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Berklee - Musical terms
Category: Music and Sound
Date & country: 24/10/2013, USA
Words: 179

Acoustic Delay
A delay line in which a speaker and microphone are separated by an extended path length, such as by placing them at opposite ends of a long tube. The delay itself is derived from the time it takes the sound to travel through the air in the tube.

Active Device
Any electronic signal processing device that requires AC or DC current to power its operation, and that generally includes an amplifying stage after its primary processing circuit, allowing the output level to be matched to the input level. (WW)

Active Equalizer
An equalizer that employs active electronic components such as transistors or ICs in its processing circuit(s). A pre-amplifying circuit generally follows each stage of actual equalization, boosting the signal level to restore unity gain. If the unit allows overall adjustment of output level, the engineer can A-B the flat and equalized signal. (WW)

Additive Synthesis
(A) Randomly chosen amounts and phases of a fundamental and its

Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release. The four sections of every sound's envelope. (WW)

Arithmetic and Logic Unit. The portion of a CPU that actually performs arithmetic and other computational procedures. (WW)

Analog Recording
Any method of recording in which the recorded waveform is a continuous representation of the original signal. Example: conventional magnetic recording, direct to disc. (WW)

Analog-To-Digital Converter (ADC)
In digital recording, the group of circuits that sample the analog waveform, measure its instantaneous voltage, and convert this decimal value to its binary equivalent, in preparation for storage on tape (or on floppy disk, in random access memory, etc.). (WW)

Any complex software the user buys to accomplish a repetitive job that is unrelated to the basic nature of his own goals. A word-processing program is a good example, since it is mathematically complex, but its internal operations are functionally irrelevant to the user who is writing letters or a book. (WW)

American Standard Code For Information Exchange. The most common code used for transmitting text data from computer to computer, or to peripherals. The code employs 8-bit binary words, by which each letter of the English language, each Arabic numeral, and each commonly used symbol is uniquely designated. (WW)

A fixed or variable reduction in signal strength, which may in turn reduce the volume of sound heard. (WW)

Balanced Line
An electrical cable with two conductors and a separate shield. When a signal is present, the conductors have the same potential with respect to ground, but opposite polarities. (WW)

Bandpass Filter
An equalizer that attenuates frequencies above and below a designated band. A low-pass filter thus allows low frequencies but not high frequencies to pass through. (WW)

1. Strictly speaking, the arithmetic difference between the highest and lowest frequencies that are (a) passed by an electronic device, or (b) present in a specific acoustic sound or audio signal. Example: The bandwidth of a telephone is approximately 2.2 kHz-i.e., 2,400 Hz minus 200 Hz. The endpoints of a circuit's or system's bandwidth are those frequencies at which its response or Output is attenuated by 3 dB.

Bi-Directional Microphone
The axes of maximum sensitivity are at 0

The smallest unit of information that can be stored, transmitted, or processed by any digital circuit

BPM Beats Per Minute
A measurement used by disc jockeys to determine whether two rock or dance records will blend or mix together smoothly. BPM ratings are often printed by record companies on the labels of promotional copies sent to radio stations, record pools, and individual disc jockeys. (WW)

Buffer Memory
In digital circuits, an intermediate storage device (or memory) that can receive and dispense data at different rates, or merely hold data until the following device is prepared to accept it. Often used to adapt the output rate of one device

A sequence of 8 bits of data, established as a standard parcel of information in computing because it can designate any of 63 possible items (2 raised to the 8th power, minus 1). This number is sufficient to uniquely specify any letter in the English alphabet, any single Arabic numeral, and a group of commonly used symbols. For that reason, the byte is used as the basis of the ASCII code. (WW)

Cardioid Microphone
A uni-directional pattern, with the axis of minimum sensitivity at l80

Compact Disk Read-Only Memory. A data storage format for compact discs that enables digital sound and or visual materials to be encoded on the disc. If visuals will accompany audio, the format allows enough memory for about one still image for each 30 seconds of audio. As a publishing medium, CD-ROM offers book publishers vast storage capacity. The Grolier Encyclopedia was the first book available in this format, the entire printed edition fitting on a single CD. Random access availability of data and the enormous indexing capacity of CDs make this a great medium for printed matter. The total storage capacity of a single CD-ROM is about 650 megabytes. (WW)

