walking bass – a style of playing bass in which a note is played on each beat of the bar and which typically moves up or down the scale in small steps.
Walkman – a trademark of Sony originally used for portable audio cassette players, but now used to market a line of portable audio and video players. The original Walkman introduced in 1978 brought about a change in music listening habits by allowing people to take their music with them and listen on lightweight headphones.
walla – a sound effects that emulates the murmur of a crowd in the background. It is called walla because during the early days of radio, it was discovered that several people repeating the word “walla” in the background sounded like the indistinct chatter of a crowd. Today, walla actors use real words and conversations, usually improvised.
wall of sound – (1) A technique used in pop and rock music developed by producer Phil Spector in the 1960s, consisting of a dense, layered, and reverberant sound created by having instruments perform the same parts in unison and using arrangements that included large vocal groups and orchestras, often enhanced with both tape delay and an echo chamber. (2) A stereo microphone technique developed in the 1930s by Harvey Fletcher at Bell Laboratories that consisted of a large array of microphones (as many as 80) hung in a line across the front of an orchestra with each being played back into a corresponding loudspeaker in the same arrangement, creating a precise imaging and realistic perspective. However, recording and reproducing a large number of discrete signals was not practical. When the microphone array was simplified, the minimum number of microphones to produce acceptable results (the best compromise between high-quality imaging and practicality) turned out to be three microphones with three loudspeakers. The three-spaced-microphone technique (such as the Decca Tree) is still in widespread use.
Warner Music Group (WMG) – a record company founded in 1958 as Warner Brothers Records and headquartered in New York, NY. It began as a spinoff from the movie company to avoid having its actors recording for rival companies. In 1963, Warner purchased Reprise Records, which had been founded by Frank Sinatra in 1960. In 1967, Warner Bros. was purchased by Seven Arts Productions, becoming Warner Bros.-Seven Arts). It then purchased Atlantic Records and its subsidiary Atco Records. In 1969, Warner Bros.-Seven Arts was sold to the Kinney National Company. In 1969, a joint distribution network was established for Warner, Elektra, and Atlantic Records. In 1970, Kinney bought Elektra Records and Nonesuch Records, and in 1972 the company was renamed Warner-Elektra-Atlantic (WEA). In 1972, Kinney National spun off its non-entertainment assets as National Kinney Corporation and changed its name to Warner Communications, Inc. The same year, Warner acquired David Geffen's Asylum Records. In 1990, Warner Communications merged with Time, Inc. forming Time Warner. WEA was renamed Warner Music in 1991, and in 2000 with the addition of AOL, became Warner Music Group. In July 2013, WMG acquired the Parlophone Label Group.
WASAPI – Windows Audio Session Application Programming Interface. A driver that enables DAWs and other audio applications to manage the flow of audio data between the application and a device for Windows 7 and above.
watt (W) – an SI unit for measuring electrical power. It is defined as one joule per second, and is used to express the rate wat which energy is converted or transferred. One watt is also the rate at which work is done when one ampere of current flows through an electrical potential difference of one volt. It is named for the Scottish engineer James Watt.
watt-hour (Wh) – a unit of energy equivalent to one watt (W) of power expended for a period of one hour. The watt-hour is commonly used in electrical applications. The energy of 1 Wh is equivalent to 3,600 joules (J).
wave crest – the point on a wave where it exhibits the maximum amount of positive or upward displacement from the rest position. The opposite of wave trough.
wave cycle – one complete motion of a wave as it goes from any starting point to the maximum point of positive or upward displacement (crest) and then through the minimum point, maximum amount of negative or downward displacement, (trough) and then back to the starting point. This also defines its wavelength.
wave energy – the amount of power at a certain point in a wave. The energy of a sound wave is proportional to its amplitude and is perceived as loudness by the human ear.
Waveform Audio File Format (WAVE) or (WAV) – the standard Microsoft and IBMaudio file format having the extension .wav, usually used for storing uncompressed audio bitstreams on Windows computers. It uses the RIFF format as a wrapper that can contain a variety of audio coding formats including compressed audio, but the most common WAV format is uncompressed audio in the LPCM (linear pulse code modulation) format, which is the standard audio coding format for audio CDs. WAV files use the .wav extension or, less commonly, .wave extension. They are often called WAV files or wave files and occasionally they are called Audio for Windows. See also BWF and AIFF.
wavefront – the leading edge of a wave as it propagates through a medium. For example, when you throw a pebble into water, the first circle of waves that spreads from the point of impact is the wavefront.
waveguide – a structure or mechanism that directs waves in a certain direction or pattern. In audio, waveguides are baffles used in speakers and studio monitors to direct sound waves in order to optimize dispersion, phase coherence, and/or frequency response.
wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) – a technology that allows a number of data streams to be carried at the same time on a single optical fiber, with each signal using its own separate color (wavelength), including bidirectional communications. WDM systems can be divided into three different versions: (a) normal (WDM), (b) coarse (CWDM), and (c) dense (DWDM). Normal WDM, sometimes called band wavelength-division multiplexing (BWDM), has two channels. Coarse wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM) can have up to 16 channels. Dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) can have 40 channels with 100-GHz spacing or 80 channels with 50-GHz spacing.
wave trough – the point on a wave where it exhibits the maximum amount of negative or downward displacement from the rest position. The opposite of wave crest.
wave velocity – the distance traveled by a wave in a given amount of time. Sometimes called wave speed, although technically velocity implies both speed and direction.
