Instrument Digital Interface)
ACTIVE SENSING : A feature that enables a receiving
MIDI device to implement an All Notes Off message should it
‘sense' an interrupted communication from a controller, thus
preventing notes from ‘hanging' in the event of broken
communication. A very useful feature for a MIDI device to
AD/DA: Conversion of an audio signal from
analog to digital, or from digital to analog. This can be
carried out at different resolutions, with different
corresponding quality levels. It doesn't really impact on MIDI
data, as such, which is by definition ‘digital.'
ADDITIVE SYNTHESIS: A type of synthesis
that creates sound by combining (‘adding') harmonics at
varying pitches and levels. A Hammond organ employs, in
effect, an additive synthesis system with its drawbars.
ADSR : Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release.
These are the four most commonly used segments of stages of a
synthesizer's envelope generator. Attack controls the time it
takes an applied parameter to reach its initial level. Decay
controls the time it takes for that parameter to transition to
a ‘sustain' level. Sustain governs the time an applied
parameter will remain at the level to which is has settled
Release controls the duration of an applied parameter to fade
out once a ‘note off' is generated. While envelope generators
are most commonly found as sections or panels on a
synthesizer, MIDI does provide for (general) control over
these parameters either using standard Continuous Controllers
or via NRPN (Non-Registered Parameter Numbers).
AES/EBU : One of several professional
formats for exchanging digital audio signals. In general
terms, not something MIDI needs to worry about per se.
AFTER TOUCH : A parameter that measures
the level of intensity applied to a note ‘after' it has been
played and continues to be depressed. After touch can be
polyphonic (different notes will respond individually in a
cluster of held notes) or monophonic (one value will apply to
all notes held down). Typically, after-touch is useful for
adding vibrato or tremolo effects to a sound in much the same
way that a violin can add volume or pitch changes to a
sustained note using finger vibrato or addition bowing
AIFF : Proprietary file format for storing
and transferring audio data on the Mac platform. Equivalent to
a WAVE file on a PC.
ALL NOTES OFF : A MIDI channel message
that tells a MIDI sound-generating device to shut off all
currently active notes. This is a life-saving device to cure
‘hanging' MIDI notes.
ARPEGGIATOR : A device that generates a
time-based series of control information - most commonly,
pitch – so as to produce repeated phrases or motifs. Although
the initial scope of arpeggiators was to produce a series of
standard patterns based upon conventional scales and chord
shapes, in recent years arpeggio algorithms can now generate
highly complex data to create articulations including guitar
strumming styles, drum patterns and more. Arpeggio algorithms
may be preset or editable depending upon the device, and
generally manipulate existing MIDI data in terms of pitch,
duration, velocity, and timing.
BANDPASS FILTER : A type of Filter that
eliminates both higher and lower frequencies around a
specified ‘band' of frequencies. More inclined towards special
effects than ‘natural' tonalities.
BANK: A collective storage location that
houses multiple sounds, samples, patterns etc. In MIDI , an
individual bank can hold up to 127 items. MIDI also allows for
many different Banks to be selected using ‘Bank Select'
BAUD : A measurement of speed at which
serial data is transmitted. MIDI operates at 31.25 kBaud, i.e.
data can be transferred at a speed of 31250 bits per second.
BINARY : A system of numbering using only
the digits 0 and 1. This is the foundation of computer
language and MIDI , too, uses a binary system.
BIT / BYTE : An abbreviation for 'binary
digit,' a ‘bit' is the most basic unit of information used in
any digital system, including MIDI . Generally there are 8
bits to a byte although MIDI adds additional two bits: one to
signify start, the second, stop.
BIG-ENDIAN : Big-Endian and Little-Endian
derive from "Big End In" and "Little End In." These terms
refer to the order in which a sequence of bytes is stored in
memory. Big-Endian order means that the most significant byte
(MSB) value is stored at the lowest address and each next most
significant byte is stored in the next location and so on.
Little-Endian is the reverse - the least significant byte
(LSB) is stored at the lowest address and the other bytes
follow in order of increased significance.
