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Computer Music's A to Z of Digital Music Making: Part 2

Computer Music's A to Z of Digital Music Making: Part 2



This is part 2 of Computer Music Magazine's A to Z of Digital Music Making. It covers "native" to "zero-crossing".

This is part 2 of Computer Music Magazine's A to Z of Digital Music Making. It covers "native" to "zero-crossing".



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    Computer Music's A to Z of Digital Music Making: Part 2 Computer Music's A to Z of Digital Music Making: Part 2 Document Transcript

    • The A-Z of digital music making Oscillator Native Octave Whether virtual or real, an oscillator simply produces oscillating (ie, Software that’s powered entirely by the host computer’s system One full range of all 12 musical rising and falling) waves. These resources, as opposed to non-native systems such as Pro Tools notes (from A to G, and the waves can either be fed through an TDM and the PowerCore and UAD-1 plug-in bundles, which run semitones in between). The octave amplifier to generate sound (usually on custom DSP cards rather than drawing on the host computer’s a given note belongs to is via filters and other modulators, if CPU and RAM. identified by the number appearing you want to get anything worthwhile after the note name. Corresponding out of them) or used to modulate Nearfield notes in different octaves (A3 and other parameters (such as a filter’s A4, for example) are musically cutoff). Most modern synths offer a Nearfield monitors are interchangeable – one will be an variety of wave shapes… designed for monitoring within octave higher or lower pitched than a small space and are usually the other, but any patterns placed within a few feet of the transposed up or down will still be Common oscillator listener. The idea behind them harmonically correct. waveforms is that the sound reaches your ears before it has time to Offline Sine – A sine is a curved, flowing wave interact with the surrounding known for its smooth environment, making Nearfields When bouncing (internally sound. Sine waves particularly useful for rooms recording) a channel or mix in your contain only the with little or no acoustic computer, selecting the Offline fundamental frequency with no treatment applied to them. But option means the system will harmonics, however, and they still work better if you stick devote all of its resources to the so can be a little bland. to the golden rules of acoustics, as recording, ignoring playback explained in Part 1 last month. altogether. This is much faster than real-time bouncing, but with Sawtooth – Node complicated and processor- Sawtooth waves are great for lead intensive arrangements, Offline can sounds as they’re A system of distributed audio processing employed by Logic Pro actually be marginally slower. tonally rich and 7. Simply run Logic on one Mac and the Logic Node application Similarly, offline effects are contain all possible on another, connect the two using their Ethernet ports, and the those that are not processed in real harmonics (in linearly descending intensity audio processing for selected Logic tracks can be handed over to time, and so can't be played back down the length of the wave). the Node machine, thus taking some of the strain off the Logic until the processing is complete. An machine’s system resources. example of this is normalisation. Triangle – As with Normalisation OMF the sawtooth, triangle waves have all the harmonics present, When normalisation is Open Media Framework. A file but with less energy applied to an audio file, sharing format, primarily used by in the high range your software finds the DigiDesign Pro Tools, and also and the strength loudest part of it (known Logic Pro, Sonar and Cubase SX. falling off exponentially. as the peak), calculates the difference between Optical Square/rectangle – that and 0dB (0dB being Square waves have the loudest possible An optical disc drive is one that only the odd digital signal level), and uses a laser as part of its read/ harmonics present raises the volume of the write mechanism, such as a CD or (third, fifth, etc) and produce a hollow, entire file by that amount, DVD drive. An optical cable is a metallic sound. taking the loudest peak to fibreoptic cable that uses light to Consequently, they’re 0dB. This is handy for transmit digital information. These great for odd synth patches and audio parts and samples, 1 Normalising is great for smoothing out peaks are able to carry large amounts of woodwind style sounds. They can in samples or audio parts, but not for mastering also sound great layered over saw but, contrary to popular information, making them and triangle waves. A rectangle wave belief, not really appropriate for mastering, where limiting is a perfect for multi- is a square wave with Pulse Width much better option all round. channel digital Modulation (PWM) applied, and connections such sounds even more reedy. Note as ADAT. A sound at any one of the 12 definite pitches (in western music) contained in the musical octave, and a value of time measurement. A whole note, for example, is four beats long, while a quarter-note is one beat long and a 16th-note is a quarter of a beat long. Note is also the general term used for a piece of MIDI data as is displayed in a MIDI editor (regardless of 1 Many soundcards feature optical what sound it happens to trigger). ports for digitally pure audio transfer
