This glossary contains short explanations to important and frequent musical terms and abbreviations in alphabetical order and is based on entries on Wikipedia.org.
Ableton Live is a loop-based software music sequencer and DAW for Mac OS and Windows by Ableton.
ACID Loops/Acidized Loops
Acidized loops contain tempo and key information enabling proper time stretching when the pitch is shifted. The file name extensions for the file format are .acd and .wav.
ACID Pro is a professional digital audio workstation (DAW) software program from Sony. ACID Pro uses Acid Loops (meaning they contain tempo and key information for proper pitch transposition) painted out across the screen to create music tracks.
Standard audio file format used by Apple. It could be considered the Apple equivalent of wav. The file name extensions for the file format are .aif and .aiff.
The Apple Loops Utility allows users to create loops of audio that can be time-stretched. Audio files converted to “Apple Loops” via the Apple Loops Utility can also be tagged with their publishing (Author, Comments, etc.) and musical information (Key, Tempo, etc.). The file name extensions for the file format are .aif and .aiff.
An arpeggio is a group of notes which are played one after the other, either going up or going down. It is also known as “broken chord” as it basically means that the notes of a chord are played individually for example one after another.
Audio bit depth
The bit depth describes the number of bits of information recorded for each sample. Bit depth directly corresponds to the resolution of each sample in a set of digital audio data. Common examples of bit depth include CD quality audio, which is recorded at 16 bits, and DVD-Audio, which can support up to 24-bit audio. Higher bit depths are also available and mostly used in professional recording and TV and radio broadcast studios.
An audio editor is a computer application for manipulating digital audio e. g. cutting, adding effects etc. Digital audio editors are the main software component of a digital audio workstation (DAW).
Mastering, a form of audio post-production, is the process of preparing the final mix of recorded audio. The source material is processed using equalization, compression, limiting, noise reduction and other audio effects. This step prepares the music for either digital (CD, radio) or analog (vinyl) replication.
Audio Units (AU)
Audio Units (AU) may be thought of as Apple’s equivalent to VST/VSTi, the popular plug-in format from Steinberg.
Beats per Minute (BPM)
Beats per minute (BPM) is a unit used as a measure of tempo in music.
A chorus effect occurs when individual sounds with roughly the same timbre and nearly (but never exactly) the same pitch converge and are perceived as one. While similar sounds coming from multiple sources can occur naturally (as in the case of a choir or string orchestra), it can also be simulated using an electronic effects unit or signal processing device. Often, the delayed signals will be slightly pitch shifted to more realistically convey the effect of multiple voices.
Cubase is a music software product developed by Steinberg for music recording, arranging and editing as part of a digital audio workstation (DAW).
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an electronic system designed solely or primarily for recording, arranging, editing and playing back digital audio. Popular DAW’s are Ableton Live, ACID Pro, FL Studio, Logic Pro, Reason and Cubase.
An echo is a reflection of sound, arriving at the listener some time after the direct sound.
Different frequency bands are attenuated or boosted to produce desired spectral characteristics. Moderate use of equalization (often abbreviated as “EQ”) can be used to “fine-tune” the tone quality of a recording; extreme use of equalization, such as heavily cutting a certain frequency can create more unusual effects
In the general sense, frequency ranges can be emphasized or attenuated using low-pass, high-pass, band-pass or band-stop filters.
Flanging is an audio effect produced by mixing two identical signals together, with one signal delayed by a small and gradually changing period, usually smaller than 20 milliseconds.
FL Studio (formerly known as FruityLoops) is a digital audio workstation (DAW) developed by Belgian company Image-Line Software.
Logic Pro is a digital audio workstation (DAW) and MIDI sequencer software for the Mac OS X platform. Logic Pro is part of Apple’s Logic Studio bundle of professional music applications.
An audio loop is a sample of a performance that has been edited to repeat seamlessly when the audio file is played end to end.