The miniaturized signal-processing heart of an integrated circuit, or any of the thumbnail sized data storage or data-processing circuits in computers, digitally controlled devices, etc. (WW)

A type of signal processing that slightly delays and, by rhythmic flanging, doubles the apparent number of players or singers heard in the signal. Chorusing also adds a vibrato to the resulting signal. (WW)

Comb Filter
A filter that, through phasing cancellation, notches out a series of different frequencies in an incoming signal. This is the principle by which flanging is achieved. (WW)

Composite Equalization
The overall frequency response modification produced when a signal passes through more than one equalizing circuit in the

The squeezing together of air molecules during the first half of each complete cycle of a sound wave. It corresponds to the portion of the wave that appears above the axis when graphed. Opposite of rarefaction. (WW)

Compression Ratio
The numerical ratio of the decibel increase in input level of a compressor (above the threshold) that produces a one decibel increase in output level. Example: If the increase in input level is 5 dB for every 1 dB increase in output, the compression ratio is 5:1. (WW)

A signal-processing device consisting of an amplifier whose gain decreases automatically as the input signal level increases above a specified threshold. Some models use their own output signal to control gain reduction. The result is a decrease in the dynamic range of the signal from input to output, primarily by reduction of the level of transients or peaks in the signal. This can prevent overload on steep transients and, when the gain prior to compression is greater than unity, provide a boost for very low level signals. (WW)

Condenser (or Capacitor) Microphone
A microphone in which the vibrating diaphragm is electrically charged and acts as one plate of a capacitor. The movement of the diaphragm or membrane with respect to a rigid plate (charged with the opposite polarity) causes a tiny change in the potential between them. This is amplified by an internal pre-amplifier and sent to the recording console. DC power is required to run the pre-amplifier. Works like an electrostatic speaker in reverse. (WW)

Central Processing Unit. The integrated circuit chip in a computer that actually performs most operations on data. (See ALU) (WW)

Crossover Frequency
Loosely, the frequency above and below which an audio signal is divided into two bands, each of which is directed to a separate destination. Strictly speaking, the frequency at which each of these two bands is attenuated 3 dB by the crossover network. (WW)

Cathode Ray Tube. Either black and white or color. Although there are all shapes and sizes of CRT's, the most familiar is the picture tube of every television. (WW)

Cue Mix
The blend of live inputs and/or previously recorded tracks sent hy the engineer to the headphones of performers playing or singing in the studio. Also called the headphone mix. (WW)

Cut-Off Filter
An equalizer that sharply attenuates all frequencies that are above or below a designated limit. (WW)

Any large body of information through which the computer can sort to find subsets of data whose members share one or more user-specified characteristics. (WW)

1. Used both for acoustical and electronic sound sources. The characteristic fall-off in output amplitude or volume a sound producing source emits when the force creating the vibrations (or the current powering the oscillator in a synthesizer, for instance) is removed. This term is often confused with release, the fourth section of a sound's envelope. 2. The second of four sections of a sound or signal's envelope. In order, they are attack, decay, sustain, release. (WW)

Decay Rate
The number of decibels per second by which echoes or reverberation of a sound diminish once the sound has stopped. Depending on the sound source and environment, the decay rate may be linear (e.g., a steady number of dB per second), or it may begin to decay slowly and then fall off rapidly, or the reverse. In addition, various frequencies in the sound may decay at different rates. (WW)

Decay Time
The length of time it takes for echoes or reverberation of a sound to diminish 60 dB below its original level, effectively to inaudibility. More precisely known as reverberation time or T-60. (WW)

Decibel (dB)
1. A unit of level used to designate power ratios in acoustic and electric measurements, adapted separately for various power and voltage scales. 2. Loosely, the smallest increment in perceived volume that the average human ear can detect. In early experiments with sound, it was noted that 1/10 bel is very close to this increment; thus, precise measurements of volume are standardized in decibels. (WW)