    • The A-Z of digital music making Windows-running computers. Apple Macs are sometimes still OS X Parity referred to as PCs, and technically they are, but it’d be less confusing if we all agreed not to. Apple’s Mac operating system. Parity RAM is a type of memory Currently at version 10.4 (Tiger), it’s featuring checking strings to PCI based on the UNIX OS, and is ensure data integrity. Only really therefore very stable. It’s also used in high-end servers, most Peripheral Component Interconnect. The standard interface for inherently compartmentalised, so people in the computer industry installing additional cards (graphics, sound, DSP, etc) inside a that even when an application have long believed Parity is an computer. PCI slots can be found on the motherboard and will does crash, it leaves all others unnecessary and expensive variant. line up with slots on the back of the case. running unaffected – particularly useful for musicians running Partials PCI-X multiple CPU-intensive apps. Other handy functions for computer Another word for harmonics, A newer, faster PCI standard. Not to be confused with PCI, as musicians include Expose, which particularly popular with Americans components may not be interchangeable. and additive synth programmers. PCMCIA Partition Personal Computer Memory Card International Association, To keep your hard disks running although we prefer to think of it as Please Cease Mindless smoothly, you need to keep them Computer Industry Acronyms. PCMCIA cards are credit card sized organised. Partitioning a disk and designed primarily for use in laptops. All sorts of devices can makes it appear to the OS as be contained within them, including modems and even surround several drives – for example, one sound audio interfaces. for your operating system and software and another for all your Phantom power audio files. Certain types of microphone require a power source to Patch operate, and in many cases this is supplied down the same cable used by the microphone to transmit its audio signal. A combination of parameter and Phantom Power is usually delivered at 48v, and if your control settings on a synth, microphone requires it you’ll need a preamp (either in your 1 OS X Tiger is a beast of an operating system, and is particularly good for music production sampler, sound module or effect soundcard, mixer or channel strip) that can supply it. If you’re unit. The name harks back to the wondering why it’s called phantom power, explanations revolve can temporarily clear all screens to days when synths were modular or around the fact that you can’t see the additional power signal. reveal the desktop at the press of a semi-modular, and individual No, we’re not convinced either. button and a highly refined built-in sections had to be connected audio and MIDI system. using patch cords. Phaser Overclocking Patchbay An effects processor that creates a copy of the incoming signal and mixes it with the original to create phasing. By making the The practice of running computer A simple rack-mounted device that signal drift in and out of phase with itself, the effect of components (CPU, video card, operates in the same way as a cancellation is accentuated or reduced. Popular with psychedelic system bus, etc) at faster speeds telephone exchange, facilitating the guitarists and dance producers looking to give their lead synth than they were intended to easy connection and rerouting of lines some variation, phasers can create amazing sounds. operate at. It’s easy to do, but can studio gear. They usually feature 48 cause problems and even jack sockets at the front and back, Phase-cancellation permanent damage, usually arranged in two rows of 24. through over-heating. Obviously, Of most concern to people recording using multiple microphone overclocking voids any warranties. Patch cords setups (particularly on drums), phase cancellation is caused when identical (or near-identical) signals arrive at different Overhead mic Short cables used for either microphones at different times. To understand why, imagine a patching together sources and sine wave at 5kHz being recorded by two mics set 3cm apart Overheads are particularly destinations on a patchbay, or (around half the length of the waveform). The mic signals are now important when recording drums connecting sections of modular exactly half a wavelength out of phase, so if you mix them and are set up hanging above and semi-modular analogue synths. together, at any given point one will have a positive value (0.5, for them. In really bad acoustic spaces example), while the other has a corresponding negative value (and for punchy, dry and in-your- PC (-0.5), resulting in near total sound cancellation. The easiest way face drums), close mics are a to avoid phase cancellation is by moving mics around until it no better option, but overhead mics Personal Computer. Originally a longer happens, although many software mixers feature phase can give much more life and space generic title to differentiate the new inversion switches to solve the problem ‘in the mix’. to drums. For even greater effect, smaller breed of computers from Phase cancellation can also occur with speakers in acoustic matched pairs of condenser mics the more powerful room-sized spaces, although that’s often more to do with the combining of are employed, giving true stereo models. These days, though, it’s matched harmonics, creating boosts at certain frequencies. space to selected parts of the kit. used to refer to IBM-compatible Again, avoid this by experimenting with speaker placement.
