gaffer – (1) The chief of the lighting and/or electtrical department on a film crew. (2) Short for gaffer tape.
gaffer tape – a tough, wide cloth tape designed for temporarily fastening cables to the stage floor or other surfaces to prevent tripping, although it often used for many other applications. Unlike common duct tape which has a rubber-based adhesive, it uses a synthetic adhesive that leaves no gummy residue. Also called gaffer's tape, gaff tape, gaff or gaffa.
gain stage – any point (stage) in an audio signal path where the level (gain) of the signal can be adjusted. Essentially any place the signal encounters a level control is considered a gain stage.
gain staging – the process of optimizing signallevels at each stage in a signal path to maximize signal strength while minimizing noise. It is desirable to match the level at each stage in the signal path. Raising a signal extremely high at one stage and reducing it at another will tend to reduce dynamic range and raise the noise level.
gain structure – the way in which gain staging is implemented within an audio system.
gap depth – the dimension of the head gap measured in the direction perpendicular to the surface of the tape head.
gap length – the dimension of the head gap measured from one pole face to the other on a tape head, in the direction of tape travel.
gap loss – the loss in signal output due to the gap length of the playback head. The loss increases as the wavelength decreases, equal to approximately 4 dB when the wavelength is twice the gap length, and the output becomes zero when the wavelength is approximately 1.15 times the gap length.
GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome (or sometimes Guitar Acquisition Syndrome). An urge or borderline obsessive compulsive disorder that makes some people want to acquire and accumulate more and more gear. This term is commonly applied to (a) guitarists, who want more guitars, guitar amplifiers, pedals, etc., (b) keyboardists, who want more keyboards, synthesizers, samplers, etc., (c) drummers, who want more drums, drumsticks, percussion instruments, etc., (d) studio engineers, who want more microphones, cables, effects processors, etc., (e) photographers, needing more cameras, lenses, filters, flashes, etc., and (f) other similar gear-driven professions.
GatesAir – a company headquartered in Mason, Ohio, that manufactures, markets, and services broadcast equipment. The company was founded by Parker Gates in 1922 in Quincy, Illinois as the Gates Radio Company. In 1957, the company was acquired by Harris Intertype Corporation, which became the Harris Corporation. In 1972, it expanded into television broadcasting equipment when it bought the TV equipment line of General Electric. It changed the company name to Harris Broadcast in 1975. In 2013, it was acquired by the Gores Group, and a year later it was split into two companies: Imagine Communications Corp., a software and networking company, and GatesAir, the broadcast equipment company.
Gates Sta-Level – a compressor introduced in 1956, made by the Gates Radio Company. Because of its low cost, it was used extensively at pop radio stations throughout the US in the 1960s. It provided mild, automatic gain control with simple-to-use controls using ordinary vacuum tubecircuitry. They also found use in recording studios at the time. Today they are quite rare and command a high price. Retro Instruments has introduced a re-creation of the Sta-Level.
gauge B phone plug –a phone plug with a 0.25-in (6.35-mm) diameter, but with a smaller tip and a recessed ring so that the tip and ring of the plug does not touch the ground contact of the jack. This plug was the original telephone switchboard connector and is still used in broadcast, telecommunications, and professional audio applications. Conventional phone plugs are designated gauge A. Also called a BPO plug or PO 316 plug.
gauss (G or Gs) – the cgs unit for a magnetic field, named after German mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss. One gauss equals 10‑4tesla, the SI unit.