The time interval between the initial occurrence of a sound or signal and its repeat or echo. (WW)

Delay Line
Any device-acoustic or electronic-that intentionally introduces a time delay between its input and output signals. (WW)

The part of a microphone (the membrane) or loudspeaker (the cone) that moves in response to sound waves or an incoming signal, respectively. (WW)

Digital Delay (DDL)
An electronic delay line in which the time delay is created by translating the analog input signal into digital information, which is stored for a determined or adjustable length of time, then reconverted back to an analog signal and sent to the output. Many DDLs allow adjustable regeneration or feedback, causing multiple repeats, and other effects such as flanging or chorusing of the input signal. (WW)

Digital Recording
The original analog waveform is sampled, yielding a voltage value for each sample. These values are converted to binary numbers which are encoded on tape as a biphase signal. Upon playback, the voltage values are reconstructed, then filtered and smoothed. Sampling at a rate less than the nyquist frequency results in an incorrect replica of the original waveform. Sampling at or above the nyquist frequency results in a duplicate of the original waveform. (WW)

Digital-To-Analog Converter (DAC)
A group of electronic circuits that reads and decodes sequential numerical voltage samples, then recreates a stepped waveform that approximates the analog waveform existing before initial encoding. The voltage samples may come from any storage medium, tape, RAM, a buffer memory, etc. (WW)

Direct Box
A device containing an impedance matching transformer (and sometimes a pre-amplifying circuit) that allows the output of an electric instrument to feed the input module of a recording console directly. Also called a D.I. (direct input). (WW)

1. Sometimes mistakenly used to mean tracking, the recording on multitrack tape of a second performance of an instrumental or vocal part already recorded once (played or sung by the same performers), usually done to achieve a fuller sound. 2. Loosely, creating the aural impression of more players and/or singers than were originally recorded by mixing a slightly delayed duplicate of their track(s) in with the direct signal. (WW)

Dynamic Microphone
A moving coil or ribbon microphone, in which the movement of the diaphragm (with its attached coil of very fine wire) or ribbon through the field of a permanent magnet induces a varying output voltage. This voltage is sent to the recording console. Works like a dynamic loudspeaker in reverse. (WW)

Dynamic Range
1. The number of decibels between the levels of the loudest and softest sounds that can be made by an instrument, or between the loudest and softest passages in a live or recorded piece. 2. In a tape recorder, or with respect to a specific type of recording tape, the decible level difference between its inherent noise level and the signal level at which 3% total harmonic or third harmonic distortion is present at the output or on tape. (WW)

Dynamic Signal Processor
Any electronic device whose type or degree of operation changes in response to level or other characteristic of the input signal-e.g., compressors, noise reduction systems, flangers, etc. (WW)

Electret Microphone
A condenser microphone whose diaphragm and plate are semi-permanently charged during manufacture. The charge can dissipate after several years, which will cause a loss of output level, etc. (WW)

Electrostatic Loudspeaker
A loudspeaker in which a rigid plate is charged by a DC voltage with one electric polarity and a thin metallic membrane charged oppositely. Variations in this steady voltage potential difference are caused by an audio signal mixed with it, in turn causing a variation in the capacitance between the plate and membrane. This moves the membrane toward and away from the plate, creating sound waves that propagate into the surrounding air. Also called capacitor (or condenser) loudspeaker. (WW)

If the amplitude vs. time graph of a musical sound is plotted, the envelope of the sound is the overall shape of this graph. More exactly, the curve and its reflection that enclose the waveforms comprising a sound. A sound's envelope includes its attack, decay, sustain, and release. (WW)

Envelope Generator
A device that produces a control voltage that varies with time according to the user's specifications. This voltage, applied to each note played on a synthesizer, gives notes the desired envelope. Also called a contour generator. (WW)

Equal Loudness Contours
A set of superimposed graphs plotting the human ear's sensitivity to sound vs. frequency, each graph representing this phenomenon at a different loudness level. Also called the Fletcher-Munson curves, after the scientists who derived them. A new version, the Robinson-Dadson curves, is gaining favor. (WW)

