This article is a collection of words commonly used in the context of modern music production and includes terms used in the scope of the Native Instruments catalog of products.
The list is in alphabetical order.
AAX – A plugin format native to Avid Pro Tools. It replaced the previously used format RTAS.
Additive Synthesis – A method of audio synthesis that outputs sound by mathematically adding harmonics, usually with sine waves, to each other.
ADSR – Acronym for Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release. It refers to the characteristics of envelopes usually applied to a sound to shape it over time. Can be applied to the amplitude, filter, pitch, etc.
Aftertouch – A MIDI parameter that utilizes pressure applied to a key or pad after it has been initially played. It is then mapped to control a specific sound characteristic, such as volume, a filter cutoff point, the amount of reverb applied, etc.
AIFF – Acronym for Audio Interchange File Format. It is a high-quality audio file format created by Apple and similar to the WAV format.
Arpeggiator – A MIDI tool that turns any chord into individual notes played consecutively at a specified rate.
Arranger – The Arranger is the area located in the upper part of the MASCHINE window, under the Header. It contains two views: the Ideas and Song views.
ASIO – Acronym for "Audio Stream Input / Output". It's a computer sound card driver protocol for digital audio on Windows operating systems. It provides a low-latency and high fidelity interface between a software application and a computer's sound card.
AU – Acronym for Audio Unit. It is a plugin format created by Apple and is compatible with macOS/OSX only.
Audio Interface – A piece of hardware that can receive and output audio.
Autoload – When the Autoload functionality in MASCHINE is enabled, any Group, Sound, Pattern, Plug-in preset (instrument or effect), or Sample that you select in the Browser is instantly loaded into the selected Group slot, Sound slot, Pattern slot, or Plug-in slot. This way, you can listen to this object in the current context of your song.
Band Pass Filter – A filter type that combines a low-pass and a high-pass filter, allowing only a set range of frequencies of a sound through.
Bar – A musical term describing a measure of beats. In western music, this is typically a measure of 4 beats, but it can also vary depending on the time signature (i.e. 3/4, 5/4, 7/8, etc.)
Beatmatch – A DJing process whereby two or more tracks are matched in tempo and key to ensure a seamless transition between the two.
Bit Depth – The number of bits allowed for the dynamic range of an audio recording. Most modern music recorded in digital environments is formatted to 24-bit. A larger bit depth allows for a wider dynamic range.
Bitrate – The number of bits that are contained in an audio file every second, measured in kbps (kilo-bits per second). "320kbps" is an example of what an MP3 can store, while a WAV file usually has 1411kbps or a higher rate. Higher usually means better quality. Can be CBR (constant bitrate) or VBR (variable bitrate).
Bounce – A term that refers to different audio sources being summed together and exported as a singular audio file.
BPM – Beats Per Minute. Refers to the tempo, measured in the number of beats per minute.
Browser – A feature that allows you to browse and tag files such as samples, presets, and stock content in your software. MASCHINE, TRAKTOR, and BATTERY, for instance, utilize browsers.
Bus – A term used to refer to an auxiliary track that receives audio from multiple other sources from other tracks. For example, a bus may group vocals, piano, and synthesizers together after their individual processing. This bus will then allow for group effect processing, such as reverb, compression, etc.
Bus-Powered – This usually refers to a USB-connected device that draws its power from the USB connection itself, and does not require any kind of external power source.
Bypass – Term referring to temporarily disabling an effect so that the signal can be heard with the effect off. It is often found as a switch on effect plugins.
Channel – An audio path going from a source (such as a plug-in) or an input to an output.
Channel Properties – In MASCHINE, channel properties are sets of parameters available at each Project level (i.e. for each Sound, each Group, and for the Master) that are independent of the Plug-ins loaded in that Sound / Group / Master. Like the Plug-in parameters, in the software the Channel properties are displayed in the Control area. For example, the volume, pan, or swing controls are properties of their respective Sound / Group / Master channel.
Chorus – A time-based effect that adds 2 or more shifting delays, hence creating a "detuning" effect.
Class-Compliant (or Class-Compliance) – A term commonly used to describe a USB or Thunderbolt device which is 'plug-and-play'. Class-Compliant devices can be connected to the computer and will operate as expected without the need to install a driver.
