Sample: - When a sound is converted
to digital format,
of the signal is sliced into many segments of binary information
and analysed, these slices are measured per second (for a standard
audio C.D. this is carried out 44,100 times) thus we may say that
a C.D. has a "sample rate" of "44.1khz".
Rather like the "pixels" of a visual image, the more
"samples" taken per second, the higher the resultant
Sampler: - Device which has the ability to record sounds
digitally, as decribed above, then assign a musical pitch value
to that sound so that it may played as musical notes on a compatible
instrument (usually a keyboard).
"Multisampling": - When a sampler records a
musical instrument accurately at a certain pitch, then that pitch
should be reproduced accurately. If, however you stray up or down
the keyboard by a few octaves, you may find that the pitch is
less accurate, and has "drifted" somewhat. When this
is the case it is necessary to "multisample" or make
multiple recordings of the original instrument at certain points
in the musical scale (eg every octave) to keep the drift under
control. This is known as "Keygrouping".
When the correct procedure for "keygrouping"
(assigning an accurate central pitch and keeping the amount of
surrounding pitches covered to a reasonable limit) is followed,
then the pitches within the keygroup should be a reasonably accurate
with a (more or less) inaudible amount of "pitch-shift"
(alteration of pitch).
Sawtooth Wave: - see Wave.
Scale: - An ascending or descending sequence of stepped notes / pitches. A scale is designated by the first note (eg C major), which is known as the "
tonic" (from tonal). There are several different
kinds of scale (eg diatonic, pentatonic etc). Notable among these are:
Chromatic scale: Encompasses all twelve semitones / half steps (see below) in an octave as they are represented
on the keys of a keyboard. In western music, all other scales are subsets of the chromatic scale.
Diatonic scale: Most western music is composed using diatonic scales. Consists of seven notes. Whereas the chromatic scale is divided into twelve even semitones and
is keyless, the diatonic scale uses five whole tones and two semitones
(assuming an "equal tempered" tuning system is being used). Diatonic scales are written or played either in a "major"
or "minor" key, depending on the pattern of intervals in terms of tones and semitones. A major diatonic scale
Tone (or Whole Tone / Whole Step), Tone, Semitone
(Half-Step), Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone.
On the other hand, a (natural) minor diatonic scale will progress:
Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone.
Below are illustrations of two diatonic scales, C Major and C Minor.
|C Major Scale.
||C Minor Scale.
Semiconductor: - Material / Substance that is at a mid
way point between being a conductor
and an insulator.
This property is invaluable for creating transistors,
which need to be capaple of switching between these two states.
Examples of semiconductive materials include Silicon (cheap and
most widely used) Germanium, and Gallium Arsenide, which is a
compound of gallium and arsenic.
Semitone: - Short interval which in the western "equal tempered" system of tuning corresponds to one twelfth of an octave. Sometimes known in the US as a "half step".
Sequencer and Sequencing: - see "M.I.D.I.".
Shock Mount: - Device for holding a microphone,
which is designed to provide shock absorbtion / insulation from
any vibrations which may be transmitted through a microphone stand.
Usually used with particularly sensitive condenser
Sibelius: - Brand name for the most well known form of
music notation software (software which transposes what is played
into a musical score). Also a dead Scandinavian composer!
Signal: - In electronics / audio
etc a signal is a transmission of either a pulse or continuously
fluctuating electrical value through a conductive
medium. In music, this can either be an electronic representation
of a sound (eg piano, vocals etc), or a sound that has been originally
generated though electronic means (eg synthesiser).
Signal Chain: - Path taken by a signal. This can either
be from the input to the output of one device, or the path taken
through many different devices (eg from microphone to mixing desk
/ signal processing devices then amplifier(s), speakers etc)
Signal Feed: - see Feed.
Signal Processing Device (SPD):- Any device placed in
a signal chain (see above) which intentionally alters the signal
passing through it in some way (eg noise gate,
Signal to Noise ratio (S/N): At it's most basic, this
is the difference between the level of background noise (noise
floor), and the level of signal, measured in dB's.
Sine Wave: - see Wave.
Slave: - A device which is controlled by another device,
which is referred to as the master.
Solid State: - Pertains to the solid qualities of a (usually
crystalline) substance. In electronics, this usually means semiconductor
materials. In the olden days, when transistors were still slugging
it out with valves in amplifiers, radios etc, transistor devices
were known as "Solid State" devices, due to their use
of semiconductive "solid state" materials.
Sound Synthesis: - Bringing together different electronic
sound elements (oscillators*, filters*,
envelope generators* etc to make new, harmoncally interesting
sounds. In the case of music to be played as notes.
Additive Synthesis: - The synthesis of a complex sound
using a collection of "simple" pure tones or sine waves.
Subtractive Synthesis:- The opposite of Additive Synthesis
(see above) The synthesis of a new sound by the refinement through
filters etc of a harmonically complex waveform.
See also Synthesiser and Wave.
Soundwave: - See Wave
S.P.L. : - Sound Pressure Level, measured in Decibels
Square Wave: - see Wave.
Step Up / Step Down Transformer: - see Transformer.
Sub-Bass : - Bass frequencies which are below the point
where sound is directional (@ 150Hertz) and above the point where
it can no longer be heard (@20 Hertz). below this, it is known
as "infra bass". It is the fact that sound is not directional
below 150 Hz (you dont need a stereo pair to recreate its position
in space) which enable the design of loudspeaker systems with
solitary sub bass units which may be tucked away behind sofa's
Supercardioid: - see Polar Pattern
Supply Reel / Take up reel : - On a cassette / video /
reel to reel etc tape, the reel on the left is known as the Supply
Reel, and the reel on the right is known as the Take Up Reel.
"Sweet Spot": - The optimum position for a listener
within the sound field created by a pair of stereo speakers, or
the optimum position for a microphone relative to it's pickup
pattern and the sound field created by whatever is being recorded.
Synclavier: - Highly complex (in the old days anyway!)
music workstation developed by Sydney Alonso (hardware) and Cameron
Jones (software) at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, United States.
The first prototype was released in 1975. Like the Fairlight
mentioned above, the Synclavier made a great impact on the increasingly
digitally based music of the 1980's. The current homepage of the
Synclavier is here
Synthesiser: - Electronic musical instrument capable of
performing functions defined above, usually keyboard based.
*Envelope Generator: - The way that synthesised sound
is shaped, most common form being the "A.D.S.R."
(Attack. Decay. Sustain. Release.) envelope.
*Filter: - Electrical circuit
designed to boost or attenuate certain frequencies within the
*Oscillator: - Electrical circuit designed to generate
See also Sound Synthesis and Wave .