This glossary goes along with the syllabus for my two Digital Sound classes.
I (always) have a bit of updating to do, so not everything will be in here right away,
in the meantime you can consult whatis.com, ask.com, or any other of the
many serchable dictionaries around.. These defs are intended to be helpful
in the class context, so don't expect Noah Webster here, but hopefully they'll
fill a few gaps in your jargonese. And Wikipedia is amazing.
The file extension for the "wave" format, originally developed
for Windows. There was a time when you simply couldn't open one type of audio
file unless you had a specific platform and software. Now it is a simple
process to convert from one file type to another, using any of the standard
audio or video apps.
Windows Media Audio, the more recent way to name a Windows Media file. see
.asf. There's very little difference between the two, in fact you can usually
rename the suffix with no ill effects. However, certain programs require
either one or the other due to their specific scripting, so beware.
"0" DB (STANDARD REFERENCE LEVEL)
This setting on a mixing board or recording device means that you are set
to receive the optimum sound level for that particular device. Any adjustments
which you make to volume, either increasing or decreasing, should be made
in reference to "0". One usually sets reference levels by sending
a selection of sine waves at different frequencies at a known volume level
into the system and setting the input to 0db. Then you know that you're getting
the most accurate transfer possible from your source deck.
One KiloHertz, or one thousand cycles per second. This frequency is commonly
used as a standard level setting tone.
The measurement of 'consumer' quality equipment to handle a nominal reference voltage level. Yields about .44V as opposed to professional gear (see +4dBu)which gives 1.74 or so.
rapidly becoming archaic, this is the lowest acceptable sampling rate for
an uncompressed audio file, except in the case of samplers, where you can
individually set rates for each sample. It only gives a fidelity of 5.5KHz,
which is barely enough to capture the harmonics of speech, much less sibilants,
etc. Approx phone quality. With advances in smart compression, it's rarely
necessary to butcher your sound to that extent, in fact, you usually feed
the compression algorithm your best quality sound, and let it make its own
2 to the 7th, or %(binary)10000000, a very good number to know...for one
thing, it's the number of discrete values you can have in any midi data
byte (except for pitchbend, which is double precision (16234 values).
the size of a single sample value in a "CD quality" recording. Since
it can encompass a range from 0000000000000000 to 1111111111111111 (binary),
that means it has a total range from 0 to 65535, making it analogous to the
Windows "thousands of colors" setting, in terms of the resolution
of the dynamics of the sound. This can be directly related to the Signal to
Noise ratio, and about 96dB of dynamic range...(see http://www.faqs.org/docs/sp/sp-24.html
This is the preferred sampling rate for multimedia applications, where disk
space or upload time isn't as much of an issue. Most CD ROMS utilize
this speed, as it gives a fidelity of up to 11kHz. On the Web and in
space sensitive applications, the rate is often bumped down to 11025,
which gives a fidelity of a mere 5kHz, but runs very smoothly. Thanks
to MP3 compression, you can usually keep your source material at 44k
or greater and let the compression handle the resampling.
This is the sampling rate preferred by Macintosh computers up through most
of the Quadra series. Newer Macs have (finally) switched to the more standard
2 to the 8th, or %(binary)100000000, a good number to know, since it's the
number of values (including 0) that can be represented by a standard 8 bit
byte.. beware though, the highest actual value is %11111111, or 255, so when
you refer to the highest value in a particular byte or digital word, you
generally describe it as "2 to the 8th minus 1", etc.
31 thousand binary audio bits per second. This is the rate of MIDI transmission
between the synth and the midi interface or another synth. There is a
5% tolerance faster or slower than that, but the actual rate is closer
short for 44 kiloHertz. Actually 44100Hz. This is the industry standard sampling
rate for digital audio as it is found on audio CDs (redbook standard). This
gives you an acceptably high fidelity recording, since frequencies of up to
22050 can be captured at that rate.
The nominal input level for a 'professional' audio device. The idea is that for a given input voltage, that's the amount of output (measured in dBu ('unloaded') you'll get. Compare to consumer level, which for the same input will only give you -10dBV, or ~.44V as opposed to 1.74.
or 48000 Hz. This is the sampling rate most commonly used by DAT recorders
and DV cams.
Four Hundred and Forty cycles per second. Any vibration which changes at this
speed will produce the tone of "A" above "middle C". This
pitch is used in everything from audio calibration to the tuning of an orchestra
before a concert.
60 CYCLE HUM (GROUND HUM)
60 Cycle refers to the tone 60Hz, somewhere around a low B-flat. This is the
speed at which alternating current flows out of your wall into anything you
plug in. Thus, a 117 volt electric fan is being driven by 117 volts at 1.5
amps which changes its electrical charge 60 times every second. This is where
the impetus to drive the fan comes from. All the fan needs is a motor, which
is simply an electro-magnet suspended inside a metal coil. This energy is the
same energy used in all facets of audio. The terrible 60 cycle hum arises when
a loop is accidentally created within the circuit that allows that raw energy
to bleed into the important portion of the audio channel. Since the rate of
change is steady, you hear a warm, low pitched hum or buzz. It is usually easy
to fix such a problem, but in a complicated studio setup the problem is often
tracing down the origin of it. Simply making sure that whatever piece of equipment
is causing the offending buzz is properly grounded solves the problem most
times. Otherwise it could arise out of a mismatch of impedances, or even a
short in the audio line. The more sensitive the device, the worse the hum is
likely to be, for instance electric guitars, mics, vinyl turntables are typical
culprits, and the cure is to run a wire from the sleeve (or sometimes the chassis)
of the audio to the third prong of a wall socket, or even simply to the chassis
of one of the devices which is properly grounded.
a good number to know, since its the number of values (incl. 0) that can
be produced by a 16 bit system. This means that you can resolve the volume
level of any audio signal digitized at 16bit, from it's quietest to it's
loudest moment, into 65536 steps. Think of the way a screen draws a slanted
line: the higher you raise the monitors resolution, the smoother the
line looks. At a low resolution (8 bit color, for instance), the line
looks like a staircase. In soujnd, bit depth plays a similar effect on
the ear, with the 'jaggedness' of the 'line' analogous to the amount
of distortion in the signal.
Alternating Current. The type of energy which comes out of your electrical
socket., So-called because it continuously switches direction, from positive
to negative and back. (see 60 cycle hum). Nicola Tesla is responsible for
getting the U.S. to switch to a.c. from Edison's d.c. (direct current).
analog-to-digital-convertor. The part of a digital recording device that
converts the incoming analog voltages into discrete digital information.
Technically it's a combination of an anti-aliasing filter (see), and a series
of gates. The more gates (bits) the better quality audio you can digitize.
Since MIDI is full duplex (simultaneous two-way communication), a constant
stream of binary data in a "holding pattern" is always present
on the line as soon as the MIDI device is powered up. This stream is changed
momentarily by anything which happens to the instrument, such as a key being
pressed, patch change, sys ex command, etc. Normally you run the instrument
in this 'asynchronous' mode. In a live performance, things can happen which
sometimes result in notes not turning off, pedals getting stuck in the on
position, etc. When Active Sensing is enabled, the synth includes a special
packet of information periodically in the midi stream. If the listening device
stops getting that packet (because of stuck notes, etc.) then it automatically
turns off notes coming from the offending synth, resets the controllers,
A lossy form of compression once favored by the wintel platform, until the
advent of mp3, which seems to be replacing just about everything. ADPCM was
one of the first schemes which let you specify different levels of compression
depending on application.
"Audio Engineering Society/ European Broadcast Union", the standard
for digital connections between devices most widely used in professional applications.
You can recognize an AES/EBU connection by its' XLR xonnectors, one for output
and one for input. The splitting of information into seperate left & right
channels is handled in the digital stream, hence only a single cable is needed.
also known as poly or channel key pressure. The capability in a midi controller
to allow you to apply pressure to a key after it's been pressed, supplying
more musical expression in the form of modulation, etc.
Audio Interchange File Format. (according to some, Apple Interchange File
Format) One of the many ways in which digital sound is organized as a computer
file for transport between different systems and platforms. This format works
particularly well for the Macintosh, while the .WAV format is preferred by
IBM machines.Nowadays though, any application worth its salt should be able
to open either regardless of platform.
This is a phenomenon which arises when you try to digitally record any frequency
which is higher than 1/2 the sampling rate( the Nyquist frequency) that you're
using. The digital system will go right ahead and sample the waveform as
best it can, but will return a value which is the difference between 1/2
the sampling rate and the actual frequency. In other words, a completely
new, and probably unrelated, pitch will be produced by the digital system.
This is prevented through the use of an anti-aliasing filter, through which
the sound is passed before it is sampled. The filter cuts out any frequencies
above the Nyquist.
an electronic device for controlling the volume or loudness of a sound, or
for increasing the strength of an electrical signal.
Usually referred to as the 'volume' or 'loudness' of a sound. Amplitude is
the distance between the 'peak' and the 'trough' in the waveform of a sound,
and is measured moment to moment. You can also take an average, sometimes
referred to as "root mean square" (RMS).
is generally used as a term to diametrically oppose the term 'digital'. An
analog signal has an unbroken connection to its' source, unlike digital,
where the source must first be broken into discrete units. In audio, analog
means 'continuous', uninterrupted. An example of an analog device would be
a typical sine wave oscillator in a Moog synth. Another would be a conventional
ANGLE OF ROTATION
is a way of mathematically expressing the frequency of a wave or harmonic
as an angle created by the rotation of a point around a unit circle.
Most digital recorders have built in foolproofs against accidentally trigering a recording. For instance, in a Zoom recorder yo hve to hit the record button twice; in Pro Tools, Logic, you have to record enable a track, hit a record arm button, then hit play to initiate the transport. On a beta machine you have to unprotect the tape, then hit play while pressing record, etc. etc. Arm simply means to do whatever you need to to prepare your tool for recording.
a digital audio glitch or distortion.Can be caused by a number of things,
including momentary errors in the recording process (usually audible
as a 'snap') and 'baggage' left over by some DSP function (usually
heard as a high 'tweeting' sound).
So-called "Advanced Systems Format", the format for Windows Media,
equivalent to the .rm file in Realmedia.
www.microsoft.com/windows/ windowsmedia/format/ asf
certain web servers insist on the .asf format, though many programs don't
even offer it as a suffix, only .wma or .wmv. Fortunately, all you have to
do is change the suffix to .asf...apparently there is no difference between
them, or at least not enough to screw anything up.
the format for Windows Media metafile, typically a 1 line text file that
points to its equivalent .asf file. Same idea as the .rm - .ram relationship
The metafile makes it possible for the client to listen/see the streaming
piece without actually giving them access to the server that stores it.
a new Max convention. In an object, this symbol allows you to select from
a variety of arguments to be typed into the object, instead of the usual
fixed few choices. For instance, jit.op allows for math operations on the
incoming video signal. Using the @ sign in the object allows you to specify
any of the math or logic operators, as opposed to sending them in as messages.
In a compressor or noise gate, this refers to the speed at which the circuit "clamps
down" on the incoming signal, usually ranging from milliseconds to hundredths
of a second.