Clock Signal – A signal that provides BPM information for devices to synchronize and stay in time together. One device usually outputs the signal and the others receive that signal. Can be transmitted over MIDI or CV.
Compression – A dynamic range effect that reduces the level of a signal when it exceeds a certain volume and increases the level when the signal is at a specified lower volume. It is often used to reduce the dynamic range of a sound and make its volume more consistent throughout.
Controller – A MIDI hardware device that controls the parameters of a piece of software or another device (e.g. a KOMPLETE KONTROL S61 MK2, a MASCHINE MK3, etc.)
Control Area – The Control area is located in the middle of the MASCHINE window, between the Arranger (above) and the Pattern Editor (below). This area allows you to adjust all Plug-in parameters and Channel properties for the selected Sound/Group or the Master level: routing, effects, Macro Controls, etc.
Control Lane – Located at the bottom of the Pattern Editor in the MASCHINE window, the Control Lane shows and lets you edit the recorded automation in form of automation points for each automated parameter. You can add, remove, or manipulate existing automation points as well as add new parameters to automate.
Control Mode – Control mode is the default mode of your controller. In this mode, you can play or record your actions in real-time. In MASCHINE, control mode also allows you to easily adjust any parameter of your Groups and Sounds via the Control section of your controller.
Control Voltage – Control Voltage, often abbreviated as CV, is an electrical signal used to change the characteristics of a sound depending on its voltage level. It is most often used in the context of analog / modular synthesizers.
Crossfader – A DJ control on a hardware device, such as a TRAKTOR KONTROL S4, that fades between two audio sources (e.g. Deck A and Deck B).
Cue Playback – A control on any DJ system that allows a track to be played from a certain point in time while being held down.
Cutoff Frequency – A control on a filter that specifies where the frequencies will ramp off.
DAW – Acronym for Digital Audio Workstation. A DAW is the software in which music is created, recorded, and edited in a modern studio environment. Logic Pro, Cubase, Ableton Live, FL Studio, and many more are all DAWs.
Decibel (dB) – The standard measurement for loudness. Note that dB is a ratio measurement, always requiring a reference point from which to measure. Common dB measurements include dBFS (digital audio, where 0dB is clipping) and dB SPL (in acoustics, where 0dB is near silence).
De-esser – A type of multiband compressor that specifically acts on the frequency bands where sibilance is likely to be heard. It is used to remove higher frequencies dynamically.
Delay – A time-based audio effect that creates a series of echoes occurring at intervals one after the other.
Distortion – The processing of audio such that extra harmonics and loudness are added, creating a fuller or aggressive sound.
DSP – Acronym for Digital Signal Processing. Any audio processing that occurs in the digital domain by way of algorithms.
Dynamic Range – Refers to the number of decibels (dB) between the highest and the lowest point in a source's amplitude. A small difference means a lower dynamic range, while a larger difference means a higher dynamic range.
Early Reflections – Part of a reverb tail, the early reflections describe the initial body of reverberation that comes from natural or algorithmic reverberation.
Echo – A reflection of sound that arrives at the listener with a delay after the direct sound.
Effect – An effect (or 'FX') modifies the audio signals it receives. For example, MASCHINE includes many different stock effects, like EQ, Reverb, Compressor, etc. You may also use VST / AU plug-in effects.
Envelope – A modulation source that affects the character of a sound (e.g. volume, waveshape or filter) and changes it over time.
Feedback – When an effect feeds the output signal back into the input signal, such as a delay or distortion, to exaggerate the effect. When a delay has more feedback, the delay's repeats are prolonged, thus it has a longer tail.
Filter – An effect that only allows a certain band of frequencies to pass through it. Different filter types include low pass filter, high pass filter, bandpass filter, band reject and many more.
Flanger – A time-based effect that copies a sound with a few milliseconds of difference, in the range of 0ms to 5ms. It is then mixed with the original source, which creates additional harmonic content or detuning effects.
FM – Acronym for Frequency Modulation. A form of synthesis achieved by modulating the frequency of basic waveforms (e.g. sine waves) with each other, creating additional harmonic content. Popularised by the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer, it is the same synthesis architecture used in FM8.
