Glossary of Audio, Recording
and Music Terms "T"
Tach/Tachometer – In analog tape recording, a device on the recorder that measures and regulates tape speed by emitting pulses as the tape moves across the head.
Tails Out – A method of winding audio tape so that the end of the last recorded selection is at the outside of the reel.
Take – The recording that is done between one start and stop of a tape recorder or DAW.
Take Notation – Writing down the takes of the tune being recorded on a take sheet or on the track log with comments. Take notation was/is recommended for analog tape recording, but in most studios, this function is now accomplished on the DAW.
Talk Box – An effects unit that enables a musician to modulate the sound of his/her instrument via a tube placed into the mouth. Historically, talk boxes have been used as an effect for guitars, but they can be used to modify other instruments, as well.
Talkback – A microphone in the control room carried on a separate circuit from the recorded channels, allowing the engineer to communicate with the musicians in the live room or sound booths through the monitoring system.
Tape Delay – A signal processing technique for creating artificial delay or echoes by manipulating time delays with analog tape machines. This technique began by routing the signal to a separate tape recorder and mixing the delayed response back in with the signal; it then evolved to the use of dedicated machines that could adjust the length of the delay by adjusting the distance between the record and playback heads. Today, most tape delay effects in the studio are simulated digitally through plug-ins in a DAW.
Tape Guide – Any stationary or rotating device which directs the tape past the heads on a tape machine, or from one reel to the other.
Tape Hiss – The natural high-frequency noise that occurs on analog tape due to the magnetic particles from which the tape is made. Tape hiss constitutes most of the noise floor that occurs in analog recording, and can be reduced by using tape constructed of finer magnetic particles. (See also “Noise Floor.”)
Tape Loop – A length of tape with the ends spliced together so that the recording will play continuously.
Tape Recording Equalization – The increase in amplitude of signals, in a tape machine’s electronics, at the high frequencies as a tape is recorded to keep high-frequency signals recorded above the tape hiss.
Telephone Filter – A filter used to simulate the audio heard through a telephone receiver by removing signals at frequencies below 300 Hz and above 3500 Hz.
Tempo – The rate at which the music moves, measured in Beats Per Minute (BPM).
Tempo Mapping – The act of programming a sequencer or DAW to follow the tempo variations of a recorded performance. Unlike beat mapping or beatmatching, both of which effectively adjust the recording to fit a set tempo, tempo mapping adjusts the tempo of the project (especially the MIDI instruments) to match the natural tempo nuances of the recorded material. (See also “Beat Mapping,” “Beatmatching.”)
Terminal – 1) A point of connection between two wires, including the plug on the end of a cable, and the jack on a piece of equipment. 2) Refers to the keyboard and monitor of a computer that enable the user to enter information and to access data.
Test Oscillator – A device that generates audio waveforms at various frequencies for testing purposes.
Test Pressing – One of a few initial vinyl record copies pressed from the first stamper made, which is listened to and visually inspected to approve the quality before more copies are pressed.
Test Tones – 1) A recording of several single-frequency tones at the beginning of a tape reel at the magnetic reference level that will be used to record the program. 2) Artificially generated tones that are used to calibrate an audio system.
THD – See “Total Harmonic Distortion.”
Thin Sound – A vague term describing an audio signal that that is lacking in certain frequencies, especially on the low end. Over-filtering a signal with an EQ can produce a thin sound, for example.
Three-To-One Rule – A principle of microphone placement that says when multiple mics are used at once, the distance between microphones should be at least three times the distance between each microphone and its respective sound source. The three-to-one rule is used to prevent phasing issues between the audio signals.
Three-Way Speaker – A speaker system that has separate speakers to reproduce the bass, mid-range and treble frequencies.
Threshold – The level at which a dynamics processing unit will begin to change the gain of the incoming signal.
Threshold of Hearing – Described as the sound pressure level at which people can hear only 50 percent of the time.
Throat – In a speaker, the small opening in a horn or in a driver through which the sound wave passes from the driver to the horn.
Throw – 1) In speakers and in microphones, describes the amount of unrestricted movement that the diaphragm can make. In microphone, this affects the mic’s sensitivity; in speakers, it affects the distance of sound projection. (A speaker designed for smaller spaces has a “short throw,” while one designed for a farther projection has a “long throw.” 2) In speakers, “throw” may also be used to describe the speaker’s directional output, often based on the frequencies it emits. A horn, for example, emits high frequencies in a limited angle of direction, so it has a “long throw,” while a subwoofer emits low frequencies in all directions and has a “short throw.” 3) Something a producer, engineer or musician might do with whatever is in his/her hand during a moment of intense frustration.