WavPack – a free, open source losslessaudio file format, that can compress files by 30 to 70%, depending on the source. WavPack compression can compress and restore WAV files. It uses the .wv file extension.
wax cylinder – the earliest mass market medium for recording and reproducing sound that consisted of a cylinder made of wax (originally a mixture of paraffin and beeswax) with an audio recording engraved in grooves on the outside surface. Because they became worn after being played a few dozen times, the cylinder was later made using carnauba wax. Introduced later the phonograph disc became a competing medium that eventually won the format war. Both types of media were called “records” at the time. Also called a phonograph cylinder or simply cylinder.
weighty – a descriptive term for a sound with a heavy bottom end. Compare with heavy.
Western Electric Company (WE) – from 1881 to 1995 a US electrical engineering and manufacturing company that supplied products to AT&T, and was part owner of Bell Laboratories. It is credited with developing an number of technological innovations. It also was the procurement agent for the member companies of the Bell System.
western music – (1) A term generally applied to music in the European tradition, as opposed to music from eastern cultures, such as Chinese and Indian music, which are based on scales different from music in western cultures. (2) A form of American folk music concerned with the people who settled and lived in the American West and Western Canada during the latter half of the nineteenth century.
whistle – a small device or instrument that makes a loud and high-pitched sound when air is blown through it. See also penny whistle.
whistle register – the highest register of the human voice, being higher than the falsetto register. The timbre of the notes produced from this register are similar to that of a whistle. Also called the flageolet register, flute register, or whistle tone.
white space – (1) Unoccupied space between active TVchannels implemented to avoid interference between adjacent channels. (2) A frequency allocated for a particular broadcasting service that is not used locally. (3) Unused radio spectrum that either has never been used or has become available due to changes in frequency allocations. Also spelled whitespace.
whole tone – in music, two semitones, two half-step increments of pitch in tonal music; two notes spaced ⅙ of an octave apart. Also called a whole step.
wide area network (WAN) – a network of computers connected far apart, typically greater than a half a mile. WANs may be used to interconnects multiple local area networks (LANs) over a large geographical area, such as connecting a company headquarters with branch offices and other facilities. A WAN allows users to share access to applications, services, and other resources.
wide cardioid surround array (WCSA) – a surround sound microphone technique developed by Mikkel Nymand. It is a variation of the Corey/Martin tree that uses matched cardioid microphones. It consists of three cardioid microphones facing the front, and two cardioid microphones facing up. The distance between the left and right front mics is 120 cm (48 in) with the center mic halfway between them. The rear surround cardioids are 30 cm (12 in) apart and about 60 cm (24 in) behind the front pair. The center microphone can be moved forward up to 15 cm (6 in), if needed. These distances can be adjusted depending on the size of the ensemble being recorded. A front spacing of 120 cm (48 in) is used for smaller ensembles, increasing to 180 cm (6 ft) for larger groups. This array is supposed to create an intense, dynamic, and enveloping sound character.
Wi-Fi – a system for wireless local area networks (LANs) using the 2.4-gigahertz (ISM) band. Wi-Fi uses the 802.11 protocol, which has several specifications as established by the IEEE, with each having a set of various transmission methods and data rates. These include 802.11b (the original Wi-Fi spec), 802.11g, and 802.11n.
wild time code – a slang expression for a time code that runs at its own pace without regard to a known reference standard. This becomes a problem when you try to sync it to another audio or video project that uses a standard time code.
wind instrument – a musical instrument in which sound is produced by the vibration of a column of air. Woodwinds and brass instruments are both wind instruments, but keyboard instruments such as an organ or accordion are not.
Windjammer® – a trade name belonging to Rycote for a windscreen cover for microphones made of long synthetic fibers similar to a fluffy.
windowboxing – displaying video with both letterboxing and pillarboxing simultaneously, black bars on all four sides of the image. Also called the postage stamp effect, gutterboxing, or matchboxing.
Windows – a family of operating systems (OS) using graphical user interfaces developed by Microsoft. Windows includes a number of different operating systems, each designed for a particular purpose, such as for personal computers, servers, and smart phones.