GE – General Electric. A multinational conglomerate headquatered in Fairfield, Connecticut. It operates through four divisions: Energy, Technology Infrastructure, Capital Finance, and Consumer and Industrial. The conglomerate has grown through many acquistiions, such as RCA (which originally spun off from GE), Enron Wind, Universal Pictures, Dresser, and many more.
general MIDI 2 (GM2) – an extension introduced in 1999 of the general MIDI standard, to provide higher quality and increased standardization of general MIDI files. GM2 increased voices from 24 to 32, increased patches from 128 to 256, and defined more continuous controllers.
generation loss – the degradation in signal quality, such as increases in hiss, distortion, and noise, that occurs each time an analog recording is copied. This is normally not a problem with digital copies.
generator locking – a technique for synchronizingvideo signals in which a sync signal is sent from the master source to the slave source to lock onto (follow) the master. Synchronization of signals at combining or switching points prevent screen flicker or rolling. Called genlock for short.
genre – a category of literary, artistic, or musical composition characterized by a its style, form, or content. There are many genres of music, many of them overlapping, including rock 'n' roll, country, poplular, jazz, classical, blues, hip-hop, folk, R&B, hard rock, Tejano, Americana, Latin, punk, heavy metal, and rap to name just a few.
geometric mean – a type of average, that is defined as the nth root of the product of n numbers. (A geometric mean can only be calculated for sets of positive real numbers.) The geometric mean can also be calculated as the exponential of the arithmetic mean of the logarithm of the values. It is useful for calculating the center frequency of a filter when the upper and lower frequencies are known, using the formula fC = square root (fU × fL). See also arithmetic mean, harmonic mean, and median.
Georg Neumann GmbH – a manufacturer of professional recording microphones founded in Berlin, Germany, in 1928 as Georg Neumann & Company. Contrary to popular opinion, Neumann did not invent the condenser microphone, but produced the world's first commercially available condenser, the CMV-3. During World War II, Neumann's factory in Berlin was damaged by Allied bombing, and Georg Neumann moved the company to the town of Gefell in Thuringia, a state in eastern Germany, where he resumed production in 1944. After the war, Georg Neumann relocated to one of the Allied sectors of Berlin and re-established his company as Georg Neumann GmbH. Meannwhile, Thuringia had come under Soviet control, and the company in Gefell became a state-run enterprise in East Germany. It continued to manufacture microphones using the Neumann name until the reunification of Germany in 1990. It then assumed the name of Microtech Gefell. In 1949 Georg Neumann GmbH began producing the U-47, based on the M-7 capsule of the earlier CMV-3. The U-47 microphone became the first condenser microphones to achieve widespread use in the recording industry worldwide. Neumann arranged to have the microphones sold and distributed by Telefunken, who applied their nameplate to the microphone until 1959. Telefunken never manufactured any microphones during that period, but distributed several microphones under its name from other companies such as Neumann and AKG. In 1991, Georg Neumann GmbH, being near bankruptcy, was acquired by Sennheiser.
ghost bend – a guitar technique in which a string is silently bent up before it is plucked and released after it is plucked to create a note that drops in pitch. The effect is similar to a dive bomb using a tremolo bar. Also called a reverse bend or pre-bend.
ghost note – (1) A music note with a rhythmic value, but no discernible pitch. On stringed instruments, a ghost note is played by sounding a mutedstring so that it is more of a percussive sound than an obvious pitch. In musical notation, it is represented with an “X” for the note head instead of an oval or by parentheses or brackets around the note head. Also called dead note, muted note, silenced note, or false note. (2) An accidental note created when playing a MIDIinstrument when the note is not depressed hard enought to be heard. (3) Slang for edge yowl.
gibi- – one of the new binary prefixes approved by the IEC and used to distinguish between binary and decimal prefixes, i.e. gibi represents 1,073,741,824 = 230 versus giga which represents 1,000,000,000 = 109. For example, you would use 24 gibibits, abbreviated 24 Gib, or 24 gigabits, abbreviated 24 Gb.
