave. Measured in Hertz (Hz) or Kilohertz (kHz). 

Fundamental: The pitch of a note.

G

Gate: A volume parameter that triggers when a sound can be heard.  

Gain: A control that increases and decreases the amount of audio signal going into a device.

H

Harmonic: A multiple of the frequency of the fundamental tone. 

Headroom: The maximum amount of audio signal that can pass through a device before being distorted.

Hertz (Hz): Unit of measurement for frequency.

High-pass Filter: An effect that passes signals with a frequency higher than a certain cutoff frequency and attenuates signals with frequencies lower than the cutoff frequency

Hook: Appealing part of a song that catches the ear of the listener.

I

Input Gain: Used to match the audio signal level to the input of a console or DAW.

Instrument: A device or software tool that creates musical sounds.

Intro: The first section of a song.

J

Jack: A connector for plugging in audio devices.

K

Kbps: Unit of measurement for bitrate.

Key: A group of pitches, or notes, that form the foundation of a piece of music.

L

Lead: An instrument or vocals assigned to play an important part of a song.

Level: The volume of sound measured in decibels (dB).