Glossary of Audio, Recording
and Music Terms "M"
Magnetic Tape – Recording tape consisting of a plastic strip coated by magnetic materials, finely ground iron oxide (rust) particles. Commonly used for analog recording.
Magnetism – A natural attractive energy of iron based-materials toward other iron-based materials.
Margin – See “Headroom.”
Masking – The characteristic of hearing by which loud sounds prevent the ear from hearing softer sounds of similar frequency. Also refers to the obscuring of softer sounds by louder ones.
Master – 1) The main output control of a console or DAW, setting the level of the mixed signal as it leaves the console. (Also called “master fader.”) 2) The final-mixed original recording from which copies are made.
Mastering – The final process of fine-tuning and “sweetening” the mix on a song or collection of songs, from which the master will be created.
Measure – The grouping of a number of beats in music. (See also “Bar.”)
Meg – A slang abbreviation based on the prefix “Mega-, meaning 1,000,000. Often used as shorthand for megahertz (1,000,000 Hertz, Mhz) or megabytes (1,000,000 bytes, MB).
Meter – 1) A device that measures and displays the signal level in audio or digital equipment. Meters usually measure peak values or RMS values. (See also “Peak Value,””RMS Value.”) 2) The rhythmic structure of music, typically describing the number of beats in a measure.
Mic, Mike – Abbreviations for “microphone.”
Mic/Line Switch – The selector switch on the input of a console channel that determines which input jack will feed the console; also the selector switch on an audio interface or other device that sets the input level to receive either a microphone level or line level signal.
Microphone – A transducer which converts sound pressure waves into electrical signals.
Microphone (Mic) Input – The input of a console or other device designated for a microphone signal.
Microphone (Mic) Level – The very low audio voltage level emitted by a studio microphone. The signal must go through a preamplifier to be increased to line level before entering the console. (See also “Line Level,” “Preamplifier.”)
Microphone (Mic) Pad – A setting on a microphone or preamp, or a separate adapter/connector, that reduces the level of the microphone signal before it enters the preamplifier to prevent overload.
MIDI – Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a digital data protocol that communicates performance information between musical instruments, sequencers and/or computer programs, conveying data on up to sixteen channels at once over a single connection.
MIDI Clock – A clock signal conveyed by MIDI that is used by the connected sequencers and musical devices to stay in sync with one another. Not to be confused with MIDI time code (MTC), MIDI clock is tied to the Beats-Per-Minute (BPM) tempo, advancing 24 steps per quarter note.
MIDI Controller – Can refer to two different elements of MIDI, depending on the context. 1) A device or software that sends MIDI data to connected devices, either through pre-programmed sequencing or through live performance by a musician. 2) Any of a number of smaller controls on a MIDI device that is assigned to control specific parameters of the sound or performance.
MIDI Interface – A device that converts a MIDI signal into the digital format of a computer so it can store and use the MIDI signal.
MIDI Sample Dump Standard (SDS) – A sub-protocol that was added into MIDI to enable the transfer of digitally recorded samples between instruments, storage units or sound modules without converting them to analog.
MIDI Sequencer – A device or software that can record and play back MIDI data, controlling the performance of MIDI musical instruments or devices in a series of timed steps. MIDI sequencers can exist on board MIDI controllers, keyboards or workstations, as standalone devices, or as computer software.
MIDI Time Code (MTC) – The translation of the information in SMPTE time code into MIDI data, enabling MIDI sequencers and connected devices to sync with SMTPE code (usually in relation to video). (See also “SMPTE Time Code.”)
MIDI Thru – A port that puts out a MIDI signal that is the same as the incoming MIDI signal, effectively relaying the signal to another device without altering or changing it. (Many MIDI devices have three MIDI ports: In, Out and Thru.)
MIDI Thru Box – A unit with one MIDI In Port and several MIDI Thru Ports to relay the MIDI signal to multiple devices. MIDI users often prefer this as an alternative to “daisy chaining” devices, which can cause slight delays in the MIDI signal.
Mids – Abbreviation for “mid-range frequencies,” the audio frequencies from about 250 Hz through 6000 Hz. Meant in the context of “highs, mids and lows” in an audio signal.
