Studio Pass: Sylvia Massy


Studio Pass: Sylvia Massy


Lesson Info

Drum Micing - Room Mics

That these, the coals on either side of the room. These are ribbon mics and they are kind of dark, which is good because when you get into rooms and you have the bright cymbals again with the hose, I want to dumb down the brightness of the cymbals so we're using these coals for the room. It's a small room, but a good thing about this room is that there's very little reflection off the ceiling because they have soffit with a lot of padding in the ceiling so we're not gonna get that bounciness. It's not going to be a big room sound, but we'll have fun using compressors with these room mics and we will make things happen. Let's see, the other things we need to talk about. We have a mic way up there, it's a Sennheiser shotgun mic and I got it pointed basically at the kit but we might have you Scott, stand up on the ladder there, Yeah no problem. If you wouldn't mind, pointing it closer to where the snare drum is because I've found that using a shotgun mic pointed at the snare drum is r...

eally good. So we'll add a little bit of that, we'll try that. The other things that we're working on. This is just an unusual mic we'll try, having it in the back here. It's also a ribbon and I remember this when I heard it last time was that it was kind of a smooth, dark sound so that will be interesting, we'll do some effects with that. And we have a boombox set up, which we need to check. What I was trying to do was use that on board compressors on a boom box because most of these boom boxes, like this one, have little microphones built in. This one has stereo mics built in and there's an onboard, really inexpensive, but the fact of onboard compressors so, it kind of evens out everything you record on your cassette. So the great thing is that this little boom box has an audio out, it's basically a headphone out and we're taking a sound from the headphone and we're actually gonna record that on our Pro Tools, and see what we get, who knows? The way that you arm this is to put a cassette in here and you have to use, not a pre recorded cassette, but a recordable cassette that doesn't have the tabs broken out and just set that up in here, that way. Set that up, we'll put it in pause, we don't actually need to record everything, but we'll put it in record ready by pushing record and play and it holds it down. Now I can see that it's active, (claps quickly), this little red indicator light is showing that it's active so we'll hear it, it's ready to go anyways. We'll hear and see it, it should work. Should sound great with the drums, honestly. It's gonna be a great room sound. What else do we have? The Arri 55. Yes we have an unusual room mic set up there, kind of just up in the ceiling, who knows what that's going to be like but I think we're gonna crush it with a distressor or something, right, so we'll have fun with that. Should we start listening? Might as well start listening, right? That's the next stage if all the mics are in place. Okay we got the hose, oh hang on. We got our subharmonic speaker kick, and we'll just place that a little closer if we can. Can we get any closer with this? Uh, should be able to, nah, it's gotta go under the kick. It does, doesn't it? Because of the stand that it's on, yeah. Under the kick, huh? Get this thing out of the way. Can you help with that, Scott? Yeah, no problem. We might even want to try, well, eh. Maybe that's enough but, It's really loud. Is it, okay. It's really loud. Okay then maybe we don't need to have it really close. It doesn't even really need a pre, you can actually go straight into a compressor with it. Okay, great! I've put a pad in mine, just in case. Oh, that loud, huh? Yeah. So when I built these, and basically what it is, and I'll pull it out to show what it is. It's basically a speaker. This is a NS-10, Yamaha NS-10 speaker, from a set of monitors probably that was a retired monitor that it became not as lively so it was pulled out and replaced in a set of speakers. But if you take one of these tired NS-10 speakers, and you wire it up in reverse so that what was audio going to the speaker now is audio coming from the speaker, the way I do it is I just take an XLR cable and I cut it in half and I wire one end directly on to the speaker, the other end I see that they've done that here, also. It goes right into an XLR cable, and straight into the board. I'll use DI box on the way to the board, but it's not necessary in this case I guess. He says it's going to be loud enough. But this is, the effect that you get from this speaker mic is really low thuddy sound, like if you're familiar with a Rolan 808 kick drum, that's the sound that you get from these speaker mics. Okay double check, did you adjust your legs on that floor, alright. Got that, the top bag, got the mic here, let's put that in a better position. All facing kind of one direction, another thing about micing the snare is if you point the snare mic down like, this is a SM-57, if you point it down into the drum you're gonna get more of the deep tone of the drum. If you point it across the head, it will be