Music & MIDI Dictionary


Stress given to a musical tone.

In music, these are sharps, flats, or naturals that are not indicated in the key signature. MIDI software programs tend to represent accidentals as sharps (F-sharp, rather than G-flat).

In computing, the verb is more often encountered than the noun. Synonymous phrase: To communicate with. Illustration: A sequencer that lets one directly access hardware.

Additive Synthesis:
The process of constructing a complex sound using a series of fundamental frequencies (pure tones or sine waves). Each of the fundamental frequencies usually has its own amplitude envelope which allows independent control of each partial (harmonic). Pipe organs or Hammond organs are both instruments which are based on additive synthesis.

Abbreviation for Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release. These are the four parameters found on a basic synthesizer envelope generator. An envelope generator is sometimes called a transient generator. The Attack, Decay, and Release parameters are rate or time controls. Sustain is a level. When a key is pressed, the envelope generator will begin to rise to its full level at the rate set by the attack parameter, upon reaching peak level it will begin to fall at the rate set by the decay parameter to the level set by the sustain control. The envelope will remain at the sustain level as long as the key is held down. Whenever a key is released, it will return to zero at the rate set by the release parameter.

After Touch:
See Pressure Sensitivity

A step-by-step procedure for problem- solving.

Aliasing is the term used to describe the unwanted frequencies which are produced when a sound is sampled at a rate which is less than twice the frequency of the highest frequency component in the sound. These unwanted frequencies are typically high frequency tweets and whistles.

A device which increases the level of a signal.

Amplitude is a term used to describe the amount of a signal. It can relate to volume in an audio signal or the amount of voltage in an electrical signal.

Amplitude Modulation:
A change in the level of a signal. For example, if a Voltage Controlled Amplifier (VCA) were being modulated by a Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO), the result would be a periodic increase and decrease in the audio level of the signal. In musical terms this would be referred to as Tremolo. The abbreviation of Amplitude Modulation is AM.

Data (signal) presented in a non-digital, continuous form.

Analog Synthesizer:
A synthesizer which uses voltage controlled analog modules to synthesize sound. The concept of a variety of analog modules all of which can interconnect via a standardized voltage control system was invented by Dr. Robert Moog. The three main voltage controlled modules in an analog synthesizer are: Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO), Voltage Controlled Filter (VCF), and Voltage Controlled Amplifier (VCA).

Aperiodic Waveform:
A waveform that does not have a repeating pattern.

Apple Macintosh:
Apple computers were among the earliest computers to offer MIDI-computing capacity. Others now in the field include IBM-compatible PC's, Atari, and Amiga.

A device or computer program that sequentially moves a pattern of notes over a range of the keyboard. The speed of the Arpeggiation is variable and the pattern can usually be varied depending on the order or relationship of the notes pressed.

The percentage of a note's duration that actually plays. This could represent the difference between a staccato and a legato effect.

The first parameter of an envelope generator which determines the rate or time it will take for the event to reach the highest level before starting to decay.

Attenuate means to reduce in force, value or amount. An Attenuator is a device that reduces the value of something, usually the amplitude of a signal.

Audible Range:
The range of frequencies that the human ear can hear. A healthy young human can usually hear from 20 cycles per second to around 20,000 cycles per second (20-20,000 Hz), less after prolonged exposure to Heavy Metal music or Opera.

Sound, or its transmission and reproduction.

Auto Accompaniment:
(Sometimes called "Orchestration" or "Auto Chord.") The rhythmic styles that sound when a fingered or one-finger mode is selected. Auto Accompaniment usually comprises a drum pattern, a bass line, and other enhancing sounds, like a piano arpeggio or a strummed guitar. BAR: A synonym for measure--musical time, a grouping of beats. BEAT: Literally, a single stroke or pulsation. Tempo is expressed in beats per minute. The beat value affects the metronome. [See also: TEMPO.]

Auto Correlation:
A process that determines optimum start and ending loop points to produce minimum discontinuity.


Band Pass Filter
A filter which allows only a selected band of frequencies to pass through while rejecting all other frequencies above and below the cutoff point. Usually a bandpass filter will allow the user to set the width of the passband.

On the Emulator III, the Bank is the total amount of data stored in RAM memory in the machine. The Bank contains all preset, sample data, and sequence data. The Bank does not include information stored on disk.

Baud Rate
The speed at which digital information is passed through a serial interface expressed in bits-per-second. MIDI data is transmitted at 31.25 KBaud or 31,250 bits per second.

Of or based on the number two or the binary numeration system (base 2). Digital computers use this form of numbering because the values of 0 and 1 can easily be represented by an open or closed switch.

A Bit is a single piece of information assigned a value of 0 or 1 as used in a digital computer. Computers use digital words which are combinations of bits. A Byte is a digital word consisting of eight Bits. The Emulator III uses a 16 bit number to represent a sound word. A 16 bit word can represent 65,536 different numbers.

Starting up a computer by loading a program that allows it to run other programs. The term comes from bootstrapping which means that the computer "pulls itself up by its own bootstraps."

When recording or sequencing, to bounce tracks means to combine (mix) several tracks together and record them on another track.

An area of computer memory that is used to temporarily store data.

An error in a computer program that causes it to work incorrectly. Very annoying.

