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Music on my PC - Music Technology terms
Category: Music and Sound > PC Music
Date & country: 17/11/2007, UK
Words: 199

MIDI Sound Generator
For authentic reproduction of acoustical instruments, it uses samples—instrument sounds stored as digitized audio. This is actually another term for synthesizer—converting MIDI events into real audio sound

One of a synthesizer`s three ports (connections): MIDI In, MIDI Out, and MIDI Thru. MIDI In receives information from other equipment; MIDI Out sends information to other equipment. MIDI Thru duplicates the information and sends it to other equipment so a synthesizer can echo messages to other synthesizers. This is particularly useful when daisy chaining MIDI equipment

MIDI Time Code (MTC)
A MIDI system realtime message that assigns a unique address to each moment in time (usually each 120th of a second). Similar to SMPTE time code but transmitted via MIDI ports, it is used mainly for the playback synchronization of MIDI files and digital audio

An prefix meaning 1/1000

A compact data storage medium designed to store music. MiniDiscs come in two varieties: playback only and recordable. Introduced by Sony in late 1992 and features random access similar to CDs

Modular Digital Multitrack (MDM)
A multitrack digital recorder with (usually) 8 tracks that can be run in synchronization with other machines (of the same type) to attain more tracks. ADAT brand recorders are an example

Originally, and still, can refer to only one sound source or signal derived from one sound source. For synthesizers this refers to only one note, pitch or voicing, audio or MIDI, being heard at a time


MP3 stands for MPEG 1, Audio Layer 3. It is an encoding format which takes out all the irrelevant data in a recording and compresses the remaining data. An MP3 file can be 1/12 the size of an original recording taking up far less space on a computer`s hard drive, making it feasible to email the audio file, post on the web, make MP3 CDs and use with personal music players such as Apple`s iPod

Compared to MP3, MPEG2 provides higher quality music compressed to 70% of its original size and accommodates up to 48 audio channels and sample rates up to 96kHz

The creation of several samples, each covering a limited musical range, the idea being to produce a more natural range of sounds across the range of the instrument being sampled. For example, a piano may need to be sampled every two or three semitones in order to sound convincing

In sequencing, a multi-timbral sound module can play several parts on different channels simultaneously. A multi-timbral device is one that is prepared to sound like more than one instrument at a time

A recording device capable of recording several parallel parts or tracks which may then be mixed or re-recorded independently

Noise Shaping
An audio tool for creating digital dither allowing added noise to be shifted into those parts of the audio spectrum where the human ear is least sensitive. See Dithering

Nonlinear Recording
Describes digital recording systems that allow any parts of the recording to be played back in any order with no gaps. Conventional tape is referred to as linear, because the material can only play back in the order in which it was recorded

An automatic process available in most audio software whereby the gain of all program material is adjusted so the peak level will just arrive at 0db. This can sometimes cause noise to enter into the recording if the recording levels are too low. There are many software programs such as BIAS`s Deck for OS X that allow normalization to very quickly correct an audio file that has been recorded at improper levels

Notation Software
A computer program, capable of displaying and printing MIDI information as standard musical notation. Although sequencers can include notation capability, they lack the sophistication of true notation programs which often have scanning capabilities allowing quick input of music for transposing to another key

Nyquist Frequency
The highest frequency that can be reproduced accurately when a signal is digitally encoded at a given sample rate. The theory being, Nyquist frequency is half of the sampling rate. As in, when a digital recording uses a sampling rate of 44.1kHz, the Nyquist frequency is 22.050kHz. If a signal being sampled contains frequency components that are above the Nyquist limit, aliasing will be introduced in the digital representation of the signal unless those frequencies are filtered out prior to digital encoding. See Aliasing

For microphones is means receiving sound evenly from all directions. For speakers this means an even coverage in all directions

An electronic device capable of generating recurring waveforms at different frequencies for testing purposes, or a digital process used by a synthesizer to generate a waveform

