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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Jan 18 > The A-Z Of Music Making Part 2

The A-Z Of Music Making Part 2

Welcome back to the MusicTech A-Z, a simple, easy-to-understand guide to the range of terms and concepts that are frequently used in music production. Last month, we covered A-H, so in our second part, it’s time for I-N. Let music-production guru Marc JB be your guide…

1 Input Gain

Gain is the ability of a circuit (usually that of an amplifier) to increase the volume of the signal. Input gain is found where the signal enters a mixer, compressor or channel and adjusts the volume coming in. When adjusting the signal gain on an interface’s mic/line input, make sure your signal is not overloading the circuit, as this will cause irreversible distortion. In analogue gear, a ‘hot’ (loud) input gain can create pleasing distortion effects. For example, in the UAD emulation of Neve’s 88RS Channel Strip, driving the internal input gain hard creates a pleasing saturated/lightly distorted tone. In the world of digital effects, make sure you leave yourself ample ‘headroom’ (that is, enough margin to turn a channel up further without distorting) to ensure your audio stays crystal clear and free from nasty clipping distortion.

2 Insert

On a hardware mixer, this is a signal loop where you can plug an effects unit into the signal path. For example, you may want to place a compressor on a vocal, to even out the loud passages. In a DAW, Insert slots for plug-ins can be found on your channel strip. The signal gets affected by the first plug-in and is then sent through to the next one; so the order you place your plug-ins into the chain makes a difference to the overall sound. For example, if you have a stereo reverb going into a mono phaser, all the stereo on the reverb will be lost. It’s better to have the phaser plug-in followed by the reverb to retain the stereo image of the reverb. In analogue studios, every Insert needs a hardware rack-effects unit, which results in many leads going back and forth from the mixer. We’re very fortunate to have such power in our DAWs – with tremendously huge Insert possibilities and instant ‘in the box’ recall.

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About MusicTech

2017 has been an exciting, innovative year for new music-making technology, from machine-learning plug-ins to laser-guided microphones and from scientifically crafted, point-source monitors to boutique synthesisers, the past 12 months has offered up new variations on classic gear and inventive new creative tools for making and recording music. We pay tribute to the best gear of the year in our roundup, with our winners compiled by a fusion of reader votes and our expert panel. Elsewhere this issue, we have the second part of our new A-Z series with Gear4Music, chat to MPG Award-winning mastering engineer Mandy Parnell and Grammy-winning producer and engineer Mark Rankin, and cast of our eye to the future with tutorial content in the latest iterations of Live and Reason. Additionally, you’ll find all the latest reviews from the likes of Toontrack, Dynaudio, Sonokinetic and more.It's been an excellent year for the music-technology industry, and MusicTech as a magazine. Here’s hoping 2018 will be equally as fruitful… enjoy the issue.