Bulk Dump:
Denotes a series of system-exclusive messages. Sometimes, this involves transferring a mass of data, like several choruses of a song that have been stored in memory from the keyboard to the sequencer or vice versa. Settings at both ends must be coordinated. A keyboard "bulk dumps" to a sequencer as a system exclusive message (Sysex). Conversely, a keyboard can receive such data as a system exclusive message.

A computer word made up of eight bits of data.


An often-misunderstood command. It does not mean delete (e.g., the file) or "send it to the moon." It usually means, simply, turn off the display now on the screen.

(kar' de-oid') A directional microphone with a heart shaped, narrow pattern, which picks up from directly in front of the mic. Very useful for recording drums.

A list of all files stored on a disk or in a bank. Sometimes called a directory.

Unit of pitch equal to 1/100 of a semitone.

Center Detent
A notch in the center of a modulation wheel or lever which allows the performer to find the home position.

Channel, Output
The circuitry through which an instrument outputs individual notes.

Channel, MIDI
An information pathway through which MIDI information is sent. MIDI provides for 16 available channels, each of which can address one MIDI instrument.

Channel, MIDI Control
A MIDI Channel also contains information about which controllers are being varied. Assigning an Emulator III realtime control destination A or B lets another MIDI device's controllers control the EIII realtime control destination via the MIDI Control Channels.

An integrated circuit.

What happens when the sequencer receives too much continuous data. Result: Tempos slow down and speed up randomly. CHORD: Three or more tones sounded simultaneously preferably harmonious.

A voice doubling effect created by layering two identical sounds with a slight delay (20-50 ms) and slightly modulating the frequency of one or both of the sounds .

It's that sign at the beginning of a staff- -the one that determines pitch.

A steady pulse from a generator which is used for synchronizing sequencers, drum machines, etc. Common sequencer timing clock rates are 24, 48, or 96 pulses-per-quarter note. MIDI timing clocks run at a rate of 24 ppqn. The EIII clock runs at 96 ppqn.

A temporary holding place in RAM for what you last cut or copied.

Close Miking
A microphone placement technique which involves placing a microphone close to the sound source in order to pick up mainly direct sound, and avoid picking up reverberant sound.

Computer Interface
Hardware which enables a computer to communicate with other devices. A common example is a MIDI interface, which allows a computer to communicate with a musical instrument.

Condenser Mike
A microphone which converts sound pressure level variations into variations in capacitance and then into electrical voltage.

In MIDI, as in general computing, a code refers to program instruction. One type is a source code (human readable). Another is a machine code (executable).

Two activities that can be facilitated by MIDI-computing. The composer creates music. The arranger enhances it--by scoring for other voices or instruments.

In MIDI-computing, the process of compression and expansion refers to changing the range of a song. Compression makes the loud parts softer, the soft parts louder.

Continuos Data:
Controllers, pitch bend, aftertouch...

See Envelope Generator

(1) Most often, it means the instrument: keyboard, guitar, drums... (As in Master Controller.) (2) A second meaning, in sequencing, refers to a setting, a parameter, such as Controller 7 = Volume. In this sense, a controller is a MIDI event.

Controller Change:
This event will be displayed in the Event List editor. It refers to a change in the synthesizer setting. There are 128 controllers. Example: the loudness of notes. [See also: PROGRAM CHANGE.]

To make a copy of something, either a sound or segment, by selecting it and choosing the copy function from the module menu. What is copied is placed on the clipboard.

Count In:
A command in a sequencer that plays a metronome for several measures until you are ready to record.

Abbreviation for Central Processing Unit. The main component in a computer's microprocessor which performs calculations and executes instructions.

A gradual increase in volume. Antonym: Decrescendo.

To gradually fade out one sound while fading in another so that a seamless transition is made between the two sounds.

Foiled again. A visual indicator showing the position of the next entry.

Cut and Paste:
In word-processing, this function means moving text from one place in a document to another. In MIDI, one can copy a section of a musical passage and paste it elsewhere.

Cutoff Frequency
The frequency above which a low pass filter will start attenuating signals present at its input. Abbreviated Fc.


Traditionally, the damper pedal of an acoustical piano functioned to stop vibration of a piano string. (In contrast, the SUSTAIN pedal held or prolonged the note.) Unfortunately, sustain pedals on electronic pianos are often called "damper" pedals-- thus blurring the distinction. [See also: SUSTAIN.]

Information a computer needs in order to make decisions or carry out a particular action.

Data Bytes:
These follow the status byte in a MIDI message, e.g., what note has been struck, how hard... [See also: STATUS BYTE.]

The unit typically used to indicate the slope of a filter, or how fast the frequency response rolls off past the cutoff frequency. Example: A 24 dB/octave filter would attenuate an input signal by 24 dB one octave above the cutoff frequency, by 48 dB two octaves above the cutoff frequency, and so on.

The second stage in an ADSR type envelope generator. See ADSR.

Decibel (dB)
A reference for the measurement of sound energy. The minimum change in volume that the human ear can perceive. Named after Alexander Graham Bell. A decibel is 1/10th of a Bell.

Default Setting:
In MIDI, as in general computing, this is a choice made by the program (when the user does not specify an alternative).

