This is one of the coolest sections on this site. One thing that I personally hated and kind of still hate about music producing is the technical jargon. However, just like DeadMau5 said “Stop being an idiot” so I guess it is what it is.
So I created the most ‘tech free’ way of learning the key concepts of music production. It’s an ongoing thing so if you find something still too ‘confusing’, I’ll make sure that I do my best to simplify it. I’m sure you’ll find this music production glossary quite useful. Here you won’t just find music production related terms but literally anything to do with producing music in general (Including singing, playing an instrument, jargon related to setting up your studio monitors, etc).
One of the most common DAWS (Digital Work Station or music software basically) that a lot of professional electronic music producers use. Some notable ones are Getter, KSHMR, Aksery, Nervo, Skrillex and many more. It has a nice analog / classic look to it. Personally not a fan (I use Logic Pro X) but a proven DAW. Number one in the industry actually.
Referred to how sound presents itself in a room. Usually used to describe how a music studio might sound. Example: “Hey bud, the acoustics in your studio are fairly nice”. Which basically means it’s a good room to record music in.
If the ‘acoustics’ or sound isn’t traveling properly in a room (Basically doesn’t sound right), it means the room requires some ‘acoustic treatment’. Just another way of saying that you need to setup your room properly for recording music.
Fancy term for basically adding different sine waves together and coming up with a new sound. A synthesizer is based on ‘synthesis’.
Describes the 4 parts of any sound (Sound wave) ever created. Attack, Decay, Sustain and release. Attack refers to how soon the sound needs to start, decay is the ‘time’ it takes to reach to sustain (When you hold a key and hear the ongoing sound, that’s sustain) and release is when you let go off the key.
Attack is the initial part of the sound (How soon a sound starts).
Decay and sustain are the same thing (Length of the sound, how long it lasts for).
Release is the amount of sound created after you let go of the key.
You can control all these parameters.
Another format for audio (Kind of like .MP3 or .Wav) that was developed by Apple.
Techy’ way of referring to the volume of something.
Example: “Bro, you need to raise the amplitude on this snare. I can’t hear it in my headphones”.
Analog is the original sound you get from the actual hardware of some the original synths ever made. Basically every song ever made in the 80s. Massive is a good plugin to use to create ‘Analog’ sounds.
Refers to the structure of a song / track like Intro, Break, Drop, Buildup , etc
Part of the whole ADSR thing above. Attack being the first part is basically how long it takes for the sound to reach it’s highest amplitude (Volume).
Audio Units are a plug-in architecture provided by Core Audio in Mac OS X. Apple’s equivalent to what is commonly known as a VST.
If you want to connect your studio monitors for example to your computer. It’s good to get an audio interface. An audio interface serves as a load bearer between your computer and any other device that you attach to it (Microphones, guitar, etc). Also it is essential when you get into mixing because it will give out the proper sound.
Learn more about audio interfaces here.
Think of this as the amount of ‘energy’ used by a plugin or an instrument (Memory, speed, etc).
Example: Man I love mastering with Izotope but it takes a lot of bandwith.
The BOOM BOOM that you hear in every dope song.. Also commonly referred to as the ‘low end’ of a song.
All you need to know is the higher the bitrate, the higher the quality of that sound is.
Common term use to describe the speed at which a song is made. Most rap songs are made in around 90 to 120 BPM, your typical EDM banger is around 128 – 130 bpm and Dubstep is made at around 150 BPM.
You can also use a BPM counter to determine the speed of a song. Important when mixing or referencing a track. BPM stands for Beats Per Minute.
Usually the voice most people speak in. This is the low end of your voice and when used in a mix will lend the bass end of the sound to the mix.
When you play three or more keys together, it’s called a chord. There is actually full on scientific system behind this (Thanks to early discoveries by Beethoven, Mozart and all those legendary cats).
There are major chords, minor chords and more. If you want to build awesome EDM melodies, you need to know your chords. There is a learning curve to this but put some time in this for sure.
This is the best definition of this effect.
An annoying ‘clipping’ sound that you find in pretty much all amateur mixes. A great way to get rid of these is by fading out the sound in the beginning or end (Depending on where the clipping is occurring).
Just like it sounds, it compresses a sound equally. Used in various stages of producing a track. Basically if something sounds uneven, you compress it. It also gives you a solid control on the amplitude (Volume). Great for uneven vocals.
This is a BRILLIANT video about it. Thanks to Young Guru (Jay Z’s producer).
Best type of microphone to use in your studio for recording vocals. They are as accurate as any microphone can be and if you are looking for a microphone in your studio, it better be a condenser.
Digital Audio Workstation developed by Steinberg. Was popular for quite sometime and a lot professional EDM producers still use it
DAW (Digital Audio Workstation):
Any electronic system designed to record, edit, and playback digital audio. Most readers of this site use Ableton, Logic Pro X and FL Studio.
