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P.A." / P.A. System: - Acronym of "Public Address". A sound system that is capable of addressing alot of people at one time.

PAD: Resistive circuit for reducing signal level.

PAM: Pulse Amplitude Modulation. In the first part of the A/D conversion, pulses occurring at the sampling frequency are modulated by an analog audio signal. See PCM.

PAN - to move a signal from the left to the right of a stereo field, or vice versa. Refers to moving an audio signal left or right in the stereo spectrum. Also called the balance control. All stereo audio mixers have panning, and most software sequencers allow you to set and change panning.

PAN POT: Control enabling the user of a mixer to move the signal to any point in the stereo soundstage by varying the relative levels fed to the left and right stereo outputs. Round control knob enabling the user of a mixer to move the signal to any point in the stereo sound stage by varying the relative levels fed to the left and right stereo outputs. On most analog mixers there is a dent at the center between left and right on the pan knob. See Detent.

Panning The process of controlling the relative position of a sound in a stereo field during mixdown or recording using a pan-pot. Usually this is not completely effective as the pan-pot alters only the relative amplitude of the sound left to right and not the crucial time aspect.

Parallel Interface: A computer interface in which data is passed simultaneously over many wires. A Parallel Interface is usually much faster than a serial interface. The SCSI Interface on the Emulator III is an example of a Parallel Interface.

PARALLEL: A means of connecting two or more circuits together so that their inputs are connected together, and their outputs are all connected together.

Parameter: A MIDI value seen in the envelope of a particular instrument that alters the integrity of the sound itself. Common parameters include pitch bend, sustain, volume, and reverb. A variable value that affects some aspect of a device's performance. Characteristic elements of a sound that are usually programmable in a synthesizer or other MIDI device.

PARAMETRIC EQ: An equaliser with separate controls for frequency, bandwidth and cut/boost. A type of equalizer that provides control over each filter's frequency and the amount of cut or boost of each filter. Typically, parametric equalizer's provide three to four filters that work in parallel, each one filtering a different frequency of the spectrum (i.e. low, mid, high). While parametric equalizers generally have fewer filters than a graphic equalizer, they are more flexible and provide finer control, due to the adjustability of the filtered frequencies.

Parental Advisory Label: Notice to parents and others that selected recordings may contain strong language or depictions of violence, sex or substance abuse. Parental discretion is advised. The label is a non-removable logo that record companies voluntarily place on products to better inform consumers and retailers while also protecting the rights of artists.

PARTIAL - a sine wave component of a complex sound. A single frequency, sinewave component of any sound. all sounds are composed of a number of partials. There are two classes of partials. See also Harmonic and Inharmonic. Used confusingly by Roland to refer to a basic sound generator in a number of its "LA Synthesis" products, beginning with their MT32.

Passive Crossover: - Most domestic "Hi Fi's" of lower power use what is known as a "Passive" crossover system, where the frequencies are split after the signal has been amplified.

PASSIVE: A circuit with no active elements.

Paste: To put a copy of the contents of the clipboard (whatever was last copied or cut) in at the specified insertion point.

Patch - refers to an instrument sound, program or voice on a synthesizer or sampler. This term comes from the roots of hardware synthesis, where physical cables where used to connect and route signals in a matrix to create a unique sound (same concept as phone operators "patching" a call through, back in the day).

PATCH BAY: A system of panel-mounted connectors used to bring inputs and outputs to a central point from where they can be routed using plug-in patch cords.

PATCH CORD - an audio cable used to connect the output of a device to an amplifier or mixer.

PATCH EDITOR - a category of MIDI software used to control the sound characteristics of a synthesizer from a computer.

Patch Editor Software: A program which allows the editing of sounds by manipulating the envelope. Edirol’s PCR’s controller keyboards have their own editing software, to be used with any sequencer. Other programs, such as Sound Quest’s MIDI Quest allows you to edit, store and organize your patches. A software-based package used to provide direct control over a compatible MIDI device, while clearly displaying each parameter setting on the monitor screen of a personal computer.

Patch librarian: A software package capable of recieving, transmitting, and often organizing patch data between one or more devices and a personal computer system.

Patch: A sequencer’s patch setting selects an instrument, thereby determining the nature of the sounds. Patch is exactly the same thing as an instrument or voice. Although most patches call up one sound or voice, a drum patch may encompass a large range of percussive instruments. Also when you plug in (or patch) cords between hardware components. Alternative term for Program, referring to a single programmed sound within a synthesizer that can be called up using Program Change commands. MIDI effects units and samplers also have patches. Also variously known as programs, timbres, or voices. The name used for the sounds that can be generated by a MIDI device.

PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect): A computer expansion card interface used in PCs and Macs for adding video, networking or audio capabilities. Card D Deluxe, Digital Audio Lab’s soundcard, would be one such card.

PCM (Pulse Code Modulation): Digital audio recording format used since the late 1970s. PCM simultaneously captures all uncompressed bits of a Word (8 to 48-bits) at various standardized sampling frequencies (11kHz to 192kHz). The standard CD, co-developed by Philips and Sony, uses a 16-bit word length and a sampling rate of 44.1kHz. WAV and AIFF are common types of PCM audio files. See Word.

PCMCIA: This is a memory or I/O (input/output) card for PC and Mac laptop computers. The acronym stands for the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association, a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop PC Card standards and promote adoption of PCMCIA-based products, however a more familiar explanation is “people can’t memorize computer industry acronyms.” Also known as PC cards, they can be found as memory cards on DAW’s, or communications ports on laptops for LAN, fax/modem, ATA disk drives, wireless internet connections and more. There are PCMCIA soundcards available such as Echo Audio’s newest Indigo.

PEAK: Maximum instantaneous level of a signal. The highest point in the audio waveform on a graph of a sound wave that would look something like a mountain peak. It is the point of greatest voltage or sound pressure in a cycle.

Percussion Controller: Same as a drum controller, except that there are many percussion controllers which are configured like mallet instruments and thus are very adept at playing pitched parts.

Perfect Pitch The ability possessed by some people to describe one or more heard pitches by their note names without error. This is sometimes regarded as a magical ability but is no more remarkable than the ability to name a colour, and like that skill can be learnt by most children and even some adults. It is a rarer skill simply because it is less practised. Some people have a more extreme form where they can not only name the note heard but tell you whether it is flat or sharp. Some even feel discomfort if it incorrect. This "gift" is occasionally described as absolute pitch. It seems to be common among children with autism.

PERIOD - the time required for one cycle in a periodic waveform. Period is the inverse of frequency.

PFL: Pre Fade Listen; a system used within a mixing console to allow the operator to listen in on a selected signal, regardless of the position of the fader controlling that signal.

Phantom Power: - A special +48V DC power supply for the use of Condenser type microphones. It is known as "phantom" power as the power travels through the same cable as the audio signal.

PHASE - the relative position of a wave to some reference point. Phase describes the time relationship between two different waveforms. It is expressed in degrees, with 360 degrees representing a full cycle. It is the amount by which one sine wave leads or lags a second wave of the same frequency. The difference is described by the term phase angle. Sine waves in phase reinforce each other; those out of phase cancel.

PHASER: Effect which combines a signal with a phase shifted version of itself to produce creative filtering effects. Most phasers are controlled by means of an LFO.

Phon A unit of apparent sound level or loudness which takes account of the variable human sensitivity to different frequencies.

PHONO PLUG: Hi-Fi connector developed by RCA and used extensively on semi-pro, unbalanced recording equipment.

PICKUP: The part of a guitar that converts the string vibrations to electrical signals.

Pinch roller: - A roller on a tape machine (usually rubber) which "pinches" or presses the tape against the capstan, in order to pull the tape tightly across the head(s) of the machine.

PITCH - a continuous frequency over time.

Pitch Bend Wheel: A MIDI controller that can vary the pitch of a sound and allows notes to be bent up or down like when sequencing a sliding trombone sound for instance.

Pitch Bend: A continuous controller which can be applied to synthesized note(s), usually from a joystick to the left of the lowest keyboard note. The sound is a raising or lowering of the pitch and changes as you move the joystick left and right. A special control message specifically designed to produce a change in pitch in response to the movement of a pitch bend wheel or lever. Pitch bend data can be recorded and edited, just like any other MIDI controller data, even though it isn't part of the Controller message group.

Pitch Broadly speaking the musical equivalent of the technical term "frequency", although they are not exactly synonymous. This is usually because pitch is also used as a synonym of note name. So one musician might ask another "What pitch is that?" and be satisfied with the answer "A", whereas the answer "440 Hz" would probably dismay.

PITCH SHIFTER: Device for changing the pitch of an audio signal without changing it's duration.

Pitch to MIDI Conversion: Many programs have this feature whereby an audio signal is converted to MIDI data. This is especially useful in notation programs where the data can then be customized and printed. The audio signal needs to be monophonic, thereby having only one voice at a time. The best way to sell this feature regardless of the software being used is to state that the user will be able to hone his music theory with the editing of the file, as the conversion is normally far from perfect. Programs such as MakeMusic’s Finale Guitar have this feature specifically for the guitarist.