A controllable time parameter giving the ability to start an event only after a predetermined amount of time.The Delay function on the EIII allows you to delay the start of a sound from 0 to 1.5 seconds from the time a key is pressed.

The amount of modulation. Sometimes called Amount, Width, Intensity or Modulation Index.

Design, Program: Two distinct functions. The designer of a sequencing piece of software, for example, conceives and plans the product and all its functions. The programmer addresses the issues of programming languages, data structures, how data is stored and manipulated, etc.

Equipment that uses quantities represented as binary numbers. In a digital synthesizer every aspect of the sound generation is handled as a numeric calculation. The digital information is not audible and so must be converted to analog form by a DAC before it is output.

Digital to Analog Converter (DAC)
A device which interprets Digital information and converts it to Analog form. All digital musical instruments must have a DAC so that we can hear their output.

A device that gives information in a visual form.

Distant Miking
A microphone placement technique which involves placing a microphone far from the sound source in order to pick up a high proportion of reverberant sound.

A file extension standing for "Dynamic link libraries." A DLL is part of an application's executable files, and is often used to link the application to the hardware.

The maestro's downward stroke, indicating the first beat of a measure. In contrast, the upbeat is unaccented.

Making a new recording of sound already recorded. Sometimes used to describe the process of mixing sounds from several sources into one recording.

The length of time (number of beats) of a note or chord.

Dynamic Allocation
On the EIII, Dynamic Allocation defeats any pre-assigned output channel assignments and assigns the output channels according to a modified circular algorithm.

Dynamic Mike
A microphone in which the diaphragm moves a coil suspended in a magnetic field in order to generate an output voltage proportional to the sound pressure level.

Dynamic Range
The range of the softest to the loudest sound that can be produced by an instrument. Or the range of the low and high signal levels obtainable by a velocity sensitive keyboard. The greater the Dynamic Range, the more sensitive the keyboard.


Editing, in MIDI, involves altering, deleting, revising the musical passages that have been captured in a digital recording, and are now displayed on the monitor screen. This display will offer two options: (1) The notes are listed by track and number, by event (like "Note on"), by the specific note G4, the beat, the channel, etc. (2) The second option for editing is to use a musical notation display. Here, the notes are arrayed in clefs, (a) like a piano-roll. or (b) in conventional musical notations. Editing options include changes in notes, measures, transpose, volume... (The piano-roll display is sometimes referred to as "graphic notation.")

Enable - Disable:
Antonyms, meaning to turn on or turn off. Synthesizers and sequencers have many controls requiring such action (like MIDI THRU).

A complimentary descriptive term, meaning a professional-looking job of printing music.

Beginners (trying to learn MIDI, for instance). They may be devoid of experience in computer engineering or in electronic music.

The changes of a tone, e.g., attack, sustain, decay, release.

Envelope Generator
A circuit, usually triggered by pressing a key on a keyboard, that generates a changing voltage with respect to time. This voltage typically controls a VCF or VCA. An AHDSR and ADSR are two types of Envelope Generators. See ADSR.

Equal Temperament
A Scaling system where the octave is divided into 12 equal parts. The ratio of the frequencies between any two adjacent notes is exactly the same. Most keyboard instruments are scaled in this manner. The EIII is normally tuned with Equal Temperament, but can be tuned to other relationships by the use of the tuning function in the Analog Processing Module.

A device which allows attenuation or emphasis of selected frequencies in the audio spectrum. Equalizers usually contain many bands to allow the user a fine degree of frequency control over the sound.

Error Message
A message shown in the display to alert the user that an error of some type has occurred.

In ordinary language, an occurrence, a happening. In MIDI, the signal that is transmitted-- like note on, note off, program change, control change... [See also: PROGRAM CHANGE, CONTROL CHANGE.]

Scans data in a sequence before the start-point of the recording. Looks for patch changes, for example.

An alphanumeric display of all MIDI events on a single track. Examples: notes, time signature, tempo, program changes, control changes...


Controls for changing effects gradually, like decreasing loudness.

Fast Fourier Transform
A computer algorithm which derives the fourier spectrum from a sound file.

See Cutoff Frequency

Traditional computing defines this as a location in a record. Examples: name, address, zip code, etc. Illustrative fields in MIDI: Song title, Track name, Instrument, Channel...

File Types
A MIDI File Type 0 is a single (multiple-channel) track. A MIDI File Type 1 contains one or more simultaneous tracks.

A device used to remove unwanted frequencies from an audio signal thus altering its harmonic structure. Low Pass filters are the most common type of filter found on music synthesizers. They only allow frequencies below the cutoff frequency to pass (Low Pass). High Pass filters only allow the high frequencies to pass, and Band Pass filters only allow frequencies in a selected band to pass through. A Notch filter rejects frequencies that fall within its notch.

Fingered Mode
Provides automatic rhythm, bass, and orchestral accompaniment. The bass and orchestral accompaniment reflect the notes in the chord of the left hand. [See also: AUTO ACCOMPANIMENT.]

An effect created by layering two identical sounds with a slight delay (1- 20 ms) and slightly modulating the delay of one or both of the sounds. The term comes from the early days of tape recording when delay effects were created by grabbing the flanges of the tape reels to change the tape speed.