BIT DEPTH: Bit depth is the number of bits
(ones or zeroes in a binary number) that are used to describe
digital data such as audio at a given point in time. One such
point in time is a sample. Each added bit doubles the number
of possible ways to describe each individual sample. A 16-bit
sample can be described with any one of 65,536 values whereas
a 24 bit sample has 16,777,216 possible values.
BUFFER : An area of RAM used to
temporarily store data.
BUS: A signal route within a device or
section of a device such as a mixer (software or hardware).
CENTRAL PROCESSING UNIT (CPU) : The brain
of a computer device; the silicon chip that performs the
devices major calculations. Inherently, MIDI does not put any
significant load onto a CPU, though highly graphic
audio-processing destinations such as plug-ins that MIDI is
now asked to control certainly do.
CHANNEL: A MIDI Channel is a bus over
which devices sending or receiving MIDI data can communicate.
MIDI specifies that devices can specify or use up to 16 MIDI
Channels (1-16) on any given port or network. In order to
communicate, MIDI devices need to be set to the same MIDI
CHANNEL MESSAGES: MIDI messages carrying a
channel number in the header byte. Most day-to-day MIDI
messages are Channel Messages, i.e. Note On, Note off, Program
Change etc. Global MIDI data that is not channelised comes
under the title of a System Message.
CHORUS: An audio effect that superimposes
two or more versions of a sound upon itself at different
pitches, so producing a thicker, sometimes ‘swirling' effect.
Since it is so commonly used, MIDI has specified a dedicated
Continuous Controller (# 93) for chorus amount.
CLOCK: A regular series of electronic
pulses that control the tempo of time-based devices
(sequencers, drum machines etc). MIDI Clock—which substitutes
pulses for MIDI clock messages—is a method by which two or
more such devices can play in sync by choosing one device to
transmit these messages and the other(s) to receive clock
information externally (i.e. from the designated master
CONTINUOUS CONTROLLER: A MIDI message
tailored to parameters that require a range of multiple values
such as modulation depth or volume. CCs can be controlled in
real time by knobs, sliders, wheels, etc. or can be input as a
series of parameter values into a MIDI sequence.
CONTROLLER: A MIDI controller is a device
that transmits MIDI data. This can be as simple or as complex
as required by the particular device and can range from
keyboards (typically dedicated MIDI controller keyboards only
control and do not generate sounds); to ‘alternate' MIDI
controller instruments like MIDI guitars and wind instruments;
to sensor-based devices such as knobs or sliders, or even
gloves, pads, control surfaces etc.
DEFAULT SETTING: The state of a setting
when a device is purchased or powered-on. Also called "factory
setting" or "initial setting." Most devices have a ‘reset'
function whereby settings can be returned to their default
DELAY: As an effect, one that creates or
simulates the time difference between direct and ‘reflected'
sounds. MIDI delays, similarly, manipulate note data to mimic
the effect. MIDI delays can also be a phrase used to describe
the less desirable lag between MIDI messages being sent and
being received and acted upon.
DIGITAL AUDIO : The representation of
sound as computer data. In order for (analog / real live)
sound to be digitized, it needs to be converted via an A-D
(analog to digital) converter. In order to hear digital audio,
the data then needs to be converted back in to analog via a
D-A (digital to audio) converter. The quality of digital audio
is dependent upon many things, from the quality of the A-D and
D-A, to the resolution and bit depth of the digital audio data
DIGITAL SYNTHESIS : A method of synthesis
that uses numbers, rather than variable ‘analog' circuitry to
generate and control sound.
DIN CONNECTOR : The original connection
device used to send and receive MIDI data. MIDI used—and still
can use—the 5-pin, 180-degree DIN connector, although only 3
of the pins are actually employed for MIDI communication.
DIRECTX PLUG-IN: Plug-in standard for
instruments and effects originated by Cakewalk for use in the
company's DAW applications.
DRUM MACHINE : An electronic device
dedicated to drum sounds and the generation of drum patterns.