Gibson Guitar Corporation – a company that designs and builds guitars based in Nashville, Tennessee, a division of Gibson Brands. The company was founded in Kalamazoo, Michigan, by Orville Gibson in 1902 as The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
gig – (1) A booking, job, or perfromance by a musician. (2) To work as a musician. (3) Slang for giga, especially using gigs to mean gigabytes.
giga- (G) – the SI prefix for a factor of one trillion, 1,000,000,000 or (109). See also gibi-.
giraffe – a microphoneboom having a counterweighted arm mounted on a tripod, often having casters.
glass master – a glass disc used to create the stamper from which compact discs are pressed. Glass masters are produced in clean rooms since dust particles and other contaminants can cause serious errors on the final disc. A glass disc, 24 cm (9.4 in) in diameter and 6 mm (0.24 in) thick, is polished to a very smooth surface, cleaned, and then coated with a light-sensitive material that is etched with pits using a laser beam recorder. It is electroplated with a layer of nickel, which is then used to create the stamper.
glassy – a descriptive term for a sound that is too bright. Similar to glary.
glissando – a glide from one musical note to another. Although similar to portamento, it is slightly different as glissando is smoother and more continuous, while portamento is a more rapid pitch change that occurs at the end of the note. It differs from legato, which is playing notes contiguously by jumpinmg from one note to the next. It is an Italian term derived from the French verb glisser, to glide. Also called a glissando slide or simply slide. See also slur.
glockenspiel – a percussion musical instrument, consisting of two rows of tuned metal bars that are played with a pair of knobbed beaters, producing a high-pitched, bell-like sound. It is similar to a xylophone except the bars on a xylophone are made of wood, while the glockenspiel is usually smaller and higher pitched.
Glyn Johns method – a drum miking technique using four microphones developed by recording engineer, producer, and musician Glyn Johns. It uses close miking on the kick drum (usually with a dynamic mic) and on the snare drum (dynamic) and two overhead mics (typically condensers or ribbon mics), placed 3 to 4 feet above the drum kit, with one overhead directly over the snare and the other slightly to the left or right, but each the same distance from the snare. Sometimes called the Glyn Johns technique or the triangle method.
gobo – a portable isolation panel used to reduce sound leakage between microphones. Short for go between. Also called an acoustic screen, movable screen, movable panel, or screen.
God mic – slang for a microphone that can be heard everywhere within a space, often with the person speaking being unseen, frequently used by sound engineer, stage managers, or directors to communicate with the people on stage during setup, rehearsals, or sound checks or for general announcements to an audience. See also talkback.
golden ratio – the ratio, designated by the Greek letter phi (φ), found by dividing a line into two parts so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part. It is exactly equal to (1+√5)/2 or approximately equal to 1.618033988749894848204586834... It was first discovered by the Greeks and was considered to be very pleasing to the eye. It has been admired and used by artists, architects, scientists, and mathematicians. Although it is sometimes used for room ratios, most authorities generally discount the golden ratio as being useful in acoustics. Also called the golden section, golden mean, extreme ratio, mean ratio, medial section, divine proportion, divine section, golden proportion, golden cut, and golden number.
golpeador – a thin piece of white or transparent plastic affixed to the soundboard of a flamenco guitar, usually both above and below the sound hole. It is not a pickguard as picks are not used in flamenco. The golpeador provides a stable surface for the percussive tapping with the fingers and fingernails (called the golpe technique) a feature of flamenco music. Also called a tap plate.
goniometer – a display of a Lissajous figure that shows the amount phase difference in a dual-channel stereo signal. It allows a sound technician to monitor and optimize the stereo image. When a goniometer is used to meter surround sound, it is called a jellyfish display.
Grace Design – a company founded by Michael and Eben Grace in the early 1990s and located in Lyons, Colorado, that designs and manufactures consumer and professional audio equipment.
grace note – a musical note added as an ornament, usually printed smaller sometimes with a slash through the note stem to indicate that it is melodically and harmonically nonessential.