Enables one or more of previously recorded tracks to be monitored while simultaneously recording one or more signals onto other tracks. This process can be repeated until the song or soundtrack has been built up. If a mistake is made, it is possible to recue the tape to the desired starting point and repeat the process until you have the best take on tape. See Dubbing

A digital filtering technique used in CD components where extra data points are added to the audio read from a disc, creating a signal that is some multiple (usually two, four, or eight times) of the CD format's standard sampling frequency. This process raises the frequency of any false information, which can then be removed by an analog filter. Using the high sample rate, the digital data may be processed with a very steep slope digital filter. As the filter is in the digital domain, unpleasant side-effects such as phase effects are eliminated

A whole-number multiple of the fundamental frequency of a tone. The overtones define the harmonic spectrum of a sound. See Partial

Pulse Amplitude Modulation. In the first part of the A/D conversion, pulses occurring at the sampling frequency are modulated by an analog audio signal. See PCM

To move a signal from the left to the right of a stereo field, or vice versa

Pan pot
Round control knob enabling the user of a mixer to move the signal to any point in the stereo sound stage by varying the relative levels fed to the left and right stereo outputs. On most analog mixers there is a dent at the center between left and right on the pan knob. See Detent

A MIDI value seen in the envelope of a particular instrument that alters the integrity of the sound itself. Common parameters include pitch bend, sustain, volume, and reverb

Parametric Equalizer
A specialized type of EQ that makes it possible to change the frequency range, bandwidth and boost or cut

A single frequency, sinewave component (the fundamental, an overtone, or a tone at some other frequency) of a complex tone. All sounds are composed of a number of partials. See Harmonic

A sequencer`s patch setting selects an instrument, thereby determining the nature of the sounds. Patch is exactly the same thing as an instrument or voice. Although most patches call up one sound or voice, a drum patch may encompass a large range of percussive instruments. Also when you plug in (or patch) cords between hardware components

Patch Editor Software
A program which allows the editing of sounds by manipulating the envelope. Edirol`s PCR`s controller keyboards have their own editing software, to be used with any sequencer. Other programs, such as Sound Quest`s MIDI Quest allows you to edit, store and organize your patches

PCM (Pulse Code Modulation)
Digital audio recording format used since the late 1970s. PCM simultaneously captures all uncompressed bits of a Word (8 to 48-bits) at various standardized sampling frequencies (11kHz to 192kHz). The standard CD, co-developed by Philips and Sony, uses a 16-bit word length and a sampling rate of 44.1kHz. WAV and AIFF are common types of PCM audio files. See Word

This is a memory or I/O (input/output) card for PC and Mac laptop computers. The acronym stands for the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association, a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop PC Card standards and promote adoption of PCMCIA-based products, however a more familiar explanation is “people can`t memorize computer industry acronyms.� Also known as PC cards, they can be found as memory cards on DAW`s, or communications ports on laptops for LAN, fax/modem, ATA disk drives, wireless internet connections and more. There are PCMCIA soundcards available such as Echo Audio`s newest Indigo

The highest point in the audio waveform on a graph of a sound wave that would look something like a mountain peak. It is the point of greatest voltage or sound pressure in a cycle

Phase describes the time relationship between two different waveforms. It is expressed in degrees, with 360 degrees representing a full cycle. It is the amount by which one sine wave leads or lags a second wave of the same frequency. The difference is described by the term phase angle. Sine waves in phase reinforce each other; those out of phase cancel

A continuous frequency over time

Pitch Bend Wheel
A MIDI controller that can vary the pitch of a sound and allows notes to be bent up or down like when sequencing a sliding trombone sound for instance

Pitch to MIDI Conversion
Many programs have this feature whereby an audio signal is converted to MIDI data. This is especially useful in notation programs where the data can then be customized and printed. The audio signal needs to be monophonic, thereby having only one voice at a time. The best way to sell this feature regardless of the software being used is to state that the user will be able to hone his music theory with the editing of the file, as the conversion is normally far from perfect. Programs such as MakeMusic`s Finale Guitar have this feature specifically for the guitarist