Drum machines originated from organ accompaniment systems
developed in the 1960s and came of age just prior to MIDI with
the first digital drum machine from Roger Linn. The
hugely popular Akai MPC series drum machines, initiated by
Linn designs, fueled the beats the would go on to define hip
hop, though, ironically, the sounds themselves harked back to
the days of synthesized drum sounds made popular via such drum
machines as Roland's TR-808.
DSP : Digital Signal Processing. A
number-crunching process that creates ‘effects' (reverbs,
delays, chorus etc) by altering the output of digital audio.
DYNAMICS : Fluctuations in volume, i.e.
the difference between the highs and the lows. Dynamics can be
essential to create music that sounds ‘real' and not overly
electronic. Conversely, dynamics can also need reigning in to
produce music that sounds consistent and ‘loud.'
ECHO: A delay long enough for two or more
sounds to be discerned as separate events. Generally the delay
needs to be at least 50 milliseconds to produced an echo
ENVELOPE: A term used to describe the
overall shape of a sound's tone, pitch, or volume. ADSR (see
entry) are the most commonly used parameters in a
synthesizer's envelope generator.
EQ : Equalization. An audio processing
device used to cut and boost individual frequencies present in
a sound so as to change its tone. The name originated from its
initial purpose to make a sound more natural, balanced, or
EVENT : A separate and specified MIDI
message, be it a Note On or Note Off, pitch bend data, or a
Program Change. Some devices (notably sequencers) may quantify
their capacity in terms of ‘events' as opposed to notes, which
can create misleading impressions since a single note might
have several hundred MIDI events attached to it if
after-touch, pitch bend, or modulation is employed
FADE IN/OUT : Though more commonly applied
to audio, where actual volume or amplitude gradually increases
and decreases, either MIDI Controller 7 (Volume) or 11
(Expression) messages can be used to create fade-ins/outs via
a succession of parameter values that progressively increase
or decrease from 0-127. If a fade-in/out is needed for an
entire track comprising multiple MIDI Channels, the Controller
messages will need to be applied to all channels being
FADER : A slider generally found on mixers
(hardware or software) used for attenuation - gradual, smooth
control over the signal under its control. Faders can also be
employed to generate MIDI Controller messages for similar
control over a MIDI source.
FILTER: In audio terms, a filter literally
filters out certain frequencies in a signal or waveform in
order to alter its tonal characteristics. Low, High, and Band
pass filters let these frequencies pass through, filtering out
the others. MIDI Continuous Controller messages (CC # 74
Brightness' and 71 ‘Resonance') can apply filtering to MIDI
sound sources (commonly most GM sound sets) that respond to
this parameter. A MIDI filter can also refer to a device that
filters MIDI data as opposed to audio frequencies.
FILE FORMAT : How data is organized in
order that it can be recognized by particular applications or
devices. Standardized file formats such as .WAV and .MID
(Standard MIDI File) enable data to be transferred between
applications made by different manufacturers so long as they
share the same basic functionality (a MIDI sequencer, an audio
FSK: An older method of timing
synchronization involving fluctuating pitch. Stands for
Frequency Key Shifting. Though stable, and effective, it did
make a particularly nasty ‘dentist's drill' type of noise.
GENERAL MIDI (GM): A standard developed in
the early 1990s based around sound types. It enables sequences
(stored in .MID format) to be played back on any ‘GM' sound
sources and sound at least ‘OK.' The establishment of a
unified system of ‘Program Change' #s allows piano parts to
call up piano patches, acoustic guitar parts, acoustic guitar
patches, and so on.
As with most things MIDI 128 basic sounds are specified,
with provisions for additional sound subsets that can be
offered on more sophisticated devices.
Championed initially by Roland, whose Sound Canvas modules
quickly became the de facto GM soundset, GM was for a long
time the savior of both the game audio and cell phone
industries where standardization was key. Though not as vital
as it was in the 1990s, GM is still a useful tool for
transferring song files, and the GM drum map (specifying which
keys trigger which drum sounds) continues to be the norm on
all but the most sophisticated synthesizer drum voices.