The 'onset' of a sound, that is, the moment when a sound begins to happen until
it reaches its first stable amplitude plateau. Usually measurable in milliseconds.
The common term for a rheostatic control such as a volume fader on a mixing
After having sent an audio signal out of the mixing board via SEND (see next),
it must then be brought back into the mixing board. One way would simply be
to plug the output of the effects unit back into another channel in the mixer.
Most mixers which allow you to SEND the sound also feature a set of dedicated
inputs called RETURNs, which are designed specifically to take the signal which
has been sent and merge it back together with the original audio from the mixer.
This keeps you from having to tie up precious extra mixer channels with effects.
The auxiliary send of a mixing board is a completely separate output channel.
Its purpose is to allow you to take a certain incoming signal and route it
to an outside device such as an effects unit, without affecting the rest of
the mix. Most mixing boards have some sort of aux send. Our Mackie CR1604 has
six, while the 1202 has only two.
The capability of a mixer or recording system to capture realtime changes in
volume faders, pan pots etc. Basically anything that can be recorded by a
system other than audio.
A balanced circuit allows the audio signal to flow in two directions, traditionally
referred to as 'hot' and 'cold', at an equal impedance. Therefore, three conductors
are needed in such a circuit. The ground, therfore, is split apart from the
significant part of the signal, giving a very clean transmission. You can usually
tell a balanced device by its connectors: either an XLR for each channel, or
a pair of three conductor 1/4" phone plugs. Three conductor Phone plugs
may be used either as a single UNBALANCED stereo plug or as a BALANCED mono
BAND PASS FILTER
A filter used for removing all but a selected range (band) of frequencies in
a sound. A radio is a perfect example of a band pass filter. When you tune
the radio to a certain channel, what you're doing is selecting a carrier frequency
out of all possible frequencies and boosting its level way above the others.
This copuld also be called a 'peak' filter.
BAND REJECT FILTER
The opposite of a band pass filter. It permits all frequencies in a sound to
be heard except for a selected range which you 'notch' out. Used for removing
unwanted hums and tones from recordings.
Measurement of a device or comunication lines' ability to reproduce or generate
a range of frequencies. A telephone has a bandwidth of about 4KHz, a CD
player has a bandwidth of about 20KHz. Many algorithms are in use in modems
and such, to increase the 4K limitation, usually using a clever combination
of compression and buffering (storing chunks of sound temporarily as quickly
as possible, so they'll be available when their 'time comes up' in the
A type of MAX message which serves as a trigger for something else.
A collection of patches in a digital synth which are arranged by number. The
typical bank now has 128 patches. Better synths have many banks, which can
be switched in MIDI thru the use of controller 0 (or in some cases 32)
(BinaryAUDio) the measurement of transmission speed in bits/sec. MIDI, for
instance, goes at 31250 baud.
In music, beat is a regular division of time. Beats are grouped together in
measures. Beats are generally measured against a larger time value, known as
a whole note. The beat can be one half of that value, one quarter, one eighth.
Thus a measure in the meter 4/4 means that time is divided into four beats
(quarter notes, hence the top "4"), which also comprises one whole
A microphone which picks up sound directly in front and in back, but filters
out sounds coming from the sides.
A library of sound clips accessible to a program.
Broadband Noise Reduction. Originally developed by Digidesign, this is a very
useful tool for intelligently removing noise from a preexisting recording.
It is a very fine resolution multiband filter which is tuned to the frequencies
contained in a sample of the unwanted noise. The filter is then applied to
the entier recording, esentially 'lifting out' the noise component. With
proper adjustment, this one plugin has saved many a hopeless audio file.
Now pretty much everybody makes them, for the whole range of prices (including
the numbering system consisting of only 0 and 1.
A phenomenon of digital audio "artifacts", or unwanted sound byproducts
caused by being clumsy in your digital editing. Certain processes which you
perform on a digital sound file play around with very small time chunks of
the file, and cause a given moment of sound to be extended for a longer period
of time. This can cause clearly audible frequencies to be produced, since the
repetition of a section of a waveform produces a new waveform all by itself.
There are various tools used for minimizing this effect, for instance "smoothing" in
DINR (see below).
or BinaryInTeger. The 'atom' of a digital value, a bit is simply a tiny electronic
switch which can be turned on (1) or off (0). When you place several bits side
by side, you can express larger and larger numbers using base 2.
the word length which is employed in a soundfile. The greater the bit depth,
the better the dynamics and signal to noise ratio of the resultant sound. Multimedia
tends to use the very poor sounding 8 bit format, which only allows you to
have a dynamic range specified by a range of values between 0 and 255. This
results in a graininess in the sound, as well as a huge amount of unpleasant
crackle and noise. Certain software, such as Wave's L1 plugin, was designed
specifically to improve on this problem, and works rather well.
By way of comparison, the standard 16 bit depth allows the dynamic range to
be broken into 65536 parts.
the speed with which data can flow in a digital communication. Things like
56K in a modem are measurements of bitrate. Directly relates to throughput
(speed at which a steady stream of info can occur) and bandwidth (the 'depth'
of information, usually related to perceivable phenomena such as frequency
response, dynamic range, color depth, etc.
A coaxial plug most commonly used to connect the video signal between professional
cameras and vcrs. Named after two engineers in the 40's ( 'Bayonet' Neill Concelman)
The process of digitally transferring a multi-track session to a new mono or
stereo file, either as a mastering step, or to free up tracks for more input.
A user defined point on a graphic 'rubber band' type onscreen control.
MSP object which allows you to allocate a ram based table for temporary storage
of a sound. Much faster then direct to disk, crucial for any operation where
realtime waveform manipulation is desired.
a set of eight bits. Can express a range of numbers from 0 (00000000) to 255
Inventor of the Telharmonium (see @ emf.org). An interesting blurb (and pic)
can be found here
The tendency (unwanted) of a wire or conducting device to buile up static
electricity. This can cause noise and pops in a recording. One of the reasons
why you can only run audio cable a finite distance without extra electronics
to take care of the 'baggage'.
A common mic sensitivity pattern which, in cross-section, looks like a heart
shape. Actually it's more like a balloon pressed against the head of
the mic. The pattern can be varied by the construction and electronics
of the mic, into variations such as hypercardioid,supercardioid , etc.
Specifically, the second nybble of a status byte (in the set of midi messages
termed "channel messages") which assigns a MIDI event to a specific
destination. MIDI supports 16 channels which is extended through the use
of "ports" and virtual decives.
The most common type of MIDI message, ranges from hex 9(0-F) to E(0-F). Governs
such things as playing notes, changing volume, bending pitch, etc. Contrast
with System Message, which governs behaviour of an entire synth, sequencer,
a technique used in "fattening up" a sound, by taking the original
sound, digitally reproducing it, then detuning the copy slightly. The effect
when the two are then played together is of two different sources (singers,
instruments, etc.) playing the same note.
an audio signal used in a sequencer to provide the performer with the beat/tempo
for recording purposes. While the original click was just a dry, percussive
sound, nowadays you often also have spoken cues embedded into the click track
as well, for extra precision.
A temporary storage area in the ram of the computer where items you cut or
copy are kept pending your pasting them elsewhere.
Part of the gear of a typical modular synthesizer of the 70's. Precursor
to the digital sequencers used in midi, this device would supply an array
of voltages that could be 'tuned' by the user in a series. Listen to
On The Run from Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, for a very nice
sequencer segment. Also, Touch by Morton Subotnick.
a cable which uses two conductors, one in the form of a cylindrical "shield" which
surrounds the other all along the length of the wire. Used in unbalanced
audio systems and video cable.
short for COder-DECoder. A two sided algorithm which applies compression
to a data stream as it comes in, then applies decompression to it on the
way out. A codec may be hardware or software based, and may be either lossy
(information in the original file is lost in the compression process, such
as Realaudio, mp3, etc.) or non-lossy (information in the decoding process
is completely restored to the original state, such as Stuffit, .hqx, winzip,
etc.) Codecs are most important in video, where the movement of a vast amount
of data is necessary each moment. MPEG is a very popular example, as well
A 'plumber's term' for the negative part of an audio connection, typically black or white in a siple conection, black, white or clear in a more complex cable.
In the Korg M1 synthesizer, "combi" is their not-so-standard synonym
for the multitimbral mode.
The effect whereby the force emanating from a sound-producing body causes
the air to 'bunch up' as molecules collide. This creates 'standing waves'
which allow the sound to carry for long distances before it is eventually
Any algorithm designed to reduce the file size of a digital audio stream.
There are two versions of compression: lossy, such as realaudio, mp3, etc.,
where part of the audio is altered and/or disposed of, and non-lossy, where
the audio is temporarily compressed, then reconstituted by the software
on the receiving end.
The process of reducing the dynamic range of a recording so it will sound
fuller in a lower bandwidth environment, e.g., radio, t.v., the web, all
of which have limited dynamic range.
Any part of an electrical circuit which allows the flow of electricity. Opposite
a type of mic which contains its own built-in electronics to help increase
the frequency and dynamic response, lower impedence, etc. Opposite of dynamic
is a complete misnomer. In MIDI nothing is really continuous, so the trick
is to fool the ear into thinking that things such as a smooth change in volume
of pitch is really that. Such is the purpose of continuous controller messages.
When you send out the same message in a stream with slight increments in
each one, the ear is pretty easily fooled into hearing it as a continuous
event. Refers to a command used in MIDI to supply note-on, volume, controller
signals into a tone generator. Controllers may be keyboards, wind devices,
guitars, villins, and a host of more esoteric forms such as infrared sensors.
The thing to remember is that if you're buying a MIDI controller it doesn't
necessarily mean that sound actually comes with it! Hex B(0-9), with the
first data byte naming the controller number and the second specifying how
what to change to.
to make a duplicate of an audio region on the clipboard.
the cosine function. Imagine a dot moving counterclockwise around the perimeter
of a circle (usually represented with a radius of 1). The cosine is the position
at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines that would stretch
from the dot to the center of the circle with respect to the horizontal,
that is to say, the ratio between the length of the two lines thus made.
All sound can be shown to be made up of cosines and sines at different frequencies,
phases and amplitudes.
"ah one and ah two and ah three and ah..." Typically used in a sequencer
in conjunction with the click track
Cycles Per Second, another measurement of frequency, same as Hertz.
a method of altering the spliced areas of two files so that they blend better.
A portion of the beginning of the righthand file is faded into a portion
of the end of the lefthand file. There are many variations on the type
of fade, usually accomplished through a graphic interface.
An improvement over the earlier lingua franca for music synthesis, Fortran.
CSound uses the C language and a score/orchestra file structure to compile
non realtime tables and algorithms into sound files, though a lot of
realtime work is currently being done as well.
Measurement of electrical 'flow' (symbol I). Basically the speed of flow, or voltage/time.
to move audio to the clipboard, removing it from the source area.
A single, complete pass through the shape of a periodic wave, usually containing
information both above and below the zero line. A cycle is made up of
A MAX/MSP sine wave generator
Digital-to-analog-convertor. The output end of a digital recording device.