These are accessory programs that add functionality to digital audio software. Ranging from input plugins that allow your player to read different file formats to output plugins that provide visual displays to accompany your music, to software samplers such as Gary Garitan`s Orchestral Strings

The ability to play many different notes at once

Derivative from the Greek term meaning variety of tones, it is the number of notes which can be played simultaneously. Any synthesizer has a maximum polyphony which cannot be exceeded. If the polyphony is exceeded, MIDI data will drop out from MIDI channels used near the end of the sequence

A hardware location where data is passed in and out. A port on a MIDI interface allows 16 MIDI channels to transmit data. The Edirol USB MIDI interfaces allow a variety of ports for the musician, with the UM-1 (or UM-1S) with 1 port, the UM-550 with 5 ports or the UM-880 with 8 ports. Although impractical within one sequence to utilize 128 channels (using the UM-880) it is beneficial to have a multiple port MIDI interface in the event there are multiple modules or keyboards in the MIDI setup

A musical term referring to the gliding effect that allows a sound to change pitch at a gradual rate, rather than abruptly. This is an effect that can be assigned using an assignable MIDI controller knob on controller keyboards such as the Edirol PCR-30 or PCR-50

This is usually referred to as preamp and is a device that takes a source signal, such as from a turntable, tape deck or CD player, and passes this signal at line level on to a power-amplifier. The preamplifier may have a number of controls such as source selector switches, balance, volume and possibly tone controls. This is typically the largest gain stage in a sound set-up

Pulse Wave
Similar to a square wave but non-symmetrical, pulse waves sound brighter and thinner than square waves, making them useful in the synthesis of reed instruments. The timbre changes according to the mark/space ratio of the waveform

Punch Recording
A feature within audio software that allows automatic on-off recording at specified points…especially nice when you need to rerecord a short phrase in a vocal track to fix an entire vocal session

A sequencing editing operation that can be used to correct timing mistakes, quantization forces all notes played to fall on the nearest beat specified

In sequencing software there are generally two types of recording procedures, real-time; and step-time. Real-time is literally recorded in time that has not been adjusted, such as slowed down. Step-time is a recording method of inputting MIDI data that is sequentially laid down note-by-note, chord-by-chord and is particularly helpful for inputting data at one`s own pace

Red book
The formal standard for the audio compact disc (CD), developed by Philips and Sony in 1982

This is the accuracy with which an analog signal is represented by a digitized system. Although other factors affect accuracy of recording, the higher bit number used, the more accurately the amplitude of each sample can be measured

Resonant Frequency
Any system has a resonance at some particular frequency and at that frequency, even a slight amount of energy can cause the system to vibrate. A stretched piano string, when plucked, will vibrate for a while at a certain fundamental frequency. Plucked again, it will again vibrate at that same frequency. This is its natural or resonant frequency. While this is the basis of musical instruments, it is usually undesirable in music-reproducing instruments like audio equipment or room acoustics

Acoustic ambience created by multiple reflections in a confined space. Also, a type of digital signal processing that produces a continuous wash of echoing sound, simulating an acoustic space such as a concert hall. Reverberation contains the some frequency components as the sound being processed, but no discrete echoes. See Echo, DSP or Delay

This is the process of taking audio data from a CD and making it into a sound file on your computer. It is called ripping because in most cases the audio data is digitally 'ripped' directly from the CD. This process can be very fast (a four minute song might only take 30 seconds to record). An analog recording process on the other hand records a song by playing the CD and recording the sound output. The analog process can only happen in realtime (a four minute song takes four minutes to record). The digital extraction process is faster because it copies the data instead of recording the sound output. Software applications that rip from CDs create the new audio file in the WAV, AIFF or MP3 formats. Cakewalk`s Pyro is suitable

A digital recording of a naturally occurring sound

Sampling is actually emulating the sound of an acoustical instrument by digitizing (converting to digital sound) the waveforms produced by the instrument. There are hardware samplers and software samplers, such as Tascam`s Gigastudio