Floppy Disk
A thin portable disk used to store digital data.

Fourier Spectrum
The description of a sound that is in terms of its distribution of energy versus frequency rather than its amplitude versus time (waveform).

The number of cycles of a waveform occurring in a second.

Frequency Modulation
The encoding of a carrier wave by variation of its frequency in accordance with an input signal.

Frequency Shift Keying. An audio tone (frequency) modulated by a square wave, which is used both for data transfer and also for sequencer and drum machine synchronization.

The first, lowest note of a harmonic series. The Fundamental frequency determines a sound's overall pitch.


The factor by which a device increases the amplitude of a signal. Negative gain will result in the attenuation of a signal.

When tracks are "ganged," they will move simultaneously. (Analogy: A variable capacitor in an early radio receiver.)

Gate Time
The length of a produced sound (e.g., legato, staccato).

General MIDI Mode
A convention specifying how a sequence (a song) should be constructed, so that it will play on a variety of hardware.

This effect plays the sound of a semitone below the pitch, then slides up to normal pitch.

A rapid slide through a series of consecutive tones in a scale like passage. On the Emulator III arpeggiator, when two notes are played with glissando on, every note in between the two notes will be played in a sequential order. Similar to portamento except that the pitch changes in semitone steps.

Global Editing
Affecting an entire file or program. Transpose is illustrative. The contrasting function is local editing, like changing one event.

Ground Loop
Hum caused by currents circulating through the ground side of a piece of equipment or system. This is due to grounding it at points of different voltage potential.

Graphical user interface. A display that permits a user to select commands, menu items--by pointing at an icon (with a mouse) and clicking.


Hard Disk
A storage medium for digital data which can hold more information and access it faster than a floppy disk.

Hardware Sequencer
Sequencing can be performed by software programs or by hardware. Hardware sequencers also work with synthesizers, controllers, sound modules--creating and editing songs. A hardware sequencer is--as the name implies--hardware, containing a single-purpose program, one designed to provide sequencing.

Harmonic Distortion
The presence of harmonics in the output signal of a device which were not present in the input signal.

A unit of frequency equal to 1 cycle per second. Named after Heinrich R. Hertz.

High Pass Filter
See Filter

A term that is used in the sense of introducing random irregularities in note-timing and velocities, in order to reduce the mechanical character of a performance. [See also: QUANTIZATION.]


Implementation Chart
Look for the MIDI Implementation Chart in the manual of your Master Controller (e.g., the keyboard). This will tell you what is transmitted (or recognized) for the various functions, like note number, the velocity (pressure on a key), aftertouch (change in pressure), pitch bender, control change, program change, system exclusive message, etc.

To bring data from one program into another. Antonym: Export, meaning to transfer to another program. (Some sequencer manuals use the term "Export" to mean: Convert and save--as a MIDI file-- preparatory to transferring elsewhere.)

Initial means the beginning. To initialize is to set a program to a starting position-- to prepare the program for use.

The selection of instruments in a MIDI arrangement.

The amount of modulation.

Intros and Fills
The Jazz Man's vamp--a couple of measures repeated before a solo.

Inverse Video
The reversal of light and dark on a screen character. Example: An indication of whether Automatic Rewind is on (enabled) or off (disabled).


Just Intonation
A system of tuning in which the distances between pitches are based on the natural harmonic series instead of the octave being equally divided.


Abbreviation for Kilo which is the same as 1000

Reminder: In MIDI-computing, one has to remember which one is involved in a documentation reference--the computer's or the controller's.

Keyboard Assignment
The assignment of specific sounds to an area of the keyboard. For example, the lowest octave could be drum sounds, the next octave could be an electric bass, the rest of the keyboard could have various piano samples assigned to it.

Key Signature
Musical notation shows this in terms of sharps and flats after the clef. Software sequencers sometimes show a song key as "F Major/D minor," and indicate the number of sharps or flats. B- flat Major/G Minor has two flats, for example. [See also: ACCIDENTALS.]


The ability to place or stack two or more sounds on the same area of the keyboard to create a denser sound.

Low Frequency Oscillator. An oscillator used for modulation whose range is below the audible range (20 Hz). Example: Varying pitch cyclically produces vibrato.

To transfer from one data storage medium to another. This is generally from disk to RAM memory or vice-versa, as opposed to saving from RAM to disk.

To prevent data from being edited, discarded or renamed, or to prevent entire banks or disks from being altered.

Looping is the process of repeating a portion of a sample over and over in order to create a sustaining sound. The looped sound will continue as long as the key is depressed. A sound is usually looped during a point in its evolution where the harmonics and amplitude are relatively static in order to avoid pops and glitches in the sound.

Low Note Priority
When more than one note is played on a monophonic synthesizer, only the lowest note will sound.

Low Pass Filter
A filter whose frequency response remains flat up to a certain frequency, then rolls off (attenuates signals appearing at its input) above this point.


Abbreviation for Mega which is the same as a million.

Something used to record a position. MIDI markers identify, for example, musical cues. They work like tab stops in a word-processor.

The process of identifying patches and keys, so that sound files can be played properly. A key map will translate values for MIDI messages, so that the correct keys will be played. A patch map functions to identify the correct patches (sounds, instruments).

