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Studio Pass: Sylvia Massy

Lesson 14 of 27

Band Mic Check

Sylvia Massy

Studio Pass: Sylvia Massy

Sylvia Massy

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Lesson Info

14. Band Mic Check

Lesson Info

Band Mic Check

Well we have Thunderpussy here in the studio. That's right. At Avast, and the... Now we've spent a lot of time getting sounds, we've got the drum sounds, we've got the bass, we've got the guitar. We have a scratch vocal ready to go. But the boat has not left the dock. Okay. We need to get the boat in the water. How do we do that? And away from the dock. That's right. Well everyone together playing, it's what we have to do, we have to get everyone playing together, we have to check our headphones, we have to get the blend of everything we're turning on the board, make sure everything is recording, record-ready. We won't be ready to record yet, but we just want to make sure the communication between everyone is working and then we're going to introduce a click track into the mix and make sure all that's working properly. Alright. Then we'll be ready to go. Sounds good, I'm gonna let you take over and work with the band and I'm gonna go back in there. Okay, so, every...

one's got headphones. What I would recommend that we do is pull your headphones off a little bit, I'm gonna start the click up, and then pull your headphones on again and give us a little idea of how loud the click is, if we need to bring down the level of the click, everyone is on the same send I believe, so we'll have to work together to make sure everyone can hear as well as they can with what we've got. So, I'm gonna go in the control room, you guys will be here, and we'll start with the click. After we get the click settled then everyone, we'll turn you all on, and just start playing the song. It won't be perfect right out of the gate and I don't want you to sing like it's your final performance because we will be re-recording this. This is just so you can give cues to the rest of the band where you are in the song. So that's your only purpose here, so don't blow your voice out. That's all I'm worth! (laughter) I'm here to cue. Yep, you're here to cue. Alright, I'm gonna go in the control room now and we'll see what we can make happen. Alright Scott, let's make some click noise. Okay. Let's hear some click noise, there's some click noise. Alright, can you guys hear that click? Yes. Great. Okay, we're gonna turn off that click now. Great. Oop. There we go. Okay, now what I would like to do is... Okay we're gonna listen to everything. Okay, everyone why don't you just start playing the song as best as you can with the headphone situation, and we'll stop you, and we'll figure out what we can do to change the headphones to please everyone. So just get started. (rhythmic drumming) (upbeat rock music) ♪ I met her at a bar in Sedona Arizona ♪ ♪ Took one look and thought I'd like to know her ♪ ♪ She came up to me and said what's your story? ♪ You got it? I think so. Alright. ♪ Fire in her eyes and lust for glory ♪ Now is this a plate that I'm hearing right now? ♪ Red lipstick and high-waisted pants ♪ ♪ We moved outside and she began to dance ♪ ♪ Pushed me up on her motoguzzi, yeah! ♪ ♪ She said I might go fast but I ain't no floozy ♪ ♪ I met a girl they call the speed queen ♪ ♪ She liked to keep her engine clean ♪ ♪ You can't deny her anything ♪ ♪ Long live the speed queen ♪ Alright. Alright, okay, thank you. Thank you. I'm gonna as a few questions to Scott here, so just hang tight for a second. So we have a plate reverb here for the headphones, is that right? Yeah, that's feeding this also. So if mute it-- I've got-- Will that mute it to them? No, it won't. 'Cause I don't wanna hear that. You can also just... Is that light... There it is. Oh okay, good. Just a finicky button. Okay. Great, okay. And if you pull it done it's pre-fader, so you can just pull down the returns. Okay, great. And they'll still get it-- What's that, is that anything? It's the returns for the Bricasti from mixing, it's just, it's nothing right now. Alright, I'm gonna pull that down. Okay. Now... Our kick... I want to adjust the kick, I'm not super happy with that. Sweet, nothing peaked in Pro Tools, that's a good sign. Can you do me a favor and just play the beat on the drums for a moment. (rhythmic drumming) Alright. Okay, very good. I'm gonna ask Scott another question. Yeah? So what I was doing there was... I noticed that as soon as everyone started playing that the kick drum really fell into the background and I want to bring it up front again, so I added some more mid, upper mids to it. Awesome. But my question is, now with the vocals, if I mute the vocals, will it affect what goes to her headphones? No but it will affect... The sends to the tape delay. Now, I want the delays to come off of more than, is it this? Yeah, they're coming off of, so 1 is the delay 1 is the delay and 2 is the reverb, so delay, reverb. So I could have that coming from the drums, right? Yeah, you could have... 'Cause I actually would prefer to have that stuff coming off drums and bass. So we're gonna use the kick and snare, and some of the bass to drive our delays. We have the chorus echo and the tape slap that will be running while we're actually recording, and I just want to have only the drums and the bass, maybe some guitar too, but not the vocals. So, is that ready to go now? Yeah, that's mix 1. Okay. Will be the delays, and then yeah. Right, like this? Yep, I'm gonna kick that back on so I'm feeding the reverb from the vocal. Okay. And that should be good. And our guitar same thing, am I doing it right? Yep, except for the top one doesn't need to be one. Doesn't need the top one. If just one is on and then the pre-fader should be good. Okay, actually we'll do that like that, and... I'm sending from the return only. Okay, great. And that will be pre, I think, right? Uh-huh, let's do some of that, okay that's good. Alright, will you please run through the song one more time? (rhythmic drumming) (upbeat rock music) ♪ Met her at a bar in Sedona Arizona ♪ ♪ Took one look and thought I'd like to know her ♪ ♪ She-- ♪ What was that? Okay, good. (band playing upbeat rock) So what I'm doing now is I'm gonna add EQ to the drums that I didn't touch before. I wanna add some EQ to the top mics on the toms in particular. I added some EQ to the snare and I added some EQ to the kick. Generally I'm adding upper mid to just give it some more snap, so I want that on the kick, on the snare, and the tom so it comes through. So I'm gonna work on that right now. (band playing upbeat rock) How's our levels on there? Good, good. The floor could come up just a little bit. The floor could come up a little bit and it looks like the ride could come down just a little bit. (upbeat rock music) ♪ What's your name? ♪ (band playing energetically) Okay. Great, hold tight there for a moment. There's a few things we need to double check. Okay. And... Those are gonna be why we have so much buzz in the guitar amps when she's not playing. So maybe we