Balancing Act

Mastering engineer Jett Galindo on building an inclusive industry, and the art of a finely tuned mix.

June 5, 2023

Roxette, the Bangles, Bananarama, Heart.

In the Philippines of her youth, Jett Galindo B.M. ’12 was awash in the sounds of a vibrant pop cover-band culture, one that extended straight into her home.

“My childhood was pop music,” Galindo says. Her mother and father had a business training and managing these cover bands, and young Jett was tasked with keeping her parents up on the trends and new songs on MTV.

Her path to becoming a mastering engineer began here, but included a few more stops along the way, because inside this pop music kid was also a tinkerer, a techie, and a classical soprano.

When she was 19, Galindo’s choral group toured the U.S., and it was on this tour that she met a Berklee alumnus who connected her with the college. At Berklee, where she majored in music production and engineering, a professor introduced her to the legendary engineer Doug Sax. He ran L.A.’s Mastering Lab, the first independent mastering studio (opened in 1967) and helped shape the sound of a tremendous amount of pop music in the ’70s and ’80s, including Pink Floyd, the Doors, and the Rolling Stones.

“Mastering is essentially trying to make your music loud. That sounds simple enough, but it’s very hard."

— Jett Galindo

Sax, whom Galindo cites as her mentor, died only two years after she arrived in Los Angeles to work with him. She stayed in L.A. and is now at the Bakery as one of its three mastering engineers.

Mastering, for those who don’t know the finer points of this often misunderstood part of the musical puzzle, is the final step in audio post-production. Its goal is to balance the stereo mix and ensure that the track sounds its best across all media formats.

“Mastering is essentially trying to make your music loud,” says Galindo. “That sounds simple enough, but it’s very hard because you also don’t want to make your music loud at the expense of its integrity. There is a tendency for people to just keep pushing the volume, but then you end up distorting it. Your music ends up brittle and saturated. It’s really a fine balancing act.”

As is so much in life, as Galindo can attest. In addition to her main job, she continues to perform in chorales, cuts vinyl at the Bakery, and is active in several nonprofits, including Women in Vinyl and SoundGirls, both of which represent women in audio. This representation is a cause that’s close to her heart.

“There’s still work to be done in getting women into this field. There’s really no reason for it to be that less than 5 percent of the engineers engineering the Billboard Hot 100 are women,” she says, adding, “Organizations like SoundGirls are very important—it’s important that women feel that we should lift each other up.”

For Galindo, this belief extends to all underrepresented voices in the arts.

“I’ve been getting a lot of work from demographic groups that never had mastering services available to them before. The Philippines, I believe, still doesn’t have an independent, standalone mastering facility. It was only recently that pop music in the Philippines became properly mastered on a standard basis.”

When she was a kid, she says, the question in the Philippine music industry was: Why doesn’t the music in our country sound like the Top 40s?

The answer, she says, comes down to how the music is engineered: “A big part of that is making sure that your music sounds competitive when played against other music on a playlist, and making sure the frequency response of the music is within the same tonal balance curves as the Top 40s or a specific genre,” she says. “And a big part of that is mastering.”

This article appeared in the spring/summer 2023 issue of Berklee Today

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