Sampling Rate
This is the rate at which samples of a waveform are made and must be twice the highest frequency one wishes to capture. Commercial compact discs use a rate of 44,100 samples per second. (Se Nyquist Theory)

A MIDI sequencer, whether it is a software program or a stand-alone sequencer, arranges melodic and harmonic patterns in successive positions, sequentially. Storing MIDI information such as note-on and note-off events in memory and playing them back in the most fundamental task of a sequencer

High frequency whistling or lisping sound that affects vocal recordings, due either to poor microphone technique or excessive equalization

Programming code, Single Instruction Multiple Data

Sine wave
This is the most basic waveform which is a pure tone with no harmonics and consists of a single partial. The sine wave forms the basis of all complex, periodic sounds

An input-device to manipulate audio or MIDI data; a typical use is to increase or decrease volume. Programs will have this as an on-screen image, like a button control that one can move with a mouse

(Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers) a.k.a. 'Time Code.� Universally used and recognized standard for time and velocity. Digital machine code which contains hours, minutes, seconds and frames. Common formats in the US are 30 frames/second non-drop, and 29.97 frames/second drop-frame

Software Synthesizers
These have become incredibly popular due to the fact that computers with lots of processing power have become affordable to everyone. Products such as Arturia`s Moog can provide the user with a specific sound set, suitable for a particular composition. Bitheadz has a wide variety of synths such as Harry Sharpe Guitars that can be interfaced as a plug in. See Synthesizer

Sound Module
Another term for MIDI sound generator, this refers to the synthesis component in a device such as a keyboard that produces the sound such as a violin or piano

Spectral Balance
This is the balance across the entire frequency spectrum of the audio range

Square Wave
A symmetrical rectangular waveform which contain a series of odd harmonics

Standard MIDI File
Usually seen as SMF files, this means that the MIDI file utilizes common parameters across different platforms and sequencers, such as the drums always being on MIDI channel 10. The significant advantage to this file format is assured compatibility regardless of what synth is used for playback

Status Byte
In a MIDI message, this announces what kind of message is being sent, such as 'note-on� or “note-off.�

Streaming Audio
Refers to the process of making a broadcast of audio available on the Internet

Hidden data within the CD and DAT format that includes such information as the absolute time location, number of tracks, total running time and so on

Subtractive Synthesis
The process of creating a new sound by filtering and shaping a raw, harmonically complex waveform

A synthesizer is a device driven by a microprocessor which contains a programmable chip. Originally, a synthesizer produced an audio signal by the direct manipulation of electrical signals. Now MIDI sound-generating circuitry utilizes mathematical functions which alter a stream of digital numbers

System Exclusive Messages or Sysex messages do exactly what is implied - they send commands specific to a particular device in a MIDI setup where global control of all settings is not desired. They are particularly useful if your MIDI modules or keyboards are in a chain and isolated commands are necessary

System Messages
MIDI data which is not specific to any one channel. System data includes system exclusive messages (an instrument`s internal data, sometimes called bulk dump data), system realtime messages (sequencer start, stop, and continue commands as well as MIDI clock and other timing information) and system common messages (song select, tuning requests, system reset, etc.)

The rate of speed at which a musical composition proceeds (i.e. the beat). Usually uses a quarter note as the timing reference

The quality of a sound that distinguishes it from other sounds of the same pitch and volume. It is the distinctive tone color of an instrument or a singing voice

Tone Generator
This is essentially a synthesizer without a keyboard. A keyboard-less device which outputs audio signals in response to MIDI commands. Both the Edirol SD-20 and the SD-80 are tone generators

In audio software, tracks generally contain one audio layer or audio file; there is multi-track software or stereo (2 track) audio software. With MIDI sequencing, tracks are nothing more than an organizing tool commonly confused with MIDI Channels which are necessary for delineating different instruments. Although only one MIDI channel can be used at a time, many tracks can be assigned to this same MIDI channel. This is particularly useful when parts come in or fade out as these tracks can then be easily muted or soloed. Most sequencers allow an unlimited number of tracks within each song

