From an early age, New York-based drummer/composer/producer Terry Silverlight (www.terrysilverlight.com) has maintained a self-taught, D.I.Y. ethic for creating complete musical works. “I started writing songs when I was about 5 years old,” he recalls, “but at age 11, I began recording them onto a mono reel-to-reel tape recorder.”
Terry Silverlight records drums in his home studio.
Photo: Dan Shearer
Silverlight began his recording career at age 14 as a session drummer for his brother, jazz-fusion keyboardist Barry Miles, and went on to play drums for top pop and jazz stars, as well as compose for major movies, jingles, TV shows and recording artists. Silverlight's latest solo CD is Diamond in the Riff, featuring his jazz-based compositions and guest musicians including Barry Miles, Will Lee, David Mann, Aaron Heick, Tabitha Fair and Lew Soloff.
“My composing process has always included the elements of recording techniques and production as equal partners,” Silverlight explains. “I naturally see all of them as one integral element. One thing inspires the next.” Owing to his roots in 4-track recording and holistic approach, Silverlight is known among his peers and clients for realizing high-quality, full-fledged productions using only a minimal amount of gear.
Since 1997, Silverlight has worked in a studio in the 2,000-square-foot basement of his townhouse in Tarrytown, N.Y. “All aspects of the recording process are done right here, including vocals, instrument overdubs and post work,” he says. “I do a fair amount of drum tracking for other people's projects. The music that I've been writing for film and TV comes from a few music publishers.
“My setup allows me to switch hats quickly,” he notes. Silverlight uses a MacBook Pro, MOTU 2408 MkII and Express XT, Tascam DM-24 digital mixer, Digital Performer, MOTU's MachFive virtual sampler and a Roland JV-1080 synth module. “Mostly I rely on Digital Performer's plugs and the MachFive stock samples, along with my own samples and sample CDs. I have a template for the drums in Performer with various plug-ins. The same goes with my DM-24: I have a snapshot of my drum settings, so within 15 minutes I can start recording.” For drum miking, Silverlight uses SM57s for toms and snare, Oktava MK319s for overheads and an AKG D-112 for bass drum. For vocals, he relies on an Audio-Technica AT4050. “I like to mix [using] Harman Kardon speakers with a subwoofer that Apple sells, Sony studio headphones and my car stereo,” he adds.
Silverlight often collaborates remotely. “A client will send me a stereo MP3 mix via e-mail, which I sync into my sequence, record drums on separate tracks, and then send AIFF or WAV files back via an FTP site or the like. On some songs for film and TV, I'll send a singer a stereo track, they'll record vocals in their home studio and send me back their tracks; I sync it to my track, then edit, mix and master.”
Is noise an issue with his neighbors? “Not at all,” Silverlight answers. “For the most part, I mix and write at low volume. I occasionally crank the volume to see if there are EQ issues that I couldn't identify at lower levels. When I need to record a drum track, I just go and see what cars are parked outside.”