Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Chart – This word has many meanings in the music industry. Here, we are referring to something the musician in the studio (or in performance) can read that indicates his or her part to play. A chart can be a complete piece of music written out on manuscript (staff paper) with all of the notes, time signature, key signature, etc., or it can be a set of lyrics with the chord names (A, C, Bb, etc.) written over the top of the words showing the changes. Or it can be the chord names with hash marks (/ / / /) underneath, divided into measures so the musician knows when and what to play.

Click Track - A recorded rhythm track (metronome, drums or simulated drums) that the musicians hear in their headphones to keep them in tempo and on the right beats, but which may or may not (usually not) be used in the final mix.

Compression - 1. The portion of a sound wave in which molecules are pushed together, forming a region with higher-than-normal atmospheric pressure. 2. In signal processing, the reduction in dynamic range or gain caused by a compressor. 3. In computing, data compression reduces the number of bytes in a file without losing essential information.

Engineer - A technician in charge of a recording session; Also called Recording Engineer. The engineer works the controls on all of the equipment in the control room and studio. He/she sets up the microphones, tests the levels, is responsible for achieving the desired sounds and effects, logs all of the tracks and cues and performs any and all tasks on the technical end that the artist and producer require. There may be more than one engineer on a recording, usually a head engineer and assistants.

Label -- The record company (or division of a record company) that overseas the entire production and manufacture of a recording. Record labels make, distribute and market sound recordings. The term "label" is derived from the actual sticker labels that were affixed to the center of vinyl record faces -- record companies use specific logos for the purpose of "branding" to build an audience loyal to a particular artist or genre of music. Therefore "the label" actually means "the name of the record company." Example: 1) Capitol is a major label. 2) Righteous Babe Records is an indie label and inherently tied to Ani DiFranco, her style of music and the quality of her recordings. (Click here for a good article about indie labels)

Mastering -- Mastering is the link between the production process and the manufacturing process. Your project will go from the recording studio, to the mastering studio, to the manufacturing facility where the copies will be made

In the mastering process, the overall level is set, as well as song-to-song or “relative” levels (this keeps folks from having to turn the volume up and down when listening to your CD!). The mastering engineer may also use compression and/or EQ to make your music sound as good as possible when played on a home or car stereo system.

The mastering process can be a little hard to understand at first. Many musicians think, “I’ve spent all this time on my project, I’ve come up with some great mixes, how can someone who’s never even heard my music make it sound better?

A good mastering engineer brings a new perspective to your album. When you are in the midst of recording your project, you and your producer will concentrate on one song at a time. The result is that your mixes will have subtle differences: the peak levels will be slightly different; the EQs for each song are different, etc. The mastering engineer will look at the album as a whole, and try to bring unity with the use of gain, EQ, and compression. His goal is to achieve a consistent sound, and to make it sound the way you want on any home stereo system. He will also be able to raise the overall level so that your CD is as “hot” as any major label release. If the CD of your final mixes doesn’t sound “loud” enough, or doesn’t sound quite the same as your “regular” CDs, don’t fret. After the mastering process, that problem is always solved!

For a really good article about mastering and recording in general, from which this text was pulled, click here.

MIDI - Short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface; a digital signal system (a system of number signals) used to communicate performance information to and from musical instruments making music. MIDI: Abbreviation for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a specification for a connection between synthesizers, drum machines, and computers that allows them to communicate with and/or control each other. MIDI CHANNEL: A route for transmitting and receiving MIDI signals. Each channel controls a separate MIDI musical instrument or synth patch. Up to 16 channels can be sent on a single MIDI cable. MIDI CONTROLLER: A musical performance device (keyboard, drum pads, breath controller, etc.) that outputs a MIDI signal designating note numbers, note on, note off, and so on. MIDI IN: A connector in a MIDI device that receives MIDI messages. MIDI INTERFACE: A circuit that plugs into a computer, and converts MIDI data into computer data for storage in memory or on hard disk. The interface also converts computer data into MIDI data. MIDI OUT: A connector in a MIDI device that transmits MIDI messages. MIDI THRU: A connector in a MIDI device that duplicates the MIDI information at the MIDI-In connector: Used to connect another MIDI device in the series.

Producer - The "director" of an audio recording project responsible to get a final product of desired quality within a budget. The producer may be a liaison between the artist and the engineer and creates the overall sound of the recording by suggesting and/or dictating arrangements and instrumentation, recording techniques and effects.

Punching In and Out - Putting the recorder in record on a previously-recorded track while the tape is playing in sync playback and the singer or musician is singing or playing along is called Punching In. A feature in a multitrack recorder that lets you insert a recording of a corrected musical part into a previously recorded track by going into and out of record mode as the tape is rolling.

Session - A period of time reserved for the artist and musicians to record in the studio.

Synthesizer - A musical instrument that artificially (using oscillators) generates signals to simulate the sounds of real instruments or to create other sounds not possible with real instruments.

Take - The recording that is done between one start and the following stop of a recording device.

Track - 1) A path on magnetic tape containing a single channel of audio. A group of bytes in a digital signal (on tape, on hard disk, on compact disc, or in a data stream) that represents a single channel of audio or MIDI. Usually one track contains a performance of one musical instrument. 2) A specific song on a compiled recording (e.g. The first track of his CD opens with strings)

Or this alternate, more confusing definition:

Track - 1) One audio recording made on a portion of the width of a multitrack tape. 2) One set of control commands in a sequencer recorded in a similar manner to an audio track and often controlling one synthesizer over one MIDI channel. 3) A term with the same meaning as the term Band Track (the part of a song without the lead vocal or without the lead and background vocals). 4) A section of the magnetic surface of a disc consisting of a circular band at a fixed distance from the center.

Tracking - Recording the individual tracks of a multitrack recording.

Track Log (Track Assignment Sheet) - A sheet of paper kept with a multitrack tape which tells which instrument was recorded on each track. (Note: With the digital software sytem Pro Tools that we are using, the tracl log is kept automatically by the computer program.)

Track Signal - The signal sent to or coming back from one track of a multitrack tape recorder.

This glossary was compiled from these two sites and expanded upon by me. I'll add more terms as needed. If you want to read a complete glossary (and why would you?) check out these sites:



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