more of the attack so let's start with the attack because we got a lot of character in this drum and we'll just try to get more of the attack. Is that going to be in your way? It could be, yeah. It could be in your way, huh? Alright, let's see, you got a shorter stand that we can manipulate? What I'm trying to check here, um it looks like you got a bunch of talls over here, I'm gonna go check the other room real quick. Okay, great. I'll be right back. We're gonna try to get a shorter stand and try to tuck it in here and maybe access it this way. And if we can't get it there without getting in your way then we will get it from this side. Okay. Great. In the meantime, what I would like you to do, I'll give you a signal, and I'll just like you to play a beat like kick snare hat. Nothing special, no tom fills or anything, just kick snare hat, easy beat because I'm going to have you play it for awhile. Okay. And typically I wouldn't even have you play it, I would have an assistant play it, or someone else sitting around who can play drums, just enough that I can check mics, but if you don't mind, we'll do a little bit. But first lets work on this microphone here. So if somebody asked what type of mic stands you used, you basically use what you got, right? You basically use what you got. I personally like the solid round stands better the tripods, okay. But there's in some cases where you really need the tripods that nothing else will fit. Yeah, okay. I like the booms, however the types of mics that have these types of tighteners here, with a level that you can actually, Get some leverage on it, yeah. Way better than the type that has, A little twist thing. Yeah. Because it's very hard to get a solid grip and then you get this drooping thing and they have your mind the worst it gets. So this type of mic stand I would avoid purchasing, however if it's the only thing you got in the studio. Ready for you. It's great, okay. Is that going to be in your way at all? No I don't think. Is that going to be better? Now I'm going to make it in your way, okay? Cool. By pointing it, a little bit differently. Is that going to be alright? Yeah, that should be fine. Great, so now see I've attempted to get it so, it's all in one direction without getting in her way. So, hopefully that will work out good. Her overhead thing is a little weird. Scott? Yeah? Can we move this mic stand over a little bit? I think that we were caught, Sure. caught a little weird there. Just bring it over a little bit this way. Looking good? Let's try that! Okay, awesome. Alright. It could come down a little if you can make it come down just a hair, ah beautiful, lets try that. Okay we're going to go into the control room and we're going to start listening to mics. So if you wouldn't mind just doing kick snare hat, a simple beat and just do it for awhile, pace yourself. Nothing fancy because I won't be listening to performance at all, just yeah save your energy for later when we actually start recording. So Silvia, once you get everything dialed in, you get everything set up, do you let the drummer play for awhile to just kind of get comfortable with the way things are sounding, and feeling, is that an important thing to do? Well honestly it's not for the drummer but I do want a drummer to play on the kit. Just kick snare hat, because I want to start listening to the relationship of the mics. It doesn't necessarily have to be the actual drummer that we're using but yeah I'm going to go through each mic one at a time now, and I'm gonna make sure that first we're getting signal, it's the right kind of signal. And then I'm gonna listen to phase relationships and that's the most important and the first thing I wanna check is to make sure the phase relationships between these mics are correct. So I don't really need the drummer to be banging on the drums to do that, and I don't really want bonk, bonk, bonk, bank, bank, bank. You know, someone sitting out there doing that. So I figured I can get this job done by just having someone play a simple beat and then I can listen to all the mics and have them in perspective as to what the finished thing will sound like. And then when the real drummer comes in, and then everything gets a little louder, usually. Okay. She can here us. Here's the talk button right here, if you want to call it out. Okay, hello. Hello. Go ahead and start playing. Okay. (drums playing) So that's just the overhead? Can we shut those doors, thank you. Alright our mics are over here. Our returns are here. So what I'm going to do is start by pushing up on my returns and I'll just have them pushed up and panned correctly. And then I'll start opening up the mics, mics one at a time and just check to see that they're routed correctly. These are my returns from Pro Tools, Pro Tools have already set up all the tracks, and the tracks are armed, and on input. So let's see where we are. (drums playing) Scott? Yes. Are mic's pre's? Uh uh. They are hidden in the middle right here. Great. Top knob, mic pre. Do you need the fader? Yup, it's direct out from the fader. Direct out from the fader, okay. And then I have a question. Yeah. Why do I