    • The A-Z of digital music making Processor (computer) Since Apple’s recent shock announcement that Mac processors will no longer be Originally short for developed by IBM, there are really only two major players in the home computer ‘microprocessor’, even the chip market. These are… manufacturers have given up calling them that (after all, it’s AMD been a while since anyone Advanced Micro Devices used to designed a ‘macro’ processor!). be thought of as playing second Also known as the CPU (Central fiddle to Intel, but AMD have been Processing Unit), the processor is quick off the mark with their range the hub of any computer music of 64-bit processors. The full line-up system, as it’s the part of the covers hardcore audio processing, computer that handles the normal Windows stuff, budget computing! We won’t bother setups and mobile computing. making any recommendations for you here, because if there’s one certainty in the computer industry, Intel it’s that processor development isn’t showing any signs of slowing Manufacturers of the Pentium 4 (the latest incarnation of the down in the near future (or even ubiquitous Pentium), the Celeron (a budget version of the the distant future!). The best advice former) and Centrino (designed for laptops and mobile we can give you is to check the technology), Intel are the most famous processor adverts and our system reviews for manufacturer in the world. the latest top specs. Piano Roll Processors (audio) Q The most commonly used type of MIDI editor. It takes its name A device (virtual or real) that alters from the piano graphic running down the side of the screen, or adds to a sound source, such representing every possible MIDI note from C2 to G8. The other as a phaser, delay or reverb plug- axis, running from left to right, represents the timeline, measured in, for example. The Q or ‘Quality’ control is in beats, elapsed time, or both. The piano roll is the editor of primarily found on equalisers and choice for non formally trained musicians, as it obviously Pro Tools notch filters. It enables you to corresponds to the notes on a controller keyboard and is much increase or reduce the width of the more effective at blatantly representing note lengths and rhythmic frequency band being processed. timing than score notation. It also usually allows for the editing of Continuous Controller data. Pink noise Similar to white noise but with more emphasis in the lower frequency range. Arguably still the Platform industry standard professional digital The type of computer or operating system you’re running (eg, recording system. Can Mac or PC, Windows or Linux) is your platform. If a piece of either run as a native software is ‘cross-platform’, it’s been developed to run on multiple system (Pro Tools LE) or operating systems and computer types. with a wide array of custom hardware Pop shield components designed for mixing, processing When people speak or sing, they’ll generally make plosive and storing digital 1 Pro Tools is probably the most revered music popping sounds when uttering words like, well… ‘pop’. audio data (Pro Tools HD). production system in the world Microphones are particularly sensitive to these irritating bursts of air, making a horrible and pronounced PWM Quantisation crackling sound, so when you're recording vocals you should always place a pop shield between the singer Pulse Width Modulation. The The time correction of MIDI notes and the microphone. Essentially a piece of nylon altering of a synthesised square or audio according to a selectable stretched over some wire (you can easily make your wave by increasing the width of grid, whereby each note or sound own from a coathanger and a pair of tights), a pop each square (or pulse), turning it is moved to the nearest time shield blocks these bursts of air, preventing them from into a rectangle and creating a division. Can correct sloppy playing hitting the mic. more nasal and reedy sound. or change the feel of a MIDI part.