Usually the brief initial (or attack) portion of a waveform. Transients provide important cues that help our ears recognize sounds, but they are often difficult for an audio system to reproduce because of their high amplitudes and short rise times

Software such as Chicken System`s Translator that allows conversion between professional sampler formats such as Akai

This is a listening term used to describe audio quality where the high frequency detail is clear and individual sounds are easy to identify and separate. The more transparent a sound is… the clearer the auditory picture

This allows a musical composition to be played in a different key. Both synthesizers and sequencers can carry out this function

440 Hertz is the normal Western tuning value however, this can be easily be adjusted in a synthesizer to suit the type of music being performed. The pitch can be altered by raising or lowering the value as plus or minus cents. Playing non-Western music may dictate the need to adjust the tuning of a synth

This is the smaller speaker within a speaker cabinet used to reproduce the higher range of frequencies. To form a full-range system, a tweeter needs to be combined with a woofer, (2-way system), or a woofer and midrange, (3-way system). The Edirol MA-20 desktop speakers have a 1� tweeter and a 4-3/4� woofer

USB (Universal Serial Bus) is a 'plug-and-play' interface between a computer and add-on devices such as audio devices, joysticks, keyboards, scanners, and printers. With USB, a new device can be added to your computer without having to add an adapter card or even having to reboot your computer. USB supports a data speed of 12 megabits per second and a single USB port can be used to connect up to 127 peripheral devices. It is best to use self-powered USB hubs and to plug devices into the back of your computer and not the keyboard for optimum reliability

Also referred to as Hi-Speed USB, USB 2.0 is an external bus that supports data rates up to 480Mbps. USB 2.0 is a revision of USB 1.1. USB 2.0 is fully compatible with USB 1.1 and uses the same cables and connectors

Voltage Controlled Amplifier. Used extensively in Arturia's software synth Moog, this is an amplifier that will change the gain depending upon the level of control voltage sent to it

Vector Architecture
Used in computer programming, vector architecture allows the simultaneous processing of many data items in parallel. Velocity: The velocity value determines how hard a note is pressed on the keyboard controller. A velocity value can be set either from the controller keyboard or from software, before or after the data is entered

A digital signal processor that applies a filter on a sound based on the frequency characteristics of a second sound. By taking the spectral content of a human voice and imposing it on a musical instrument, talking instrument effects can be created. There are plug-ins available with this effect, such as Native Instruments Vokator

VU meter
The Volume Unit Meter is designed to visually interpret signal levels in roughly the same way as the human ear, which responds more closely to the average levels of sounds rather than to the peak levels

This is a PC digital audio file format which is quite large because it is not a compressed format. The computer file extension for a WAV file is '.wav.�

A representation of a wave's amplitude over time

Waveform Editors
Software that allows waveforms to be manipulated through edits such as cuts, splices, loops, and redraws. Depending upon the sophistication of the software, one can edit extremely detailed amounts of data. Steinberg`s Wavelab is an excellent editor for the PC

Wavetable Synthesis
A method of generating waveforms through lookup tables. Many software synthesizers use wavetable synthesis where these digitized waveforms are organized in a bank or table, accessed through a sequencer

Woofer [or Sub Woofer]
A speaker that is used for low-frequency reproduction

One sample of audio data

Word clock
The metronome that governs sample timing is called the word clock and is important because precise timing of digital audio samples is critical when linking digital audio equipment

Word Length
The number of bits per sample that a digital device (such as an A/D converter) uses to convert or store data. The greater the number of bits in a digital sample, the more accurate the digitized description of the instantaneous analog signal value. Also called bit depth, bit rate or bit resolution

A 3-pin male/female connector originally developed by Canon that is commonly used to carry balanced analog audio signals for microphones. Many audio cards, like Aardvark`s Q-10 and Edirol`s USB audio interfaces such as the new UA-1000 have the XLR connection directly on the front panel for ease of use.