hear that? That's going the neve. Ah, that's right, that's right. Let me put a piece of tape on that. Thank you. No problem. So for the recording of the drums, I'm using most of the mic pre's from the API. Most drums are going into the side car, which is the 1604. And the rest are coming into the legacy API console, but the kick drum I have especially going through this 1073 mic pre EQ that's a rack, it's mounted in a rack over here. So I'll take a look at that. Here it is. And let's take a look at our level going to, the Pro Tools, actually, I'd like to look at the edit window please, thanks. Great, that's what I wanted to see, okay. I'm gonna detail that more later, but I'll be conservative with the levels to start. And I'm not gonna use any EQ on it yet. Okay next, let's listen to that sub, that speaker over there and the speaker is on this channel, oh I hear it. So this is the sound of the sub kick which is that speaker that is wired in reverse. Okay that's working great so I'm gonna mute that, and that's going to our track there, pretty good level, great. And next is our snare, the snare top. I'm gonna add a little more level. Oh that sounds a little distorted, what's going on there? It looks a little low. It looks low, and it's a little distorted here, too. Is that what's going on? Yeah, it's going through the echo send. I see, let's turn those all the way up then. It's just these two that are going through the snare. Okay, got it. Thank you, that's much better. Level's good on that one, too. Level's good. So what we've got here is we got a top mic, and a bottom mic on the snare, and I'm going to sum them together through a buff, actually we are using, An echo send. An echo send, on this old desk here to sum them together, I'm going to record both the top and bottom mic on to one track instead of having them on separate tracks. I just find that when you commit to a sound by combining the top and the bottom mics, it just sounds better so I'm gonna make that decision right now, I'm going to add the bottom snare in after I flip the bottom one out of phase. I think I might have already done that. Okay you have done that. So you can here that the bottom, the bottom mic adds the rattle. (drums playing) That's the top, I'm just gonna add just a little bit of the bottom in our blend. How's our level? Looking good. Looking good, okay. We're gonna commit to that. Silvia, I have a question about the snare. So it was angled for attack, or can you go back over the different angling of the top snare mic? I have a mic on the top and the bottom of the snare. Okay. The bottom is flipped out of phase, the top, if the top is angled, deeper into the drum you get a deeper tone. Okay. If you have it flatter, across the head then you get more of the crack. Yeah more snap. The attack. So right now it's kind of in the middle, but it's more flatter across the head for the attack. I'm going to listen to these overheads right now. (drums playing) And this, the overhead, using this MS technique, so I'm going to only listen to the sides right now. This is the figure eight, that's been split to two signals, and it's coming up on two channels, and those channels are panned wide. And that is how we have it, so if we listen to just the sides without adding the middle it sounds like, where is it? Oh there it is, it sounds like this, whoo. It really sounds out of phase. Now I'm going to add the center into the picture. Now here you still get the wide, but it's full now, it's not hollow, that's a really nice sound, how's our level? Looking good. Where is it? Down below. Okay, that does look good. That's also going through the Manly there. Alright. I don't think it's getting hit too hard. We're using the Variable MU for the overhead to compress and kind of bring it up a little bit. And let's see. Right, right right right. That's the threshold, fast recovery, output. Seems like one side was a little lower, the left side. I'll make up for it with this compressor a little bit. Okay, we'll go with that for now. I'm looking at the input of the Pro Tools while adjusting the output of the compressor to make sure my levels are good. (drums playing) I'm going to listen to the rooms now, this will be fun. These are the coals, and where are your coals over here? Where are the coals? Over here. Oh, on the summit. It's down there. Great, how's our levels? Looking pretty good actually. A little low but it might be able to bring it up in the compressor up here, because it's what we're using too for the rooms. Okay. (drums playing) So what I'm doing here is turning up the input, turning up the threshold, backing off the output, and getting it to do a little pumping, if I can do something and it seems pretty smooth right now, not really aggressive. We'll make it a little more aggressive later. But this is a good place to start. Okay let's get weird now. That's a great soundbite. We've got this American mic, this American ribbon. Let's see if this is happening. (drums kick in) Oooh, I think I like that already, right? You go through the top 11-76? Okay! Or no. It should be going through - Oh, that's the vocal. It should be this one, right? Let