Gain – Initial level at which a sound source is being pre-amplified. Higher gain can result in overdriven sounds as it augments all of the harmonic content present in the sound source.
Gain Reduction – The resulting decrease in gain after downward compression is applied to a sound. The effect is usually counteracted by adjusting the output gain afterward.
Grain – An extremely short snippet of audio, often repeated in quick succession to achieve oscillation.
Grain Delay – A type of delay that repeats very short fragments of sound called grains, and plays them back in quick succession.
Granular Synthesis – A synthesis method that takes an audio file and cuts it into grains to create different waveshapes, then perceived as oscillation.
Graphic Equalizer – A type of EQ that separates the frequency spectrum into defined bands and allows gain adjustment for each band.
Headroom – The number of decibels between the peak level of a sound and 0dB in audio. This term is used to describe the amount of gain that is available on the master channel for a mastering engineer to work with before the signal distorts.
IR – Acronym for Impulse Response. It is an audio file that can be loaded into a convolution reverb to apply a room or space’s natural reverb to any sound. It is useful to reproduce the specific acoustics of a room or environment without having to actually be in it.
I/O – Acronym for Input / Output. This refers to a section of a DAW or piece of hardware where different routing between channels can be configured.
Jitter – In the context of digital audio, it refers to the time distortion of recording / playback of a digital audio signal. It is essentially the deviations of time between the digital and analog sample rates.
Jogwheel – On TRAKTOR devices, the jogwheels are the rotating "platters" that allow for controls over a Deck's playback (e.g. as a fast-forward / rewind control) or timing when manually synchronizing two decks to the same tempo and downbeat.
kHz – Abbreviation for kilohertz, the unit of measurement used in the context of Sample Rate.
Knee – This control on a compressor determines how hard the compressor acts when hitting the threshold. A hard knee setting activates the compressor instantly at the determined ratio, whereas soft knee ramps up the ratio as the signal gets louder, and allows for smoother, less obvious compression.
LFO – Acronym for Low-Frequency Oscillator. An LFO is an oscillator typically below the range of audio signals perceivable by human hearing. It is used as a modulation source to change the character of a sound over time; e.g. add vibrato or tremolo.
Limiter – An audio effect similar to a compressor at a ratio of ∞:1, meaning that no audio signal can pass the threshold. Typically the threshold is set to 0dB allowing no audio to distort and allowing maximum loudness if gain is applied.
Link – A technology standard developed by Ableton that allows software across platforms and devices to synchronize together in real-time. You can use it to sync up TRAKTOR and MASCHINE to Ableton Live wirelessly, for instance.
MIDI – Acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is a standard protocol allowing for software and hardware devices to send data to one another, such as pitch, gate, tempo and parameter controls. When you plug a keyboard into your computer to play sounds in your DAW, it works via MIDI over USB.
Modulation – In music production, modulation refers to the adjustment of a parameter or sound characteristic over time, based on a source. A filter might be modulated by an LFO, for instance.
Modulation Wheel – A control on most keyboards and synths that allow a particular parameter to be modulated manually. For example, moving a modulation wheel on a KOMPLETE KONTROL keyboard might increase the amount of vibrato in a lead synth sound.
Monophonic – Term used to convey that only one note can be played at a time on a synthesizer, sampler, or instrument.
Nyquist Frequency – Based on the Nyquist-Shannon theorem, which states that in order to adequately reproduce a signal it should be periodically sampled at a rate that is twice as much. The Nyquist frequency is the highest frequency (i.e. pitch or note) you wish to record. This is why, in the digital realm, the sample rate is twice the rate of the highest frequency in human hearing (20kHz), which is approximately 44100Hz or 44.1kHz. The higher the sample rate, the higher the frequencies can be recorded and played back.
Octave – A type of note interval that indicates the same note at a higher pitch. Octaves are always multiples of a given frequency. For instance, if A4 = 440Hz, then A3 will be 220Hz and A5 = 880Hz.
Oscillator – An oscillator is a source generating a particular waveform in a synthesizer, such as a sine, sawtooth, pulse / square, or triangle. An oscillator’s pitch can be changed based on performed or sequenced notes, as well as modulation.
