Sylvia Massy | Become a Better Music Producer | Rhythm & Melody as Abstract Concepts


Sylvia Massy | Become a Better Music Producer | Rhythm & Melody as Abstract Concepts

[MUSIC] We’re going to go all the way back to the beginning. You have to erase your idea of what music is. Consider looking at it in an entirely different way. Music is a collection of melodies and rhythms. There’s two different elements to music that combined make this thing that we do that we want to record. Can you separate those? Yes. You can have entire separate melodies. Melodies transmit emotion. The music can be pure emotion with just concentrating on melody, and then the rhythm can also transmit emotion. But it also can just be very mechanical and not have as much of the sadness or joy come out of it as it just gets you moving. So if you can understand these things separately, then as you combine them, they become more powerful. So you just have to be able to understand. What is this part that I’m recording? Is it a rhythmic part or is it a melodic part? A lot of times, acoustic guitar is actually more rhythmic than it is melodic, and you’ll want to record it differently if you’re doing a rhythmic part, you’ll want to choose a different kind of acoustic guitar. When I was working with Prince, I brought my own acoustic guitar. It was a very, very inexpensive Fender Gemini II, and not a really expressive guitar and not a lot of color or melody in it, but when you strummed it, it had this percussive quality that was really exciting, and Prince wound up using it on the album Diamonds and Pearls quite a bit. But it was used as a percussive instrument. So I used an SM57 on it because a 57, it captures drums really well, and it will capture those dynamic, rhythmic, transient things. So it translated really well as a percussive instrument. But if you know that this part is rhythm, then you’ll put it into your mix a little differently than you would a melody. A melody is the voice. A melody is going to be on top. It’s going to be large. You might want to multi track the melody so that it’s bigger and broader. That’s why we have orchestras with several strings in a string section because they’re really trying to bring out these melodies. So that’s how I approached music, is I look at what is melody, what is rhythm, and then I combine them together to be as powerful as possible. Can any melodic instrument be considered to be rhythmic and mechanical in some way? I suppose it’s how you treat it, how you record it and how it’s played. Let’s talk about how you can turn around a melodic instrument and make it percussive, make it more rhythmic. Well, you look at Rap and how the voice can be a really interesting and engaging rhythm instrument. At the same time, you can do this with drums too. On the tool records that I recorded, we always tuned the toms to the key of the song so that they could be played as melodic instruments too. In electronic music, one of the biggest trends is tuning a snare to rise up, to create emotional tension leading into a big drop. It’s another way of playing with that idea that it doesn’t have to necessarily just to keep a rhythm and be mechanical, but it can build emotion. It can build tension. Right. It goes back also to the idea of leaving your biases, knowing your biases, and shedding them because if you always think that a voice should be melodic, then you’re missing out on all of the things that you can do with breath and words and rhythm with rap and rhyme, and how that works in creating music. [MUSIC]

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4 thoughts on “Sylvia Massy | Become a Better Music Producer | Rhythm & Melody as Abstract Concepts”

  1. Lab Baby says:

    A lot of popular music today is missing what Sylvia is talking about. Not from a subjective good/bad standpoint, but the functionality of the instruments used. Because most of the sounds you hear are computer generated, it's usually played as such… therefore a lot of timbres natural sounds would produce got lost in time. Unless you know the dynamics of a guitar and how to play it, it's difficult to get a natural guitar sound. Even with drums… if they're sequenced thru a DAW rather than played manually, they sound static and computerized unless you humanize the velocity, shift, etc.

  2. The Volk Tone says:

    Dope !!! Tks

  3. Ace Hardy says:


  4. Vitor Pinheiro says:

    Awesome, Sylvia! That simple idea can lead to several developments in composing, recording and mixing. Afterall, if you zoom a sine wave all the way out it turns into a rhythm 😉 Love your videos

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