Unlocking Creativity: Insights from Sylvia Massy’s Amsterdam Masterclass

In the world of music production, Sylvia Massy is a name that needs no introduction. A legendary figure in the industry, Sylvia has made her mark through decades of groundbreaking work with artists like Tool, Johnny Cash, System of a Down, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Prince and Brazilian band South Cry. What sets Sylvia apart is not only her technical expertise but also her fearless approach to creativity. She understands that great music is not solely about technical perfection but about capturing raw emotion and creating unique sonic landscapes, a philosophy she enthusiastically shares on her YouTube channels and imparts in masterclasses and workshops across the world. Her ability to think outside the box has resulted in groundbreaking productions that have captivated audiences worldwide. Recently, our students at Abbey Road Institute Amsterdam had the extraordinary opportunity to experience Sylvia Massy in action during a masterclass in studio 1. This masterclass not only promised insights into the art of music production but also the chance to record a band live, resulting in the release of a song. In this article, we delve into the invaluable lessons and unforgettable experiences shared by some of our participating students.. This masterclass not only promised insights into the art of music production but also the chance to record a band live, resulting in the release of a song. In this article, we delve into the invaluable lessons and unforgettable experiences shared by some of our participating students.

Valuable Insights and Fearless Creativity with silvia massy

One of the participants, Alexander Gleinser, was struck by Sylvia’s approach. She emphasized setting things up freely and focusing on the sound itself rather than specific mic setups. Her vast experience allowed her to make swift decisions, instantly selecting outboard processing and effect chains that gave recordings her signature, impactful sound. This fearless and intuitive approach was truly amazing to witness.

Maxime Aggeri, who served as the assistant engineer during the recording session, found Sylvia’s emphasis on nurturing creativity to be one of the most valuable aspects. Sylvia encouraged participants to think beyond conventional boundaries, sparking new ideas to revolutionize their music production and recording processes. She conveyed a vital lesson – in music production, there are no absolute right or wrong answers, only different perspectives. This revelation freed participants from the fear of failure and empowered them to embrace experimentation wholeheartedly.

Recording session with Sylvia Massy

Recording session with Sylvia Massy

Unconventional Techniques and Inspiration

During the masterclass, Sylvia introduced participants to a world of unconventional microphones. One memorable moment was when she used a garden hose attached to a pencil microphone to capture the drum kit’s unique sound. This seemingly unconventional technique added tasteful low mid frequencies to the drums, enhancing the recording’s depth without the harsh highs from overhead mics. It was a testament to Sylvia’s creativity and willingness to think outside the box.

Another unexpected discovery was the use of quirky extra microphones like the Gameboy microphone, Xbox mic, and even a humble phone to enhance various elements of the recording. These unconventional choices highlighted Sylvia’s fearless and creative approach to music production, inspiring participants to push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Empowering Musicians and Spontaneous Sessions

Michiel Nieuwenhuijs, another participant, found immense value in Sylvia’s drum-mic techniques. She utilised unconventional microphones like the hose and periscope mics to capture the essence of the drums. Sylvia’s kindness and willingness to engage with the students added a personal touch to the masterclass, making the experience even more memorable.

A significant moment that stood out was when Sylvia broke the spatial separation between the control room and the live room. She sat down next to the band during their performance, connecting with them on a human level. This closeness allowed her better to gauge the playing dynamics and the song’s vibe. It underscored the importance of human connection during recording and how the recording engineer’s actions can influence the band’s performance.

Sylvia Massy behind the computer surrounded by students

Sylvia Massy showing some Protools tricks to the participating students

Simplicity and Bold Experimentation

Leni Schmidtpeter appreciated Sylvia’s playful and fun approach to recording. Sylvia’s ability to capture sound with unconventional items, like recording drums with a garden hose, inspired participants to embrace their own creativity. Sylvia encouraged them to break away from conventional norms in music production, reminding them that new approaches and techniques are still waiting to be discovered.

