Common terminology and what it means…
Some of the abbreviations and terminology used by other sites / people / professionals may seem a little alien to you at the moment.
I’ll cover the most common ones below and hope this helps you start out:
Beats Per Minute – is the tempo of the music.
Some examples lifted straight out of a Google search:
House Music – between 118 and 135 BPM
Hip Hop – 80 to 115 BPM
Triphop – 90 to 110 BPM
Techno – 120 to 160 BPM
EDM – 120 to 150 BPM
Drum and Bass – 160 to 180 BPM
This is a technique applied to individual tracks, or/and the whole mix, usually to increase the loudness. However this is an art that takes some research and practice to put into good affect.
It can also be used in conjunction with other tracks (side chain) to alter the volume/loudness of a track dynamically – think bass drum triggering loudness offset against the rest of the music. Often used in dance music to get that kick to come through.
This stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and in broad terms means a device or software used in music production / recording.
Lets you capture and edit performances made via external keyboards, or controllers vis MIDI, audio from instruments, and from microphones.
If you have a reasonable spec computer at the moment, best just to stick with it for now and see how it performs for you.
There are some very cost effective software applications for music production these days, and you may get something bundled with any equipment you may purchase.
Reaper and Cubase Elements are some great examples of cost effective production software.
DAW Controller / Control Surface
Although this might look like a mixing desk, it is used to control the internal mixer (amongst other parameters) of your audio production software.
Audio travels as waves and covers a vast frequency spectrum which is measured in Hertz (Hz), most commonly considered 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.
I’ll try to capture a few bands to give you an idea:
Sub Bass – 20 to 60 Hz
Bass – 60 to 250 Hz
Low mid range – 250 to 500 Hz
Mid range – 500 to 2000Hz (2 kHz) –
Upper mid range – 2 to 4 kHz
Presence – 4 to 6 kHz
Brilliance – 6 to 20 kHz
Vocals and other sounds can occupy multiple frequency ranges of course, which is why when mixing, some ‘room’ needs to be created in your production for these sounds. Vocals in particular, in my experience, can cause some challenges. Vocal range can go typically from 100 Hz (or even slightly lower) to around 9 kHz.
Host Software / Host
This is the software application running on the computer used for audio production.
Generally refers to a specialised Audio Interface, dedicated for audio production. Can be external or internal to the PC.
This generally doesn’t refer to the factory fitted, or standard, sound card that may be fitted in your current computer. Especially true for laptops.
Although more modern sound cards seem to boast professional grade components, they usually place additional burden on your CPU (processor), and often have greater latency than professional Interfaces.
There are some very cost effective Interfaces out there, just Google Focusrite Scarlett for example.
Some mixers also have an audio interface as an integral part of them as well.
This is how quickly, or rather how slowly, your audio interface / sound card outputs a sound. It is a delay.
May not sound important, but imagine playing a piano and not hearing any sound until half a second later; you just won’t be able to play properly – same rules apply in production.
This is taking all of your recorded information in the Mixdown, and getting it all to sound nice together.
An art in itself, and will involve lots of levelling, EQ’ing, compressing, limiting, gaining, normalising…..the list goes on 🙂
Musical Instrument Digital Interface – basically is a language that all keyboards / controllers / sound modules can communicate to each other with.
Some sound interfaces have some MIDI ports already fitted, some controller keyboards use USB to talk MIDI to the audio production software. You can also buy pure MIDI-USB interfaces to connect keyboards to.
This is taking all of the sounds, instruments, vocals etc. including audio from any outboard equipment, and recording them into your production software. It’s best to have a dedicated audio channel per instrument or microphone, as this will help enormously when mastering, and in fact should really be the only way to do it.
Mixer / Mixing Desk / Mixing Console
Often called a ‘desk’ for good reason, as these can stretch out for miles and miles 🙂
These let you connect a lot of external instruments, microphones, and other audio sources, together. Audio wise. There you can adjust each mic or instrument’s volume level (amongst other parameters of course), to get them all to sit together nicely.
In the audio / music production context, this refers to your choice of speakers.
Unlike typical home hi-fi type speakers, that are designed to enhance the sound somewhat, monitor speakers are designed to provide a neutral output, without enhancing the sound at all, which is exactly what you want when producing music.
However not all monitor speakers are the same, and will sound different in different environments. Best to check these out in your local store to see which suits you best.
Near Field Monitors
Exactly the same as monitors, except these are usually much smaller, physically. They are designed to be placed very close to you – within a few feet, and as such can be great to mix in smaller spaces, whilst reducing unwanted reverberation or reflections.
This is your traditional, hands on, musical instruments. Most commonly would be synthesizers, as these would also ‘drive’ your production software via MIDI as well as providing the audio.
Generally refers to anything else that is outside the computer, such as mixing desks etc.
B’s, P’s, T’s can be an audio recording nightmare, as the air pressure created when pronouncing these type of sounds, can create a ‘pop’ sound via the microphone. A pop shield can virtually eliminate these unwanted sounds so help provide a clean vocal capture.
Sound travels in waves, and when it hits a surface, it will reflect (of course subject to the surface material). These reflections can colour the sound you hear and cause problems mixing properly.
These are all the separate audio tracks that make up your song. Can be saved out as individual tracks to send to another producer for mastering, for example.
This is really just another work for recording a track. I think it originates from when multi-track tape recorders were used for audio production.
Treatment / Room Treatment
In my experience, this is not to be confused with sound proofing, as that is an entirely different subject matter.
Room treatment is about ensuring you have a sound neutral space to work in, and you can only have that by reducing / eliminating unwanted sound reflections.
This is achieved most commonly by use of acoustic foam panels / tiles mounted at strategic locations in your studio space.
These are plugins that basically provide software synthesizers, pianos, guitars, drums etc. that are used in music production. Really just like real instruments, but doesn’t take up any physical space 🙂
As these live inside your computer, they rely on your processor, ram and hard drive, so can be quite taxing for a basic spec computer.