Media Control Interface

Measure Delete
This command removes specified measures (like measures 4, 5, and 6). [See also: MEASURE ERASE.]

Measure Erase
The contents of specified measures are erased, but the length of the song is unchanged. [See also: MEASURE DELETE.]

Media Player
Microsoft's term for the Windows application that will control the playing of sound cards, CD-ROM drives, and videodisc players. It will also play MIDI sequencer files. '

One of the elements of music (the others being harmony and rhythm). Melody is a succession of tones--hopefully pleasing.

The part of a computer responsible for storing data.

To combine or blend into one. Example: Merging two tracks.

The net effect of MIDI-computing is sound: melodies, harmonies, rhythms... But the MIDI message (the MIDI event) itself is not a sound. Transmitted are digital commands--about 1,000 events per second.

Meta Events
In ordinary language, the prefix META often means above or beyond. In computing, a METAcharacter conveys information about other characters. In MIDI, a meta event would be illustrated by such things as track name, patch name, tempo, time signature, etc. Meta events are contrasted with data streams.

The basic pattern of note values, e.g., beats per measure. [See also: TIME SIGNATURE.]

A device to mark time by producing a repeated tick. The older type--a triangular box with a vibrating arm--was succeeded by an electrical unit. In MIDI, the ticks are computer-generated. MIDI: A protocol. The musical instrument digital interface comprises a MIDI card and cables connecting the computer to an electronic instrument, such as a keyboard. The MIDI card (a printed circuit board) is normally mounted in an expandable slot inside the computer. Keyboard synthesizers can also communicate with other synthesizers by means of a MIDI connection.

Acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI enables synthesizers, sequencers, computers, rhythm machines, etc. to be interconnected through a standard interface. MIDI is an asynchronous, serial interface, which is transmitted at the rate of 31.25 KBaud or 31,250 bits per second.

MIDI Clock
Allows instruments interconnected via MIDI to be synchronized. The MIDI Clock runs at a rate of 24 pulses-per-quarter-note.

MIDI Continuous Controller
Allows continuously changing information such as pitch wheel or breath controller information to be passed over the MIDI line. Continuous controllers use large amounts of memory when recorded into a MIDI sequencer. Some standard MIDI Continuous Controller numbers are listed below although the EIII allows you to assign controllers and destinations to any Continuous Controller channel.

PWH = Pitch Wheel
CHP = Pressure
1 = Modulation Wheel
2 = Breath Controller
3 = (Pressure on Rev. 1 DX7)
4 = Foot Pedal
5 = Portamento Time
6 = Data Entry
7 = Volume
8 = Balance
10 = Pan
11 = Expression Controller
16-19 = General purpose controllers 1-4 (High Res.)
64 = Sustain Switch (on/off)
65 = Portamento Switch (on/off)
66 = Sustenuto (chord hold)
67 = Soft Pedal (on/off)
69 = Hold Pedal 2 (on/off)
80-83 = General purpose controllers 5-8 (Low Res.)
91 = External Effects Depth
92 = Tremolo Depth
93 = Chorus Depth
94 = Detune
95 = Phaser Depth
96 = Data Increment
97 = Data Decrement

MIDIex File
Created by saving the current contents of the buffer. MIDIEX is a standard format containing raw MIDI data without a header (a line identifying the program).

MIDI Mapper
Microsoft's utility program, which can help in remapping patch, channel, etc. during playback.

MIDI Pitch Wheel Switch
Determines whether continuous controller information (e.g., note on, key pressure, control change, program change...) will be recorded.

MIDI Sound Generator
For authentic reproduction of acoustical instruments. It uses samples--instrument sounds stored as digitized audio. This is actually another term for synthesizer--converting MIDI events into real audio sound.

One of three ports (connections): MIDI In, MIDI Out, and MIDI Thru. MIDI In receives information from other equipment. MIDI Out sends information to other equipment. MIDI Thru duplicates the information, and sends it to other equipment. By means of the latter, a synthesizer can echo messages to other synthesizers.

In music, one usually thinks of modulating as passing from one key to another--by means of intermediate chords. In MIDI, modulation usually means applying a vibrato effect to a sound.

Modulation Index
The depth of modulation when performing frequency modulation.

Module Identifier
The screen that displays information about what module is currently activated.

A musical instrument that is only capable of playing one note at a time. Music with only one voice part.

MPU-401 Compatible
The reference is to a standard interface. (It derives from Roland's initial design.) Importance: MS DOS MIDI software often supports this user base, but not always.

In sequencing, a multi- timbral sound module can play several parts on different channels simultaneously. A multi-timbral device is one that is prepared to sound like more than one instrument at a time.

A way to record a complex musical piece by dividing it into simple tracks, and combining the tracks during playback.

Multi-track recording
Normally, one records on a single track ("Normal Mode" recording). Multi-track recording is feasible, however. Example: From a guitar, with each string on a different channel.

Multi-voice mode
A setting on a multi-timbral tone generator (such as a keyboard) for receiving multiple MIDI channels, each channel having a different voice (instrument).

Musical Score
Most often, the written copy of a musical composition. Compose in MIDI, print the notation, and (voila!) there it is.