Pitch: A continuous frequency over time. Musical interpretation of an audio frequency.

Pitch-shift: - alteration of pitch or frequency of sound, but without adjusting the Tempo.

Plug-In - a "client program" that is used to expand the functionality of a "host program", such as a sequencer or digital audio editor. The host provides the plug-in with some type of input data such as digital audio samples, which is then processed to generate new output, such as effected digital audio. A plug-in is often run seamlessly from within a host program appearing to be part of the standard interface. One plug-in can be used by multiple host programs that share the same plug-in format. Two popular plug-in formats used in computer music and audio are DirectX and VST digital audio plug-ins. A software based application that is accessed via a recording and editing application such as Cubase or Pro Tools.

Plugins: These are accessory programs that add functionality to digital audio software. Ranging from input plugins that allow your player to read different file formats to output plugins that provide visual displays to accompany your music, to software samplers such as Gary Garitan’s Orchestral Strings.

Polar Pattern (or Pickup Pattern / Directional Pattern): - A polar pattern is a picture or graph of a transducer's sensitivity to soundwaves.

POLY MODE: The most common MIDI mode that allows and instrument to respond to multiple simultaneous notes transmitted on a single MIDI channel.

Polyphonic - more than one note of an instrument sound may be played at the same time. Hardware and software synthesizers usually range from 1 to 128 notes polyphony. The number specifies exactly how many notes may be played at once before cutting-off previously played notes. An instrument that can play only one is said to be Monophonic. the ability to play many different notes at once. Polyphony: Derivative from the Greek term meaning variety of tones, it is the number of notes which can be played simultaneously. Any synthesizer has a maximum polyphony which cannot be exceeded. If the polyphony is exceeded, MIDI data will drop out from MIDI channels used near the end of the sequence. The ability of an instrument to play two or more notes simultaneously. An instrument which can only play one note at a time is described as monophonic.

Polytimbral - more than one instrument sound (timbre) may be played at the same time. Multitimbral is the more commonly used term for this functionality.

Port: A hardware location where data is passed in and out. A port on a MIDI interface allows 16 MIDI channels to transmit data. The Edirol USB MIDI interfaces allow a variety of ports for the musician, with the UM-1 (or UM-1S) with 1 port, the UM-550 with 5 ports or the UM-880 with 8 ports. Although impractical within one sequence to utilize 128 channels (using the UM-880) it is beneficial to have a multiple port MIDI interface in the event there are multiple modules or keyboards in the MIDI setup. Connection for the input or output of data.

PORTAMENTO: A gliding effect that allows a sound to change pitch at a gradual rate, rather than abruptly, when a new key is pressed or MIDI note sent. A musical term referring to the gliding effect that allows a sound to change pitch at a gradual rate, rather than abruptly. This is an effect that can be assigned using an assignable MIDI controller knob on controller keyboards such as the Edirol PCR-30 or PCR-50.

POST PRODUCTION: Work done to a stereo recording after mixing is complete.

POST-FADE: Aux signal taken from after the channel fader so that the aux send level follows any channel fader changes. Normally used for feeding effects devices.

Potentiometer (Pot) - a variable resistor (rotary or linear) used to control volume, tone, or other function of an electronic device.

POWER SUPPLY: A unit designed to convert mains electricity to the voltages necessary to power an electronic circuit or device.

PPM: Peak Programme Meter; a meter designed to register signal peaks rather than the average level.

PPQN: Pulsed Per Quarter Note. Used in the context of MIDI Clock derived sync signals.

PQ CODING: Process for adding Pause, Cue and other subcode information to a digital master tape in preparation for CD manufacture.

Preamplifier: This is usually referred to as preamp and is a device that takes a source signal, such as from a turntable, tape deck or CD player, and passes this signal at line level on to a power-amplifier. The preamplifier may have a number of controls such as source selector switches, balance, volume and possibly tone controls. This is typically the largest gain stage in a sound set-up.

PRE-EMPHASIS: A system for applying high frequency boost to a sound before processing so as to reduce the effect of noise. A corresponding de-emphasis process is required on playback so as to restore the original signal, and to attenuate any high frequency noise contributed by the recording process.

PRE-FADE: Aux signal taken from before the channel fader so that the channel fader has no effect on the aux send level. Normally used for creating Fold back or Cue mixes.

Preset: A pre-programmed sound and control setup on a sampler or synthesizer. Presets can be made up in advance of a performance, stored in memory, then recalled instantly when desired. Effects unit or synth patch that cannot be altered by the user, typically, the sounds permanently stored by the manufacturer in a sound generating device.