HARDWARE : A physical piece of electronic
equipment from a computer to a musical instrument. In order to
‘do' something, hardware requires ‘software' for instructions.
HEXADECIMAL (HEX) : A system of numbering
based on 16 (as opposed to 10 on regular decimal systems). In
addition to 0-9 the letters A-F are employed. MIDI codes are
most commonly supplied in this format.
KEYBOARD SPLIT : The place where a
keyboard is set up to trigger two or more different voices
across its range.
KILOBYTE (K) : Measurement of storage
capacity or size in a computer, computer disk, or file. A
kilobyte is 1000 bytes of data.
LIBRARIAN : A program that organizes
and/or stores sets of voice data for synthesizers or other
instruments, enabling sounds both to be stored safely and
externally for backup, and also to enhance the storage
capacity of the synth/instrument itself. MIDI (Bulk Dump) is
generally used for loading and saving of such data.
LITTLE-ENDIAN: See Big-Endian.
LOCAL ON/OFF : MIDI Channel Message that
sets whether your keyboard is going to trigger its internal
sounds (Local ON) or not (Local OFF). This is a vital
parameter to have control over in order to avoid loops and
double-triggers when your keyboard is part of a larger,
computer-involving rig of equipment.
LOOP : As it sounds, where music or data
repeats endlessly. Sometimes this is a good thing, as in a
drum loop or a musical refrain. A loop point in a sample is
where the end meets the beginning again (and which you want to
be as seamless as possible). A loop can be undesirable where
data feeds back on itself as in ‘feedback' with audio. Unlike
audio, which can indeed be desirable, a data loop will
generally cause a device or program to wig out and probably
crash. If you have such control at hand, a MIDI Reset command
can provide a cure.
LOW FREQUENCY OSCILLATOR (LFO) :
Synthesizer module or parameter that uses ultra low
frequencies (beyond audio range) to modulate another parameter
such as volume, pitch, or tone.
(LEAST SIGNIFICANT BYTE) LSB: This refers
to the byte of least potential value in a multibyte number
such as a number sent as MIDI control data.
MASTERING : The process of final
adjustment - to overall tone, volume, and possibly effects -
before a recording is ready for publication or duplication.
METRONOME : Originally a physical,
mechanical device featuring a ‘clicking' and speed-alterable
pendulum, used to help musicians set – and keep – strict time
when they play. Within DAWs, a metronome facility is
available, driven by MIDI Clock.
MIDI ADAPTER: A sound card MIDI adapter
cable lets you connect MIDI devices to your computer via the
computer's joystick port.
MIDI CABLE : Standard cable used to
connect MIDI devices featuring 5-pin DIN connectors on both
ends. MIDI can also be transmitted by other means (cables):
USB, FireWire, and indeed wireless.
MIDI CHANNEL : MIDI data is communicated
using a system of 16 discrete 'Channels,' each of which can be
used to send and receive specific commands between connected
devices. When making connections between
instruments/computers/devices, you normally will choose a MIDI
Channel (between 1-16) on which you want to communicate. On
DAWs, you will frequently want to utilize several MIDI
Channels; one for each track of a song. You may also need to
utilize several MIDI ports; each of which can communicate
using their own 16-channel system.
MIDI CHOKE : When too much MIDI data is
being transmitted or received simultaneously. Results of this
can vary; from impaired timing, to failure of all notes to
trigger, to system lock-up. The cause can simply be too much
data on the move, or be caused by incorrect connections or
settings causing a MIDI data loop. A cure may be found by
sending Reset or All Notes Off messages, or your set-up may
require re-patching / re-cabling.
MIDI CONTROLLER : Any electronic device
that can generate and send MIDI data. Most commonly seen are
MIDI keyboards, but there are many others: MIDI guitars, MIDI
drum pads, MIDI wind controllers, boxes of knobs, gloves, and
more. All non-keyboard controllers are often referred to as
‘alternate' MIDI controllers.