A sequencer command to turn off specified tracks. Reason: So you can listen exclusively to one track. [See also: SOLO.]


That disturbance of a signal that might occur if your MIDI cables are too long--exceeding 15 meters in length, for example.

Normal mode
When a (controller) keyboard has this setting (as contrasted with split, or fingered modes), the sounds are all of one voice--from the lowest note to the highest. In this mode, the resemblance is to an acoustical instrument. [See also: SPLIT MODE, FINGERED MODE.]

A digital processing function that increases the amplitude of a sound file until the peak amplitude of its loudest sample reaches 100% of full scale.


Octave Notation
MIDI software and electronic keyboards use notations like F4 to represent the specific note (F) located in the 4th octave of an acoustical piano.

Open command
Loads an existing disk file.

Distortion which is caused by exceeding the dynamic range of a circuit.


(Sometimes "Multi-pads"). On keyboards-- where you store percussive sounds.

To pan is to move the sound between full left and full right in a stereo sound field. It resembles the "balance" function of a stereo receiver- amplifier.

To move an audio signal from one output to the other. Panning a sound between two speakers changes the apparent position of the sound.

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

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.

A tough word to define. In mathematics, it's a variable or an arbitrary constant. In MIDI, it's a value assigned at the beginning of an operation. Examples: pitch bend, sustain, voice number, volume, reverb...

Referring to a particular sound created on a synthesizer. Comes from the use of patch cords on the original modular synthesizers.

Patch layout
A potential source of trouble for MIDI users. Manufacturers of synthesizers have not standardized the correspondence between patches and numbers. On a Roland keyboard, the Celeste patch number might be 24; on a Yamaha 09. Microsoft's MIDI Mapper is designed to help rectify this. [See also: MIDI MAPPER.]

Establishing a pattern, e.g., a bass drum beat, then embellishing it.

Pulse code modulation--a process of digital recording.

A percussive instrument is sounded by striking or shaking. Examples: Bass drum, snare, bongo, cymbal, high-hat... By extension, the term also encompasses so-called "background sounds," like wind chimes, thunder, voices...

Piano-roll Editor
A common notation used for editing by many sequencers. The notes of each track are shown as horizontal bars--the vertical position representing pitch; the horizontal length representing duration of the note (or chord). [See also: EDIT; EVENT LIST EDITOR.]

The property of a musical tone--determined by frequency.

Pitch bend wheel
A wheel on the keyboard that allows notes to be bent up or down. (Example: a sliding trombone sound.) "Pitch bend" is a MIDI message.

Computer hardware. Some MIDI software will run on one platform (e.g., IBM PC's) but not on another (e.g., Macintosh).

In the realm of MIDI-computing, the sequencer is still the Virtuoso. But MIDI players are prominent too. They play the sound files. They compile Play Lists of songs, and sometimes group them into albums.

Play list
A list of tunes to be performed in succession. The sequence is pre-programmed.

From the Greek, meaning variety of tones. In MIDI, the question is: "How many notes can be played simultaneously?" Maximum polyphony cannot be exceeded.

It's a location in hardware where data is passed in and out. In setting up MIDI, one must make port assignments, so that channels can be correctly addressed.

Port Address and Interrupt Settings
Addresses are locations within the computer. These addresses are used by devices (such as a MIDI keyboard) to communicate with the software. An interrupt setting signals when the device is ready to send or receive data. Addresses and interrupts must be unique for each device.

Pulses per quarter-note. A measurement of time resolution.

A preprogrammed 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.

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.

Program change
Like controller change, this event will be displayed in the Event List Editor. An illustrative program change would be the introduction of a new voice (instrument). [See also: CONTROLLER CHANGE.]

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.

The tick of a computer clock is sometimes referred to as a "pulse." Example: One clock pulse might be defined as 1/240th of a quarter-note.

A feature that allows automatic on-off recording at specified points.

When recording, punching in over-writes a previously recorded track starting at the punch in point.

When recording, punching out stops the recording process started by a punch in, thus preserving the previously recorded track starting at the punch out point.


The figure expressing a filter's resonance. Varying Q varies the sharpness of the filter sound.

A function on some sequencers which modifies the information in its memory to improve the rhythmic accuracy and correct playing errors.


Radio button
A small circle in a menu display. When it is pressed (clicked), it will activate an option.

Acronym for Random Access Memory. The memory in a computer in a computer that stores data temporarily while you are working on it. Data stored in RAM is lost forever when power is interrupted to the machine if it has not been saved to another medium, such as floppy or hard disk.

In MIDI, there are two types of recording procedures: (1) real-time; (2) step-time. The former resembles traditional recording--as with a tape recorder. Step-time recording is really sequential: note-by-note, chord-by-chord.

Realtime Controls
Occurring in actual time or live.

In the world of sound, to register something reproducible on a disk, like a phonograph record, or on magnetic tape. Traditional recording captures the amplitude (height) and frequency (number) of wave forms. MIDI-computing does not really "record." It encodes messages, digitally--by means of numbers. Because of established usage, however, the words "record" and "recording" often appear in MIDI- computing, along with "play," "rewind," "fast forward," etc. In MIDI-computing, these words are really metaphors. A typical sequencer will "record" all of the MIDI events received, along with the time they were received.