How long a sound lasts for. When someone tells you to make a sound sample longer (Maybe the echo in a clap). You simply increase the ‘Decay’ of that clap to achieve that result.
The unit in which volume (Audio) is measured. Just like liquid is measured in litres.
It’s basically echo. Adding more delay to your sound is adding more echo. Repeating the same sound at whatever interval your plugin is capable of doing. You can do this manually as well.
You know Kanye West’s voice in the song ‘Heartless’. That’s a distorted effected. Basically is when you change too much of a certain sound from what it originally was. Kind of like when someone’s voice is breaking up on the phone.
Technically, you are re-arranging the ‘harmonics’ of a sound. Distortion can create some awesome gritty bass and lead sounds.
The balance of all the volume of the sounds in your track (Lead, snares, bass) together. A song that is well balanced is considered to have a ‘good’ dynamic range. Here is an excellent video on what Dynamic range is and some more information.
Reverb, Delay, Panning are all considered effects. Basically anything extra that you do to an audio file is an effect.
Another name for ADSR.
Sculpting your sound by adding or removing the volume / mud, etc.
Something that controls the volume. Mostly found on turntables, mixers or used as a ‘portable’ controller.
Otherwise known as false voice. Not to be confused with head voice. This is a stylistic part of the voice. You can hear it used a lot by artists like the Bee Gees and Justin Timberlake. It has very little power or real ring. It’s best used as punctuation at the end of sung phrases. It is not a register and does not blend.
Type of effect (High pass filter, low pass filter, etc).
One of my least favorite effects. Flanger sounds like reverb effect that is being created by a robot.
Way of describing sound. “Hey man, can you lower the high frequencies in that track, sounds too harsh”.
Used to get rid of noise in an audio file (Noise gate).
Little bits and pieces of sound (Usually highs) that make the song sound more brighter.
A flute like voice used for lighter style songs. Head voice used lightly sound pleasing for lighter musical styles. Singing in a pure head voice loudly just sounds too over dramatic.
The amount of space in your audio level below the 0dB point.
Unit used to measure frequency. Anything below 20Hz can’t be heard by human beings.
How much volume is going in (Input). An option found in tons of plugins.
Stands for kilobits per second. All you need to know is anything over 128 Kbps is good for audio. The higher the kbps, the higher the quality of the audio.
In a nutshell, it’s how long it takes sound to reach your ears from a certain source. For example, when you’ll be setting up your midi keyboard controller, you would want the latency to be as low as possible. So when you tap the key on your controller, you hear the note right away. Hence avoiding any ‘latency’ issues.
Means low frequency oscillator. Designed to control parts of an envelope. This is one of the most common ways of making those sick lead sounds you hear in Getter, Jauz and other major dubstep / trap artists. LFO can also be used to setup side chain.
Used to ‘limit’ the amount of sound. Mainly used at the end of your Master chain by most producers.
Mostly a producer’s term to describe how ‘loud’ the track might be perceived by the listener.
Controls the amplitude (Volume) of all the tracks in your mix. Sort of like a ‘master’ controller.
The final stage of the song that will make it sound professional.
A mixed voice that has the harmonic qualities of head voice and the fullness of chest. This is the commercial voice most singers want even if they don’t know it. It is full, yet has ring and a pleasing sound. You hear it in all types of commercial music.
Short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface is a format that helps connect a midi controller (Midi keyboard) for example with a computer.
Mid Side EQing
The real way of making ‘space’ in your mix. Study this and you’ll be making real music in no time. Once you undertand EQing, get into Mid Side EQing asap!
The “In between” stage of creating a track. The first being the ‘Static Mix’ stage and last being ‘Mastering’. In this stage, you are expected to finish your eq-ing and pretty much everything else and have a ready to go track. Basically, the only thing missing is mastering.
Better known as ‘Studio monitors’, they are designed to give you the most “unhinged” sound possible. Studio monitors are the purest form of a ‘speaker’. Without the bells and whistles (Extra bass or extra treble or any other effects). If your music sounds good on quality studio monitors, they will sound good on all decent working speakers in the world.
Sound coming from one speaker. Sound coming from two speakers is considered ‘Stereo’.
Place where you upload parts of your track. Can be found on every DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) or also referred to as music making software.
Most common format for an audio file right now. Great way to pass your music around as this format really reduces the size of your audio file.
Option that increases the volume of the entire track. Used on weak sound samples.
Used to refer to the 8 notes in a keyboard.
Generator of sound. Found in almost all synths. Sometimes you’ll see 2, 3 or 4 or even more. Serum has 4 Oscillators. Massive has 3 Oscillators.