Windows Media Audio (WMA) – a proprietary audio file and compression format (codec) developed by Microsoft to compete with the MP3 format. WMA now consists of four different codecs: (1) the original WMA codec (WMA), (2) WMA Pro, a more advanced codec that supports multichannel and high resolution audio, (3) WMA Lossless, a lossless codec that compresses audio data without loss of audio fidelity, (4) WMA Voice, a low-bit-rate compression scheme designed for voice content.
wireless – (1) A tool, appliance, or other device that uses batteries and thus eliminates a power chord (wire). (2) A method of transmitting signals using radio waves as opposed to using cable. (3) Short for wireless microphone. (4) An old British term for a radio.
wireless microphone – a microphone that contains a miniature transmitter that sends radio signals to a nearby receiver, thus eliminating cables and wires. Sometimes called a radio microphone, RF microphone, or cordless microphone.
wire recorder – an audio recording device that preceded the tape recorder. Instead of plastic tape coated with iron oxide, the wire recorder used a steel wire. It was invented in 1898, but didn't see much commercial development until the 1910s when it was used primarily as a dictation machine. Early models suffered from poor quality audio. Most of these problems were worked out by the 1950s, but by that time, the tape recorder had taken over the market.
wiring diagram – a simplified pictorial representation of an electrical circuit or system that shows the components as symbolic shapes and the signal and power connections as lines between them. Wiring diagrams usually show the relative position and arrangement of components and terminals unlike schematic diagrams where the arrangement of connections and components are not the actual physical locations. Wiring diagrams are used for constructing and servicing components and setting up systems.
wiring harness – several individual cables bound together for neatness or convenience. The cables are bound together using braiding, straps, cable ties, cable lacing, sleeves, electrical tape, or conduit, or a combination of these. Also known as a harness, wire harness, wiring loom, wire loom, loom, cable harness, cable assembly, or wiring assembly.
wobble – (1) An undesirable slow wavering of a voice, due to poor voice conditioning, fatigue, or age. (2) A slight, sinusoidal variation from a true spiral in the pregroove of a writable optical disc. See absolute time in pregroove (ATIP).
Women's Audio Mission (WAM) – a non-profit organization founded in 2003 by Terri Winston and based in San Francisco, CA, to promote the advancement of women in recording and music production. WAM also provides hands-on training, work experience, online classes, career counseling, and job placement for women and girls in creative technology for music, radio, film, television, and the internet.
woodwinds – (1) A group of wind instruments in which sound is produced by the vibration of reeds in a mouthpiece, such as clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, oboe, or English horn, or by blowing air across a mouthpiece, such as a flute. (2) The section of a band or orchestra consisting of woodwind instruments. (3) A group of woodwind instruments or their players.
woofer – the driver in a loudspeaker cabinet designed to produce low frequency audio, typically from about 40 Hz up to 1,000 Hz or so. Also called a low-frequency driver.
wooly – a descriptive term for a sound with weak high frequencies, sounding like a wool blanket pulled over the speakers. Similar to blanketed. Also called soggy.
word – a unit of data (a group of bits) that can be handled as a unit by a computer processor or instruction set of a particular design. Word size depends on many aspects of the structure and operation of a computer, such as the size of registers and the amount of data that can be transferred to and from memory in a single operation.
word clock chain – the clocks of two or more digital audio devices being connected together, using one as a masterclock and the others as slaves. The timing signal normally is sent using cables with BNC connectors. The devices can be daisy-chained, in which case each device takes the output timing signal from the previous device as the input to the next device. Alternatively, they can be connected so that the same timing signal goes to all the devices using BNC T connectors.
word size – the number of binary digits (bits) in a word. Typical word sizes in modern processors are 8, 16, 24, 32, or 64 bits. Also called wordsize, word width, wordwidth, word length, or wordlength.
work for hire – work created by an employee as part of his or her job, or work created on behalf of a client with the written agreement of all parties that the work is designated as work for hire. Work for hire is an exception to the general rule that the person who actually creates a work is the legal author and copyright holder or patent holder of that work. With work for hire the employer—not the employee—is the legal author according to US copyright and patent law. Also called work made for hire or abbreviated as WFH.
World Wide Web (WWW) – a space on the internet, created by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented in 1989, where documents and other resources are located and identified using Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) and that are linked using hypertext links. The World Wide Web is the primary tool used by people around the world to interact on the internet. Often called simply the web.
wow – a type of distortion caused by speed variations in audio equipment, such as turntables and tape recorders, resulting in a relatively slow variation in the frequency of the reproduced sound. Fast variations are called flutter.
wrapped plug-in – a plug-in designed for one platform that uses an external program (the wrapper) to enable it to run on another.
wrapper – a software program that acts as a translator to allow a plug-in designed for one type of application to run in another. For example, a wrapper could be used to run a VST format plug-in under RTAS. (2) A container format that usually contains encoded audio and metadata, which includes such information as to the codec, bit rates, and other information needed to decompress the data, as well as title, artist, and other information. Wrappers are usually indicated by their extension, but some wrapper formats can use more than one codec.
write mode – a method of operating DAWautomation so that the computer stores the movements of a fader as the track is being played.
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 8,300 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. In addition, all symbols such as &, -, or / are ignored. 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.