Pan – The process of moving a sound in the stereo field to the left or right speakers.
Parallel Compression – A compression method mixes the effected signal in parallel to the original sound.
Parametric EQ – EQ is the acronym for equalizer. It is a type of EQ that includes a set amount of customizable frequency bands. The shape, frequency, gain, width, and slope of these curves can usually be altered, allowing for very specific and surgical EQ processing. Most EQs included in a DAW as stock effects are parametric, like Fruity Parametric EQ 2 and Ableton EQ Eight.
Phantom Power – A setting on audio interfaces and mixers that power condenser microphones with +48V of power to input if required. Condenser microphones generally require phantom power, whereas dynamic microphones don't.
Phase – Refers to the vibration of air caused by a generated sound and the position of the signal at a given time. It is measured in degrees, where 0º is the start point and 180º is the inversion of the signal. If two copies of the same sound have their phases set opposite each other (one at 0º and the other at 180º), they will cancel out each other and produce silence.
Phaser – A time-based effect that copies a signal, changes its phase, and mixes it with the original source. Essentially, this is a delay under 1ms that is often modulated by an LFO. Phasing introduces audible peaks / dips into the spectrum, hence altering the original source's harmonic content.
Phono – This is a synonym for the RCA inputs / outputs and cable format. You will find phono plugs on many audio devices such as turntables, cassette decks, and mixers.
Pitch – A synonym for frequency.
Pitch Bend – A control on instruments that allows the user to manually change the pitch of the note played.
Plug-in – Software that can be used inside a DAW to expand its functionality. It includes effects, sound generators, and utility devices. VST, AU and AAX are common plug-in formats.
Polyphonic – The ability of an instrument to play more than one note at once.
Preamp – Short for pre-amplifier. It is used to boost the gain of a signal before being recorded, processed, or amplified to a set of speakers. Most smaller audio interfaces, such as the KOMPLETE AUDIO 6 MK2, have two preamps accessible on the front side.
Pre-delay – A setting on reverberation units that sets a delay before the initial early reflections of the reverb can be heard. It is used to create separation between an audio source and the processed signal as it passes through the reverb.
PWM – Acronym for Pulse Width Modulation. It is a synthesis process that changes the phase symmetry of a square or pulse wave.
Quantize – The process of taking MIDI / audio and shifting it so it is ‘on the grid’ and in time. Useful when MIDI or audio has been recorded with improper timing.
RAM – Acronym for Random Access Memory. A piece of hardware installed on a computer and used to store things momentarily when needed for faster access, such as KONTAKT libraries, for instance.
Ratio – A control on a compressor that determines how much gain will be reduced once the audio hits a set threshold. For instance, if a signal exceeds a threshold of 6dB and the ratio is set at 2:1, it will reduce the audio by 3dB.
Reverberation (or Reverb for short) – A time-based effect featuring a series of echoes rapidly occurring one after the other and feeding back into each other. In the digital domain, there are two types of reverb, algorithmic which calculates everything via maths, and convolution, which uses an impulse response to capture the natural sound of a room and superimpose it onto another sound. Other physical methods exist as well, such as a plate or spring reverbs.
Sample – A piece of pre-existing audio used as a sound in a composition. Samples can be any recorded material that is then repurposed or sequenced.
Sampler – An electronic instrument that can record or load samples and allows for their playback (e.g. MASCHINE+, KONTAKT, BATTERY, etc.)
Sample Rate – The "speed" at which an audio file is recorded and played back in the digital domain. Sample Rate is directly related to the Nyquist frequency. The western standard for music is 44.1kHz, which is approximately double the limit of human hearing.
Sequence – A series of samples, notes, or sounds that are placed into a particular order for playback.
Sequencer – A basic functionality of a DAW, which allows users to compose and organize samples, notes, and sounds to create music.
Sidechain – A tool on compressors that uses a second input to trigger when the compression occurs. For instance, a kick drum can be used to sidechain a reverb, hence creating a "pumping" effect on the reverb whenever the kick drum is played.
Song View – The Song view in MASCHINE allows for combining Sections (references to Scenes), and arrange them into a song on the Timeline.