Like the ADC (see), the DAC is also a combination of devices, including
a filter. Like the ADC, the DAC's filter is also a lowpass, only in this
case, it serves to smooth out the tiny jumps in amplitude which aare unavoidable
when you reconstitute a digitally produced signal.
Digital Audio Tape, an industry standard for digitally capturing audio. DAT uses
a rotating head assembly like a VCR to create a very stable digital transfer
onto a slow-moving tape.
second and third bytes of a midi channel message. while the status byte esentially
tells the device what to do, it is the data byte that says 'to what' and 'how
Composer, Listen to any of his Synchronisms for various instruments and electronic
Direct Current. An electrical flow which goes in one direction only, such as
that produced by a battery.
The second phase of a sound's envelope, where the initial amplitude 'plateau'
begins to die away to some sustaining level. Can vary in time from milliseconds
The standard unit for measurement of the intensity of a sound, literally a
tenth of a Bel. dB units function on a logarithmic scale much like the
human ear itself. Because we are sensitive to changes in amplitude of millionths
in terms of the actual change in sound pressure level we can't use a simple
arithmetic scale to measure such changes, hence the need for a logarithmic
one, where an exponential change can be easily plotted on a chart, measured
on a mixing board slider, etc. "0" on the dB way of things means
the threshold of hearing, where around 180 dB is about as much as a person
can stand without getting new eardrums. In actuality, 180 dB is millions
of times louder than 0 dB.
A helpful feature in sequencing software which ensures that your MIDI file
will have each track automatically call the appropriate patch on your MIDI
synth. In Performer for instance, you set the default patch simply by selecting
the name of the desired patch in a column in the tracks window. Unfortunately,
that default is typically limited to the software in which you set it, that
is, if you then export a standard midi file, the default patch stays behind.
So it's still a better idea to explicitly set the patch in the track itself.
refers to audio editing in which permanent changes are made to the original
audio file (media). Programs such as Peak and SoundForge do destructive editing
primarily, while those like ProTools are Non Destructive by design.
refers to information which has been quantized into discrete numerical values.
Virtually anything can be digitized. In audio, the digital signal contains
changes in amplitude over time which represents a captured audio waveform.
The use of digital equipment to produce "echo" in a sound. Analogous
to the Echoplex of yesteryear, a device much loved and much overused by many
When recording from one digital device to another it's usually desirable
to 'slave' the input machine to the output to prevent timing errors, dropouts
etc. This is referred to as digital sync, as opposed to internal sync, where
each device runs under its own clock.
To convert something from the analog world into the digital domain, through an ADC (see).
the five pin plug/jack used in all midi devices. Only two of the five pins
(three counting ground) are currently used.
Digidesign Intelligent Noise Reduction...a great gift to digital recording
(well, not exactly "gift": costs $1000). It is a plug in that you
use to analyze a portion of noise in a recording, then lift out all the noise,
leaving all the good stuff behind. Sonic Foundry makes an excellent version
of the same for ActiveX, and all the plugin manufacturers are coming out
with their own, Waves, for instance. <rant>It's too bad when companies
charge for something based on how desperately they think people need it,
rather than on the amount of work that went into making it.
is a (usually) undesirable quality in sound which has been recorded or processed
beyond the limits of the system attempting to do so. It literally takes the
smooth, sinusoidal shapes of the sound waves as they reach the limit of the
system and chops off anything over the limit, so you end up with a lot of
square waves where you should have sines. As a result a huge amount of erroneous
harmonic information is added to the sound, and the original balance is destroyed.
For some people this is a good thing.
A feature of digital editing software which alleviated some of the unwanted
artifacts caused by digital manipulation by adding noise (believe it or not)
to the soundfile as it's processed. The noise is much smoother than the lowest
order bits of the soundfile that would otherwise be left behind after processing,
so is much harder to detect by the ear, giving a smoother result.
a nifty feature in software such as pro tools which allows you to sculpt
your own waveforms with a pencil tool. Most useful for smoothing out
digital glitches and awkward splices.
Digital Signal Processing. Either refers to the process of altering sound
digitally, or to the actual hardware used in digital recording and processing.
Computers have DSP cards which are dedicated to working with audio, thereby
freeing up the CPU for other things.
The length of an event. In a MIDI sequencer, duration may be specified in SMPTE
(HH:MM:SS:FF), 'realtime' (MM:SS:1/100ss), or in musical beats and divisions
of a beat.
refers to changes in the loudness of sound, its range is measured in dB. The
better the recording, the higher the dynamic range. Poor is in the 60s, good
is in the 80s, digital is in the 100s, all mediated of course by the skill
of the recordist.
also known as Digital Delay..a dsp function which allows you to create a
reiteration of a selection of audio, complete with decay, feedback, and
often several other programmable tweaks such as delay time.
to cycle an input through its destination output so that it appears again
at the input. Originally used in modems as a way of making sure that
what you types was what got to the network. Currently used in MIDI to
route signhals to programmed destinations.
Digital synthesizers, being computers, tend to be made by engineers who are very conscious of data protection. Therefore you usually have to put the device into an 'edit' mode before you are allowed to make changes which will permanently alter the patches it contains. A special memory buffer is usually reserved for this, so that even when you're editing you can't really ditch the previous patch until you actually 'save', thus replacing the patch with the edit buffer contents.
Part of the 'electromagnetic spectrum' surrounding a certain thing. Audio devices
must be shielded from stray electromagnetic radiation, which can degrade the
the use of sub patchers in MAX to improve the logical flow within a patcher.
The 'shape' of a sound. An envelope is the profile of the amplitude curve created
by a given sound, and is conventionally broken into four basic stages: attack,
decay, sustain and release.
A device used in conjunction with a voltage controlled amplifier or filter to
provide the above mentioned shape to the desired parameter of a sound. Typically
has four stages, ATTACK (A), DECAY (D), SUSTAIN (S), RELEASE (R), or ADSR. Nowadays
computer generated envelopes can have pretty much as many levels and timepoints
as you want.
The process of emphasizing or reducing a certain range of frequencies in
a sound. EQ controls can either be found as a part of a mixing board, or
as a separate device. EQ is a specific type of filtering, and is usually
divided into BANDS of frequencies. There is a HIGH range, a MID range and
a LOW range, with inbetween divisions, depending on the quality (and cost)
of the equipment. A very powerful form of such a device is known as PARAMETRIC
EQ, in which the frequancy ranges can be manipulated so precisely that you
can filter out individual pitches.
either a single occurrence of something (a bit flipping from 0 to 1, for
instance), or a group of related phenomena which may be conveniently grouped
together, usually in a time-based frame. Thus, a 'note' is an event which
contains elements of frequency, timbre, amplitude, duration, etc. In electronic
music and MIDI, it's important to be able to identify the individual elements
which make up a single sonic event.
One of the editing modes in a MIDI sequencer. The event list is the most
basic, simply giving you a chronological list of each MIDI event on that
track, listing note number, velocity, duration, controller numbers and values,
Opposite of compression: to increase the dynamic range of a soundfile, usually
with the purpose of lowering the noise floor. Softer version of the noise
FastFourierTransform, a computer algorithm which allows you to analyze a
finite moment of sound for pitch content. MSP has an fft~ object for
that purpose. Basically, the selection of sound is split up into 'windows',
and each is scanned for periodicity. The function returns pairs of amplitude
and phase numbers.
A class of electronic device which is used to affect the 'color' of a sound,
by specifically affecting the amplitude of only a certain portion of
the frequency content of the sound. By contrast, an amplifier affects
the entire sound. Typical varieties are (see) lo pass, hi pass, band
pass, band reject, peak-notch, lo shelf, hi shelf, octave, graphic eq.
a musical effect created by taking a sound, making a copy of it, then playing
back both sounds while shifting one of them in time, usually by a very small
amount. Increase the delay and you have digital delay. With flanging, you
get a metallic, sweeping effect in the sound.
a floating point number, the computer's way of dealing with decimals. Contrast
Frequency Modulation. A technique for creating interesting musical timbres
pioneered by John Chowning in the 80's. You can change the harmonic spectrum
of a CARRIER signal by modulating its frequency with another signal. When
the two signals are both members of the same harmonic series, side bands
are produced which emulate the harmonic sperad found in nature in acoustic
a standard midi file which compress all data into a single track. Since a
track is an arbitrary partition anyway, it has little effect on the way the
file is seen by most external midi file players.
a standard midi file which maintains the channel/track relationships inhereted
from the sequencer file that created it.
Mark of the Unicorn's answer to Opcode's "Open Music System" (formerly
Opcode Midi System), which is the system level software that manages the flow
of MIDI information between your applications and hardware. It would be really
nice if one of them would give up and totally tool their software for one system
only. Maybe they'll even merge into one company someday and save us all the hassle
of trying to deal with the petty incompatibilities of their system software (sure
they will...seen any flying monkies?).
A measurement of change over time. Frequency can describe the periodic motion
of anything from the Earth around the Sun (1 revolution per year), a clock ticking
off seconds (1 tick per second), or a musical tone (440 cycles per second, for
refers to the behaviour in terms of amplitude of a device as measured across
a range of frequencies. The ideal device would produce the same amplitude for
any frequency it received, but this is never the case. It is instead an absolute
against which devices can be measured. Flat frequency response refers to this
goal, and the flatness of a device is an indication of its quality.
a communications system in which a signal can flow freely in both directions
at the same time, a telephone for instance. MIDI is full duplex. A walkie-talkie
is only half duplex (two way communication..not at the same time).
The part of a sonic vibration which oscillates at the ratio of 1/1. Also
known as the first harmonic.
Usually refers to the volume level of sound as it first comes into a device
such as an amp or mixer. Setting the initial gain is necessary to avoid distortion
or unnecessarily high noise levels in the audio even before it is raised
and lowered with the normal volume controls. In other words, if the gain
is set too high, no amount of fiddling with the other volume controls will
prevent the sound from being distorted. Likewise, if the gain is set too
low, then cranking up the volume in the mixer will add lots of noise into
the sound as it brings it up.
When you employ compression or L1 peak limiting, there comes a point where
the system has to attenuate the signal to avoid distortion. It usually appears
as an opposing display to the vu meters, as the input levels go over a certain
threshold, you can see the gain reduction kick in and start registering in
the opposite direction. The louder the signal, the more gain reduction is
employed. This allows you to raise the quieter portion of the signal while
backing off the level of the loud part.
an extension to the midi specification which seeks to standardize certain
areas which are considered to be problems in the original midi soec, namely
the way in which sounds (programs, patches) in a given synth are stored and
named. In the GM convention, sounds are stored in a bank of 128 programs,
which is divided into 8 groups that encompass the basic classes of musical
instruments, e.g., the first 8 sounds are piano keyboard type sounds, the
next 8 pitched percussion, and so on. Manufacturers of synths are free to
create unique sounds for their machines, provided that they roughly fall
within those designations, in order to be considered truly general midi.
The chief advantage is in portability: you can create a midi file on one
platform, and open and play it on another, with some degree of consistency
in the sound.
Refers to a mode available on typical MIDI devices which place the device
in 'live performance' mode. Typically this reconfigures the keyboard so that
it will respond on a single channel, instead of all 16, for instance. If
you want to use your midi synth as a multitimbral workstation, stay out of
To "gate" as a verb means to "hold open". A gate therefore
is a device which "holds open" the flow of a signal in some way.