Equalizer (EQ)
Any signal processing device used to change the frequency response, relative frequency content, or spectrum of signals passing through it. Equalizers are sometimes mistakenly called filters. Filters may be used in equalizer circuits, but only the passive equalizer can properly be called a filter, since it can only detract from the input signal. (WW)

An amplifier whose gain is unity for signals below a specified threshold, then increases for higher input signal levels, or (b) is unity for signals above a designated threshold, then decreases for input signals below that threshold. Most professional units employ the second design. Noise gates are good examples of the lo-type expander. (WW)

An equalizer that attenuates designated frequencies or bands. These bands may be very narrow or quite wide. (WW)

Floppy Disk
A thin, flexible disk coated with magnetic oxide, and used as a permanent medium for data and/or programs. (WW)

FM Synthesis
A process of signal production in which the frequency of a carrier wave is modulated by the amplitude of an audio signal, in turn generated in response to control voltages from a keyboard, etc. (WW)

To designate the parameters that control how and where a computer stores data on a floppy disk or other so-called hard memory. Formatting parameters include the types of data, data density on the disk, size of any matrices, how data is grouped for easy retrieval, etc. Compatibility among computers often depends on their formatting, rather than internal operation. (WW)

Concerning any acoustic sound wave or cyclically varying electric signal, the number of complete vibrations or cycles per unit. (WW)

Frequency Response
1. A graph of the amplitude vs. frequency, either for an acoustic sound or for a signal passing through any piece of audio equipment.

The frequency of the first in a series of partials which make up the timbre of a musical sound. This first partial will also have the highest amplitude in the series and will be the frequency we recognize as the pitch of the musical sound. eg.: The fundamental of a complex musical waveshape at A440 will be 440Hz.

The primary frequency, or lowest frequency, present in a sound source or musical note. Frequencies caused by beating between two notes or sound sources, but that are not inherent in either source, are not fundamentals. (WW)

The ratio of the signal level at the output of an audio device to the signal level at its input. Normally expressed in decibels (dB), but sometimes as a ratio of voltages. Unity gain, for instance, denotes identical input and output levels. A gain of 6 dB indicates that a device amplifies signals by 6 dB, equivalent to a doubling of the signals' voltage. The voltage ratio here is thus 2:1. (WW)

1. A control voltage generated by any key on a synthesizer keyboard that instructs signal generators and other devices to begin operating. 2. Short for noise gate. (WW)

An electrical pathway or conductor connected to the earth, or a conductive object so large that its potential is considered zero. (WW)

Ground Lift
1. Generally, a three prong AC plug adapter used without its ground connected in an attempt to eliminate the occurrence of a ground loop through the power cord of a piece of equipment. 2. On a D.I. box, the switch that disconnects the common ground between its input and output. Used to help eliminate hums and buzzes in the signal, caused by improper grounding of some instrument pickups, or by the effect of RF fields on magnetic pickups, etc. (WW)

Hard Disk
A data storage and retrieval device consisting of a disk drive and one or more permanently installed, precisely machined rigid disks. (WW)

Abbreviated Hz. Formerly called cycles per second. The time by which frequency is measured and specified. (WW)

In the hexadecimal numbering system, any of the sixteen symbols (the arabic numerals 0 through 9 and capital letters A through F) can be used to express numbers 0 through 15. (WW)

A low-frequency unwanted noise of definite pitch

Hyper-Cardioid Microphone
The narrowest of unidirectional patterns, narrower even than super-cardioid, indicating very low off-axis sensitivity. There is usually a small lobe of sensitivity around 180

1. The connector by which a signal enters an electronic device, or the signal itself. 2. An electronic operating mode in tape recorders, in which the input signal to various tracks are routed directly to their outputs. (WW)

A prefix used in the metric system, designating one thousand times the unit of measure that follows. Thus, kilograms are units each containing one thousand grams. Designated by lower case k. (WW)

