The Funky Junk Glossary

Compiled By Roddy Mathews

Autolocate Device to instruct tape machine to go to a pre-selected location. If only there was one that worked on drummers.

Balanced a) The kind of constructive criticism you give out about other people’s music. Opposite of ‘Unbalanced’, the kind of ill-informed, biased opinions that other people pass on your own efforts.

b) A line transmitting audio along two conducting paths where the two signals are out of phase with each other, usually with transformers at both ends. This arrangement produces very good interference rejection, especially over long cable runs, and is therefore the standard set up for professional microphone wiring. Balanced cabling always ends in XLR or stereo jack connectors. The alternative ’Unbalanced’ line configuration has a single send path surrounded by shielding which also acts as the return path. This approach is adequate where interference or long runs are not an issue, and both cable types appear throughout the signal chain.

Band Names The cause of much heated argument, and important to get right. Fall into 6 main categories listed below in descending order of recommendation:

a). Sensible and descriptive, of unimpeachable correctness, e.g. The Steve Gibbons Band, The St. Winifred’s School Choir, The Jackson Five, Chas and Dave, Queen

b). Inaccurate but mercifully brief, e.g. Oasis, The Police, Blue, The Jam, Pulp, The Vibrators, The Pixies

c). Fanciful and rather silly, e.g. Kula Shaker, Yes, The Monkees, Gay Dad, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Cockney Rebel

d). Inaccurate and way too long, e.g. Guns and Roses, Earth Wind and Fire, The Grateful Dead, Alien Ant Farm, The Electric Prunes, Ocean Colour Scene

e). Immodest and cocky, inviting ridicule, e.g. Cream, A1, 10,000 Maniacs, Future Sound of London, Cockney Rebel

f). Completely stupid, such as:

(i) Naming yourself after people who aren’t in the band and never could be, e.g. Jethro Tull, Samson, New Model Army, Shakespeare’s Sister

(ii) Naming yourself after anything that doesn’t play music, e.g. The Eagles, Mud, Toploader, The Royal Trux

(iii) Using an idiotic word you made up in the sad belief that it sounded cool, but then you got stuck with, e.g. Jamiroquai

Base Thing musicians touch with each other to find out if anyone has got any work they are willing to share.
Bass Thing musicians touch by themselves, and then almost never have any work to share with anyone (except decorating).

Brothers Boys who share a mother, like the Everly Brothers. Unlike the:

Chemical/Doobie/Dust Brothers who did not, but clearly shared other things.

Cans a). Small round objects usually found in pairs. Contain music and help to keep a performer up to speed with what everyone else is doing, when applied to the ears.

b). Small round objects usually found in fours. Contain beer and help the session pass off as painlessly as possible, when applied to the lips.

Channel a). Wet thing to keep the French out. Similar designs to run from the Solway to the Tyne and from the Severn to the Wirral were never completed.

b). Pathway for audio through an outboard device or mixing desk.

Class A a). Exciting drug that used to get you high and/or into prison before New Labour “tough” legal reforms.

b). High quality electronic circuit characterised by low distortion. They run hot, because the gain controlling device in the circuit amplifies all of the waveform and is therefore always on. As opposed to: Class B where two gain devices amplify alternate halves of a waveform, handing over at zero, which can lead to distortion as the energy crosses that point and: Class AB which employs two devices handing over but with a crossfade around zero.

Compressor A programmable amplifier designed to decrease the difference in level between quiet and loud signals passing through it, see article on compressors.

Converters a). AD/DA Converters: small component that takes audio signals and at amazing speed reduces them to minute quantities of energy. This process can be reversed later.

b). Cash Converters: small shop that takes consumer goods or personal valuables and at amazing speed reduces them to minute quantities of cash. This process cannot be reversed later.

Discrete a) Not telling the wife how much it cost

b) Circuit built entirely of separate components, i.e. not containing printed or integrated circuits or chips. Also see Let’s Talk Discrete article

Demo a) Collective effort intended to change the world, attract attention and rock the establishment. Gets sent to record companies and is ignored.

b) Collective effort intended to change the world, attract attention and rock the establishment. Takes place in Trafalgar Square and is ignored.

DJ: pronounced MC a). Young person skilled in playing the gramophone

b). Dress favoured by waiters, ambassadors, ballroom dancers, Mario Lanza tribute bands etc.

c). Mythical figure who saved my life last night, and even made Robbie Williams rock though he didn’t want to at the time.

Dynamic Range a) How far Roger Daltrey could throw an SM 58

b) Of microphones, the usable area between the noise floor and the onset of distortion. Related to Self-Noise, SPL tolerance and Sensitivity.

c) Of equipment in general, the difference in dB between the quietest sound the system will reproduce (above the noise floor) and the loudest (without distortion). Good analogue multitrack recorders rate at around 80dB, good digital systems at about xx dB.

d) Of signals, the difference in dB between the quietest and loudest points in the material. Compressors reduce this, limiters set its upper limit.