A noise gate, for instance, allows an audio signal to pass through as long
as it is over a certain loudness. The moment it falls below that loudness,
the gate "shuts", cutting off the sound clean. As you can guess,
this might be used to either remove background noise, or more musically,
to give an extra punch to short sounds.
A synthesis method pioneered by Curtis Rhoads and others, which treats sound
as a collection of tiny 'atoms' or 'grains'. By altering the timing, envelope,
density, shape, etc., of the grains, one can produce a wide variety of timbral
Also known as piano roll notation. Displays note-on and other data on a graph,
height represents pitch, length represents duration. MIDI can be edited by
moving it around on the graph, stretching note icons to lengthen them, etc.
msp object which does granular synthesis. A small 'wavelet' may be designated
to be a 'grain', which becomes a reiterative element in a larger sound.
As one changes parameters of the grain, the overall sound changes.
A bank of filters which may be used to independently boost or cut several
ranges of frequencies in a sound. The filters are arranged side by side
in a bank, and divide the frequency spectrum into many bands, separated
in octaves, half or third octaves, or fixed frequency divisions. Often
used to compensate for weaknesses in a particular sound system or acoustic
Like most graphic programs, which allow a graphic to be constrained to rules
on the screen, sound clips may be constrained to time divisions. ProTools
has a grid mode which allows you to adjust regions of sound in selectable
increments. Digital Performer allows you to use a quantize grid when
snapping notes to regular rhythmic spots, adjustable to most note values.
MSP object which serves as a loop player for various buffer~s.
Also called sub-group; an extra set of assignable outputs in the output stage of a mixer. It simply gives you an extra way of getting audio out to a specific place so as not to conflict with your main outs. A typical use of sub groups would be to send your stereo mix to a device which required its own independent level setting apart from the master mix. Affecting leels on the main mix would not affect the settings on your sub gtoup.
"go to end"
"go to zero (start)"
Bi-directional communication, not simultaneous. A walkie-talkie, for instance.
An ascending series of multiples of a fundamental frequency. The harmonic
series gives us such interesting phenomena as the major triad. As the frequency
of a given tone is multiplied by increasing integers (1,2,3...) the resulting
tones stack up in this series: f, 2f, 3f..., which give the resulting intervals
of the octave, fifth, fourth, third. etc. This series occurs in nature and
is a part of all musical instruments and most sound related phenomena.
The part of a digital sound file which stores the basic info that tells the
computer how to treat the file, e.g., what sampling rate, bit-depth, format,
In analog recording, a certain amount of leeway may be allowed in the amount
of signal allowed into a recording. The rule of thumb is to put as much information
on the tape as possible without distortion, thereby minimizing background
hiss. Analog record heads can usually take somewhat more "juice" than
you'd think from watching the vu-meters. Thus we have terms relating to the
behaviour of the meters themselves. One such term is "bouncing" the
needle. This occurs when the needle (or led nowdays) briefly goes far into
the "red zone" of the meter. This is unavoidable in music which
contains short, high amplitude sounds such as a drum kit. An analog machine
can take this sort of abuse quite well. The meter behaviour which is death
to most any recording is called "pinning", where the led or needle
hits hard against the right (or top) and stays there. The head room refers
to the amount of bounce that can occur before distortion sets in. Digital
systems generally do not have headroom unless the system is intentionally
calibrated that way. In fact, the "0" on the vu meter of a DAT
machine is generally the absolute maximum before distortion. And digital
distortion is not a pretty thing.
One of the pioneers of Musique Concrete. Listen to his Variations Pour Une
Porte et un Soupir.
Abbreviated Hz, the measurement of frequency in cycles/second, named after
a number represented in the hexadecimal (base 16) numbering system. Very
useful in midi, because it is much closer it nature to base 2, which
is crucial in understanding and creating midi messages. Uses the digits
0-9, then A-F to represent in single digits the values 10-15. Another
advantage is that you can represent large numbers with fewer digits than
you could in base 10.
A variant of the lopass filter, in which the righthand portion of the frequency
range can be either cut or boosted at the cutoff frequency.
HI PASS FILTER (HPF)
This filter is used to remove low frequencies from a sound. As the cutoff point
is raised (by turning a pot clockwise, or raising a slider), low frequencies
are reduced to zero amplitude. This is sometimes used to get rid of hums in recordings
which are being processed for lower bandwidth applications, since low frequencies
are lost in the process anyway. More often, hums are removed using Digidesign's
Hum Removal software.
Another term for Hi impedance.
A 'plumbers term' for the positive (signal) wire in a connection. Typically the 'red' one in a simple wiring scheme, or the colored ones in a more complex cable.
Opposite of quantize. In MIDI, allows one to randomize various parameters of
previously recorded midi data, to reinject a more human feel. Also makes a good
algorithmic composition tool.
A 'squeezed' heart-shaped sensitivity field for a microphone. Sometimes referred
to as a 'shotgun' mic, this microphone picks up a narrow field of sound from
a great distance. When used with a dish, such mics are routinely used for surveillance.
InverseFastFourierTransform. The method by which the amplitude/phase pair of
numbers extracted by the FFT is reconverted back into instantaneous amplitudes.
In MAX, one can analyze a sound using FFT, process the data, then reconstitute
the sound ('resynthesize') again.
A digital compression technique brought to you by Apple. Gives very good results
on 16 bit aiff audio files and reduces the file size by a factor of 4:1. Shareware
such as Sound Converter gives you the ability to save with that speck, as do
the latest releases of the usual programs.
The resistance of an audio system to the flow of (alternating) current. There are two categories:
high impedance devices are consumer grade appliances such as cassette decks,
tuners, CD players, etc. Low impedance devices are generally more costly to make,
and are used for professional applications. Balanced devices are generally low
impedance, unbalanced ones are high.Like resistance, impedance is measured in
Ohms. Typical low impedance (Lo-z) might be 600 Ohms, Hi-z might be around 2000.
the port on a midi device which expects to receive information.
topside of a MAX object, admits incoming data.
The part of an audio device which expects an incoming electrical signal from
somewhere else. Inputs are generally governed by impedence (see above), either
high or low.
The section of a mixing board that contains the many channels to be mixed. A typical channel in an input stage has controls for asignment, muting, pan,eq, aux sends, and gain control. A chanel might take only line level or may also have a preamp built in (in which case there would be a trim control as well as a gain).
In sampler context, an instrument is a collection of samples which have been
mapped onto a keyboard. Typically, functions such as modulation, envelopes, reverb,
etc., are added to the instrument in the sampler software.
Our perception of sound derives largely from our tendency to blur a series of rapid events in time into a cohesive whole. As a result we often have trouble conceiving of sound s a series of individual eents. Yet when you digitize omething, you are breaking up the continuous stream of information into discrete time/amplitude pairs. Any one of these represents the instantaneous amplitude of the sound at that moment in time. It doesn't mean a lot out of context, since you don't get sound till you reassemble all the amplitudes together. However, a whole world of change can occur between the analysis and resynthesis of a sound.
a whole number. MIDI uses integers strictly.
that which allows one device to understand/talk to another; hardware, software,
or a combination of both.
A mirror image of something. In music, an inversion of C D E would be C Bb
Ab (what went up now goes down). Inversion is a powerful compositional
tool and most MIDI sequencers allow you to perform inversion on midi data.
a.k.a. "socket", a jack is a recepticle into which a plug goes.
The name of the jack matches the name of the plug, e.g., an RCA plug goes
into an RCA jack. Plugs are sometimes configured as recepticles (with holes
instead of pins), and are then referred to as "female" plugs.
the way in which a sample or collection of samples is spread across a virtual
keyboard. Each sample is assigned a note range and a root key (the key
at which the original pitch of the sample will sound).
The speed at which a note-on command is produced, e.g., the speed that a
key goes down on a keyboard. Usually implemented as a volume/timbre combination
control on a typical MIDI synth.
a digital switch that stores a value until refreshed.
A lapel mic, any mic esigned to be work inconspicuously on the body, available in both wired and wireless versions.
The volume of a sound, as it can be controlled by some device such as a mixer,
tape input, etc.
an alternative method of collecting patches in the computer. Programs such
as Unisyn and the Galaxy Editor/Librarian allow you to gather a bank
of sounds via sysEx, then organize them alpahbetically in any way you
like. Such is a library.
If a one to one correspondance between the input and output of a device exists,
it's said to be linear. This is desirable, just like flatness in terms
of frequency. Cheak devices tend to have spots that are non-linear..that
is, you put in a little, they give back way too much, or vice versa.
a term for the 'operating' voltage levels that will allow an electronic system
to operate at peak efficiency. A properly pre-amplified signal (from a mic,
for instance) will be brought up to line level, at which point it can 'play'
with other signals at the proper strength level without introducing noise
or distortion. Cassette decks, DATs, DV cams, synthesizers, computers all
typically produce a line level output.
A MAX feature which allows you to send values in a group as opposed to one
one of the trickier things a traditionally trained musician has to get used to
is the possibility that, in a midi keyboard situation, the keyboard may or may
not be able to produce sound. The best controller keyboards, in fact, usually
don't produce sound, but rather server as high quality 'dummy' keyboards, with
the manufacturers devoting themselves to making the thing feel as much as possible
like a real piano, with weighted keys, etc. The sound on the other hand is produced
by a Tone Generator. This may be incorporated into the keyboard, but it just
as well may not. In a midi studio, this becomes an important consideration. If
you have a bunch of gear, you generally only want to hear a selected tone generator
(t.g.) at a time, so there needs to be a way of disconnecting any sound producing
capability of the keyboard from it's midi controler portion, lest you always
hear it layered on top of everything else. So, local control means that the midi
signal is routed both to the midi out port on the synth and the internal t.g.
an array of values intended to be used for efficient manipulation of an audio
signal. In a typical digital synth for instance, the firmware contains
lookup tables for several varieties of sounds, from simple sine shapes
to complex samples. It is simple for the player part of the synth to
find the table, repetitively scan through it, while applying other process
to the digital info which emerges.
LO PASS FILTER(LPF)
A filter used for removing high frequencies from a sound. As the cutoff point
of the filter is rolled back (usually by turning a pot counterclockwise,
or pulling down a slider), any frequencies above the cutoff point will be
reduced to zero amplitude. This is useful in removing wideband hiss, though
now one usually turns to intelligent noise reduction for that purpose.
a variant of the hipass filter, in which the left part of the freq range
can be either cut or boosted at the cutoff frequency.
Another term for Low impedance (see IMPEDANCE)
least significant bit: the lowest valued (rightmost) bit (digit) of a binary
number. In base 10, in the number 13, 3 would be analogous to the lsb.
least significant byte: the lowest valued (rightmost) byte of a binary number.In
some midi messages, such as pitch bend, the two data bytes are arranged
as LSB MSB, with the fine tuning and course tuning set to each, respectively
on a mixer, refers to the master stereo outputs, usually the final destination
of a mix.
A visual "tag" that you put in a file, generally chronologically.