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is an industry-standard protocol that enables electronic musical instruments (synthesizers, drum machines), computers and other electronic equipment (MIDI controllers, sound cards, samplers) to communicate and synchronize with each other. Unlike analog devices, MIDI does not transmit an audio signal — it sends event messages about pitch and intensity, control signals for parameters such as volume, vibrato and panning, cues, and clock signals to set the tempo. MIDI protocol was defined in 1982. The file name extension for the file format is .mid.
The phaser effect was originally a simpler implementation of the flanger effect. The signal is split, a portion is filtered with an all-pass filter to produce a phase-shift, and then the unfiltered and filtered signals are mixed. Phasers are often used to give a “synthesized” or electronic effect to natural sounds, such as human speech.
Pitch is an auditory sensation in which a listener assigns musical tones to relative positions on a musical scale based primarily on the frequency of vibration.
Similar to pitch correction, this effect shifts a signal up or down in pitch. For example, a signal may be shifted an octave up or down. This is usually applied to the entire signal, and not to each note separately. One application of pitch shifting is pitch correction. Here a musical signal is tuned to the correct pitch using digital signal processing techniques. This effect is ubiquitous in karaoke machines and is often used to assist pop singers who sing out of tune.
Reason is a music software program developed by Swedish software developers Propellerhead Software.
ReFills compress sounds, settings and instrument configurations into single files, and are the only way of mass importing additional sounds into Reason. The file name extension for the file format is .rfl.
ReCycle is a music loop editor designed and developed by Swedish software developers Propellerhead Software. Propellerhead developed their own file format for this software: REX, and later REX2 (.RX2) adding support for stereo files, which has become a standard for music loops and is compatible with many third party programs.
A remix is an alternative version of a recorded song, made from an original version.
Reverb is created when a sound is produced in an enclosed space causing a large number of echoes to build up and then slowly decay as the sound is absorbed by the walls and air.
REX/REX2 is an audio sample loop file format. It is one of the most popular and widely-supported loop file formats for digital audio workstations (DAW). The file is divided into “slices” and this allows the loop to dynamically match the tempo of a song without altering the pitch of the loop, as would normally happen if the audio file was slowed down or sped up. The file name extensions for the file format are .rex and .rx2.
Royalties are usage-based payments made by one party (the “licensee”, e. g. a musician using audio samples) to another (the “licensor”, e. g. the producer who produced the audio samples). If a sample library is offered royalty-free you can usually use the contents without paying further fees except for the original sales price.
Time stretching is the process of changing the speed or duration of an audio signal without affecting its pitch.
A sampler is an electronic musical instrument similar to a synthesizer but, instead of generating sounds, it uses recordings (or samples) of sounds that are loaded or recorded into it by the user and then played back by means of a keyboard, sequencer or other triggering device to perform or compose music.
Sampling is the act of taking a portion (a sample) of a sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a different sound recording of a song.
A music sequencer (or just sequencer) is a computer program or electronic device for recording, editing and playing back music in the form of digital audio and/or MIDI data. See also: Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
A synthesizer is an electronic musical instrument and can generate artificially almost any sound by either imitating natural sounds or creating completely new sounds.
A vocoder is an analysis/synthesis system, mostly used for speech and known for it’s robotic soun. The vocoder analyzes speech, transforms it into electronically transmitted information and recreates it.
Steinberg’s Virtual Studio Technology (VST) is an interface for integrating software audio synthesizer and effect plugins with audio editors and hard-disk recording systems. VST plugins are generally run within a digital audio workstation (DAW), providing the host application with additional functionality. Most VST plugins can be classified as either instruments (VSTi) or effects. VST instruments require notes to be sent via MIDI in order to output audio, while effect plugins process audio data.
Originally the standard audio file format of Windows PC’s but today supported by all major digital audio workstations (DAW) on Apple Mac and Linux-based systems as well. Commonly used for storing uncompressed CD-quality sound files. The file name extension for the file format is .wav.