MIDI DATA : Catch-all term for any and all
information being communicated between MIDI devices.
MIDI DEVICE : Generic term for any
MIDI-enabled piece of hardware or software from a synth to a
sound module, interface, controller etc.
MIDI FILE : Abbreviation of ‘Standard MIDI
File' (SMF): sequencer files that adhere to the protocols of
SMF format. Most DAW/sequencer applications can, in addition
to generating their own proprietary file formats, save and
load sequences in this easy-to-transfer format.
Though not compulsory, most MIDI Files will also use the GM
system of note-mapping (for drums) and sound assignments in
order that they can be played back on a wide range of systems
MIDI IN, OUT, THRU: Names and functions of
the MIDI ports found on most MIDI devices. MIDI IN will accept
incoming data only. MIDI OUT will transmit data. MIDI THRU
passes on data that is being received at the IN port to
MIDI INTERFACE : The point or points at
which MIDI data can be connected to a device. Most computers
do not sport MIDI as standard, and therefore will require some
type of (additional) MIDI interface in order to handle MIDI
MIDI KEYBOARD: An electronic keyboard that
possesses the ability to send and receive MIDI data. Micro
switches beneath the keys connect to a MIDI processor where
such information as note, duration, and velocity (key
speed/strength) can be processed.
MIDI PORT : The point or points on a MIDI
device where you connect to other MIDI devices. Initially,
5-pin DIN connectors were used exclusively. A MIDI port could
also be USB/FireWire nowadays.
MIDI SEQUENCER : Most commonly, software
(though in the past hardware too) applications or devices used
for the assembly of musical compositions. A musical
word-processor, if you like. The word ‘sequencer' is now not
used so often as Digital Audio Workstation, a somewhat grander
sounding name for sequencers that now also possess the ability
to handle audio and a myriad other processing tasks.
MIDI CLOCK : Real-time System message that
drives and can synchronize performance data in and between
MIDI devices. MIDI Clock operates at 24 ppqn (pulses per
quarter note) or ‘divisions' per beat.
MIDI MERGE : A device that accepts MIDI
data from various sources and merges it into a single (output)
MIDI MESSAGE : Packets of data that form a
MIDI TIME CODE (MTC) : System comprising
the information contained in a SMPTE signal in MIDI form that
can be recognized by MIDI devices. Not all MIDI devices may
implement MTC, however.
MIXER: Hardware or software device that
takes multiple individual audio sources and enables their
combination into a grouped or ‘mixed' signal.
MIDI MACHINE CONTROL (MMC): Group of MIDI
messages used to control recorder operations such as Play,
Stop, and Record.
MODWHEEL : Wheel controller found on
synthesizers that players can use to progressively introduce
modulation depth to a sound. The mod wheel itself can normally
be assigned to many different parameters selected by the user,
though it is most commonly applied to pitch in order to
MONO: A word that has a great many
definitions, but in a purely MIDI context it signifies that
only one note per channel is possible. MIDI Modes 2 & 4 assign
mono one voice unilaterally and one voice per multi-timbral
MIDI channel, respectively.
MONITOR : As a verb, to listen to a sound;
As a noun, a speaker. As a collective noun, a complete system
that enables performers on stage to hear themselves (as in a
MODULATION: Literally, to add movement to
a sound - normally via an LFO. A mod wheel is a device that
governs modulation amount or intensity.
MSB (MOST SIGNIFICANT BYTE): This refers
to the byte of highest potential value in a multibyte number
such as a number sent as MIDI control data.
MULTI-TIMBRAL: The capacity of being able
to generate multiple (and different) voices simultaneously,
each controlled on its own MIDI Channel.
MULTITRACK : The capacity of being able to
house (and so record and play back) multiple tracks in a
recording device, such as a sequencer or DAW.
Anything other than multitrack devices are fairly rare
outside of little play sequencers on home digital pianos.
NOTATION PROGRAM : Programs that focus on
presenting music data on a stave, in ‘conventional' notation
form. Almost exclusively, input to such a program (or indeed a
notation feature within in DAW) is via MIDI .
