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Illustration: Joan LeMay.

Golden Ears: Realizing The Dream Of The Artist

Sarah Register & Mandy Parnell On The Importance Of Mastering And How They’ve Developed Their Ear

Caitlin White
Aug 25, 2017 · 8 min read

“Our job is to try to realize the dream of the artist”

— Mandy Parnell

“Some artists need this process to let go in a sense,” Parnell said, a London-based mastering engineer with over three decades of experience, including founding and running her own independent studio, Black Saloon. “With some projects, the artistic teams might have been in the studio for as long as four years. The idea is that we bring a neutral set of ears to the table and a huge experience with lots of different styles of music, but psychology along with that experience. Really, our job is to try to realize the dream of the artist.”

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Mandy Parnell, Mastering Engineer, in her London studio.
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Sarah Register, at work in her NYC mastering studio. (Photo: Shervin Lainez.)

“There’s a real conscience in knowing when to do very little” — Sarah Register

“You don’t want to just slap EQ or compression on to call it ‘mastered’ if it already sounds the way it needs to,” Register said, echoing Parnell’s ethos of less is more. “While sometimes mastering can call for a big change that takes the material from its initial vibe to something completely different, in other circumstances it can be nearly nothing, the lightest kiss, very minimal. And of course, often somewhere in between. But there’s a real conscience in knowing when to do very little.”

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Sarah Register. (Photo: Shervin Lainez.)
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Mandy Parnell, accepting her 2017 MPG Award for Mastering Engineer Of The Year. (Photo: Marc Sethi / Music Producers Guild.)


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