Desktop Mastering: “Bake” Your Music Radio-Ready

One of the things I miss most about working in the music industry and living in Seattle, is the annual  Recording Academy “Studio Summit”, where Producers and Engineers get together to swap stories and information.

There was something magical about learning the tricks of the trade from audio pros who can take unpolished tracks from great artists, and turn them into iconic albums like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, The Rolling Stones “Beggar’s Banquet”, and The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

It was at one of those Studio Summits several years ago, that I met Seattle Studio Owner and Mastering Engineer, Steve Turnidge, who has just written a book called “Desktop Mastering”, published by Hal Leonard Books.

In it, Turnidge shares the secrets of how mastering engineers bring out the best in recorded music.

”Mastering your music is like mastering your life”, he says. “It’s amazing what happens when you clean up the noise, maximize your good work, and have your music sparkle and shine as you really want it to.”

“What the whole music production system is akin to, is baking a pie,” he explains. Tracking would be getting the ingredients together; mixing is mixing, mastering would be the baking phase, and distribution would be the hot apple pie on the windowsill.”

“You can tell the difference between something that is radio-ready, for instance, and something that’s just been completed,” he says, referring to tracks that have just been recorded and mixed with digital recording software such as Garageband or Pro-Tools. Those tracks are like “unbaked pie”, he says, and are “ideal as a pre-master.”

But, he adds, “One of the challenges that we get in mastering, is when people try to make it sound radio-ready themselves, and then give it to us; and it’s very, very, harsh. It’s like a half-baked pie, and we have to pull that back. So, professional mastering takes the sweet path from the unbaked pie, to a perfectly baked, excellent-sounding track.”

Turnidge says “Desktop Mastering”, is an instructional guide that is intended for a wide range of users; from beginners to people who have quite a bit of experience. Topics include mixing for mastering, listening environments, real-world mastering applications, and mastering as a business.

Turnidge, who is the mastering engineer and owner of UltraViolet Studios, is currently working on a second book called “Beyond Mastering”, exploring his philosophy that mastering music is like mastering your life.

His professional experience includes mastering scores of albums, teaching audio recording at Shoreline Community College, serving as chair of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Audio Engineering Society, and serving as a member of the Board of Governors for the Pacific Northwest Branch of the Recording Academy.

He also co-founded Burning Sky Records, designs and fabricates modular hardware synthesizers at Synthwerks, and designs guitar pedals for Pigtronix.

For more information, follow these links:
Hal Leonard Music Pro Guides: Desktop Mastering
Desktop Mastering Website: Desktop Mastering
Steve Turnidge’s Website:

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