Pressure Sensitivity: The ability of an instrument to respond to pressure applied to the keyboard after the initial depression of a key. Sometimes called aftertouch.

PRESSURE: Alternative term for Aftertouch.

PRINT THROUGH: The undesirable process that causes some magnetic information from a recorded analogue tape to become imprinted onto an adjacent layer. This can produce low level pre or post echoes.

PROCESSOR: Device designed to treat an audio signal by changing its dynamics or frequency content. Examples of processors include compressors, gates and equalisers.

Product configuration: Any variety of "delivery system" on which pre-recorded music is stored. Various music storage/delivery mediums include the full-length CD album, CD single, cassette album or single, vinyl album or single, mini-disc or VHS music video.

PROGRAM CHANGE MESSAGE - a two byte MIDI message used to request that a synthesizer change the currently loaded program.

Program Change: - MIDI term which describes a message sent within the MIDI system telling it to change the "program" or "patch" (sound) of the MIDI instrument being played, or in the case of a MIDI effects unit, the effect being used.

PROGRAM CHANGE: MIDI message designed to change instrument or effects unit patches.


Propagation Movement through a material. e.g. the movement of sound waves through air.

Proximity Effect: When cartioid microphones are placed very close to the sound source, a boosting of the bass frequencies occurs which is known as the proximity effect.

psychoacoustics - study of what sounds the human ear can detect. MP3 exploits the limits of human psychoacoustics to get smaller file size with limited detectable quality loss.

Pulse Wave: Similar to a square wave but non-symmetrical, pulse waves sound brighter and thinner than square waves, making them useful in the synthesis of reed instruments. The timbre changes according to the mark/space ratio of the waveform.

PULSE WAVE: Similar to a square wave but non-symmetrical. Pulse waves sound brighter and thinner than square waves, making them useful in the synthesis of reed instruments. The timbre changes according to the mark/space ratio of the waveform.

PULSE WIDTH MODULATION: A means of modulating the duty cycle (mark/space ratio) of a pulse wave. This changes the timbre of the basic tone; LFO modulation of pulse width can be used to produce a pseudo-chorus effect.

PUNCH IN/OUT - the ability to start and stop a recording at some point other than the beginning.

PUNCH IN: The action of placing an already recorded track into record at the correct time during playback, so that the existing material may be extended or replaced.

PUNCH OUT: The action of switching a tape machine (or other recording device), out of record after executing a punch-in. With most multitrack machines, both punching in and punching out can be accomplished without stopping the tape.

Punch Recording: A feature within audio software that allows automatic on-off recording at specified points…especially nice when you need to rerecord a short phrase in a vocal track to fix an entire vocal session.

PZM: Pressure Zone Microphone. A type of boundary microphone. Designed to reject out-of-phase sounds reflected from surfaces within the recording environment.

Q Dial: Rotary knob used to scroll through data or select parameters. Used on Kawai sequencers to select, among other things, a particular bar in a song. See alsoData wheel

Q: A measure of the resonant properties of a filter. The higher the Q, the more resonant the filter and the narrower the range of frequencies that are allowed to pass. This will be explained in more detail when we talk about filters later in the series.

QUANTIZATION - rounding or truncating a value to the nearest reference value. In a sequencer, used to adjust recorded material so it will be performed precisely on a selected division of the beat. In digital audio, the range of numbers used for specifying amplitude levels of a recorded signal. (16 bit quantization = 65,536 values; 8-bit = 256, etc.) A sequencing editing operation that can be used to correct timing mistakes, quantization forces all notes played to fall on the nearest beat specified. A timing function of a sequencer or sequencing software used to correct human-performance timing errors within a composition. Sequencers ability to make notes / beats recorded conform to the nearest subdivision of a bar. These subdivisions may be predetermined by the user (e.g. 1/64, 1/16 etc). A useful tool in the correction of timing errors, however overuse may result in the performance having a somewhat "robotic" feel. A means of moving notes recorded in a MIDI sequencer so that they line up with user defined subdivisions of a musical bar, for example, 16s. The facility may be used to correct timing errors, but over-quantization can remove the human feel from a performance.

QuickTime Movies: This is the Apple standard for time-based multimedia files. Versions 1.x support moving pictures, sound and later versions support text. QuickTime 2.0 added MIDI tracks; however, conversion of MIDI data to other sound formats is not supported by QuickTime 2.0. QuickTime 2.0 or later and the QuickTime Musical Instruments extension must be installed in order to play QuickTime MIDI files.

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