Commitment and Characterful Sound

Dave Warmerdam also played a crucial role during the masterclass as an assistant engineer. He observed Sylvia’s unwavering commitment to achieving the desired sound. From the moment she entered the studio at Abbey Road Institute Amsterdam, Sylvia knew precisely what she wanted to hear. She made quick decisions during recording, which resulted in characterful, almost finished-sounding mixes, even at the recording stage. This approach forced participants to be more critical of their arrangements and sound sources, pushing them to achieve a certain sound with commitment and focus.

Fiorella Frieri, another participant, shared her perspective. She emphasised the value of simplicity in Sylvia’s teachings, highlighting that one doesn’t need the most expensive microphone for the best results. Sylvia’s energy throughout the recording, marked by her calm and fun approach, left a lasting impression. Fiorella admired how Sylvia approached each recording session enthusiastically, encouraging creativity while getting a lot done.

Sylvia Massy and her drawings

Sylvia Massy is also an excellent illustrator. Participating student Leni receives a signed copy of one of Massy’s illustrations.

MUSIC PRODUCTION IS Breaking the Norms for Creative Freedom

Aro Ralambo, a participant in the masterclass Sylvia Massy, offered unique insights into the experience. He shared how the masterclass inspired a sense of creative freedom. Sylvia’s teachings challenged the notion of always adhering strictly to the rules of music production. While mastering microphone placement techniques, phase alignment, and other technical skills is crucial, Sylvia urged participants to know when to break these norms and leverage creativity. It’s not about discarding technical proficiency but temporarily setting it aside to make way for creative expression.

The Band’s Perspective and Upcoming Releases

Thames, the band that had the privilege of being recorded during the masterclass, had a remarkable experience. What stood out the most was Sylvia’s unyielding positivity and her ability to challenge and inspire. Regardless of the challenges they faced, Sylvia’s positivity kept the band motivated, and the recordings turned out spectacular.

“The thing that springs to mind most is her unyielding positivity, whether she was being lovely, tough, challenging or assertive. No matter what the subject, level of fatigue, number of redos, or available channels on the Neve console, she always made me and the band feel positive in a way we’d never experienced before.”

Merlyn Baartman, Thames

Thames recorded two songs during the masterclass, “BURN” and “ASTONISHMENT.” They recently released “BURN” and secured a licensing deal with a small indie label in Rotterdam. The song received well-deserved acclaim, marking the success of the masterclass experience. “ASTONISHMENT” is set to be released in mid-January, building on the momentum of their collaboration with Sylvia Massy. (Head over to their Instagram account to check it out!)

Band members of Thames with Sylvia Massy

The talented band members of Thames having their picture moment with Sylvia Massy


Sylvia Massy’s masterclass at Abbey Road Institute Amsterdam proved to be a transformative journey into the heart of music production. Through fearless creativity, unconventional techniques, and unwavering commitment, Sylvia left an indelible mark on the participants and the band Thames. Her teachings instilled confidence, encouraged experimentation, and pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in music production.

As we reflect on the experiences shared by those lucky enough to attend this masterclass, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Sylvia Massy’s impact on the world of music production continues to inspire and shape the future of creativity in recording and mixing.

If you’re an aspiring music producer or recording engineer, consider checking Sylvia Massy’s videos to expand your horizons and unlock your full creative potential. After all, it’s through fearless experimentation and thinking beyond boundaries that the most remarkable sounds and music are born.

Sylvia Massy behind the Neve Mixing Console in Amsterdam

Sylvia Massy behind the Neve Mixing Console during a workshop in Amsterdam

Students standing around Sylvia Massy in Amsterdam

Sylvia Massy surrounded by Abbey Road Institute Students in Amsterdam

Sylvia Massy surrounded by Abbey Road Institute Students in Amsterdam

Sylvia Massy surrounded by Abbey Road Institute Students in Amsterdam

Authors: Dennis Beentjes (Blog Author) and Participants: Alexander Gleinser, Maxime Aggeri, Michiel Nieuwenhuijs, Leni Schmidtpeter, Aro Ralambo, Dave Warmerdam, Fiorella Frieri, and the band Thames (Merlyn Baartman, Gijs Hameete, Pleun Stork, Sjaak Megens)


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