One of the best ways to make your track super clean. It simply changing the direction of an element (Snare, Vocals, Guitar, etc) in your mix. Some things you can pan to the left, and some to the right. Check out this chart:
Used to give more life to an existing element of your track (Bass, Drums, Whatever . . .). The way it works is you simply create a copy of the element (Duplicate your drums for example), add a compressor to the duplicate and then blend it with the original (By blending I mean raising the volume on the duplicated element from zero and up).
Purpose of parallel compression is to make whatever sound you choose fuller, bigger, richer. It’s just a trick. You can even create Parallel Distortion, Parallel reverb, etc.
Opposite of a graphic eq like the ever so popular Fab Filter Pro Q. In a parametric eq, all you is knobs and in a graphic eq, you can literally see the changes you are making. Fab Filter Pro Q is a graphic eq and Waves SSL G Equalizer is a parametric one.
That’s the only difference. Same job, different layout. It all depends on what you like to use.
When you create your own sound on a synth, it’s referred to as a ‘patch’ (Producer lingo basically).
Example: “Yo dude! I made this killer growl noise on Serum!” Friend replies, “BRO! Send me the patch now!”.
Highest point in the amplitude (Volume) of an element. Usually shown by the color ‘red’ in most DAW. You don’t want to ‘peak’ because the sound in question will start to clip.
The difference between two waveforms, expressed in degrees. 180 degrees causes phase cancellation, meaning no amplitude is present.
You know how some vocals especially in Future bass and trap sound like ghostly or demonic? That’s basically pitching down a vocal. When you pitch it up, it sounds like a bunch of squirrels.
Just another word for a software used within a DAW. Like Sausage Fattener is a plugin, Serum is a plugin, etc
Another name for a session of mixing of a track.
Refers to the area that is actually being effected. Usually used in EQ plugins, etc.
All the filled in areas (Colored) are referred to as the ‘Q’. You can adjust the Q as you want to carve out an audio file as you see fit (Add more bass, remove highs, etc).
This function arranges all notes in a midi in a perfectly timed manner. You can even select by how many bars (8, 16, 32) etc. Great thing to use when you are creating a melody and the notes seem kind of off (Not on key or not where they were meant to be). Quantizing them fixes that dilemma.
End of an audio file. You can adjust this as well. For pads or strings (Not talking about guitar strings here) you might need a longer release, for quick sounds like dubstep growls or Jauz’s style noises, you would need a shorter release.
Every sound we hear in the world has some level of reverb. It’s similar to an echo except with almost no delay in the original sound and one that’s being duplicated. There are also different kind of reverbs. Plate and Hall seem to be the most common one.
Example video on Reverb:
Refers to an imported sound (e.g., I’ll use this kick sample from NGHTMR).
Adds more harmonics to an existing sound. If you want something to sound bigger and fatter then add saturation. Great for leads and kicks.
Helps create that ‘pumping’ sound in most dance music tracks. Usually applied to everything except kicks.
If you create a sound (Example:Tapping once on a table), and then try to actually see it, this is what it would look like.
Sine wave is the most common form of sound wave.
Singers often don’t realize how important the speaking voice is. It is the root of the singing voice. A bad speech production will transfer over into a bad singing production. This is easily addressed. Vocal Release will show you how to adjust your talking voice to compliment your singing voice. In effect it will make talking improve your singing.
Refers to individual tracks of audio that make up a full song.
When sound goes through the left and right, it’s called stereo. When it just goes through one channel, it’s called Mono.
These are frequencies below 60hz. Usually felt then heard.
Comes right before the release (ADSR).
Basically, just another name for BPM or the speed of the track.
Sound quality of a note. If you add more timbre, you are raising the substance or quality of that note.
This can be a few things but it’s just another name for a song.
The uneven sounds in a piece of audio (Surges). Transient shapers (Plugins) can be used to balance these uneven surges.
Rapid movement (Up and Down) on the same note.
You know the highs (Hissing sounds, Snares, leads, pretty much anything except bass) comes through a tweeter. Usually small in size when compared to the woofer that only allows bass.
Making multiple copies of the same instrument. Technique to make a lead or any other sound bigger. Used a lot by EDM Producers.
Similar to tremolo, but has a cyclical change in pitch instead.
The lowest register. Also used to add a rasp or scream to a vocal tone if wanted. If you want to learn how to scream or rasp this is the only way to do it without hurting your voice and causing pain in the throat.
Controls the loudness of a song (Amplitude).
Sound wave . . . same thing.
The absolute top of a persons range. Usually only females will achieve this. Sometimes people mistakenly think they are singing whistle notes when they are simply singing in a very high head voice with lot of air.
Hissing sound used in leads to make it sound more fuller. A common technique used my many dance music producers. Also a great way to transition to a certain part of a song (Super common in Trance music).
A type of cable format used to connect high powered musical equipment like Studio monitors, microphones, etc.