Markers may be named and provide shortcuts for navigating around the file.
a method of organizing complex information, using rows and columns (and depth
of same), where a given bit of data can be set or retrieved by specifying
the x,y and z depth in the matrix. In Max, matrices are used to store
video information for use with jitter objects. The x and y positions
will typically correspond to the pixel location in a display window,
while the z depth will specify the 'plane', analogous to a color separation
in printing, e.g., red, green, blue, or alpha (transparency)
A graphical programming environment currently developed by Cycling74.com.
Max was originally conceived to address limitations in the type of software
that was being created for MIDI, by allowing a much greater degree of
freedom on the part of the artist to put together data structures and
send messages between them. Since its appearance in the 80's, Max has
added extensive DSP capability (MSP) and now live video processing (Jitter).
It is (IMHOP) the single most important piece of software that an electronically
oriented artist should learn.
The ability to insert data from one track into another without erasing the
what's already on the latter.
a 'dummy' file used to point to actual audio or video material. Metafiles
are used for security purposes: you put the metafile on your html page,
which gives the browser the ability to find the underlying material and
play it, but protects the original material from being copied or downloaded.
It also allows the actual material to reside on a different server to
optimize streaming performance.
a packet of midi data, consisting of a status byte, folowed by one or two
data bytes, depending on which status.
The regular division of time in music. Tells what note value gets a "beat" (or
pulse), and how many of those values are to be organized into a "measure".
audible click for the purpose of keeping tempo. Also an object in MAX (metro)
which provides a steady pulse.
The energy level produced by a 'weak' audio source, such as a phonograph needle,
microphone, electric guitar, or any source which is not pre-amplified. Typically
measured in microvolts. A mixing board will usually have a few inputs dedicated
to mic level devices, and it's important to distinguish them from the line
Musical Instrument Digital Interface. Standard communications tool for all
brands of synthesizers. Serial communications protocol, full duplex, 31.25Kbaud.
Eight bit word. Each message consists of a status (command) byte followed
by one or two data bytes.
Window in a sequencer which displays incoming midi data in realtime.
The mode which only allows a synth to play one note at a time.
MPEG Layer 3, a very successful codec for compressing and delivering audio
While it is 'lossy', it does a very good job of keeping the parts of
the audio that the ear tunes into and discarding the rest. It is the
codec of choice for export from Flash, and for transmitting music and
audio via the web. Developed by the Fraunhoeffer Institute, and subsequently
very aggressively marketed, putting a lot of very creative people on
the war path towards replacing it with an open source alternative (ogg
Most Significant Bit. Leftmost bit in a binary number. Carries the highest
power of the base, thus is most significant.
Most Significant Byte. Leftmost byte in a binary number. See LSB above.
Musical Instrument Digital Interface, the de facto standard for simple communication
between all makes and models of digital synths, via a 31Kbaud serial circuit.
MIDI is both the hardware circuitry that facilitates the communication
as well as the low level language itself.
A multi byte MIDI message which contains a status byte (9), channel number
(0 - F hexadecimal), note number (0-7F) and velocity (0-7F).
a configuration in a midi synth which determines how it will respond to incoming
midi messages. The four modes are: Poly Omni On, Poly Omni Off, Mono Omni
On, Mono Omni Off. The primary effect on the synth is whether it responds
to more than one note at a time (mono/poly) and whether it responds to a
single channel or all channels (Omni off/on)
used to differentiate the more portable analog synths of the 60's/70's from
the large integrated studios such as Columbia-Princeton. So-called because
the individual components: oscillators, filters, etc., were usually self-contained
within the body of the synth, and sometimes were even pluggable, such
as in the ARP2500.
Verb: To listen to or view the output of a system, in such a way as not to
interfere with it. Thus, any mixer worth having should provide several
ways of tapping into the sound flowing through it without disturbing
any other settings. Some of the mid range Mackie boards, for instance,
have dual main outputs, utility outs, fx sends, tape outputs, any of
which can be used for monitoring.
Noun: A set of speakers or video screen used for monitoring.
Monophonic, meaning that there is only a single channel of sound. Mono is
used to distunguish a sound from stereo, where there are two channels.
the MIDI mode which causes a synth to only be able to play one note at a
Mark of the Unicorn, a software company specializing in MIDI, based in Cambridge,
MIDI Time Code, a software convention which allows MIDI sequencers to communicate
with SMPTE timecode.
The most recent of the MIDI modes, which allows a properly equipped synth
to play up to 16 sounds on 16 channels simultaneously.
The art of forming musical material out of electronically recorded 'sound
bites', music which rose into being as the result of the invention of the
to prevent output of a particular channel in a mixer, or to prevent input
in a recording device.
A surplus of electrons creates a negative charge. It is the flow from negative
to positive which accounts for electricity, though of course the convention
has it going from positive to negative.
the process whereby one communications device talks to another inorder to
figure out how fast it can send information to or receive information from
it. Realaudio allows you to, based on the way you name the files, automatically
negotiate the best performance with a variety of modem speeds. Other formats
build the negotiation in and adjust the streaming content to match the negotiated
A harmonic node is a spot along a vibrating surface where the motion becomes less. This is because there is a simple integer relationship between that spot and the start or end pont of the surface that coincides with the wavelength of the vibration.
Simply put, with your audio system idling (no sound coming in from a mic,
etc.), the noise floor is any hiss that you can still hear. The goal in good
recording is to widen the gap between that noise level and the recording
as much as possible. You accomplish this by using balanced equipment wherever
possible, matching impedances, setting proper recording levels.
an editing method in which pointers to a sound file are used to allow 'virtual'
manipulation of regions in the sound. So-named because no changes are made
to the underlying sound file, instead the result is 'bounced' to a new file.
the tendency of cheap devices to produce unpredictable output amplitudes
for predictable inputs. See linear.
In analog sound, normal has two important meanings. Your goal is to keep
all audio levels "normal" as much as possible, meaning that you
don't want to have to crank up the volume of a sound in such a way as to
overdrive the device which you're putting the sound through. Normal in this
context means that whatever audio devices are participating in the channeling
of the audio are operating at their peak efficiency. Most devices have tactile
and visual indications of the settings that will give you the Standard Reference
Level of each. See GAIN above.
The other meaning has to do with the wiring of a studio through a patchbay.
If the studio is "normalled", then the equipment in the studio
can be connected in various ways without the need to plug them together via
the patchbay. If two devices are "normalled" together, then they
are already connected, usually through a mixing board. You can generally
bypass normalling through the use of patch cords.
A digital process whereby a soundfile is scanned for the highest amplitude,
that amplitude is raised to the highest possible level before distortion,
and then the remainder of the soundfile is multiplied by the same value.
This safely boosts the output of the signal to the maximum possible setting
without introducing distortion, and, unlike compression, doesn't fiddle with
the sound's dynamic range.
Another term for band reject filter. (see entry above).
a musical event. In midi, a note is generally required to hear the output
of a synth, though there are other applications of midi (effects processors,
mixers, etc.) where the sonic input may be supplied in some other way. Typically
one may say that a note is a clearly partitioned musical event with a distinct
start and end (see envelope). It is the midi message 9(0-F).
A number from 0-127 which refers to a location on a MIDI controller keyboard.
Note number 60, for instance, refers to middle C (though depending on what
you've done to your synth, middle C could have any sound under the sun, so
you have to take that with a grain of salt). Technically it's the first data
byte of a note-on msg.
see MIDI NOTE above. Must have a velocity of 0.
see MIDI NOTE above. Must have a velocity above 0.
half of a byte (really)
1/2 the sampling rate. For a given sampling rate, the highest frequency which
may be allowed to be recorded can only be half the sampling rate. This is
called the Nyquist frequency. See ALIASING.
A Max object with the tilde (~) indicates that it is an MSP object, and can
send and receive audio data as well as typical max messages.
a MAX group of functions, so called because it resembles a box with inlets
and outlets. Objects are the primary tool of MAX.
A graphic equalizer tuned in octaves.
Omni-directional: a microphone which picks up sound in a complete sphere around
The MIDI mode which allows a synth to receive any incoming signal regardless
of its channel. Great for doing a quick mixdown to a single instrument
the Open Music System (formerly Opcode Music System). System level software
which is used to govern connections between a midi interface any all midi devices
and software attached to it.
Now that nato has blown the lid off realtime video processing, several groups
have started to come out with their own ideas. Max itself will probably
start introducing similar technology in later versions, but other competing
products are also starting to emerge. One such item is Onadime Composer
(www.onadime.com), which offers a set of modular tools for integratinf
video with audio/midi, etc.
one of the original keyboard synthesizers, favored by several composers,
including Edgar Varese.
A device which produces periodic signals (waves). They comprise the primary sound
producing element in a conventional synthesizer.
A device for visually measuring sound. Its simple electron beam that scans
across a picture tube is capable of being deflected up or down depending
on the incoming voltage. Therefore, the oscilloscope can faithfully reproduce
such things as audio waveforms.
the port on a midi device for transmitting the midi stream.
graphic outlet on the bottom of a MAX object box, allows data to be sent
The part of an audio device which emits an electrical signal. Output can
occur at several strengths, from a very weak MIC level, to levels strong
enough to drive large physical devices, and of course, speakers. The
two kinds of output most commonly encountered in audio are the MIC level
(usually measured in microvolts) and LINE level (measured as a ratio
between 10ths of a volt and the decibel level of the output).
The section of a mixing board that sums together the many channels from the input stage. The output stage typically has more than a single set of outputs, selected via the assignment buttons in the input stage. The output also contains returns from the aux sends, sometimes has built-in FX, and a number monitoring options.
To merge midi material over the top of a previous recording, adding the two
together. In the old days this had to be done by "bouncing" the
two signals to a third track. With MIDI, new data can be merged right into
the stream of old data on the same track. With digital audio, tracks can
be merged and mixed with none of the loss of fidelity that was such a problem
in the analog days.
A multiple of a certain frequency, usually by a whole number. For instance,
the third harmonic of 'A' is achieved by multiplying that frequency by 3,
and results in a tone an octave and a fifth higher in pitch.
a MAX object which assembles individual arguments or values into a list,
or disassembles a list into individual arguments/values.
a method of arranging data in a serial stream into regular sets of chunks os
specific size, usually accomplished by putting a start bit and stop bit at
the beginning and end of the chunk of data, respectively. Thus midi messages,
even though we only care about the eight bits minimum in a message, actually
contain 10 bits.
A method of organizing the user interface on a synthesizer. A page is simply a screenfull of data, categorized by related functions, e.g., midi modes, multi patches, etc.
Channel message B(0-F) 0A (0-7F), the messange which allows a sound to be sent
to a certain portion of the right or left channel, effectively moving it in
the capability of a data port to send/receive numbers more than one bit at
a bank of filters which gives you control over a very specific range of frequencies.
The difference between a real parametric filter and the other typews
on this page is in its sophistication. The device is designed so that
you can zoom down to a single frequency and then fine tune the surrounding
bandwidth, generally either to bring out a certain range or lift out
to be able to take a continuous stream of data and "see" the meaningful
chunks (see packet) of data within it.
