In digital recording, samples (snapshots) are taken to record audio. The bit depth of a given digital audio system defines the size of each one of these samples. CD quality digital audio uses 16 bits, higher quality digital audio uses 24 bits, and the original Nintendo used 8 bits.
Compression simply reduces the loud levels while boosting the low levels of a signal. It's the automated equivalent of turning the volume down during the loud parts and turning it up during the soft ones.
Often called the heart of the studio, the console gives the engineer and producer control over all the sounds being produced in the studio by allowing them to change combination, spatial positioning, equalization, and amplitude of any given signal coming into it. Also known as a mixer, board, or desk.
An acoustically isolated and treated room within a recording studio that allows for critical listening of the music being played in the studio. This is also where the equipment used for recording is kept.
A system used for measuring the amplitude of a sound. Named after Alexander Graham Bell. Average speech is around 30dB; a jet taking off is around 120dB.
A delay is simply a repeat of a sound over a given period of time. Sometimes referred to as an echo, modern studio delays can be synced to a given tempo and will repeat as many or as few times as the user wants.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
A computer based recording system that uses a hard drive instead of a tape machine as a recording medium. These systems can support many more tracks than analog tape, and are much more flexible. However, many people complain that they lack a certain "quality" that analog tape brings to recordings.
The engineer is in charge of all the recorded sounds that go into making a record. They have to translate the artist's vision into what actual goes onto tape.
Changing the amplitude of a frequency within a sound, independent of the other frequencies contained within the sound. I.e. boosting the bass (low) frequencies of a kick drum without affecting the treble (high) frequencies. A device called and equalizer is used to accomplish this. They are often found included in recording consoles, and as standalone units.
The final step in making a record before it goes to duplication; mastering is where the final order of the record is decided, the overall sound is tweaked to be more uniform, and the final "master" disk is printed.
A device that changes acoustic energy, or sound, into electrical energy, or voltage. There are three types of microphones: dynamic, ribbon, and condenser. A dynamic microphone uses electromagnetic induction to create a signal. When sound waves hit the dynamic mic's diaphragm a magnetic current is created. These are often the least sensitive and least expensive of the three types of microphones.
A ribbon microphone works on the same principles as the dynamic, however it uses a different type of diaphragm, which causes it to be more sensitive and have a much lower output. Newer ribbon mics are much more robust than their older counterparts.
A condenser microphone is the most sensitive and expensive of the three types. It uses a capsule made of two very thin metal plates that produce an electrical charge when sound waves cause them to move.
Of these three mic types, there are many variations that range greatly in quality and price. Often, older, "classic" microphones are highly prized and can fetch upwards of $10,000 when sold.
The output levels of microphones are much to low to be used in a recording, so a preamplifier is used to boost the levels to an acceptable range. Often included in a recording console, people will also buy standalone preamps that are suited for different purposes.
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and is a standardized set of messages used to sync and control multiple instruments, computers, and other devices found in a studio. Introduced in 1983, virtually every keyboard you buy today comes with MIDI.
Mixing happens at the end of the record making process after all recording has been finished and the song is considered complete. At this time all the separate audio tracks are treated and combined in an artful manner that benefits the song. The three most common versions of final mixes are mono, or single channel, stereo, or dual channel, and multi-channel like surround.
In professional audio, monitors are the speakers found in a control room. Monitors are much different than standard stereo speakers due to the fact that they are very honest and don't color the sound at all therefore giving an honest reproduction of the recorded music.
A recording technique where individual sound sources are recorded onto separate tracks of a recording medium to allow for the later mixing and changing of each sound. This technique gives the utmost flexibility and control to the engineer and producer. Multitrack tapes used to come in banks of 8, however with the introduction of computer recording, track count is virtually unlimited.
With multitrack recording, it is possible to playback previously recorded tracks while simultaneously recording onto another unused track. I.e. listening to the drums while recording a guitar part that goes along with them. This process is known as overdubbing and is a key component in modern record production.
Often the person with the most vague job description, a producer can fulfill a number of different roles in the process of making a record. From a business standpoint, it is the producer's job to deal with the record label, keep within a given budget, book the studio, engineer, any extra musicians, etc, and generally keep things on track. The producer also guides the music by changing arrangements, playing parts, or even contributing writing to a given song. It is the producer's job to work with and guide the artist to help them make the best possible record they can.
Reverb is the non-direct echoes produced by a sound in a given space. The larger the space the more reverb. When you're in a large concert hall and it sounds "big"; that's the reverb.
In analog recording, a sound is converted to electrical current by a microphone and then recorded onto a tape where the current re-aligns magnetic particles on the tape, creating an "analogous" recording. In digital recording however, the electrical signal from the microphone is "sampled" or measured a given number of times per second. The number of times it is measured is defined as the sample rate. The higher the sample rate, the more samples taken, the higher the quality of the recording. CD quality audio is defined as 44.1 kHz, or 44,100 samples per second. Other sample rates used in modern recording are 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, and 192 kHz.