Tie Lines – Cables with connectors at both ends, which are usually run through walls or floors in the studio, for the purpose of sending signals between rooms. Tie lines provide a great semi-permanent way to route and configure signal paths quickly through various parts of the studio and help the engineer keep track of signal flow.
Timbre – The sound quality that makes one instrument sound different from other instruments, even while playing the same pitch. The timbre of a trumpet, for example, is what makes it sound like a trumpet and not like a flute. Timbre is largely shaped through the presence, absence and complexity of harmonics when the instrument is played.
Time Code – A standardized timing signal used to help devices sync with one another, or to sync audio to video. Common time codes used in the studio are MIDI Time Code (MTC) and SMPTE time code.
Time Compression/Expansion – (Also called “Time Stretching” or “Time Shifting“) The process of speeding up or slowing down an audio recording without changing the pitch of the sounds.
Time Constant – A complex mathematical ides that basically describes the time delay between when an electrical voltage is applied to a circuit and when the circuit responds to it.
Toms – The small drums (as little as 10 inch diameter) that mount on racks above the kick drum and the large drums in a drum set.
Tone – 1) Any single-frequency signal or sound. 2) The sound quality of an instrument’s sound relative to the amount of energy present at different frequencies.
Tone Generator – 1) A device that puts out test tones at various frequencies to align a tape machine or for other testing purposes. 2) The circuits in a synthesizer that create the audio signals put out by the unit, usually to emulate the sound of another instrument.
Tonguing – The technique of controlling the start of a note in a brass or woodwind instrument with the tongue.
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) – The measure of the difference between the level of harmonic frequencies at the output stage of an amplifier as compared with the input stage, a ratio expressed as a percentage. It’s a fine-tuning specification barely perceptible to many ears, but the lower the THD, the more accurately the amplifier/speaker is reproducing the sound.
Touch Sensitive – See “Velocity Sensitive.”
Track – 1) One audio recording made on a portion of the width of a multitrack tape, or created as a digital representation using a DAW. 2) 2) One set of control commands in a sequencer or DAW that is used to control one instrument over one MIDI channel. 3) See “Band Track.”
Track Log/Track Assignment Sheet – A sheet of paper kept with a multitrack tape which tells which instrument was recorded on each track.
Tracking – The act of recording the individual tracks of a multitrack recording.
Transducer – A device that converts energy from one medium to another. Transducers are prevalent throughout the equipment in a recording studio.
Transient – The initial high-energy peak at the beginning of a waveform, such as one caused by the percussive action of a pick or hammer hitting a string, or the strike of a drum.
Transpose – To shift a set of musical notes by a fixed interval. This can happen in a number of ways—for example: 1) by rewriting an entire piece of music in a new key; 2) by shifting the tuning of an instrument so that it plays at a lower or higher interval than the note played (either artificially, as with an electronic keyboard, or by the natural tuning of a transposed instrument, like a trumpet); or 3) Transposing on-the-fly, playing at a set interval above or below what is written (also known as transposing by sight).
Trap – 1) A filter designed to reject audio signals at certain frequencies. 2) An object designed with acoustically absorptive material, placed into walls to reduce low frequency reflections in the room (also called “bass trap”). 3) Another word for a drum set (as in “trap set”).
Transport – 1) The portion of a tape machine that moves the tape from the supply reel, past the heads, to the take-up reel. 2) The set of controls found on a DAW or sequencer for starting, stopping pausing, fast-forward and rewind, emulating the functions of a tape machine transport.
Tremolo – A wavering or “shaking” musical effect, created either by quick reiterations of the notes (as in a violin tremolo) or by rapid shifts in amplitude.
Triangular Wave – A harmonically rich waveform that appears triangular in shape when depicted graphically, due to a combination of the presence of odd harmonics and rapid rolloff.
Trigger – The signal or the action of sending a signal to control the start of an event.
Trim/Trim Control – A device that reduces or increases the signal strength in an amplifier, often over a restricted range. Often used interchangeably with gain, but usually referring to fine-tuning signal strength, rather than merely amplifying it.
Truncation – 1) The shortening of an audio signal, sample or song, typically by cutting off the end. 2) The dropping of bits of data when the bit resolution is reduced (for example, from 24-bit to 16-bit), causing digital distortion unless dithering is applied.
Tuning Fork – A metal fork with two prongs that vibrate with a fairly pure tone of one frequency when the fork is struck.
Turntable – A device to support and rotate a phonograph record during playback.
Tweeter – A speaker designed to reproduce only the higher frequencies of the sound.
Two-Way Speaker – A speaker system with separate speakers to reproduce the lower frequencies (woofer) and the higher frequencies (tweeter).