To insert copied or cut material at the cursor. If audio is selected, it
will be replaced. Depending on the siftware, the rest of the copied audio
either will or will not be pasted after that part. In the former case the
file length will change.
The most misused term in all MIDI. A patch SHOULD mean a complete sound in
a synth as you call it up from memory. In fact that IS what it means but
manufacturers have not deemed it necessary to standardize and agree upon
exactly what level the word patch is to appear at. Thus in one synth, patch
is the most basic sound component, while in another it is a combination of
umpteen other sounds. Synonyms for "patch" are: performance, voice,
preset, tone, timbre, sound, wave, and others.
id a cable used to quickly 'patch' a signal from one place in an open ended
electronic music architecture, such as either an integrated studio/patchbay,
or in a modular synthesizer. Computers now often use a patchcord metaphor
for the passing of values between functions.
refers to the number in the synth bank where a certain patch is to be found.
e.g. "patch 00, 'Universe' ".
A rack of jacks installed in a studio that allows you to connect equipment
together. A patchbay normally has two rows, with the top row connected directly
(see NORMAL) to the lower row. The top row contains the OUTPUT signal of
various devices, while the bottom row is the INPUT. For instance, if you
were to read out patchbay in the advanced sound lab, you would see that the
top left pair of jacks is labeled "mix out 1,2", and directly underneath
is another pair of jacks labeled "Pro Tools L,R", meaning that
the master output of the mixing board is already connected to two inputs
of our ProTools system. The normal connections can be changed by inserting
a PATCHCORD into a jack and inserting the other end into any device you wish
to send or receive a signal from.
MAX term for a program using max objects.
A listing of all the patches in a particular MIDI instrument's bank. MOTU software
such as the PatchList Manager was conceived to keep track of such lists,
which can often become difficult to keep organized.
in a sequencer, allows the input midi device to automatically be routed to
the designated output device, usually when the input track isw record
Pulse Code Modulation, the most widely used method of making an uncompressed digitization. Examples of PCM are he .WAV and .AIF format. Very simple in structure, but much bigger filesize, since there's no compression. At 44.1kHz, 16bit resolution, about 10 megs/minute. Thus there's hard limit to the amount of music you can fit on a standard audio CD, which holds about 800 megs. There's nothing to stop you from going DVD though, is there?
The largest magitude available to a sample, depending on the bit depth. In
8 bit it is 256, in 16 bit it's 65536. These are of course scaled down
to the resolution of the system.
A recent development in software perfected by KS Waves, which allows you
to increase the overall amplitude of a digital audio file up to 30db above
its normalized maximum without introducing distortion, thanks to a sophisticated "look
ahead" algorithm that analyzes and adjusts the waveform as it's increasing
A singel filter which contains the ability to act as either a band pass or
band reject (see above) filter. You generally have control over the BAND
of frequencies you either want to boost or reduce, and the amount you want
to boost or cut them.
One of the terms for "patch". A performance, as its name implies,
usually organizes the synthesizer in such a way as to lend itself to live
play as opposed to studio work. In a performance, as opposed to the more
conventional definition of 'patch', sounds may be layered, controls may be
set to affect several channels at once, etc.
Since sound by definition is periodic (meaning that the perceived continuity of it is actually due to an underlying pattern (wave) repetition, a 'period' refers to a single complete iteration of whatever it is that is repeating. In other words, a complete wave cycle is an example of it's period.
Condensor mics need juice. Some allow you to supply electricity via a battery, others are capable of using voltage supplied directly from the device they're plugged into, this is 'phantom power'. Typical power levels are 12 or 48 volts. Phantom is not available on every device, and is not available in every condensor mic. Only mics equipped with three conductors (balanced) can support hantom, since it uses both the hot and cold pins of the alancd line and references the voltge o the ground pin. Thanks to this, it is fine to plug in a dynamic mic into a phantom-powered jack, it will just ignore the extra vltage.
The specific location within a single cycle of a waveform. Phase measurement
usually splits a wave into 360 degrees, thereby allowing the wave to be analyzed
using standard trigonometric formulae. A Wave begins its phase at 0 degrees,
and ends at 360. The mid point of the wave is 180 degrees, etc.
a technique similar to flanging (see above), achieved through a device which
varies resistance as phase cancellation moves up and down the frequency scale.
A MAX square wave generator.
Also referred to as the 1/4" or guitar plug, this general purpose plug
is used to connect together many types of audio gear, from mixing boards
to musical instruments. It consists of a long metal post (known as the "sleeve")
at the end of which is a separate conductor (the "tip"). Phone
plugs also come in a three-conductor version, in which case the sleeve and
the tipe are separated by a third conductor, called the "ring".
Thus, the phone plug can be used as either a balanced mono plug, or as an
unbalanced stereo plug. In a balanced use, the tip is hot (see XLR below),
the ring is cold, and the sleeve is ground. In unbalanced stereo, the tip
is used for the right channel, the ring is left, and the sleeve is the common
ground for both.
PIANO ROLL NOTATION
Sometimes referred to as 'graphic editing mode', this is one of the ways
of looking at and working with midi data in a sequencer. Sucvh a method is
very intuitive, since you can see the actual duration and pitch of notes
represented by their length and vertical position on a grid.
'colored' noise simply means white noise which has had various parts removed. In the case of pink noise, the amplitude slopes off 3dB per octave. Since the ear hears higher frequencies as seeming louder, this gives the noise a generally more even pitch distribution.
The sensation produced in the ear when a perceived vibration reaches a frequency
greater than around 20 cycles/second. The human sensation of pitch spans
a a range from around 20 cycles per second to around 20,000 cycles per second,
after which we can no longer hear anything. Sound can, of course, be heard
below 20 cycles per second, but the nature changes so that pitch per se is
no longer noticible.
one of the standard midi controllers (status byte E0-EF), pitch bend enjoys
the distinction of being a 'double-precision' controller, meaning that both
the first and second data bytes serve the purpose of tuning the note. Since
all 14 bits of usable midi are available, unlike the typical controller that
only gives you 128 separate divisions of control, pitchbend allows you to
bend the pitch of a note to as fine a resolution as 1/8192 of a half step.
the process of raising or lowering pitch of an audio clip, either with or
without affecting its duration.
Another term for the TRS type connecter or 'guitar' plug. So names because
the phone operators used that type of plugs in the oldern days. Phone plugs
come in both balances and unbalanced, stereo and mono versions.
Jitter term for the 'z' parameter of a matrix. Think of it like a layer in
photoshop, one stacked on the other, all simultaneously visible. This
makes it possible to easily perform operations on a single channel of
video, the red layer, say, or play with sophisticated keying using color
either a stationary (tape recorder) or rotating (VCR, DAT) electromagnet
which transduces change in magnetism on tape as it passes across it into
The plug is the hardware which allows you to patch together different pieces
of electronic equipment. It consists of a protective housing surrounding
one or more conductors. Plugs are made in standard shapes which are often
designed to prevent you from accidentally plugging together incompatible
gear. Plugs are attached to various types of cable, which is optimized for
specific purposes. Various types of plugs and cables are given elsewhere
in this glossary.
a variable which stores the address of a location in an audio file, making
non-destructive editing possible.
to insert a value into a stream of data.
the midi mode which allows a synth to play more then one note simultaneously.
The process, in a midi sequencer, of selecting an individual event to be changed.
For instance, in MOTU Performer, you double click on a note, then you can play
any key on your keyboard to change the note.
A port is a set of 16 midi channels. It represents, in both hardware and software,
the physical link between the midi interface and a particular synthesizer. In
the simplest midi setup, the port is irrelevant, since there is only one connection
available, limiting the channels to sixteen. With a more extensive interface
such as the MOTU Midi Timepiece however, you can link as many as eight synths
to the computer, giving you a total of 128 channels.
In electricity, the word 'positive' implies a deficiency of electrons, which
are considered 'negative'. Since there aren't enough electrons, 'holes' are created.
In this manner, current is made to flow, so that new electrons rush to fill the
'vacuum' left by the retreating ones.
Technical term for a rotary knob used in controlling some parameter of sound,
such as panning it in a stereo field. Pot, for short. Another such rotary switch
is the rheostat, used in light dimmers and volume faders.
The device that gives the audio signal it's final 'kick' up to the power level needed to drive speakers. An Integrated amp has both preamp and power amp in one.
The device that you send your weakest audio signals to in order to get them up to Line Level. A typical voltage lveel from a non preamplified mic is around 40 microvolts. The preamp is arguably the most important part of your audio system, since that's where the signal gets its initial amplification, therefore is the place where it's going to be most sensitive to interference, distortion, etc. Of course somebody will then say that it's the speakers that are the most important part. Ultimately it's probably your ears that are the most important part..
Another term for 'patch'. A preset implies that the sound is easily accessible
by finding its location in the memory of the synth.
In the Korg M1, program mode is analogous to 'performance' mentioned above. It
sets the synth to the global midi channel and allows only one patch at a time
to be played.
Another term for 'patch'.
The midi message C(0-9) (0-7F), which sets the sound for a particular channel
to some stored patch in the synth's bank.
A synth setting which sets up the instrument for single-channel use. This is sometimes useful if you plan to make a very rich patch which will only need to receive on a single channel.
a feature in the recording process which allows you to 'drop in' to record mode
at a predetermined point. The advantage is that you hear what you've done and
play on top of it, then when the time comes you are automatically recording new
material over the old. Recording can similarly be terminated (punch out).
To quantize means to 'straighten up the rough edges'. It refers to a method
employed in midi sequencers for correcting rhythmic errors in performance.
You first select a quantize 'grid', that is, you pick the smallest rhythmic
note value that won't change the obvious rhythms of the music. Then, when
you quantize a portion of music, all rhythmic values will be changed so
that they fall on those grid marks. More sophisticated software allows
you to specify the amount of quantization, so that you don't end up with
square 'robotic' sounding music.
In digital audio, quantize can be any effect which reduces resolution (in the
sense of 'symmetry breaking'). One can quantize parameters in the grain~ object,
for instance, to limit the range of pitches hit by random modulation of the signal.
In digital audio, quantize noise is what you get when your bit depth isn't deep
enough to accurately reproduce the slight random changes in amplitude at the
bottom of the dynamic range.
A Digital Performer feature which displays midi in musical score form. Like PianoRoll
notation (graphic), you can edit data by pulling, moving, stretching, etc.
The opposite of compression. The phenomenon whereby the air, after having been
compressed by the force emitted by a sound producing object, becomes thinner
as the action/reaction principle forces the colliding molecules apart. This also
contributes to standing waves. Eventually the air absorbes the energy of the
sound and it dies away, like ripples in a pond.
the format for encoded Realaudio material.
RealAudioMetafile: small single line text file that you put in your html page,
which allows the user/browser to listen to the underlying realaudio material
only (no download/copy). Usually points to a .ra file on a realaudio server.
.ram is used when you want the metafile to act as an anchor.
same as .ram, except you use the metafile as an EMBED command instead of a
plugin. The contents of the file are the same as .ram.
a dedicated server which one can buy from RealNetworks which allows for highspeed
streaming of Realaudio and video.
