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Glossary of Audio, Recording
and Music Terms "K"


Key – 1) In music, the note scale in which a piece of music is written or played, identified by the first note (tonic) of the scale, as in, “Key of C.”  2) The control of a dynamics processing device by an external audio signal through the use of a side chain.  3) A digital or data code that unlocks the use of a device or software. Example: Pro Tools is licensed through an iLok ID via the use of a physical USB key.


Keyboard – Any musical instrument or computer controlled by pressing a key.


Keyboard Controller
Keyboard Controller – A piano-styled keyboard that sends out MIDI signals to control other MIDI devices. Most keyboard instruments are equipped with MIDI control capabilities, but dedicated MIDI keyboard controllers emit no audio signals, only MIDI data.


Kilohertz (kHz)
kHz – An abbreviation for kilohertz (1000 Hz, or 1000 cycles per second). Example: 2000 Hz = 2 kHz. Most commonly used in the studio for describing audio frequency ranges or digital sampling rates.


Kick Drum
Kick/Kick Drum – The bass drum on a trap drum set, so called because it is played with a kick pedal.


Knee – A function on a compressor that determines how abruptly or gradually compression begins once the sound level crosses the threshold. So-called because the graphic “bend” in the response curve is reminiscent of a knee. “Hard knee” refers to an abrupt activation of the compressor, while “soft knee” refers to a more gradual change.