Common Terms & Abbreviations used in Music Production
Music production can be divided into several categories, such as mixing, mastering, and songwriting, that include several terms. As a sound engineer, producer, or musician, it’s important to understand what these terms mean and stand for. Down below you’ll find a list of the most common terms used in Music Production.
ADSR – attack, decay, sustain, release
ADSR is a term for the progression of sounds. ADSR stands for attack, decay, sustain, and release. This envelope lets you control how the sounds are behaving and can be found on every digital or analog synthesizer.
DAW – digital audio workstation
A digital audio workstation, also known as a DAW, is a computer software suitable for music production. Every step of creating a song such as recording instruments & vocals, creating sounds, arranging songs, mixing & mastering can be done within this software. There are multiple workstations out there: Ableton, FL Studio, Logic, and Pro Tools.
EQ – equalization
‘Manipulating the frequency content of your recordings, and help all of the elements of your production work together sonically.’ An equalizer can be used to add or remove frequency information of individual sounds, groups, and entire tracks. The art of breathing can be done with an EQ.
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 give character and richness to sounds and they will glue your track together.
VST – virtual studio technology
The term VST is an industry-standard plugin 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 out there: VST, VST2, and VST3. VST3 is the newest version, that only starts processing when there’s an audio signal present.
BPM – beats per minute
BPM is the benchmark for tempo within music production. ‘Beats per minute’ indicates the number of beats within a minute. The grid within a DAW will adjust to the selected BPM so every beat will be synced to the grid. It’s a simple but effective measurement while writing songs.
MIDI – musical instrument digital interface
MIDI is an industry-standard language, allowing instruments to communicate with each other. Normally, every instrument would be recorded in real-time on an audio track and you wouldn’t be able to change much to it. But MIDI revolutionized music production as you can edit every note after performing. Once opening a MIDI track you’ll be able to only record the notes you’re playing.
KHz – kilohertz
Kilohertz is a measure of frequency equal to one thousand hertz. One thousand hertz mean 1000 cycles per second. KHz is displayed on the frequency spectrum, starting from 1000 hertz, as 1 kHz, and so on.
FLAC – free lossless audio codec
This lossless file is a compressed file to nearly half the size of WAV files, with the same sample rate. FLAC will maintain the same audio quality as the original recording. Besides WAV, FLAC can be played on every sound system, and on every module.
WAV – waveform audio file format
WAV is an uncompressed file, maintaining the highest audio quality at the moment. This industry-standard audio file is the most trusted one while downloading and rendering, but the file is substantially larger than other files such as FLAC and MP3.
AIFF – audio intercharge file format
AIFF is just like WAV an uncompressed file format that contains high-quality audio. Both use the same type of encoding, resulting in larger file sizes. AIFF is mostly used on MAC, as WAV is mostly used on PC.
KBPS – kilobits per second
Kilobits per second is a data transfer rate or network speed. In music, you’ll find this term under bitrate. Bitrate is the amount of data processed over a certain amount of time. Generally, the higher the bitrate the better the sound quality.
SFX – sound effects
Sound effects can be described as additional FX sounds within music productions to emphasize certain parts. In film scores, you’ll find SFX as the typical punch sound in a fight, the 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 undesired power of background noise. A ratio higher than 1:1 dedicates to a healthy signal-to-noise ratio as it indicates more signal than noise.
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