Gracenote, Inc. – a company founded in 1998 and headquartered in Emeryville, California, that maintains and licenses an online database containing information about the contents of audio compact discs called the CDDB. The company was formerly known as CDDB.
grace note – a musical note added as an ornament, usually printed smaller sometimes with a slash through the note stem to indicate that it is melodically and harmonically nonessential.
grainy – a desriptive term for music that sounds like it is sliced into tiny grains, rather than flowing continuously. Graininess can be caused by poor digital resolution or a poorly performing A/D converters.
gram (g) – a unit of mass in the CGS system equal one thousandth of a kilogram or approximately 0.035 ounces.
gramophone – (1) An early phonograph (disc player) made by the Gramophone Company. The gramophone was patented in 1887 by German immigrant Emile Berliner. Berliner was the first inventor to record on flat disks (records). Originally the disks were made of glass, but later changed to zinc and eventually to plastic. These disks were the first sound recordings that could be mass-produced by creating master recordings from which molds were made, allowing hundreds of disks to be pressed from each mold. (2) A machine that reproduces sound from a record, consisting of a turntable that spins a rotating disc or cylinder (the record) at a constant speed and a stylus that travels along a groove and detects vibrations that are converted into sound, which is amplified and played over a loudspeaker (or in earlier models, an acoustic horn). Originally, the term was used only for disc players while the phonograph was used only for machines using cylinders. However, the term gramophone has come into prominent usage in the UK for all record players while the term phonograph became the prominent term in the US. Also called a record player.
Grammy® – the annual awards for outstanding achievement in the US music industry presented by The Recording Academy. The name is a short version of gramophone, the original name of the award.
Gramophone Company Limited – one of the early recording companies, which was based in the UK, and was the parent company for the His Master's Voice (HMV) label. The company merged with Columbia Graphophone Company in 1931 to form Electric and Musical Industries Limited (EMI), but continued to use the title of The Gramophone Company Limited in the UK until the 1970s.
grand piano – a large, full-size piano with a horizontal body, strings, and soundboard, with a keyboard on the front and usually supported on three legs. Grand pianos exist in three sizes: baby grand, boudoir grand, and concert grand.
granular synthesis – a technique of assembling segments of sounds called grains into created sounds. Although very complex sounds can be created using this process, until recently the computer power needed to do this made it impractical, but now some game consoles are becoming powerful enough to use the technique. See also granulation.
granulation – a process of segmenting a sampled sound into very small elements called grains. These grains can be reassembled into almost limitless combinations, a process called granular synthesis.
Graphophone – the trademark of an improved version of the phonograph developed by Charles Sumner Tainter and Chichester Bell at the Volta Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Among other improvements the Graphophone use wax-coated cardboard cylinders, instead of cast iron cylinders covered with tinfoil as used by Edison. Using wax resulted in improved sound fidelity, longer recordings, and increased longevity. Instead of the manual crank used on Edison's phonograph, Graphophones used foot treadles to rotate the cylinders. Later they used wind-up clockwork drive mechanisms, which eventually were replaced by electric motors. The Graphophone was produced and sold susscessively by the Volta Graphophone Company, the American Graphophone Company, the North American Phonograph Company, and finally by the Columbia Phonograph Company (which became Columbia Records).
grave – a musical term indicating a slow and solemn tempo, typically 20 to 40 bpm. See chart of tempo terms.
Green Book – a subset of the White Book that specifies an operating system, application programming interface, and playback hardware for CD-Interactive (CD-I). Only Philips supports this standard. See also Red Book
green noise – an unofficial term for random noise with several definitions: (1) The mid-frequency component of white noise, as used in some forms of colored dithering (dithering that uses random noise). (2) Bounded Brownian noise. (3) “The background noise of the world,” a noise simulating that of natural settings with no man-made noise. It is determined by averaging noise over a long period of time at a number of outdoor sites around the world. It is similar to pink noise with an emphasis around 500 Hz. See noise colors.
grid – (1) The vertical lines that in many DAWs extend downward across the tracks to indicate the position of bars and beats or time divisions of the timeline. Also called grid lines. (2) Short for grid bias.