NOTE ON/OFF COMMAND: A Channel Voice
Message indicating when a note is to begin sounding and when
the ‘fingers are taken off the keys.' Depending upon the
envelope of the voice being triggered, a Note Off message may
not necessarily result in the sound actually stopping of
If you are doing a lot of editing, cutting and pasting, it
is important to keep an eye on your Note Off commands (not
normally displayed as a default on most DAW platforms) because
it can be easy to make an edit to a note before its Note Off
message, which can lead to hanging notes and messy sounding
loops, or, on certain platforms, irregular bar lengths being
displayed. Motto: keep an eye on your Note Offs when cutting
OMNI : A word (latin for ‘all') used as a
descriptor for some of the ‘modes' that MIDI devices can
choose to operate in. Omni ON signifies a device will respond
on all MIDI channels. In Omni OFF (poly – Mode 3) a device
only responds to a single, predetermined MIDI channel, and in
Omni OFF (mono – Mode 4) each voice can be assigned to its own
OSCILLATOR : The circuitry that generates
the kernel of a synthesizer sound. In the early days
oscillators generated a fairly basic of sound types (sawtooth,
square, pulse etc). In modern synth engines oscillators can be
driven by a myriad waveforms and samples.
PAN: A term derived from "panorama,"
referring to a parameter that specifies the location of a
sound within the stereo field. Normally if a sound that is
originally stereo is assigned to two monaural channels, the
pan controls of the two channels are set to far left and far
right so that the sound can be monitored in its original
PARAMETRIC EQUALIZER : An EQ (set of tone
controls) that offers variable control over a range of
frequency bands, each with a cut or boost control.
These frequency bands normally work in parallel, and allow
the user to pinpoint a frequency that requires attention by
sweeping the frequency (turn up the boost to max and then
adjust the frequency control in the general area of what you
need until the troublesome frequency really jumps out) and
then making the necessary adjustment.
PARAMETERS : Individually controllable
elements of a device or instrument. Filter cutoff is a
parameter. So too is envelope attack, or feedback level on a
PATCH: A throwback to the days of modular
synthesizers when different modules and parameters within them
could be connected using (physical) patch cords. The final
sound that resulted from frequently multiple patching,
eventually came to known as a ‘patch.' Fast forward to modern
synthesizers and the word is now used to describe any single
and identifyable ‘sound' as in a brass ‘patch', a piano
PITCH WHEEL : A wheel type device,
normally found to the left of a synthesizer keyboard, used to
manipulate the pitch of a played note or notes.
PITCH BEND : A Channel Voice Message or
activity or message, generally initiated by a pitch wheel
(though any other controller set to manipulate pitch will do),
that smoothly raises and/or lowers the pitch of note or chord.
This can be achieve in real time during a performance, or can
be recorded into a sequence. Unlike data for volume, or note
#, pitch bend uses a complex string of data, making it
difficult to ‘edit.'
POLY : Short for polyphonic. The state of
being polyphonic indicates a musical device's capacity of
playing multiple notes at a time.
PORT : A connection point.
PLUG-IN: A term first used in graphics
programs but subsequently adopted by music software used to
describe small(er)computer programs designed specifically to
work inside (or sometime alongside) a host application.
Plug-ins are designed to provide additional content or
functionality for the host program.
TDM plug-ins for ProTools were the first to appear, though
soon after Steinberg developed the universally adopted VST
standard. Other plug-in standards include DirectX and RTAS.
PRESET: A patch or program on a device
that cannot be overwritten.
PROGRAM CHANGE: A Channel message (from
00-127) that tells a device to switch to a particular
patch/voice/preset etc. A Program Change message can – indeed
should - be accompanied by a Bank Select message since MIDI
can specify many different banks of 128 programs. Without
adding a Bank Select command, a receiving device will simply
move the Program Change # indicated within its currently
It is essential that Program Change messages are placed at
the beginning of GM sequences (MIDI Files) in order that piano
parts will be played back on piano sounds, guitar parts on
guitar sounds etc.