Keyboards, like computers, sometimes "lock up." To restore normal operation, the System Reset is used. There is another meaning in MIDI software: Reset means to return to the first measure.

A frequency at which a material object will vibrate. In a filter with resonance, a signal will be accentuated at the cutoff frequency. See Q.

In music, a rhythmic silence. Examples: a 2-beat rest, a quarter-note rest.

Retarding. A direction to slow down gradually.

RS 422
A high-speed serial communication port which allows data to be transferred to and from an external computer at a very high rate (500K baud).


Emulating the sound of an acoustical instrument by digitizing (converting to digital sound) the waveforms produced by the instrument.

Sample Rate
When digitally sampling a signal, the rate at which level measurements of the signal are taken.

Save as...
If no filename has yet been assigned, this is the command to use. If your MIDI file has already been christened, and you have edited it, the appropriate command is Save.

Acronym for Small Computer Systems Interface. An industry standard interface that provides high-speed access to peripheral devices such as hard disk drives, optical discs, WORM drives, etc.

The port on the back of the EIII to which SCSI devices are connected.

Appearing in succession--one at a time. MIDI messages, for instance, as displayed in an Event List.

Serial Interface
A computer interface in which data is passed over a single line, one bit at a time. The MIDI interface is an example of a serial interface.

A device which steps through a series of events. A digital sequencer may record keyboard data, program changes, or realtime modulation data to be played back later much like a tape recorder or player piano. Digital sequencers use memory on the basis of events (key on, key off, etc.) while a tape recorder uses memory (tape) on the basis of time.

Sequencer Memory
It is in RAM (Random Access Memory). It is measured in the number of events that can be accommodated.

Signal Processing
The art of modifying an existing sound through the use of electronic circuitry.

An input-device to increase or decrease volume. Also refers to an on-screen image (like a button control) that one can move with a mouse.

A grid consists of two sets of lines that crisscross. A snap-to-grid feature facilitates step-entry of notes.

Usually indicates a standardized time code developed by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. The time code is used in the MIDI world as a way of synchronizing MIDI to external events.

If you want to listen exclusively to one track, you can mute all other tracks. Alternative: Select a track to "solo" (a feature that some sequencing programs offer). [See also: MUTE.]

Song Clear
To erase the contents of all tracks. [See also: TRACK CLEAR.]

Any device is part of the system's hardware. Examples: a printer, mouse, modem, etc. A sound device might be, for instance, a MIDI synthesizer, a CD-ROM drive, a videodisc player.

Device drivers are software that control communication between devices (a mouse, printer, modem...) and the computer. A sound-driver controls the sound card or the sound device, such as a MIDI-compatible synthesizer. The sound driver must be correctly configured for your computer.

The component in a device (such as a keyboard) that produces the sound (e.g., a violin melody, a drum rhythm). This is another term for MIDI sound generator.

MIDI information which allows equipment to remain in sync even if the master device has been fast forwarded. MIDI Song Pointer (sometimes called MIDI Song Position Pointer) is an internal register (in the sequencer or autolocator) which holds the number of MIDI beats since the start of the song.

Microsoft's Windows accessory that can play, record, and edit sound files in the WAVE (non-MIDI) format.

Speed; Pitch
Perhaps the most important capacity of a sequencer. Tempo can be changed without affecting pitch. Thus, a difficult passage can be recorded slowly, then played at a faster tempo--with no change in pitch.

Divides a keyboard into two sections, each of which can play a different instrument. Example: From the split-point (like C#3), the left hand can be producing the sounds of an organ, while the right hand plays a flute melody line. [See also: NORMAL MODE.]

In a split mode, the location on a keyboard where one voice (instrument) is differentiated from another. G2, for example, might be set to allow one voice (say, choir) in the left hand, another voice (say, violin) in the right hand. [See also: NORMAL MODE.]

Standard MIDI File
Identified by its extension (.MID, sometimes .MFF or .SMF), this is a file that can store MIDI messages, such as songs. The data in a MIDI file can be played, manipulated, edited... A MIDI file comprises actions performed on an instrument (keys pressed, how hard...) There is a standard MIDI file format. A principal advantage of a MIDI file: It uses comparatively little disk space, but, more importantly, it is a standard across platforms and sequencers.

Status byte
In a MIDI message, this announces what kind of message is being sent, e.g., "note-on." [See also: DATA BYTES.]

Plural of staff--those horizontal lines and spaces.

Step Time
A sequencer mode where events are entered one at a time.

Stomp Boxes
Floor pedals for enhancing tones, used principally by guitarists.

Subtractive Synthesis
The process of constructing a sound by starting with a complex sound and then removing harmonics with a filter. A low pass filter is most commonly used. The cutoff frequency of the filter is usually dynamically varied, which changes the harmonics that are removed. Using the low pass filter on the Emulator III to alter the sound is a form of subtractive synthesis.

An Emulator III MIDI function designed to enhance the Sequencer/MIDI interface. It maps data occurring on a specific MIDI channel to a specific preset within the bank. Similar to standard MIDI Omni Off/Mono mode, but more flexible. Each channel can contain polyphonic note data.

To sustain is to hold a note (or a chord). The musical tones fade out gradually. [See also: DAMPER.]