    • The A-Z of digital music making sure you’ve got the right type for your machine in order to avoid RAID 3 If you like a big rack, Reason's the any problems. one for you Redundant Array of Inexpensive RCA Disks. Although first theorised in 1987, it's only now becoming Another name for phono connectors, mainly used in the USA. popular with consumers. The idea is that multiple disks are used in a Reason single array, with data being written to all of them, potentially Propellerhead Software’s flagship application, Reason is an decreasing read times and offering extremely popular virtual studio and sequencer, famed for its built-in backup. There are six ease of use and reliability. It doesn’t feature audio recording or different types of RAID array, named playback outside of its three built-in samplers, however, so is RAID-0 through to RAID-5. RAID-0 primarily used for the creation of dance music and electronica. does not allow for recovery if one of the drives fails (and is therefore ReCycle! not truly redundant!), however the other five offer various trade-offs The original loop-slicing tool, between recoverability and speed developed by Propellerhead in of data writing. the days of hardware samplers, ReCycle! can chop up drum RAM loops in seconds and map the slices across a range of MIDI Random Access Memory (almost notes for unprecedented always DDR or Double Data Rate flexibility. Still incredibly popular these days). If the processor is the (although it has plenty of part of the computer that does the competition these days), number crunching, the RAM is the ReCycle! is a landmark product part that keeps track of the in music production history. numbers. Audio processing involves staggering amounts of data being ReFill handled in very short spaces of time, so you need as much RAM as A bundled file format that can you can get your hands on. only be read by Reason. ReFills Realistically, 1GB is the practical compress the files they contain minimum for modern audio to about half their original size software, but even that’s starting to and comprise collections of look light these days, especially samples, patches and other when doing entirely native mixing saveable elements of Reason and processing. Be aware that projects. Users can construct there are many different types of their own ReFills with the RAM, so you must always make downloadable ReFill Packer Reverb Short for reverberation, 1 Input filters Used to filter the incoming sound. Uses include removing lower frequencies (which 2 Predelay Creates an adjustable delay between the sound of the direct signal and the 3 Reverb time Controls the length of the reverb which itself refers to the reflection of sound off can sound muddy with reverb applied) and reducing treble to avoid overpowering top- end reverberation effected output, which has the effect of making the sound less cluttered (especially useful on vocals) 4 Room size Used to alter the size of the space being emulated or modelled by every surface it touches. the reverb To see what we mean, 7 take your copy of cm under the bedcovers 1 2 3 4 5 Diffusion Mimics different types of surfaces in the virtual space right now (unless you’re 6 already there, in which Width case you really need a 8 Sets the width of the output signal’s stereo field new hobby!), cover 5 6 yourself completely with the duvet and clap loudly. Now throw off the 7 Damping Sets the frequency response of the reverb over time and is used to emulate covers and clap loudly NOT SHOWN the effect of, for example, soft surfaces in Early reflections the reverb space again. See how much Often employing a different algorithm to the rest of the reverb, 8 brighter the sound is? early reflections are designed to emulate the softer, subtler early Output mix That’s reverb… reverberations that reach the ears before the later, denser sound Controls the wet/dry mix
    • The A-Z of digital music making software, available from the Propellerhead website (www. propellerheads.se). Sample Sample rate Resonance The word sample has two The number of samples (audio meanings in computer music. snapshots) per second in a piece The Resonance control adds emphasis to frequencies Firstly it refers to a section of of digital audio. The greater the immediately around the cutoff frequency on any type of filter. digitally recorded audio. The sample rate, the higher the This can produce all sorts of sounds, depending on the filter type second, more technical definition is resolution. According to Nyquist’s and cutoff frequency, ranging from the screech of the TB-303 one digital audio snapshot, of theorem, the sample rate has to be acid bassline to deeper, more resonant noises. More fun can be which there are 44,100 per second at least twice the frequency of the had by modulating resonance levels with other parameters, such with CD quality audio (also see sound itself (for example 44.1KHz sample rate). for audio at 22Khz – the rough maximum of human hearing), and Sampler many audio interfaces and software are capable of recording and A device for the playback and (in playback up to 192khz. Just the case of hardware samplers) remember that doubling or recording of sections of digital quadrupling the sample rate will audio. For example, you can record offer very small increases in sound the sounds of piano keys being quality for most purposes, but will struck, load them into a sampler, take up either twice or four times 1 Whack that resonance up for some wicked effects map them to keys on a MIDI as much storage space, and keyboard and play away. With gobble up processing resources. as note pitch (the higher the note, the higher the resonance) or modern storage and memory velocity (more resonance the harder the key is pressed). And