Hal Leonard Books Recording Unhinged - Sylvia Massy by Diogo C
Recording Unhinged - creative and unconventional music recording techniques, by Sylvia Massy (with Chris Johnson)
Hal Leonard Books - 244 pages, hardcover.
The scope: “Recording Unhinged - creative and unconventional music recording techniques” is all about making records through experimentation. Sylvia Massy, this brilliant engineer/producer who has worked with the likes of Tool, System of a Down and Johnny Cash, proposes a very empirical approach to the recording craft that favors and embraces improvisation - even if that means assuming greater risks and eventual accidents. Like literally “shooting” a piano or throwing a guitar amp down the hill, but also some creative use of gear - and for us Gearslutz this book is quite a delight. Recording Unhinged is organized on thirteen chapters and starts by laying the groundwork and overarching premises on the first three chapters. Following that comes eight chapter about the recording process of some of the most common instruments used in modern music, which sounds kind of “conventional”, but here’s the catch: inside each chapter Sylvia constantly moves from her views and experiences to other professionals’ takes on the subject in hand. Along the way many recording techniques are shared and exposed, with enough detail so everyone can “get the idea”. In that regard, Recording Unhinged is not a personal account on recording as it’s not only Sylvia speaking, it also brings many other voices to the mix and those voices happens to be from people who produced many songs we love. The last two chapters are devoted to production and mixing, which are also aligned with overarching philosophy proposed through the book.
Sound quality: This book will most likely improve your recordings, so it gets the top score! Just kidding, but that’s totally true! There’s no sound to evaluate here so I’m assessing the overall quality of the book, which is really good. This is great writing and most importantly it’s very engaging content. Quality of the book itself is also very good, with hard-cover, good quality paper with matte finish - I generally prefer the glossy type of finish but the print quality is very good, with clear illustrations, pictures and easy to read text. I should also note that Sylvia’s illustrations are very cool and contributes greatly to the positive vibe that surpasses this book.
Ease of use: Language is very accessible and the vocabulary will not be a problem. The choice of font and font size are appropriate and the layout is also very good, although some of the guests quotes and callout boxes are a bit over the top on some parts, slightly disrupting the flow but nothing that derails it. Overall it’s a fun, light to read book and it’s 244 pages can be easily devoured within on a few hours.
Features: I wouldn’t mind if Recording Unhinged came with some sort of multimedia content, such as footage with Sylvia experimenting with some techniques or audio examples to illustrate the different uses of gear. Nevertheless, there are many videos with Sylvia out there and she was generous to grant us with two excellent Q&As (01 and 02), so you can easily find some further support for this book if you browse around.
Bang for buck: A very refreshing read that should be extremely useful for both novice and seasoned engineers and producer. It’s affordably priced so better spend your hard earned money on a great book instead of purchasing your 47th compressor plug-in! For those who are new to music production I really recommended reading “Recording Unhinged” along with Bob Owsinski’s handbooks as they will complement each other very nicely. For the studio veterans it’s a great book to shake things up and lit up those creative flames once again. Definitely a very inspiring book regardless of where one comes from!