To make synchronous or simultaneous. Example: to synchronize a drum pattern to play with melodies and chords on a synthesizer. MIDI synchronization is a coordinating function--involving a sync signal.

Changing a regular metrical accent, e.g., by coming in early or late on a beat. It is a form of rhythmic improvisation. [See also: JAZZ.]

(Often shortened to synth.) A device driven by a microprocessor, which contains a programmable chip. Examples of instruments that can control synthesizers: Guitar, keyboard, wind, string, drum controllers. The keyboard itself does not produce musical sound. A synthesizer circuit, built into the keyboard, accomplishes this function. Originally, a synthesizer was so called because it synthesized acoustic instruments. Nowadays, the term refers to the sound-generating circuitry of any MIDI gear. Another term is sound module.

Short for a System Exclusive Message. Illustrative data: voices, drum patterns...


A digital signal processing function that fades a sound in or out between two points. Tapering permanently modifies a sound.

In music, the rate of speed (like allegretto). Electronic keyboards provide controls to set or change tempo. A quarter-note setting may range from 40 to 240 beats per minute. Software sequencers also set and change tempo. Examples of tempo settings: Viennese waltz 190 bpm; disco-rock 104 bpm; swing 166 bpm. Sequencers display the exact beat (e.g., beat number 29) of the music being recorded or played. [See also: BEAT.]

Terminating Resistors
Also called a terminator. A group of resistors that should be placed on the SCSI cable before the last device on a SCSI chain. Usually the terminating resistor is built inside the SCSI device. There should be no more than two terminators in a SCSI chain: one at the start, built into the EIII, and one at the end.

Tone color. The quality of a sound that distinguishes it from other sounds with the same pitch and volume.

The number of clock ticks per beat. Illustrative range: 120-768.

In traditional musical notations, this is expressed as a fractional sign, like 3/4. The denominator indicates the unit for the beat; the numerator shows the number of notes per measure. [See also: METER.]

Tone generator
Essentially, a synthesizer without a keyboard.

Touch response
A feature of some electronic keyboards, enabling one to control loudness according to how hard the keys are pressed.

In MIDI, the term "track" designates a location where one records or plays back a musical message---usually a portion of the total arrangement. To illustrate, one might record an oboe melody line on Track Two, then record a bowed bass line on Track Three. When played, the sounds can be simultaneous. Most MIDI software now accommodates 64 tracks of music, enough for a rich orchestral sound. Important: Tracks are purely for convenience; channels are required. [See also: CHANNEL.]

To erase the contents of a specific track. [See also: SONG CLEAR.]

To merge the contents of two tracks and store in a third track.

Names like "melody line," "bass line," "left hand," etc. are assigned to tracks to help determine the instrumentation of a sequence.

The word has been used extensively in music. Example: arranging for some instrument or voice other than the original. In MIDI, a common usage refers to converting a MIDI file into musical notation for printing. This is accomplished by notation software.

To perform a musical composition in a different key. Both synthesizers and sequencers can carry out this function.

A cyclic change in amplitude, usually in the range of 7 to 14 Hz. Usually achieved by routing a LFO (low frequency oscillator) to a VCA (voltage controlled amplifier).

When manipulating a sample, truncation shortens a sample's length by trimming off parts of the beginning and/or end.

440 Hertz is the normal tuning value. However, the pitch of a synthesizer can be altered-- raised or lowered. Changes in the tune value are expressed as plus or minus cents.

A triplet always designated three notes over two beats. The word "Tuplet" is a generic term-- in fancy language "non-integral duration values." Think of quintuplets (5) or sextuplets (6). (Notes, not offspring from a single birth.)


This command could be a life-saver. It reverses your last mistake, such as inadvertently recording or inserting MIDI data. "REDO" undoes an "UNDO."

A popular "buzzword" in computing. Synonym: Intuitive. It means directly comprehended. For many users, a method of pointing at icons and clicking is more "user-friendly" than entering many keystrokes to select menu-items, like commands. Intuitive programs are more quickly grasped by the "computer-naive" (another buzzword).


Voltage Controlled Amplifier. A circuit whose gain is determined by a control voltage.

Voltage Controlled Filter. A filter whose cutoff frequency or resonant frequency is determined by a control voltage.

Velocity Sensitivity
A keyboard which can respond to the speed at which a key is depressed; this corresponds to the dynamics with which the player plays the keyboard. Velocity is an important function as it helps translate the performer's expression to the music. Velocity can be routed to many destinations on the Emulator III and is also translated over the MIDI line.

A cyclic change in pitch, usually in the range of 7 to 14 Hz.

Volatile Memory
Memory which loses its data when power is removed. The RAM memory in the Emulator II is volatile, the data on the hard disk is non-volatile.

Voltage Pedal
A pedal which outputs a control voltage which is dependant on its position.


A representation of a wave's amplitude over time.

Write Protect
To protect data (either on a disk or in memory) from being written to, although data can still be read.


Zero Crossing
The point where the polarity of an electrical or sampled signal changes from positive to negative (or vice-versa) as it passes through zero. A zero crossing provides a convenient point to splice two sounds because the levels of the two splice points are the same at zero volts.

To magnify the image on a monitor screen-- especially useful when editing notes in Standard MIDI files.