possibilities, today’s sampled Score when doing filter sweeps, try turning the resonance up for a really instruments are nearly impossible cool swooshing, sucking sound. to distinguish from the real thing Traditional musical notation. Most when used skilfully. professional sequencers offer a ReWire score view for editing MIDI data. If A cross-platform protocol, developed by Propellerhead, for you’re new to sending MIDI and audio track data from one music application to music production, another. This allows you to use the built-in synths and effects however, it’s from one or more audio programs (slaves) within another probably not worth sequencer (the master). It can also be used to transfer ideas or worrying about tracks from one sequencer to another. unless you actually want to REX 1 Want to sound like Rolf Harris but can't be bothered to learn the didgeridoo? Sample it! learn to play an instrument from sheet music, as it’s not the best Yet another technology developed by those Propellerhead boys, interface for editing and MIDI input. REX is the file format used by ReCycle!. Most modern sequencers Sample library and soft samplers can use or convert REX files. SDII A collection of samples. There are RMS countless sample libraries Sound Designer II. A comparable available, ranging in price from free audio file format to AIFF and WAV, Root Mean Square. An expression of average audio signal level to thousands of pounds, and all used primarily by Pro Tools. used in rating the power output of loudspeakers and calculating offering unprecedented access to input signal level in dynamics processors such as compressors. new sounds. Most include preset Send/return In the former case, it's a more accurate representation of power patches for specific sampler rating, while in the latter it produces smoother, less responsive formats (EXS24, HALion, NN-XT, etc), In the early days of recording, operation, more suited to complete mixes than individual sounds. which takes most of the hard work effects and dynamics processors out of multisampling. were expensive and often huge (the ROMpler size of a man, in the case of a quality big spring reverb!), so send Sample libraries contained within dedicated and often very and return busses were developed powerful software interfaces. For some reason, software to share resources. The send developers hate having their ROMplers called ROMplers – control sends a copy of the signal strange, given how many of them they seem to be churning out of a channel (at variable intensity) these days. to a dedicated output from the mixer. This output is then wired to a RTAS processor’s input. Using this system of sends, multiple tracks can be Real-Time AudioSuite. The native plug-in format used by sent to one processor (a reverb, for Digidesign Pro Tools. 1 From synthetic drums to the synclavier, you example). The output of the can get any sound you want these days processor is then sent to a return
    • The A-Z of digital music making input on the mixer (usually patchable to a buss or straight into SIMM/DIMM the main mix). When using reverb or other effects in this way, be sure Single Inline Memory Module/Dual Inline Memory Module. Types the processor’s output mix is set to of RAM. The former is now usually found only in older samplers fully ‘wet’, otherwise the original and other hardware, while modern computer motherboards sound might clash with the require DIMMS. returning signal, causing phasing. SMF Shelving Standard MIDI File. A simplified cross-platform MIDI file that can A type of EQ that only affects the be read by any sequencer (hardware and software). frequency range above or below a specified cutoff point. When SMTPE timecode reducing the gain, shelving EQ has a similar effect to a low- or high- Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. A timecode pass filter (and can be used for format that breaks the timeline down into hours, minutes, similar types of filter sweeping seconds, frames and subframes. It’s also used to sync up effects), but with a more gradual devices such as older analogue audio and video tape machines. reduction slope. 5 Sonar 4 is one of the most powerful musical options on the market for PC users Sonar Sibilance Now at version 4, Sonar is the flagship software package The unpleasant sharp sound from Cakewalk. PC-only, this DAW offers a huge amount of created when people speak ‘s’ functionality and comprehensive surround sound support. sounds into a microphone. Good mic placement and de-essers can Sound Blaster be used to combat this, as can vocal training. Manufactured by PC audio giants Creative, Sound Blaster has been the biggest name in consumer PC audio since Sidechain the early 90s. Not necessarily the most highly specified or professional audio interfaces on the market, but certainly A secondary input built into certain the people’s choice. dynamics processors, such as compressors and gates, and used S/PDIF to control the action of the processor in order to affect the Sony/Philips Digital InterFace. A two-channel consumer sound going into its main input. You digital interface format, usually transmitted down a phono can, for example, sidechain a kick cable but sometimes via an optical connection. drum into a compressor inserted into a bassline channel, to SPL SIDECHAINING CAN BE USED TO Sound Pressure Level. A means of expressing volume, SPL is often used as a comparative measurement for monitor efficiency. CONTROL THE ACTION OF CERTAIN Steinberg DYNAMICS PROCESSORS Manufacturer of the ever-popular Cubase sequencer, and recently bought by Yamaha. automatically reduce the volume of the bassline every time the kick Step sequencers drum is struck. Another common application is using a repetitive Step sequencers use a predetermined number of steps (16 per percussive sound to open and bar in the case of the classic TR drum machines and TB-303 close a gate effect inserted into a synth) to play MIDI data. A note is sounded on each step sustained pad sound channel for a automatically, with the user simply defining the pitch of the note. chopping effect. Partly responsible for most classic electro, techno and acid house, step sequencers are now available in software form and Signal-to-Noise Ratio are even included in a number of major sequencers, such as FL Studio and Reason. The ratio (in dB) between the level of a signal and the inherent Stereo electrical noise in a circuit. The ideal is as close to 100% signal as A rather clever way of making recorded music sound more technologically possible. realistic. Stereo imaging is based around the fact that we have