Standalone Mode – This refers to using the application version (where available) of an NI product, as opposed to the plug-in version. To open an instrument in standalone mode means to open the application version of that instrument.
Step – Steps are elementary time blocks. They are notably used to apply quantization or to compose Patterns from your controller in Step mode. All steps together make up the Step Grid. For example, In MASCHINE’s Pattern Editor, steps are visualized by vertical lines. You can adjust the step size, e.g., to apply different quantization to different events or to divide the Step Grid into finer blocks to edit your Pattern more precisely. Most DAWs possess a Step Editor in which notes are sequenced as steps, which can also be called a Piano Roll in some cases (e.g. in Logic Pro X).
Step Grid – In MASCHINE, the Step Grid is a set of parallel lines that divide the Pattern into steps. By changing the resolution of the Step Grid (i.e. the step size), you can adjust the note values at which you can quantize your Pattern and the number of steps available in Step mode on your controller.
Subtractive synthesis – A form of synthesis that removes harmonic content from basic waves, such as sine, saw, square, triangle, etc. via the use of filters and amplifiers which can both be modulated by envelopes and LFOs.
Swing – In DAWs and sequencers, the Swing parameter allows you to shift some of the events in your Pattern to create a shuffling effect in order to achieve different grooves.
Tap Tempo – It is a control on a time-based device (e.g. delay or drum machine) that allows the user to tap multiple times to determine the tempo at which the device functions.
Threshold – It is the control on compressors, noise gates, and other devices that determines when the effect will start affecting the sound source at a specific decibel level.
Timeline – In the context of a DAW, this term refers to the area going from left to right in an arrangement window where a track is being recorded and edited.
Transport – In the context of a DAW, this refers to the area that contains the playback controls (e.g. play, pause, stop, rewind, fast-forward, etc.)
Unison – It is a functionality on synthesizers that layers a set amount of oscillators together at the same pitch with slight detuning in order to make a sound denser.
USB – Acronym for Universal Serial Bus. It is a standard socket and jack format on computers and devices that allow things to be connected to a computer and transfer MIDI information or data.
USB Hub – A device used to expand a single USB port into multiple USB connections. All devices connected through a USB hub share the bandwidth available through its respective USB port.
VCA – Acronym for Voltage-Controlled Amplifier. The section on an analog synthesizer that controls the amplitude of the output signal, and can be shaped by LFOs or envelopes.
VCF – Acronym for Voltage-Controlled Filter. The section on an analog synthesizer that controls the filtering of the generated signal, and can be shaped by LFOs or envelopes.
VCO – Acronym for Voltage-Controlled Oscillator. An oscillator whose pitch is controlled via voltage. The higher the voltage, the higher the pitch, and this can be shaped by LFOs or envelopes.
Velocity – It is the MIDI parameter for each performed and recorded note that determines the loudness of the notes. It can also be used to modify other parameters on synthesizers so as to affect a sound based on performance.
VST – Acronym for Virtual Studio Technology. It is the plugin format developed by Steinberg, originally for Cubase that has now been adopted as one of the industry standards.
WASAPI – Acronym for "Windows Audio Session API". It is Microsoft’s multi-channel audio interface for communication with audio devices, i.e. an audio driver.
Wavetable – It is a series of waveform cycles that can be scanned through and morphed into each other.
WAV – Acronym for Waveform Audio File Format. It is the standard lossless audio file format in the digital domain. Samples, stems, and other audio files typically are recorded or come in the WAV format.
XLR – It is the standard electrical connector in audio that features three pins and is round. Found on many mixers and audio interfaces, usually used to connect microphones or speakers.
Zero-Latency Monitoring – This refers to the functionality on some audio interfaces that let you monitor the audio signals during the recording process before it reaches the analog-to-digital converters (ADC). This is beneficial when recording audio in the digital domain as there will always be some delay when recording audio into a DAW.
Zone – In the context of KONTAKT, a zone is the keyboard mapping assigned to a sample or group of samples and contains behavioral information relating to velocity and pitch. For instance, loading a C2 piano sample into KONTAKT will automatically assign the same sample into a zone across multiple octaves so that the sample can be played with a keyboard at different pitches.