Commonly used terms in recording (a first-timer’s guide)


In this post, I want to talk about some common terms we use in the recording and production of music. The definitions are not intended to be detailed or comprehensive but instead to give first-timers a general understanding of the terms they may hear and use in a studio environment. We’ll get into more details about each in upcoming posts.  

  • DAW (digital audio workstation): the software we use to record & mix music – think ProTools, Cubase, LogicPro, GarageBand, etc.
  • Mixing Consolethe huge thing with lots of buttons in most large studios used to record and mix sound with. Also called “mixing desk” or “mixing board” or simply “console”, “desk”, or “board”
  • Signal Processora device used to alter a signal in a controlled way (compressor, reverb, eq, chorus, etc.)
  • Plug-in: software used within your DAW most often to replicate outboard equipment such as compressors, equalization, reverb, and other effects
  • Outboard Equipment: physical hardware external to the mixing console and/or DAW
  • Effects: any of the several added sound elements including but not limited to reverb, delay, chorus, compression, and distortion
  • Compression: a signal processor that reduces the difference between the loudest and most quiet part of a given sound
  • De-Essera signal processor that reduces excessive sibilance (“s” and “sh” sounds) for a recorded track
  • Dry vs. Wet: dry means “without effects” / wet means “with effects”
  • Vox: abbreviation for “vocal” or “vocals”
  • BV: abbreviation for “backing vocal”
  • Basic Tracks: recorded tracks of rhythm instruments (drums, bass, rhythm guitars, keyboards)
  • Comping/Composite Tracks: the process of recording several performances of the same track (most commonly lead vocals) in order to combine the best parts of each performance into a single great vocal track
  • Mixing and Mastering: though these terms are commonly used together, they’re actually quite different things and are usually (and should be) done by two different and uniquely skilled engineers. Mixing (at it’s core) is combining all the individual recorded tracks into a stereo track.  Mastering (at it’s core) is putting the final touches on a mixed track to make it sound good beside other recorded tracks.  Both definitions are overly simplified but I get into it more in this post.
  • Fader: a sliding button (virtual or physical) used to control the volume of a track
  • dB: abbreviation for “decibel” – a unit of measurement for an audio level

These are just a few of the terms you’re likely to hear when working in a recording environment.  Have some more? Let me know by commenting on this post.

In upcoming posts, I’ll get in to more details about what you can expect during your first visit to a professional recording studio.


Jonah Brockman is an independent music producer and engineer dedicated to empowering songwriters with the resources they need to make great music.  Visit for more information, rates, and work examples.

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