Equaliser a). Last resort of the oppressed facing overwhelming injustices, played by Edward Woodward in dodgy TV series. Appears at crucial moment and saves the day

b). Last resort of the engineer facing overwhelming injustices recorded by other people. Appears in expensive desk and saves the day

c). Dodgy goal, usually scored by Manchester Utd in front of their own loyal and fair-minded fans, which appears at crucial moment and saves the day

Expander a) Device used by Lenny Kravitz on his head, but not his body

b) Device similar to a noise gate, but more intelligent. Expanders make quiet sounds quieter below an adjustable threshold, expanding the dynamic range of the signal. Similar in principle to a compressor, and often found in the same unit, to clean up the input signal to the compression stage.

Formula a). Formula Hit.
Kind of record. Predictable, boring, soon over but keeps coming back. Easily followed by small record buyers.b). Formula One.
Kind of race. Predictable, boring but takes ages. Traffic goes one way and is only one car wide so is easily followed by keen owner-drivers.

c). Formula.
Kind of milk. Boring, soon over nearly everything and keeps coming back.

Gain a). Ill-gotten thing much prized by musicians when wrested from avaricious record company or manager as reward for appearance in charts. See Warmth.

b). The amount by which the output level of a system exceeds the input level, provided by an amplifier.

Gigs Things musicians used to have, but now mostly found inside computers.

In Line a). Where a producer is supposed to keep the band.

b). Arrangement of mixing desk where the audio pathway to and from the recording machine is sited physically on the same desk channel, but each with separate volume controls. A space saving design that is now virtually standard in large consoles. Opposite of Split design.

Lead a). Leather cord very effective at restraining dogs

b). Plastic coated wire cord very ineffective at restraining guitarists. See also Unbalancedand Punch Up.

Limiter a). Gain controller whose output goes so high but no further, and above a selectable point any increase in level at its input is not reflected in any increase in level at its output.

Manual a). Printed material given away free with new equipment, usually written in a language that occasionally overlaps with English. Most easily understood by learning to use the equipment it accompanies.

b). Somewhere that doors are ordered to go as your plane nears touch down

c). The man who brings the Sangria and Paella on holiday.

Music a) The food of love

b) My first love, and it will be my last (because what with being a musician I don’t seem to be able to keep girlfriends)

c) Something that nobody can stop when the Village People get serious

Pad a) Sustained chord in music with no real purpose. Usually added to cover up noise in quiet passages or to establish harmonic structure if this is not made clear by the bass part, any other instruments or the melody.

b) Circuit in a microphone or mic amp that decreases the signal by a fixed amount, usually 10 or 20 dB. Intended to reduce input from loud sources immediately allowing optimum gain structure further up the signal chain.

Phase a) Thing most rock musicians are still going through.

b) Of sound, refers to the polarity of voltage which that sound creates, either positive (+) or negative (-). Crucial when the same sound turns up at one place at the same time in both positive and negative form, in which case it will cancel itself out, and disappear. This can be bad news for your drum sound, and should be avoided either by moving and aligning mics or by using phase reverse switches on channels or mic amps.

More constructively these same phase reverse switches are an excellent way to remove headphone spill on sets of multiple backing vocals. Always check your mixes in mono to ensure their phase coherence: poor wiring or jack plugs not properly inserted in the patch bay can produce phase errors. The industry standard colour for a phase-reversing patch cord is yellow (except Mogami leads).

Producer a). All-round genius and great guy who masterminded the stunning success of your latest recording.

b). Talentless, overbearing egomaniac who mucked up your latest release and who single-handedly bears responsibility for its lowly chart placing (and who still owes you for that curry).

Moment of crisis when performers get to sort out substandard parts of recording. Requires cats who are fast as lightning. See punch up.

Moment of crisis when band members get to sort out long running disputes concerning band name, volume of guitar amp, duration of bass solo, access to girlfriend etc. In fact it is a little bit frightening, make sure you have expert timing.

Relapping a). Process of reshaping head blocks of a tape machine to counteract wear and prolong active life.

Rewind a). Old-fashioned procedure required when operating tape recorder allowing period of rest and reflection before another arduous take.

b). Sometimes pronounced Re-ee-ee-ee-ee-ee-wind, Modern compulsory procedure when the crowd say “Bo, Selecta.”

Tape Saturation a). Funny feeling in the stomach when you’ve been working on the same song too long. Can also happen on long car journeys, especially with small children or teenagers.

b). Gentle harmonic enrichment or distortion caused by loading too much level onto magnetic recording tape; sometimes thought pleasant by analogue nuts.

Transformer a) Seminal 70’s album of unhummable tunes by legendary rock grump Lou Reed. Required listening for the fey and sexually confused.

b) Cheap but ingenious toy which allows people to turn a car into a monster. Unlike a car, which is an ingenious toy that makes monsters out of people.

c) The bit of your train set most likely to catch fire.

d) Device used widely in audio equipment to change voltage (and impedance), to isolate components or to balance circuits. Good transformers have a noticeable effect on audio quality, but are not cheap. All transformers are prone to produce distortion if run hard or ‘saturated’, and must be physically isolated or screened to protect against interference.

Warmth a). Subjective feeling experienced between receipt of Gain and realisation that it’s all spoken for.

b). Subjective measure of temperature in recorded sound (never of music in performance). As helpful as discussing the colour, weight or smell of sound, or about as much use as a chocolate Class A circuit.