Light Emitting Diode. An electronic component that allows current to flow in only one direction through itself, and emits light whenever current is flowing. (WW)

LED Display
One or more LEDs used to indicate the operational status of a piece of electronic equipment, or the varying level of a signal being processed, or simply peak or VU levels. The series of LEDs must be driven by a circuit that senses these levels or conditions, turning on only the appropriate LEDs at each moment. (WW)

Technically, a compressor whose ratio is infinite-i.e., its output level will never exceed a specified value no matter how much the input level increases over the threshold. Practically, any compressor whose ratio is greater than 10:1. (WW)

The apparent intensity of sound as judged by the listener. (WW)

Any transducer that converts the electrical energy of an audio signal into acoustical energy or sound.

Magnetic Field
The magnetic flux (or lines of force) surrounding a magnet or any magnetic material, such as recording tape. (WW)

A prefix meaning one million times the unit that follows

Any transducer that converts acoustical energy or sound into an electrical audio signal. (WW)

Musical Instrument Digital Interface. A digital data format or scheme in which control signals generated by the keyboard commands played on one synthesizer can trigger the tone-generating circuits of other synthesizers. One player can thus simultaneously draw on the unique sound settings or patches of several synthesizers to create combined effects that would otherwise be impossible. (WW)

The digital data-transmission format by which MIDI-generating or MIDI-receiving devices communicate with each other. Exactly 31,250 BPS, with word length of 30 bits. Or the MIDI data itself. (WW)

Mixing Board (Console or Desk)
The set of F controls (and the enclosure containing them) by which the recording engineer selects various input signals (mic, line, or tape playback), adjusts their relative volume, tone, etc., and routes them, either to multi-track tape, mixdown, control room monitors, studio headphones, or other destination. (WW)

(noun) A loudspeaker in a control room or other listening area. 2. A cathode ray tube (CRT) or, more simply, a television on whose screen programs and data can be displayed (verb) To listen back to a recorded performance or a live performance in the control room. (WW)

Monophonic (Mono)
Literally, single sound. In monophonic recording or playback, all sounds are blended together on one channel or track, or heard from a single loudspeaker. (WW)

Moving Coil Loudspeaker
A dynamic loudspeaker. (WW)

Moving Coil Microphone
A type of dynamic microphone in which the diaphragm is attached to a small coil of very thin wire. The motion of this coil through the field of a permanent magnet produces the output signal. (WW)

To cut off a sound, input, or track suddenly. Also, to reduce monitor level by a known amount via a pre-set button on the console, normally to facilitate verbal communication in the control room. (WW)

Notch Filter
A filter that severely attenuates a very narrow band of frequencies. Often used to eliminate steep resonances in an instruments' response, or to get rid of motor hums, feedback, room resonances, and other unwanted sounds that may have been present when a signal was recorded. (WW)

Nyquist Frequency
The highest audio program frequency that can be accurately sampled by any specific sampling rate. By definition, one-half the sampling frequency. (WW)

Omni-Directional Microphone
A nearly circular pattern, indicating equal sensitivity to sounds approaching from all directions around the microphone. (WW)

Operating System
In computers, the software system that organizes the underlying computational and memory resources of the computer and makes them available to the user via a specific set of command names and functions called languages

1. An electronic signal generator whose output is a pure sine wave of selectable frequency. Standard test equipment in every studio. Many oscillators also produce square waves and other waveshapes used in testing and maintenance procedures.

1. The type of distortion that occurs when an applied signal exceeds the level at which a system will produce its maximum undistorted output level. Generally results in clipping of the waveform, since the output will be literally cut off at maximum output level. 2. The condition that exists when this distortion is produced. (WW)

A process by which each audio sample is read from a compact disc more than once, mainly to double-check the accuracy of the first reading, but also to interpolate values between samples, increasing the effective sampling rate. Oversampling rates of 88.2 kHz and 176.4 kHz are available on higher quality players, but there is no proof that the process improves the sound of the output, at least for the average listener. (WW)

An integer multiple of fundamental frequency. The first overtone is twice the fundamental, the second is three times the fundamental, etc. (WW)