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Studio Pass: Sylvia Massy

Lesson 15 of 27

How Sylvia Plans a Lesson

Sylvia Massy

Studio Pass: Sylvia Massy

Sylvia Massy

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Lesson Info

15. How Sylvia Plans a Lesson

Lesson Info

How Sylvia Plans a Lesson

I'd like to talk a little bit about how I conduct workshops and strategies of doing that, and other strategies for doing recording sessions. And talk about production the production side of doing this type of work, and things to look for in budgets and such. So what we did here during the last few episodes is we set up a session that is for a small band. We're using analog equipment and we're generally using the digital recorder like it's a tape machine. In the old style of the mics come into the analog equipment then through any processing which is in the racks and then out of buses into the tape I'm sorry into the digital recorder and then without doing any processing digitally or going out of the digital recorder and monitoring back through the desk. So mics two, mic three is on the console to some EQ on the console to some processing patched in here into the digital recorder which is pro-tools here out of the digital recorder back into the desk the monitor inputs on the desk. And w...

e have it arranged so that this side of the console is basically monitoring what we are recording and this side over here is basically microphones, microphone inputs. I like to record like this. I've recorded like this since the early 90's and it's always worked. There's another way of working and that is to use racks of mic trees and have your mics go into the rack of mic trees and then into the digital recorder and use the onboard you know the plug ins to manipulate the sound to combine the sounds and to affect the sounds, like you would with all this analog here. It's actually really a good option these days. It's very inexpensive compared to having to buy all this equipment, but if you're lucky enough to be able to get into a studio like this and be able to record on analog equipment I would not hesitate to do that. When I work with classes of students in a studio situation like this I want to explore different avenues of recording that other people may not show you how to do like because I like unconventional recording so I'm going to be pointing more in the direction of things that you wouldn't see anywhere else right? So like today we're setting up a drill or a blender or a saw and we're going to have a guitar play through this electronic electric saw and other times I'll take cymbals and I'll prepare a recipe to dumb down the color of cymbals so they are not so bright and obnoxious, that's another way of controlling the noise the harshness of cymbals is to actually treat the cymbals with a solution of vinegar and potato chips and yeah unusual things like that. So we do some of that in our workshops and generally just try to do something different because I want people to explore ideas that they may not have thought of before plus maybe inspire them to do something unusual on their own. I also think it's really really really important to use your environment as a tool to get a performance. One thing that I like to do is I like to record in different places different spaces that you wouldn't typically work in like one my favorite places to record is in our old castle in Dresden, Germany. And I'll bring it's especially good for metal bands because you know being in an old castle gives them a certain vibe. You're going get a different performance if you're recording a mental band in a castle than you are going to get from a metal band recording in a office park. You know? We did vocals on an island in a prison for the same metal band and I'll tell you what working in a prison gives you a completely different performance from the artist, you know especially if it's that kinda dark music. I think it's important also to do things to the performers to make them comfortable or to make them uncomfortable sometimes I'll even make the singers really uncomfortable especially if I want to get a certain type of performance out of them. If I want them to be angry then I'm going to make it as uncomfortable as possible. I'll turn down the air conditioning so it's freezing. I'll make them go outside and run around in the rain and I'll just make things very uncomfortable, harsh lighting or whatever to get that kinda harsh and more angry performance. There's a lot to be said for that environment that wherever you are working and sometimes you can create a scene to get a certain type of experience out of recording like if you have an opportunity to to go on a submarine, or in a boat, or in a plane and do some recording, that's fantastic. I actually have a little kit that I bring around with me that has a little tiny mixer that I take with my laptop will have some microphones and I'll go into a church and I might set up and do something there or in the back of a car is a great place to do some recording so we'll explore those types of things too.

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

Student Work

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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!