should have her just turn up her volume. Is she... Is it when she takes her hand off the guitar, or? Could you turn your volume but not play Whitney? Yes. I mean yeah, I want to hear the noise and the buzzes that are happening with the amps when you're not playing but your volume is up. (low buzzing) See that kind of stuff. That's her distortion pedal I think. Right. Yeah. Any way to reduce that? I mean, we could try checking the clarity on the pedal, that's the only thing I can thing of. Or not using it. Let me find out where that is. Is it on everything? I think so. I'm guessing as soon as she kicks it in. That's with the distortion pedal on, right? (speaking indistinctly) So it's quiet without the distortion pedal. I wonder if she's using shore power or battery power, 'cause I bet you that would make a difference. I'm gonna go work on that for a moment. What are you trying? I'm changing the clarity of the power strip, her power supply for her pedals. Okay, great. Nope, better the other way. Tell me something else, what are you using here, are you using that guy? Yeah, that's on all the time. And are you using that pedal? I am using both of these pedals. You're using all three of these pedals. Uh-huh. Are you using the phase 90? No. That pedal's pretty silent. So... It's mostly just this one, like... (pedals clicking) That is, well... Well that ones not plugged into the one spot so you flipping it wouldn't have done anything. Oh, interesting. That's true, that has its own separate power supply, which is the fat guy... So hold on real quick, leave that guy on. Is this, now, before you change things again, can you just move around like this. Yeah. That's worse. Okay, so. Turn towards me again. Right there. This is the quiet spot. (chuckling) Okay, right there. Face the lamp. Now wait a second. Turn this way a little bit. Okay, no, back. Nope. This is a pretty good quiet spot here, we can probably get quieter though. Can we... Can we disconnect everything but this slack finger for just a moment? Sure. Can we just go, like even take the tuner out. Yeah, yeah, so just grab the cable that's going into the tuner and we'll just jam it right into this. Okay. And that should be bypassing everything except for that. Can you turn this way? Okay. Turn, keep turning. There you go. Okay, so this is still a problem. What if you plug right into this? Let me see this. That's, no, no, no. It's this one. That's the one she needs. Got it, got it. Silent. Quiet. So it's the pedal. But I love that pedal. Electro harmonics. So there's no battery in it. Nope. It has to be run with power. Is there another... Power source, let's say, can we run that from another outlet? Yes. Let's just try it. I think... I'm not sure where I can find power for this. Hold on. If not, I mean we're pretty good with you just facing this one direction all the time, but I bet we can find a quieter power. Typically I would say lose the power supply and go for battery power and that eliminates a lot of problems. But since there is no battery power for this particular pedal it might be that we just need to get power from another source. Seems better. A lot better. That seems a lot quieter. Seems a lot better. Are you turned up? She's still gotta find that dead spot. You're all the way up, just it's good with that spot right there, so-- You have to face due north. (laughter) Can we put a little piece of tape on the ground there so that she knows... So she knows which way-- Yeah, just like where her-- I'm right facing the lamp, exactly. Okay, good. We just need to put you right there. So it's helped it a little bit, but it hasn't completely cured the problem. But it's enough that I think with this kind of noisy music I think it will be alright. Okay. Awesome. A little better now? It is a little better. Cool, and was there another thing we needed to check out or was that the pressing issue? That was a pressing issue, then I wanted to listen to some of these-- uh-oh, what happened? I was just gonna say, how are you guys with your headphones with that last play through? (speaking indistinctly) Was that Leah asking for more bass? More bass. More bass, more vocals. Oh, you? Okay, more base, more vocals. No problem. Ruby hears me loud and clear. Is that better for you guys, do you want to... (playing upbeat rock) Beautiful. See that buzz is still there. (electric guitar strumming) Okay. Cool, how's the vocals, vocals good in there? Oh. Are you good with them vocals? Yeah. Let's do another run through and check on our headphones again. I'd like to listen to these funny mics here while they're doing this. (rhythmic drumming) (upbeat rock music) Love that. That's the hose. The hose, yeah. I'll play, I'll push it up for you. Yeah, cool. (vocalist singing faintly) Nice. (electric guitar strumming) (rhythmic drumming with faint music) Some of these mics are really funny. The phone is just completely distorted. Let me push that one up for you. (distorted music) I don't know how usable that'll be later on. It's also getting insanely squashed, it's getting nuked over here. Yeah, that's alright. Yeah, I mean even with out the nuke it's pretty useless. But fun. Let's see what else we got. The shot gun, let's see what's doing. ♪ What's your name? ♪ (energetic drumming) Well I think the most useful of the unusual mics is the hose actually. Yeah. I think it's actually pretty good. There it is. (energetic drumming) Beautiful. How was the headphones for you that time around? It was better, I could still use a little more base if possible. A little more bass. Of course. Okay. (strumming bass) My question, how's everyone else with the bass is my question? I'm fine with more bass. Cool, awesome. How's that from your headphones? That sounds a lot better. Cool. I think we're ready, I think we're actually ready. I'm gonna come out there and talk to you. It sounds pretty damn good. I think we're ready to start tracking. We won't do it this episode. Just blue ballin' us right now. Yeah. (laughter) So I think that's it for you guys for now, and we are set and ready to go for our tracking session. Headphones, if everyone is okay with the headphones. We can still continue to tweak a little bit, but I think we're pretty much there. Awesome. Sounds great. Okay, good. Whoo! Sounds good. Cool, exciting. Right on. Alright, so you guys take a break, I'm gonna continue in the control room. Alright, well that was... I'm pretty happy with all that. Yeah, do you want to take a question? Yes. Okay, we have a question about, would it be better to take the noisy distortion pedal out and get the natural tube overdrive from the Marshall? Is that a better option in that scenario? It's one option. Okay. It is a good option. One thing that I like about that pedal is there was, when we first heard the combo on its own without the pedal, it was a pretty good sound. When she popped in that pedal it was... It really brought the guitar to life. So, and it's part of her sound, I think I'd rather have a little noise than take away such an integral part of her sound. So that's why we're going to keep it with a little noise.