PUNCH-IN/PUNCH-OUT: The process of quickly
going in and out of ‘record' on a track, often done when a
passage needs to be re-recorded within a longer part that is
otherwise OK (i.e. a repair), or when a part comes in
Q : A parameter found both on filters and
on parametric EQ devices but indicating slightly different
things. On a synth filter, the Q relates to resonance: an
amount of signal boost at the cutoff point that creates a
whistling, ringing, resonant effect. On a parametric EQ, Q
indicates the width the frequency band to be boosted or cut. A
narrow Q focuses in sharply on a particular frequency while a
wide Q setting will make broader tonal adjustments (treble,
QUANTIZATION : Within a MIDI sequence, the
automatic adjustment of timing values to some formula or
pattern other than the one originally recorded. At its most
basic level, to quantize a passage to sixteenth notes
will drag all notes to their nearest sixteenth note, so making
the passage sound both very in-time, but also very stiff and
mechanical. There are many more subtle settings and styles
that can both ‘correct' timings, in a more natural manner, and
even create human feel ‘groove quantizing' where none
In digital audio, the term indicates the resolution of a
recorded signal, as in 16-bit or 24-bit quantization.
QWERTY KEYBOARD : ‘Typewriter' or computer
keyboard as opposed to a musical keyboard. The word QWERTY is
what's spelled out by typing the first six letters on the top
RAM : Random Access Memory. Temporary
storage medium that operates only in the present, i.e. it gets
cleared when the computer or instrument is switched off. If
data currently stored in RAM needs to be saved permanently, it
needs to be saved to a hard drive or other external storage
device such as USB stick etc.
REAL TIME : As it sounds, an action or
process that is executed live, as it happens. Real-time
recording on a sequencer or DAW records actual performances as
opposed to ‘step-time' recording where data is input
piecemeal. Real-time controllers provide instant
‘live' control over some aspect of a sound or performance.
RECEPTION MODE : How a synthesizer
responds to incoming data.
RELEASE : Generally final stage of an
envelope generator governing the duration of an applied
parameter to fade out once a ‘note off' is generated. Setting
a long release time makes a sound die away slowly while a
short release will make it disappear the moment your fingers
are lifted off the keys.
RESAMPLE : The process of recalculating a
sample at a different rate than that used for the original
recording. Resampling (at a lower rate) may be necessary to
reduce file size. Depending upon the nature of the sound this
may or may not have an adverse effect on perceived sound
ROM : Read Only Memory. Permanent storage
type in a computer or electronic musical instrument that
cannot be overwritten. Synth presets, and waveforms used to
create sounds, are stored in ROM.
REVERB: An effect that recreates the
‘reverberations' or sound reflections found in various
contained physical spaces. Adding such reflections thus
creates the impression that a sound is taking place in a large
concert hall, small room, in the Grand Canyon etc etc .
General MIDI offers CC#91as a universal Send Level control for
reverb. Additionally data for certain reverb types and reverb
lengths can be programmed into a GM MIDI File.
SAMPLER : Samplers are very similar to
synthesizers , with the ability to add or create custom
samples. Samples are digitally recorded sounds of actual
instruments, human voice or any kind of noise you like. These
samples can be triggered from MIDI sequencers or MIDI
SAMPLE: A sound bite – either a rhythmic
loop or a static sound - stored as a digitized waveform in a
computer, or sample-enabled synthesizer. A sample can also
refer to single slice of a digital audio wave.
SAMPLER: Computer application or hardware
device that can record, manipulate and play back digital
audio. A sampler can be triggered either directly from a MIDI
controller, or via MIDI Note-On messages stored within a
SAMPLING RATE : The resolution at which a
sample recording is taking place. Sample rates indicate of the
number of times per second that the audio is being converted
into digital data. Logically, higher numbers offer higher
resolution, and so higher quality (more accurate) results. The
higher the sample rate the higher the memory requirement, so
there often needs to be a trade-off. Higher sample rates may
not be needed (because they won't make any difference) when
sampling individual sounds that don't contain many high
frequencies. Ideally the rate should be twice the highest
frequency you're recording. CDs are recorded at 44.1kHz which
translates to 44,100 samples per second.