Radio Frequency Interference. We are always swamped in electromagnetic soup. Any audio device that isn't properly shielded will pick up a certain amount of it, and some of it is in the radio frequency range, which means your audio circuitry will treat it just like any other part of your recording, amplify it, and mix it right in. RF interference sounds like noise with a little color once in a while.
RCA (PHONO) PLUG
The most widely used audio connector in the consumer industry, the tiny RCA plug
(named after the company) is a coaxial connector, consisting of a central pin
(+) surrounded by a metal ring (- and ground) Since it only uses two conductors
it is unbalanced. The RCA plug is usually connected to coaxial audio cable (see
One of the first efforts to provide 'streaming' audio over the Web. It involves
an encoding/decoding process in which the sound file is shredded into practically
nothing, with predictable results. The 28.8 version is beginning to approach
a.m. radio in quality, but no one is quite there yet. The general assumption
is that we'll have to wait for higher bandwidth on the Web before CD quality
audio, or anything approaching it, becomes feasible.
any process, recording, processing, etc., that can occur in the computer
fast enough to be perceived as happening 'on the fly'.
The set of specifications for a standard audio CD. The 'books' refer to whether
the cd is to be used for audio, cd-rom, cd-interactive, etc. Really just
a list of specifications, such as the size of the cd, capacity, etc.
A steady signal, usually a sine wave at either 440Hz or 1000Hz, used to set
the level between a recorded tape and a dubbing or transmitting device. The
idea is to get the same level (the "0" reference level) between
the recorded sound and the device which it's going into.
A phenomenon in which sound is allowed to travel from an output back into
an input, by virtue of the two being connected together. This causes a particular
resonant frequency to quickly intensify in volume and drown out all other
parts of the sound, eventually resulting in an ear-splitting sine wave. Feedback
can also be controlled and shaped, routed through different devices, equalized,
etc., to yield some rather beautiful musical effects, as any Hendrix fan
A highlighted area of a digital audio file or midi file. In a digital audio
file, a region defines a 'non destructive partitioning of a contiguous file,
allowing you to treat the same file as many different ones.
Minimalist composer, noted for many innovations in composition, including
the use of repetitive, gradually varying loops. Listen to "It's Gonna
Rain" and "Different Trains".
primitive electronic device which routes a signal to one place or another
based on the incoming voltage. Used in electronic music instruments before
the "valve" (vacuum tube) was invented.
The last part of an ENVELOPE. It is the release of the guitarist's finger
on the fretboard, the lifting of the piano key, the stopping of airflow in
the tuba. Some sounds jump right from the attack to the release, such as
a plucked guitar string, but most instruments allow for the musician to 'preemptively'
stop the sound.
Similar to paste, only you don't run the risk of changing the file length.
It only replaces material from a selected area. Good for fixing problems
in a contiguous soundtrack for video, for instance.
To reverse the order of a particular parameter of a stream of events. For
instance, the rhythm of a tune can stay the same, while the pitches can
go backwards, or vice versa.
Reverberation is what happens to a sound when it bounces around in a particular
space. Technically it's a form of echo, but unlikt simple echo, the sound
undergoes many transformations and multiplications as it is reflected
and refracted across many different surfaces. Reverb is affected by the
size of the room, the angles of the walls, the materials covering the
surfaces in the room, and a host of other such variables. In digital
sound, a digital reverb unit is employed which contains a set of algorithms
for duplicating such effects on any sound which is passed through it.
The center conductor in a TRS type plug. Usually carries either the cold,
or negative current in a balanced plug, or the left channel in a stereo unbalanced
An editing method in which all mterial after an edit point on a timeline is shifted later or earlier when material is added or removed. Also known as shuffle or insert diting. Opposite of 'overwriting' or 'slip' mode.)
an extension to .rmf which allows you to put your own samples into the file.
One of the methods used by audio software in dealing with the leftover 8 low
order bits in the downsampling process. In going from 16 bit to 8 bit,
rounding produces a smoother sounding file that the previously used 'truncation'
method, which simply threw out the low order bits (causing some pretty
serious jumping between amplitude values in the quieter moments of the
sound, giving it that characteristic 'sizzle' that gave 8 bit sound such
a bad name. Now, by combining rounding with peak limiting, you can get
a very smooth sounding 8 bit file.
a method of editing volume or pan info in a soundfile using a stretchable
onscreen line between user defined breakpoints (see). One can thus draw
changes which are applied nondestructively to the particular parameter
of the sound track.
Signal to Noise ratio. A measurement of the total available dynamic range of
an audio device. A 45db s/n means that there is only 45 decibels between "silence" in
a recording and the maximum volume. A cassette deck with no noise reduction would
produce something like that. Digital systems such as DAT recorders have upwards
of a 95db s/n ratio, rendering the "noise floor" (see above) practically
zero. Tape hiss is a sign of a lousy s/n ratio.
"Sony/Phillips Digital Interface Format", the standard for connection
between digital devices most commonly used in consumer grade audio devices, though
it's just as likely to be found in pro digital studios as well. You can recognize
the interface by its' RCA connectors, one for input and one for output.
1. noun: a (usually short) digital recording. 2. noun: an instantaneous value captured by a digital recorder, consisting of a pair of numbers (time from the start of recoding and the amplitude alue at that instant). 3. verb: to make a digital recording, including taking digital 'snapshot' of an instantaneous amplitude.
a synthesizer which, instead of generating its own sounds through internal algorithms,
allows the user to build instruments out of small digital recordings. The recordings
are then 'mapped' onto a keyboard to give pitch references. Loops, modulation,
etc. are all under control of the software, so with a fairly small amount of
sampled material, one can generate a wide variety of instruments simply by applying
different effects to each.
In digital audio, the sampling rate is the speed at which an analog signal is
quantized into separate numbers for storage in the digital system. Audio can
be digitized at a large number of frequencies, depending on the desired fidelity
of the sound. The higher the sampling rate, the better the sound, but the more
disk space it will occupy, and the slower it will run on the comupter (that is,
the more memory intensive it will be).
to produce sound in either a software editing system or recording device by slowly
moving the playback head (or tape in the latter case), for cueing purposes. In
jog scrubbing you have complete control over the movement of the head, while
in shuttle the machine tries to 'play' the material at a speed based on your
initial motion of the head/tape.
Sound Designer II, digital audio software by Digidesign.Also refers to the sd2
file format, widely used in the pro audio and video industry, such as Avid, Media100
Generally, you can't do anything to a midi file unless you've 'selected' something,
that is, you've either clicked on a note or dragged the mouse to select a region
of notes or data to be edited. In digital audio, not selecting a particular region
for editing usually implies to the software that you want to change the whole
sound file. Be Careful!
MAX objects which allow you to pass variables around inside a patcher (and outside)
without using visual patchcords.
Software or hardware that arranges notes and midi controllers chronologically.
In other words, music makers. The analogy of a sequencer is a tape recorder.
The difference is that a sequencer records controller information, not actual
audio, which is a separate process.
Opposite of parallel. Serial means 'one thing after another', and so refers to
data communication in which a signal is transmitted/received as a single changing
also known as Project and/or EDL (edit decision list), a file in a non-destructive
editing environment which stores information and pointers to a collection of
audio and video clips.
The part of an audio cable, usually a braided wire wrapping up and down the
entire length of the cable, that serves to block stray electromagnetic
interference. Sometimes helped out with a 'drain' wire.
Similar to Ripple Edit mode: in Pro Tools, shuffle mode allows you to trim
and move clips in such a way that any space between them is 'taken up'
or removed automatically.
The simplest of all VIBRATIONs. All sound waves, no matter how complex, can
be found to be composed of a collection of sine waves. The sound of a pure
sine does not exist in nature, but is roughly approximated by the sound of
a flute. It gets its name from the mathematical formula from which it's derived.
the sine function. Imagine a dot moving counterclockwise around the perimeter
of a circle (usually represented with a radius of 1). The sine is the position
at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines that would stretch
from the dot to the center of the circle with respect to the vertical, that
is to say, the ratio between the length of the two lines thus made.
All sound can be shown to be made up of combinations of sines and cosines
at different frequencies, phases and amplitudes. This
is the Word of Fourier..
The longest metal part of a 'phone plug' type connector. The sleeve is the
negative part of the current in an unbalanced
or the drain/ground in a balanced
graphic controller used in MAX.
In Pro Tools, slip mode allows you to freely move clips around on the timeline.
Contrast with SHUFFLE.
When you splice two different types of audio, smoothing averages out the
samples across the splice much like a crossfade. It can also be used
in the same way to diminish artifacts within a region of audio
Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. An organization which
created the standard for synchronizing pictures and sound. Standard SMPTE
code operates on a 24 hour clock, which is split up like this: 00:00:00:00
to 23:59:59:29 (hours, minutes, seconds, 'frames'. The last number can vary,
depending on the speed of the program material. Film splits the second into
24 frames, video into 30, broadcast video into 29.97.
a mode in most editing programs which enables you to easily move clips around
the timeline in such a way that they automatically align themselves with
a time grid.
(archaic)The standard format for sound files on a Macintosh. Snds are usually
organized into resource files, where one file will contain several snds,
for portability and ease in updating.
In a midi sequencer, to remove a chunk of time ina track, pulling everything
that came after toward the beginning accordingly.
inverse function of mute. When you press the solo button for a channel, all
other channels are muted, except for any others which also have solo pressed.
When you mute, only that channel is stopped, along with any other muted channels.
A digital sound, usually a small portion of a larger file which has been
separated non-destructively (via pointers). Also known as a REGION.
to join together two different regions of audio.
A Pro Tools mode which automatically puts the beginning or cue point of a
clip at a designated SMPTE location on the timeline.
A waveform which is widely used in the audio industry. It is rich in harmonics,
and is special in that it contains only 'odd' harmonics (1st, 3rd, 5th, etc.),
in a linearly decreasing amplitude scale. For instance, the third harmonic
is 1/3 as loud as the fundamental. The shape of the square wave, having a very
quick change from maximum amplitude to minimum, also makes it useful for timing
in computers and clock driven devices. A more versatile variation of the square
wave is the PULSE wave, in which the 'top' and 'bottom' widths of the wave
can be adjusted.
Bear in mind that, even though the ideal form of the wave appears to
instantaneously rise from its minimum to maximum level, such a thing isn't
physically possible. Actually a whole lot of interesting things occur at
the 'corner' where the change of amplitude happens. Look closely at that
spot and you can get a very good idea as to why the square is so rich in
Most midi programs create their own proprietary formats for the midi stuff they
do. Fortunately they also allow you to save a file in a more universal format
called Standard Midi. A file in this format can either have track information
(format1), all data on a single track (format0), or simply be a tempo map (a
list of tempo changes, key changes, meter changes, and where they happen). This
file is easily transportable, since it's really just a text file. It's up to
the midi player software to make sense of it.
The first part of a midi message, which tells the synth or computer what
sort of event is about to happen (e.g., 'note on).
A feature in a midi sequencer which allows you to record data note-by-note.
A notepad style interface allows you to specify each rhythmic value before
you play it, duration of the note, velocity, etc.
The psychoacoustic illusion of spatial placement of sound, accomplished through
the use of a pair of speakers.