Class Description

Over the last 30+ years, Sylvia Massy has built a career as one of the gutsiest and most innovative recording engineers and producers. She has worked with legends like Prince and Johnny Cash, and won awards for her work with bands like Tool, System of a Down and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. In this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you will get a peek inside the recording process of one of rock’s legendary engineers. 

While she is a proficient master of vintage gear, Sylvia stresses that great records come not from having the right gear, but from capturing great performances. Join Sylvia as she records a song in the studio with Seattle alt-rock band Thunderpussy, and learn how to work with an artist to capture that magical take in your own work.

Pulling from her years of experience and sharing stories from her newly published book Recording UnHinged, Sylvia will show you:

  • How to get interesting and vibrant drum sounds, using the room and the drummer to your advantage
  • Capturing great sounding guitars at the source, without editing and reamping
  • Pushing vocalists to deliver their best vocal takes 
  • Mixing both in the box and through a console using outboard gear

Sylvia is also known as a prolific educator, speaking and teaching at some of the best recording schools around the world. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of the industry’s most celebrated A-list producers. 

Ratings and Reviews

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Jimmy Foot

This Studio Pass episode with Sylvia Massey covers a lot of ground. From fundamentals like correct mic placement and phase to experimentation with amps, cell phone delay and a few extra parts, Sylvia makes it fun! I have been lucky enough in my career to work with a number of great engineers and producers. I haven't had the opportunity to work with her, but Sylvia is certainly in that category, and anyone who gets a chance to work with her would be a lucky person. This broadcast is the next best thing. Great job there at Avast Studio and fantastic camera work! And as for Thunderpussy; you guys rock!

Marc Felish

Wow, that was such a blast. Thanks so much Sylvia and everyone else for making this such a fun experience. I picked up so many new ideas that I can't wait to try out! Sylvia is such a creative producer, it was so much fun to be a fly on the wall watching everything. Loved it!!

Marcus Soares

Awesome! A great opportunity to pick into the creative mind of one of the greatest and get that kind of knowledge that you can't acquire otherwise. Highly recommended!