Mid-Side Miking – (Abbreviated M/S) A stereo coincident microphone placement technique in which one cardioid pattern microphone is aimed directly at the sound source, and a bi-directional microphone placed sideways and as close as possible to the first mic.
Mix – 1) The blending of audio signals together into one composite signal. 2) Can also refer to the blending of a portion of an effected audio signal back into the direct signal.
Mixer – 1) A console or other device that blends multiple audio signals into a composite signal. 2) A section on a console that does this function. 4) An engineer or technician who mixes audio signals, whether it’s live audio during a performance or a mixdown of recorded audio.
Mixdown or Mix Down – The processes of creating a final mix by combining multiple audio tracks into a single track (or two-channel stereo track) prior to the mastering stage. This can include the traditional method of mixing the multiple channels of analog tape into a two-track master, or the more modern method of creating a digital mixdown using a DAW (which is often referred to as “rendering”).
Modulation – Refers to any process in which a parameter of one signal is systematically affected by the introduction of another signal. In audio, this results in a change in the sound.
Modulation Noise – Noise that is present only when the audio signal is present.
Module – A self-contained group of circuits and controls. In the recording studio, modules are often contained in interchangeable housing for installation on rack mounts, and can include amplifiers, equalizers, effects processors and sound modules (MIDI instruments to be activated by an external controller). In the digital space, plug-ins, software synths, samplers and plug-ins are also described as modules.
Monaural – (Abbreviated “Mono”) Describing an audio signal coming through a single, as opposed to stereo, which is two channels. (See also “Monophonic.”)
Monitor – 1) To listen to the music for the purpose of checking quality or avoiding peaks. 2) A speaker in the studio (usually one of a pair) that is used to listen to the audio signals. This can include studio monitors in the control room for listening to the mix, and headphones in the booths or live room for the performers to hear a mix of the tracks while they are performing.
Monitor Mix – A mix of the live and/or recorded audio signals that is fed to the musicians so the can hear the music while performing, whether live onstage or in the studio. Monitor mixes are on a separate signal path from the main mix (often controlled by a separate, smaller console) and do not affect the FOH mix (in live audio) or the signal going into the multitrack recorder/DAW. In live performance settings, the monitor mix is often controlled by a separate audio engineer running a separate sound board.
Monitor Path – A signal path separate from the channel path that allows the engineer to listen to what is being recorded without affecting the signal being fed to the multitrack recorder or DAW. (See also “Channel Path.”)
Monitor Section/Monitor Mixer Section – The section of the console that is used to create a rough mix so the engineer can hear what is being recorded without effecting the levels being fed to the multitrack recorder or DAW.
Mono – See “Monaural,” “Monophonic.”
Monophonic – (Abbreviated “Mono”) 1) A single sound source or single-channel transmission (as opposed to stereo). 2) A melody line in which only one note at a time is played. 3) Describing an instrument or synthesizer setting that only plays one pitch (or “voice”) at a time. (See also “Voice.”)
Moving Coil Microphone – See “Dynamic Microphone.”
Moving Fader Automation – A feature in some consoles in which fader changes can be pre-programmed to occur automatically during playback of a multitrack recording.
Multimeter – A small device that tests electrical voltage, current, and resistance. Multimeters are useful in recording studios for calibrating electrical systems and troubleshooting problems.
Multitimbral – Refers to the ability of a synthesizer or module to play several different sounds, patches or “timbres” at once.
Multitrack Recording – (Also called tracking or multitracking) The heartbeat of the recording studio, multitrack recording is process of recording a collective of sound sources onto separate tracks, each with its own audio channel, then combining the tracks to play back simultaneously. Recording can be done either one track or instrument at a time (to be combined later) or by recording the performers onto separate tracks as they play together live. These signals were originally recorded onto multitrack analog tape, but today they can also be recorded digitally as separate audio files into a digital audio workstation (DAW).
Multitrack Tape – A piece/reel of magnetic tape which can be used to store two or more discrete signals in sync with each other.
Mute Switch – A switch on a console or other piece of audio equipment that turns off the input or output, or a matching button on the virtual audio control space of a DAW. The individual channels on a console each have a mute switch that can cut the signal for that channel.