SCSI (SMALL COMPUTER SYSTEM INTERFACE) : A
specification (with attendant connecting devices) used to
transfer data between a computer and an external storage
device. This type of connectivity has now largely been
replaced by USB and FireWire.
SERIAL : A form of communication that
transmits information sequentially, i.e. one piece of
information (bit) after another. MIDI uses this form of
communication. The opposite is a Parallel system, whereby data
is transmitted simultaneously.
SEQUENCER: A musical word processor: a
software application, or feature found on a hardware keyboard
workstation, that can record, process, and play back MIDI
events designed to be trigger sound-generating devices or
software for the purposed of recording complete pieces of
music. Though sequencing began life as a MIDI-only entity
sequencers eventually embraced audio recording as well. Modern
software devices that can record, process and play back both
MIDI and audio are now generally referred to a Digital Audio
Workstations or DAWs (pronounced ‘doors').
S/PDIF : Stands for Sony/Philips Digital
Audio Interface. The specification is formally called
IEC60958, but is more generally known as S/P DIF, and is a
consumer format for transferring digital audio signals. S/P
DIF simultaneously transmits or receives two channels of
SOLO: A multi-faceted word variously used
to describe the action of listening to the sound of only one
channel or track in a mix, a sound (generally a monophonic
one) to be used for melody lines, or a free-form instrumental
passage in a song (guitar, drum solo).
TEMPO : The speed at which a song or loop
plays. Tempo can be set, and can be programmed to vary over
the duration of a song in order to create a more natural human
feel, using MIDI Clock.
TICK: The smallest increment of a beat;
based upon the resolution of the device or application being
TIMBRE: Tone characteristics or color.
TREMOLO : Steady fluctuation in volume;
used for and as an effect.
TIME CODE : Time data used to synchronize
TRACK : A separately accessible and
controllable location for housing recorded data in a song.
Current DAWs generally offer unlimited MIDI and Audio tracks
on which parts can be recorded.
THRU : The MIDI THRU port passes ‘through'
to the MIDI OUT port data that is being received at the MIDI
IN port. ‘Soft' THRUs are OUTs that can be configured as a
THRU whenever necessary.
THRU-BOX : For units that don't have a
THRU port you can purchase one of these physical boxes.
Generally they will provide a MIDI IN socket and several THRU
USB MIDI: Where MIDI is being delivered
via a USB interface.
VELOCITY: Measurement of the speed – and
so in practice the intensity and resultant volume ,
that notes are being played. MIDI provides for velocity levels
VOICE EDITOR : This provides
computer-based, on-screen access to the controls of a sound
source. Changes in setting are generally sent to the
instrument via MIDI instantaneously in order that adjustments
can be made and heard in real time.
VOCODER: A ring-modulator-based audio
effect that creates robotic effects. Mainly used with a human
voice as a sound source; with notes or chords played on a
connected keyboard determining the pitch.
VST PLUG-IN : “Virtual Studio Technology:”
an initially Steinberg (but now widely adopted as standard)
format the creation of instruments (VSTis) and effects (VST
fx) used within a DAW environment. Although the results of
these plug-ins are audio-based, they are MIDI-driven and
WORD CLOCK : A synchronization signal used
when transferring digital audio data; used to ensure that the
audio data is received at the same rate it is being
transmitted. When multiple devices are digitally connected,
all need to use the same word clock to avoid problems of audio
transfer and, most likely, unwanted noise in the signal.
XLR CONNECTOR : A professional three-pin
connector primarily used for mics. It has a locking mechanism
that prevents the cable from being pulled out accidentally. It
can also be used for MIDI though this is not common.
MIDI is a
trademark of MIDI Manufacturers Association Incorporated.
About MIDI -
Making Music with MIDI
- MIDI Controllers -
MIDI Products -