me double check that real quick. There it's coming into the second one. Okay, cool, that's what I thought. That's just a book mic. Alright I wonder what would happen if we pushed all the buttons in, right? Why not, right? Oh nice. (drums playing) Isn't that nice, let's see, we're pretty hot on the levels so I'll turn that down here. Pretty nice, right, okay? I want to talk about the phone for a minute, alright? Hold on a sec. Okay that's kind of a weird sounding thing, right? I built this, and I have to show you what it is. It's out in the room. Yeah we can go out there. Okay. Here it is, it's the phone. This is something I built, and all it is, is a standard old phone that you can buy these old things in a thrift store, I got this one in a thrift store. And I took all the guts out of it basically, but kept the original carbon button. So it's a carbon microphone, and the original phone had this in it, it's in the mouthpiece. And I kept the cradle that the button is in. But I re-wired this, I took out the old wiring, and I just took an XLR cable, and I cut the end off of it, and I wired it into this cradle. But across one side of it you'll see this wire here. I wired in a battery and the wires go through here to a battery and I'll show you the battery. It's just tucked in here this way, because of space. But often times I'll make these and the batteries will just be hanging out there. But it's a fun microphone, sounds just like a telephone. It's great for vocals, but we're using it for drums today. And now let me put that back together, and I'll show you what the battery is. I took all the little speaker and everything out of the headset, the earpiece I guess because it used to be like this. So I took all the little speaker and stuff out of there, all the wiring, and now that little battery is tucked right in here, and I wired it in by just soldering the wires directly to the battery. It's a 1.5 volt battery, and because it's 1.5 volts it means that our signal is line level. So you don't have to plug this into your mic input, but you want to plug it into your line input, then it's a fantastic sound. I guess we'll keep it back here. It was actually working really well. So it's hiding back here and we'll go listen to it again. (drums playing) That sounds pretty good! (drums playing) Okay and that's the stressor. Let's see how crazy we can make this sound. Yeah let's nuke it. Let's go with a, There we go, how's our level? That's good, that's good. Yeah? You can probably get away with a little bit more input. Yeah that's, no EQ, no EQ yet. That's a good sound, I like that. Alright, next, so let's listen to something else. We have this mono room, what is that mono room mic? Is it a EV? EV-RE 55. RE 55, okay. It's an omni directional dynamic microphone. Omni dynamic, okay. And here's the mono, keep going. She's getting tired. Is she getting tired? Do you play drums, Scott? I can play drums. Can you play the drums? Would you mind? No, not at all. Oh we're almost done. Okay. Okay, so this is kind of boring compared to those other ones but where is? This should be the mono room here. Alright, is that it? That is it, another level. (drums playing) There it is, okay good, alright. Let's listen to this shotgun mic. That should be coming in here. We can pad that. Great. (drums playing) Is it here? Yep, good, awesome. Is it alright? Yeah. We're looking good. Good level. Alright, next is our hose, oh we've been waiting for the hose. And let's see, where's the hose? Should be right there. Okay. There it is. Alright, and what compressor are we using for that? (drums playing) We are not using a compressor for that. No compressor for that, huh? Left number four of the distressor's open. Let's use the distressor, yeah. Let's put the distressor on the hose. Alright, we'll see what we can do with that. (drums playing) Hold on a second, take a little break. Hang on. She's good now? Okay start again, that was a very short break. I try to be quick. Okay, go ahead. (drums playing) Oh yeah, that's cool! Right that's the oh's, right! It's a little hot on the output. How's that? A little less. There you go, that's good. Alright so, what's left, I think we have, we have a boom box. A boom box. Alright. So we got, there's that. Okay. Let me make sure we're getting levels and principles here, oh, that's odd. Okay, how come it's not working? Let's push it up, give it a little more level, maybe? You got anything there, nothing? I hear something, I hear noise. I'm seeing noise in Pro Tools but I'm not hearing the mics out of it. Okay, okay. Okay. Hang on a second, hold on! Just dead air, oh yeah, that's just humming air. How about, let's do a test actually. Should we do RCA cables, on the output of that? Before we do that, let's try playing, play a cassette tape. Okay. Because if we know that the, the cassette tape is playing then we know we got output. Nothing? Sounds like we're coming through Pro Tools so. Alright, okay, nevermind, let's, Swap it out? Yeah, let's scrap this. Do we have another? We have one hidden, yeah. Another boom box, okay. We're gonna abandon this boom box. There's another boom box, so we're gonna try another