Recording and Music Terminology

Your Home Studio - a basic tutorial on home recording studio setup, including building a home recording studio, digital recording techniques, computer recording information, recording software information, how to buy equipment for a home recording studio and operating an audio recording studio at home

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      A user group focused on record production I belong to just put together a list of terms used in the recording and music industry with definitions. I thought it might be a good opportunity to pass this along. Here goes:



5.1 Surround—A surround sound format using 6 speakers used for music and video—Right Front, Center Front, Left Front, Right Rear, Left Rear and subwoofer. Placement of the speakers for music vs video in that the right and left front speakers should be directly next to the screen for video and widely spread for music. Also, as much as is possible, the speakers for music should be equidistant from the listener. For video, the rear front and left speakers should be as high as possible. In effect, a room used for video and audio would have two different speaker setups with a total of 9 speakers ( they share the center and subwoofer).


7.1 Surround—A surround sound format using 8 speakers ( same as 5.1 with the addition of Right  and Left Side speakers. As far as is known, music is not recorded using this format so speaker placement is not known.


AABA—song form where a section (A) is repeated followed by a different section (B) then returning to the original section (A). This can be Verse (A), Verse (A), Chorus (B), Verse (A) or Verse, Chorus (A), Verse Chorus (A), Bridge (B), Verse, Chorus (A). The first version can be repeated with one or more of the interior A sections being instrumental.


ABABCAB– song form including a bridge or break (C—section)


Arpeggio—A series of musical notes that outlines the chord being played and is sometimes repeated. An arpeggio for a Cmaj7 chord, for instance, is C-E-G-B and an arpeggio of an Am/G chord would be G-A-C-E. An example of arpeggiation that most people under 60 will recognize is the lead guitar part for “Hotel California” by The Eagles.


Boundary Microphone—A microphone that is mounted within close proximity to a surface in order to help cancel out reflections from the room it is being used in due to the boundary layer effect. Often used to mic acoustic pianos.


Break Section—A song section that is either percussive or instrumental and has a different structure from the verse or chorus.


Bridge Section—A song section that is in contrast musically to the rest of the song and gives the listener a different perspective to reflect on lyrically. Sometimes in a different key and can also prepare the listener for a the climax of the song


Call and Response—A technique used in composing where one instrument plays a phrase (call) and then another instrument plays a different phrase that is meant to be a response.. This can also be done with a lead vocalist against another instrument or background vocals.


Chord Extensions—These are notes that are added to the chord to provide more color. Starting with the C major chord, we add the flatted 7th tone of the C scale (Bb) to get a dominant 7th chord. Using the natural 7th (B) gives us a Cmaj7. Adding the 2nd tone of the scale (D) to the Cmaj7, one octave higher results in a C9 . Adding the 4th tone (F) one octave higher gives us an C11 chord and adding the 6th (A) one octave higher results in a C13. Other extensions include flatted or sharp scale tones such as a C7b5 (the “Jimi Hendrix chord”). Guitarists have at most 6 notes they can play at one time so choosing which notes to play in order to approximate an extended chord is important. First, the notes chosen can’t conflict with the melody. Secondly, the most important notes to play are the 3rd (or flatted 3rd if minor), the 7th (dominant or major) and the topmost note of the chord (9th, 11th or 13th). It is not always necessary to play the root of the chord if it is being covered by the bass. (This is a subject that will get its own article at a future date)



Continued next month……...