grid bias – in a vacuum tube, the element that controls the current flow (flow of electrons) from the cathode to the plate (anode). It acts as an amplifier, taking a relatively small input signal on the grid and generating a relatively large signal output at the plate. It consists of a wire wound around two posts or is sometimes shaped like a basket. The wire is made of tungsten or molybdenum and sometimes is plated with gold. Sometimes called a control grid or grid for short. See also screen grid.
grid mode – one of four methods of editing in Pro Tools in which clips that are added or moved snap to a user defined grid or quantization value. The grid can be defined based on musical values (quarter notes, eighth notes, etc.) or time values (seconds, milliseconds, etc.). This mode allows you to drop in clips wherever you want, but it maintains the musical timing. The other modes are shuffle mode, spot mode, and slip mode.
grille – a mesh made of metal, plastic, or cloth mounted in front of a microphonediaphragm or a speakerdriver, to protect it from damage. The grille should be as acoustically transparent as possible so that it does not interfere with the passage of sound waves. Not to be confused with grill, which is used for cooking barbecue.
grille cloth – an acoustically transparent cloth (or sometimes metal mesh) placed over the front of a loudspeaker to protect it from damage and make it look aesthetically pleasing.
groove – (1) A long, narrow cut or depression that begins at the outer edge of a record and winds in a spiral until it reaches near the center of the record. (2) Slang for the “feel” or rhythm of a song. See also swing and “in the pocket.” (3) Slang for to dance or move to the rhythm of a song, especially jazz or R&B.
ground – (1) The reference point in an electrical circuit from which other voltages are measured. Sometimes abbreviated as GND. (2) A shortened version of earth ground.
ground bass – in music, a short theme, usually played by the bass, that is repeatedly played as other parts of the music vary. A good example is the intro to Pink Floyd’s “Money.”
ground bus – a common connection to which various pieces of equipment can be attached in order to be grounded.
ground-compensated (GC) output – an output in which the signal is carried on one lead with nothing on the second lead and ground on the third lead, in contrast to a balanced output where a positive signal is on one lead, a negative signal on the second lead, and ground on the third lead. It is similar to an impedance balanced output (see balanced output), but has no resistor between the second lead and ground. A balanced input from a GC output receives a full-strength signal with noise cancellation just like a balanced output because the second lead offsets any noise picked up by the cable. A ground-compensated output also works well with an unbalanced input delivering a full-strength signal on two leads, but without the noise-cancelling benefits of a true balanced connection. In contrast, a 2-pin unbalanced output connected to a 3-pin balanced input only delivers half of the signal. Ground-compensated connections are sometimes used on mixers and other devices so they can accept both unbalanced and balanced signals. Also called a ground-cancelling output.
ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) – a device designed to protect a person from electrical shock by tripping a circuit (interupting current) when a difference in current occurs between the “hot” and neutral wires, indicating a short or abnormal diversion of current. Also called a ground fault interrupter (GFI). In the UK, it is called a residual-current device (RCD).
grounding rod – a rod, usually made of copper, driven into the soil to establish an earth ground.
grounding tab – a metal tab or ring on a ground lifter (3-prong-to-2-prong adapter) designed to be attached to electrical ground either by attaching it to the cover plate with a metal screw or by meand of a wire attached to ground. Failure to ground the tab is potentially hazardous.
ground lifter – a 3-prong-to-2-prong adapter used to connect a 3-prong plug into a 2-slot electrical receptacle. Use of such adapter is potentially hazardous if the grounding tab is not connected to an electrical ground. Also called a cheater plug (slang).
ground loop – a connection between two pieces of equipment with two different paths to ground, resulting in an undesired hum. The ground loop can often be corrected using a ground lift. Also called an earth loop (mainly British).
ground plane – a flat or nearly flat horizontal conducting surface that acts like part of a radio antenna and reflects radio waves from the other elements of the antenna.
group – two or more tracks or audio signals containing similar material that are put together in order to be controlled by a single control, a group fader. Mixing consoles and DAWs usually provide a method to create a subgroup. Typical groups are drums, vocals, and keyboards. Sometimes called a subgroup, but should not be confused with submix.
group delay – a type of distortion that occurs when the amount of phase change varies with frequency. In other words, each of the harmonic frequencies in a signal are delayed by different amounts. Sometimes called phase distortion or, less precisely, phase shift.