    • The A-Z of digital music making two ears, and that our brains use the time difference between yourself with the swing and groove vibrations reaching each to calculate the direction from which quantise options offered by your TDM sounds are coming. Using just two speakers, we can accurately sequencer. Many sampling drum- recreate the stereo placement of almost any situation in which machines (most notably the Akai Time Division Multiplexing. The the sound is coming from in front of us. MPC range) became popular largely technical basis of Digidesign Pro because of the quality of their Tools’ mixing environment. TDM Sub-bass swing functions. plug-ins run on dedicated PCI cards rather than the CPU of the host Part of the bass frequency range in which you can’t hear or Synthesizers computer, giving them extraordinary really discern individual notes, but that you can certainly feel! amounts of processing power. Some low notes resonate (make things in the room shake) Synthesizers (or synths) are differently in different rooms, and smaller speakers won’t be devices – either hardware or Tempo capable of registering the lowest notes, so if you’re going really software – that produce sounds low with the bass, be careful. It’s usually a good idea to chop off from electronic circuitry (or virtual The measurement of speed the bass below around 35-40Hz, as almost no speakers will be recreations thereof). The name for music, expressed as beats reproducing these properly, and it will just suck up dynamic comes from early attempts (which per minute. headroom. Oh, and one more interesting thing about sub-bass: if were largely unsuccessful) to you use only the very low frequencies of a second bass sound reproduce or synthesize the sounds Test tone (80-100Hz and less) just to give another bass track more weight, of real instruments. These days, you needn’t worry too much about perfect tuning – nobody will synths are primarily used for the A single, simple synthesized tone be able to tell. creation of ‘unreal’ sounds that at a specific pitch. It has many couldn’t be made using any other uses, including everything from Subtractive synthesis instrument. There are a variety of hearing tests and equipment synthesis methods, of which even calibration to instrument-tuning and The most ubiquitous type of synthesis, in which oscillators sampling is one. making bats fly into trees. (analogue or virtual) create harmonically rich sounds that are then passed through a variety of SysEx THD modulation and filter units. It’s called System Exclusive data. This is a Total Harmonic Distortion. This is subtractive synthesis special type of MIDI data used for the amount of unwanted because new sounds changing non-performance related harmonics introduced by an are created by parameters in MIDI equipment analogue circuit, such as that removing frequencies (including MIDI controllers). Detailed found in a speaker or amplifier. It’s from the original information about patches, setup expressed as a percentage of the waveform, but the and library data can be loaded to original signal and, naturally, the name can be and saved from such devices using lower the better! somewhat misleading, a MIDI sequencer. as these signals are usually combined, processed Tick and layered to make richer sounds. System drive Not to be confused with those Surround sound In order to ensure the smooth pesky blood-suckers on your dog, running of your computer system, or the sound your clock makes, a A relatively recent development in sound reproduction using it’s best to have one drive tick is the smallest unit of timing multiple speakers to create ultra-realistic 3D sound placement. dedicated to your operating system used by a sequencer. In modern The jury is still out as to whether this will catch on in music (after and applications, and another to sequencers this can be as low as all, stereo was designed to make recorded music sound more your data files (audio files, for 1/3840 of a whole-note. like it did when heard live, but when did you last stand in the example). If you have only one hard middle of the band at a gig?), but the creative potential is drive, then you can create a Timbre certainly interesting. Just remember that every time a plug-in has partition so that the computer to work on a new channel it sucks up CPU – and 5.1 surround treats it as two drives. While specific musical notes all sound uses three times more channels than stereo! have the same root (fundamental) System Link harmonic, depending on the type Sustain pedal and combination of other A sequencer interface protocol harmonics, they can sound A footswitch that plugs into a MIDI keyboard, designed to developed by Steinberg that allows completely different to one another. simulate the effect of the sustain pedal on a piano. When multiple sequencers to run in Even single square and triangle pressed, it transmits a sustain controller via