Common terms and abbreviations used in music production
Music production can be divided into several categories, such as mixing, mastering, and songwriting, which include several terms. As a sound engineer, producer or musician, it is important to understand what these terms signify and represent. Below is a list of the most commonly used terms in music production.
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ADSR – attack, decay, sustain, release
ADSR is a term for the progression of sounds. ADSR stands for Attack, Decay, Hold and Release. This envelope allows you to control the behavior of sounds and is found on all digital or analog synthesizers.
DAW – digital audio workstation
A digital audio workstation, also known as a DAW, is computer software suitable for music production. Every step of creating a song, such as recording instruments and vocals, creating sounds, arranging songs, mixing and mastering, can be done in this software. There are several workstations: Ableton, FL Studio, Logic and Pro Tools.
EQ – equalization
“Manipulate the frequency content of your recordings and help all elements of your production work together sonically.” An equalizer can be used to add or remove frequency information from individual sounds, groups, and entire tracks. The art of breathing can be done with an equalizer.
FX – effects
FX can mean 2 things: transition effects or coloring effects. Transition effects are risers, downlifters, impacts, etc. and coloring effects are used for sound design such as delays, reverbs, phasers, etc. Effects will add character and richness to sounds and they will glue your track together.
VST – virtual studio technology
The term VST is an industry standard plug-in software extension. This studio technology processing simulates hardware in software and can only be read by music production software. Until today, there are 3 technologies: VST, VST2 and VST3. VST3 is the most recent version, which only starts processing when an audio signal is present.
BPM – beats per minute
BPM is the benchmark for tempo in music production. ‘Beats per minute’ indicates the number of beats in a minute. A DAW’s grid will adjust to the selected BPM so that every beat is in sync with the grid. It is a simple but effective measure when writing songs.
MIDI – musical instrument digital interface
MIDI is an industry standard language, allowing instruments to communicate with each other. Normally each instrument would be recorded in real time on an audio track and you couldn’t change much about it. But MIDI has revolutionized music production because you can edit every note after you play. Once a MIDI track is open, you will only be able to record the notes you play.
KHz – kilohertz
The kilohertz is a measure of frequency equal to one thousand hertz. One thousand hertz means 1000 cycles per second. KHz is displayed on the frequency spectrum, starting at 1000 hertz, such as 1 kHz, and so on.
FLAC – free lossless audio codec
This lossless file is compressed to almost half the size of WAV files, with the same sample rate. FLAC will retain the same audio quality as the original recording. Besides WAV, FLAC can be played on every audio system and on every module.
WAV – waveform audio file format
WAV is an uncompressed file, maintaining the best audio quality yet. This industry standard audio file is the most reliable when downloading and rendering, but the file is significantly larger than other files such as FLAC and MP3.
AIFF – audio interload file format
AIFF is like WAV an uncompressed file format which contains high quality sound. Both use the same type of encoding, resulting in larger file sizes. AIFF is mostly used on MAC while WAV is mostly used on PC.
KBPS – kilobits per second
Kilobits per second is a data transfer rate or network speed. In music, you will find this term under bitrate. Throughput is the amount of data processed over a period of time. Generally, the higher the bit rate, the better the sound quality.
SFX – sound effects
Sound effects can be described as additional sound FX in music productions to emphasize certain parts. In film scores, you’ll find SFX like the typical sound of a punch in a fight, laser beams in Star Wars, and the deafening sound of a T.rex.
SNR – Signal to Noise Ratio
This measurement compares the power of a signal to the unwanted power of the background noise. A ratio greater than 1:1 is dedicated to a healthy signal-to-noise ratio because it indicates more signal than noise.
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