Grundig AG – formerly a German manufacturer of consumer electronics established in 1930 in Nuremberg, Germany. The company changed ownership several times before becoming part Koc Holding group of Turkey in 2007.
GTE Corporation – formerly General Telephone & Electronics Corporation, GTE was the largest telephone company outside of the Bell System in the US prior to the breakup of AT&T. It was founded in 1926 as Associated Telephone Utilities, but went bankrupt in 1933 during the Great Depression. It reorganized as General Telephone in 1934. It acquired Continental Telephone in 1991. GTE merged with Bell Atlantic in 2000 to become Verizon Communications.
GUI – Graphical User Interface. A method that allows users to interact with computers, software, and electronic devices using graphical icons and visual indicators, as opposed to typing commands or using text-based interfaces.
guitar amplifier – an amplifier specifically designed for amplifying signals from an electric guitar. Unlike some other instruments, speakers used with guitar amplifiers typically have a limited frequency range, use only midrangedrivers, and are easily driven into distortion (usually for effect), unless an FRFR speaker is used. They come in two main versions: (a) head unit with separate speaker cabinet or (b) combo amp, in which the amp and cabinet are combined. Called a guitar amp for short.
guitar cabinet – the speaker enclosure used with a guitar amplifier. They come in two main versions: (a) a stand alone cabinet with a head unit that normally sits on top of it or (b) a combo amp, in which the amp and cabinet are combined. Called a guitar cab for short.
Note: We believe this is the largest dictionary (glossary) of terms specific to usage within the recording industry that is currently available on the internet, with more than 7,800 entries, nearly 600 illustrations, and dozens of tables. Some of the terms have different or additional meanings in other situations, especially within the electronic, automotive, scientific, and computer industries. Of necessity there are obvious overlaps into other fields such as music, electronics, and computers, but such excursions are limited to information deemed pertinent to the knowledge required to operate and/or participate effectively in the workings of a recording studio. Also included are terms related to sound reinforcement (live performances) including wireless microphone technology because a working knowledge of that terminology is necessary for recording at live performance venues. Because recording studios also record audio for video and motion pictures (films), some terminology from those fields is included. Some scientific terms are included because they help explain studio terminology. For example, electromagnetism explains how microphones, loudspeakers, and guitar pickups work. Knowledge of radio waves and the radio frequency spectrum is needed to explain wireless devices. Any trademarks or trade names mentioned belong to their respective owners. The information contained in this dictionary is believed to be accurate at the time of publication. This information is subject to change without notice. The information was obtained from and cross-checked with a variety of sources that are believed to be reliable. However, Los Senderos Studio, LLC does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained herein. Please contact us to report any errors, omissions, discrepancies, or broken links. Los Senderos Studio shall not be responsible for any consequences or damages arising out of the use of this information. Nothing in this glossary should be interpreted as legal advice. For a glossary providing information on legal and business matters for musicians, we suggest you consult Musicians Business Dictionary.
A note on alphabetical order: The terms in this glossary are alphabetical without regard to spaces and punctuation. For example, AM Radio follows amplitude. While this may seem to be at odds with other conventions, it eliminates confusion with words such as pickup, which is sometimes written as pick up or pick-up. The entries on the number page (0-9) are listed in increasing value within each digit. For example, all of the entries beginning with 1 are listed before those starting with 2. For Greek letters (α-ω), the entries are in Greek alphabetical order.