MIDI, thus holding sync, including MIDI, control and waves sound completely different – the note for longer, until released. audio data. Computers are as one has all of the harmonics connected using standard digital playing at various intensities Swing audio connections, thus lightening (triangle), while the other has only the CPU load of each. As the audio the odd ones (square) – and real The swing function in a sequencer is designed to add a more information is daisychained, the instruments throw out even more natural and funky feel to quantised notes by moving every finished data can be routed back complex harmonics. The resulting other note a selectable subdivision away from the rigid quantise to the ‘master’ machine for characteristics of a sound are grid. It's completely reversible, so it's well worth familiarising mixdown and recording. called its timbre.
    • The A-Z of digital music making transients, as they’re common to Time signature percussive sounds. They’re also Valve responsible for many cases of Expressed as two numbers blown tweeters and woofers! AKA tube. Old-school valves, when separated by a ‘/’, the time used instead of transistors in signature of a piece of music tells Transport microphones and preamps, can you the number of beats per bar have a wonderfully warming effect (the first number), and also the The section of your sequencer that on audio signals. Even the best length of each beat (the second controls playback. It’s based on computer music studios can number). For example, the 3/4 time the old transport units that allowed benefit from a good bit of valve signature has three beats per bar remote control of multitrack action at the input stage. and each beat is a quarter-note analogue tape recorders from long, while 9/8 has nine beats per around the studio and were usually Velocity bar, each one an eighth-note long. placed conveniently next to the 5 You’re sequencer wouldn’t mixing desk. get very far without transport The force with which a MIDI key is Timestretch struck (editable as MIDI data). As well as determining the volumes of In its purest form, timestretching notes, velocity can be used to means altering the tempo/length modulate many parameters, such of a sample without changing its Transpose Unbalanced as filter cutoff, for more expressive pitch. Traditionally, it works by synth and sampler patches. either inserting spaces between The act of changing a musical Unlike balanced cables, which carry both individual audio samples or note, composition or sample’s positive and negative Virtual memory removing some of the samples. pitch, either up or down. For signals, unbalanced Thanks to the power of software, example, transposing a piece up lines carry only the A section of hard drive used like things can get much more 12 semitones (1200 cents) will positive. They’re RAM, but with much slower access cheaper but more complicated than that, of course, raise its pitch by one octave. times. Virtual memory is called into prone to interference at and there are numerous algorithms low signal levels or over action whenever the amount of for this purpose, including many Treble longer runs. data in need of short term storage designed for different types of exceeds the amount of free RAM in sounds, and some which favour The part of the audible frequency your system. either accurate timing or tonality. range that makes things sound USB bright and clear. Unfortunately, this Universal Serial Bus. Vocoder Tinnitus is also the part that causes The most prolific connection type for listening fatigue (temporarily computer peripherals, A rather nifty bit of kit (well, usually When the vibration-sensitive hairs muddied hearing that usually goes including audio programming, these days) that in our ears are subjected to away by the following day), interfaces and MIDI uses an audio signal (typically excessively loud and high-pitched damages your ears the most in the controllers. Can also speech or singing) to modulate a carry the power for noise, they can break. When that long-term, and gives you tinnitus. many such devices. synthesized sound. The sound can happens, they sometimes continue Handle with care… be played like a normal synth, and to fire off constant signals to the if your vocoder synth is polyphonic, brain, which interprets them as a TRS your can even play chords. The high-pitched ringing, such as you resulting effects range from the 1 Possibly the most stylish might get after going to a club or Tip, Ring, Sleeve. A type of cable USB device on the planet classic Daft Punk style robotic gig. Usually this goes away after a connector designed to transmit vocals to cool synthesized and while, but sometimes the damage either unbalanced stereo signals or musical percussion loops. is too great, and the ringing balanced mono signals. remains – this is a condition known VST as tinnitus. There is no cure and it Tweeter can range in volume from very Virtual Studio Technology. quiet to unbearably loud, so always The smaller speaker cone, Developed by Steinberg for their monitor at sensible levels as often dedicated to higher frequencies. Cubase VST sequencer, VST as possible. plug-ins take the form of amazingly capable virtual effects and Transducer instruments. Their conception was one of the most important events A device for converting energy in the history of music technology. from one form to another, such as takes place within a microphone VU meter or speaker. Volume Unit meter. Used to Transient monitor the levels of audio signals. Originally represented by needles, A sharp ‘spike’ in an audio signal. 1 Ever wondered what those two cones most are now either displayed were for? Well, now you know Most beat-slicing tools search for using LEDs (real or virtual).