boom box before abandoning this idea, because it would be really great but if we can't get it to work, then we'll just move on. Okay. Alright. Okay so we're coming out of the headphone output with an eighth inch cable going into this radio DI, okay. The radio DI has a pad on it, out of the radio DI. Now what's going on, why do we have two outputs here? It's stereo coming out of the headphone out, so we're just taking both sides. Okay, cool, alright now this boom box. Now where's the microphone on that? It's right here on the top. It's just one mic? Just one mic on the top. So we don't have stereo? Yup, it might be dual mono that it's spitting out at us, I'm not sure. Alright, well hopefully we can get any of it to work. Now we've put a cassette tape there, we've put it in pause and we've put it in record ready, and pressed everything down, it's making a horrible noise but you know, maybe it doesn't matter, we'll see. Let's see if this one works, would you mind playing a little bit more? Yeah. Okay. Okay, we'll see if this works. Go ahead and play for us. (drums playing) Ooh, ooh! Wait a second, do you have an adjustment? Can you adjust - There might be a sensitivity adjuster, but I'm not sure. Okay. I didn't see anything on the top of it, just a volume output. Okay. But I I will take a peek. (drums playing) Okay, I have the phantom power on, because the DI needs phantom power. The microphone sensitivity on the box, there. I think phantom power. It should be on, it's the active DI box. It's an active DI box. Is it? Yeah, it's on. What else can we do to make this work? Okay I'm going to have her stop, hold on a second. Can you just go out there and talk into the little microphone sure! On the boom box? No problem! Let's see if that works, maybe it's just too loud. But you use these things in rehearsal rooms, and it doesn't have a problem with volume, right? Oh! (muffled speaker) Adjust the cable! I think the mic, (muffled clapping) hit it, hit it! Okay, come in. So I took the tape out of pause, so it's actually rolling now. Oh! So we may have to flip it back and forth, while it's going. Okay! But if that's better, there you go. Go ahead and play a little more. (muffled drumming) Yeah, this is crap. Yeah, we're still cutting out. Sounds like a bad mic. Sounds like a bad mic, huh? Yeah it doesn't work. Sometimes a bad mic is cool but, You know what, I'm gonna try to fix it right now. The sanya's not working. (drums playing) Can you hear me, can you hear me talking? (smacking boom box) Is it better? (smacking boom box) Did that help? Yeah, it sounds like it might be a loose connection in the boom box because when you shake it, it goes skrrt, skrrt, skrrt, just like when the snare's being hit so, it might just be the internal mic is loose. I don't know if we have a third one around. Can we look? Yeah I can take a peek. Okay, alright, we're gonna leave that for now. We're gonna try to find another boom box. A third boom box, third times the charm. Yep. Alright, well I think pretty much all the drums, the mics are pretty good. Oh you know what, we need to listen to the toms and the cymbals, so if you wouldn't mind, playing the kick snare hat, and then go back and forth between the hat and the ride and give me a few tom fills and a couple crashes here and there. Nothing special or anything, just easy. Cool. Here we go. Alright. It's gonna be fun. It's gonna be fun. Okay, okay, okay, let's see. We're gonna do toms next, we'll go with tom top, tom top, and we're gonna get hat and ride, alright. Are we using the stainless toms? Of course we're using the stainless toms, those are great. They sound good, too, I mean yeah. That floor tom is quite gorgeous. Okay, go ahead and play the beat with some tom fills. (drums playing) Ooh nice, you work on that, I'll work on toms. (drums playing) Oh I got that going here. I got, no, alright, okay, okay, okay. Hold on, hold on. For some reason our top tom one mic is not working, so I'm going to take a look at it. We also have a problem with the top mic on tom one? What's going on? Super low level. Okay. I do see it coming into the API? But it's just low? It's just low. What channel is that? Would you mind doing a bonk bonk on that? (toms playing) That sounds, That's not good, right? Well, I'll tell you what, I'm going to go above the ground channel two real quick, and see if that fixes it, so I'll move channel four to channel 10 and we'll see if that fixes it first. I mean I see it? I see it. Yeah. I'm also going to make sure that that is going to the sub group. Great. Move forward to channel 10. Move forward to channel 10, okay. The tom, mic up. It's now in channel 10. Okay. See if that's any better, if it's not it might be the mic. Alright. Go ahead and play that tom again. (toms playing) Yeah, that's still not good. Okay, I'm going to go change the mic out. Do you have another one of those? I do. Great, okay. Go ahead and hit the floor tom. (toms playing) Now the floor tom, I think, that's good. That's a nice one, alright. (toms playing) Sometimes you need to exercise these switches a little bit. That's better.

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.