To broadcast audio or video (or any kind of synchronous data) on the web. Usually
accomplished by buffering some of the material in ram as it comes in, so
that when the inevitable bogs in transmission occur there will be enough
resident in the local computer to be able to keep playing. Rarely works well,
still, at least in most areas still using std. telephone lines for their
modems. On the other hand, in highspeed scenarios, intranets, etc., it works
amazingly well. We are pretty much at the point that yhou can really start
thinking about what content you'd like to broadcast, instead of how much
you'll have to sacrifice to get it to stream at all..
A special 'empty' file which is used in Beatnik when you only want to access
the sound banks on a note by note basis (instead of playing an entire
file). The stub.rmf file is part of the standard installer package.
Most good mixers allow you to route a signal to more then a single set of
outputs, for any number of purposes. Sometimes you want to group a set
of inputs together so they can be easily controlled together, in the
context of a larger mix. This would be a submix. You assign all the outputs
of those channels to a 'group' output, usually numbered, then route that
output as if it were simply another input channel to the main output.
MAX's capability of having a patcher embedded in another. There are two varieties:
a completely embedded patcher (the 'p' object), or an external patcher
(any MAX patcher name in the search path which is types into an empty
object box.) Be sure not to use whitespace in the names of sub patchers.
Composer, widely known for his electronic pieces. Only composer to have been
commissioned by a major record label to do an entire series of electronic
works (Silver Apples of the Moon, Until Spring, The Wild Bull, Touch).
Inventor of the Ghost Box, a programmable device for doing realtime effects
processing during a performance.
The third part of the standard envelope of a sound. The sustain level is the
volume to which a sound arrives after it finishes its initial DECAY. Some sounds
have no sustain and simply die away, others, like the winds and brass instruments,
continue at that level until the player stops the flow of air through them. In
an electronic keyboard, sustain level continues until a key is released.
MIDI control change 64 (40 hex), emulates the effect of a piano damper pedal.
ShockWaveFlash file, a Flash file which has been web-optimized.
Sync refers to the way the digital clock that governs the sampling process refers to any connected devices. It can be internal (each device using its own) or digital (one device reading off the clock of another).
Midi message F0. A useful loophole in the midi spec, which allows one access
to the inner parameters of a particular synth which is not possible using
conventional midi messages, such as tweaking the envelope on the fly of
a particular sound component in a complex patch.
To synthesize means to generate a new sum out of disparate parts, to blend
them together so that something new emerges. A synth is an electronic instrument
which employs either hardware devices or software/firmware algorithms to
provide basic building blocks for the generation and manipulation of sound.
MAX's version of a string type. Used as argument to an object.
status bytes F0-FF. These messages affect an entire synthesizer, sequencer, etc.,
as opposed to a specific channel on the device. Patch dumps and individual parameter
changes are aspects of system messages, as well as midi time code.
A (successful) recorded segment.
The regular measurement of the flow of rhythm in music or progression of events
A preset point at which something happens. For instance, in a noise gate, the
threshold is the point the sound must fall down to in volume before it gets cut
A preset point at which something happens. For instance, in a noise gate, the
threshold is the point the sound must fall down to in volume before it gets cut
THRESHOLD OF HEARING
The amplitude point below which you can't hear anything.
THRESHOLD OF PAIN
The amplitude point above which you blow your ears out. See Led Zepplin.
a midi port which duplicates the input. Allows one to daisy chain devices,
though this practice is no longer used.
The smallest unit of time in a sequencer. MOTU performer divides a quarter note
into 480 ticks.
The "quality" of a sound, also referred to as the 'tone color'. Timbre
is a result of the overtone series (a.k.a. the harmonic spectrum) of a given
sound. The spectrum changes as the sound continues, and is largely responsible
for the "life" contained in the tone of a musical instrument.
To speed up or slow down the speed of events in a midi file by some ratio. This
has absolutely no effect on pitch of the music, since you're just slowing down
the rate of note-on/note-off commands.
To alter the duration of a sound file without affecting the pitch. This was practically
impossible before digital.
The conductor at the tip of a phone plug. Carries the + charge, or the right
channel in a stereo plug.
an automation mode in which a slider will slowly return to its previous point
when you let go.
Another term for 'patch'. Tone generally implies an 'elemental' or 'primitive'
sound that is to be combined and modified to produce a conventional 'patch'.
Of course, in Roland synths, a tone can be rather extensive in itself.
a synthesizer. A sampler. Used to distinguish the part of a midi device that
produces sound from the keyboard or other controlling portion.
a linear partition of midi data. Tracks are mostly invisible to midi itself,
and are rather a system employed by a midi sequencer to make it easier to
organize music. One can have one track go to several midi channels, or several
tracks all go to one channel, etc. The track is an evolution of the track
on an analog tape deck. Digital audio also employs tracks in a similar way,
sometimes referred to as 'playlists' (Deck II).
Replacement for the vacuum tube: layers of silicon, doped with other materials
to affect their ability to conduct current. Used in all forms of logic
circuitry, amplification, etc.
hardware: the physical machine which moves the tape/disk or whatever.
Software: the controls which behave like the above, e.g. forward, rewind,
gtz, gte, etc.
to move a selection of pitches to a different range. In more advanced sequencers,
can also be used to alter harmonies.
One of the classic waveshapes used in electronic music. The sound has the fullness
of the sinewave, but with a slight buzz or edge. It is generated by creating
odd harmonics, where the amplitude of each harmonic is the inverse square of
its ordinal number, and every other harmonic is set 180 degrees out of phase.
It also has a lot of usefulness as a simple lookup table structure,
since it is a linear increase to the halfway point of the table, then immediately
decreases by the same amount to the end.
as a verb, trigger means to provide a 'start' signal. It is usually contrasted
with 'gate', which means to provide a continuous 'on' signal. A trigger
hapens once, then has to be reset for the next time, whereas a gate stays
on until you 'let go' of it.
A control on a mixer which controls the amplitued of an incoming sound channel
at its entry point to the board.
a tool in ProTools and video software which allows you to non destructively
and visually adjust the beginning or end of a soundfile.
"tip, ring, sleeve", the three conductors in a phone plug.
The old fashioned way of throwing out the low order 8 bits in a digital sound
file conversion, generally yielding Gawd-awful results.
Tip-Sleeve, synonym for an unbalanced phone-style plug (or mini, or micro plug). Tip is hot, sleeve is cold+ground.
The Sun Microsystems format for sound.
A circuit which utilizes only two conductors: 'hot' and 'ground'. In an unbalanced
circuit, the system or common ground serves as the return path for the audio
signal, unlike a balanced circuit, where the ground is separated from the
actual signal. Since the impedance of the ground is different from that of
the hot signal, more noise is allowed in than in a balanced circuit.
A microphone which filters out all but the sound directly in front.
A 'balance' between input levels and output levels. Ideally the voltage being emitted by an audio source should be perfectly matched by the receiving devices ability to accept incoming voltage/curent. Where that's the case you have unity gain. Mixers typically have visual indicators to show you where unity is in the gain controls for a line level input. Of course when there is a preamp involved the unity setting is dependent on the initial trim setting as well.
Beatnik uses three banks: #0, the general midi bank; #1, their own alternate
gm bank, and #3, the user bank, where you can store your own samples. If
you have an rmfx file on your page with custom sounds, that's where they
go on the client side when the page is hit.
A device which can precisely transfer varying amounts of current via a cathode
and anode, separated by a vacuum. Used in early electronic music devices,
still used in high end amplifiers and mics because of its warmth in sound.
Composer, well-known for his excursions into the burgeoning field of electronic
music in the first half of the 20th C. Listen to Poeme Electronique,
A periodic change of state. The keyword is 'periodic'. To be a vibration
there must be repetition in the change. A tack stuck in the tire of a bus
tire creates a vibration when the bus moves. Cards stuck in the spokes of
a wheel will create not only a vibration but a distinct pitch if the wheel
gets going fast enough. Vibrations often have distinct shapes, referred to
a single application of sound in a synth, or an individual stream of digital
audio. Every system has voice limitations, depending on how many digital
oscillators it has, or how fast the CPU is. A typical modern synth has 32
voice polyphony, meaning you can play up to 32 notes before they start swapping
off with each new one.
The energy that occurs as a measurement of potential between two or more differently charged areas, electrical 'pressure'.
VOLTAGE CONTROLLED AMPLIFIER
Part of a synthesizer which can adjust the volume of sound (or other component)
via a supplied, changing voltage. Used in conjunction with an envelope generator
to provide an overall shape for a sound event.
VOLTAGE CONTROLLED FILTER
A filter in a synth which can, like the vca above, be controlled by another
device such as an e.g.
The amplitude of a sound, typically measured in decibels (dB).
The visual indicator on a tape deck, mixing board, etc., which gives you a moment
to moment reading of the amplitude level of the incoming sound. The VU meter
is usually scaled logarithmically, with the standard reference level set to "0".
The shape of a periodic change of state. The shape of the wave determines a
number of important aspects of a vibration, such as the TIMBRE of a sound.
a cycle of a periodic wave stored digitally. The table is then scanned at various
rates to reproduces pitched sound, or can be scanned slowly to act as a control
The sound created by an equal distribution of all frequencies. Most sound contains
some quantity of white noise, and it is usually something to be minimized. The
hiss on a poor quality cassette tape is white noise, as the hiss of steam in
a radiator. There are variations of white noise, which are produced by limiting
the range of frequencies. For instance, "pink" noise is weighted towards
the lower frequencies. White noise, since it contains theoretically all frequencies,
is very useful in calibration tools which work on a range of frequencies.
(archaic) Original name for the tape recorder (used a spool of wire, not tape).
a combination of bytes. Digital audio typically employs 1, 2 and three byte words
(that is, eight bit, sixteen bit or 24 bit).
another term for bit depth. Measured in number of bytes per word (e.g., two byte
In a two dimensional representation of sound, the X-axis represents TIME. When
talking about individual waves, the X-axis can show the phase of the wave measured
in milliseconds. When talking about complete sounds, the X-axis is used to show
the total duration of a sound, measured in seconds or even in minutes.
A sturdy, three-pin plug which is the standard connector for professional audio.
The three pins of the XLR are known as hot (+), cold(-), and shield (ground).
They are also numbered for convenience: 1(G), 2(+) and 3(-). The XLR is usually
employed in balanced circuits.
In a two dimensional representation of sound, the Y-axis represents AMPLITUDE.
The scale can take on a number of different forms. In digital sound, the amplitude
range usually ranges from -1 to 1 and is scaled by the digital to analog convertor.
In analog electronic sound, the amplitude scale often ranges from -5 to +5 volts.
It is not where a phase point is at a given moment on that scale that determines
the amplitude, rather, it is the average of several jumps from above to below
the "0" line that creates a 'loud' signal. Paradoxically, unlike a
steady, sustained wind which blows continually in one direction, sound gains
its power from periodic fluctuation betwqeen positive and negative. The greater
the excursion from high to low, the more powerful the sound.
The amplitude midpoint in an audio file. Since files are usually displayed
on a positive/negative y axis, this becomes the zero point.