    • The A-Z of digital music making Watt XG The unit of electrical current (named after James Watt, Extended General MIDI. A more inventor of the steam engine) used to rate a speaker’s refined extension of the General maximum power consumption (and, therefore, volume). This MIDI concept, developed by particular specification can be somewhat misleading, however, Yamaha and deployed most as some speakers can sound louder at 50 watts than others famously in their hugely successful might at 100 watts. SW1000XG soundcard. WAV XLR WAV (or Wave, to give it its full name) is the standard full-quality Far too many engineers who audio file format (usually at 16- or 24-bit) used by Windows PC should know better will tell you applications. It’s also readable by just about all Mac-based audio that XLR stands for Xternal Live software too, these days. Return, but they’re wrong. Originally developed by Canon, this Waveform balanced, professional connection type takes its name from the A graphical representation of an audio signal, as displayed in an Canon X series of connectors. In audio editor. subsequent modifications, a Latch and Rubber sheath were added – WDM hence XLR. It’s mostly used in very high-end equipment, and its latch Windows Driver Model. A low-latency, PC-only driver format used system makes it hard to pull out by some soundcard manufacturers. unintentionally. It’s also the industry 1 The SW1000XG was a massive hit with standard connector for White noise computer musicians in its day microphones, especially those requiring phantom power. An audio signal in which all possible frequencies sound at the same time and intensity within a given frequency band. It Yamaha sounds similar to the static you get from a TV with no aerial plugged in, and can be very handy for adding a bit of edge to Manufacturer of audio synths, synthesized drum sounds or for recreating the sound of wind effects and now digital music with a synth. production equipment. They’ve also just bought Steinberg, so they Widening effectively own Cubase, the world’s most famous sequencer! Widening usually refers to the use of Zero-crossing signal processing to make a stereo sound All digital audio is expressed as a appear wider and 1 Widening gives the illusion of a series of samples along a timeline, more spacious sound more spacious than it actually is. The most common method of with each sample expressing a doing this is to slightly delay one of the signals of one channel in value above or below the 0dB line. a stereo pair. Widening is best avoided on bass destined for vinyl If a digital waveform is cut at records, however, as the needle of a record deck can’t physically anywhere other than a point where handle very low frequencies in stereo, causing it to jump. it crosses the 0dB line (the zero- crossing point), there will be an Windows unpleasant and very audible click on playback. Most audio editors The most popular operating system in the world. Now at version now have the option to XP, Windows is the host environment for almost all music automatically detect and snap 1 First released in 1983, the Windows operating applications on the PC platform. What more can we say? system has gone from strength to strength edits to zero-crossing points, but not always. And editing stereo WMA audio can be problematic as the zero-crossing points of the left and Windows Media Audio. A highly compressed audio file format right signals may not tally – one used by many PC-based audio playback applications, particularly side might be at a zero-crossing Windows Media Player. point, while the other is not, and they might not have one in Woofer common anywhere near the edit point. If you have this problem, a The cone in a monitor speaker dedicated to reproducing the tiny fade-in or fade-out just before lower frequencies. or after the cut will do the trick.