Simon Gibson is one of the most respected mastering engineers in the world today and, having began his career at Abbey Road more than 30 years ago, has worked with the biggest and best.
Simon was mastering engineer for The Beatles’ critically acclaimed 2009 album remasters series and has extensive experience working across multiple genres, including classical and choral music.
However, you don’t have to have sold millions of records or have access to a full orchestra to take advantage of Simon’s skillset.
Simon is just one of the engineers who is a part of our online mastering service that allows anyone from anywhere in the world to have their music mastered at Abbey Road.
Here Simon takes us through his story so far and explains why mastering is such a vital part of the music-making process…
How did you first get into music?
“I sang in a church choir when I was a child and that was the start of it for me. I then learned piano and carried on in choirs throughout school before going on to study at The Royal College of Music in London and the University of Cambridge.”
How did you begin your music career?
“After graduating in music I took a job at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden selling CDs and looking after the recordings. I got to know the record labels and wrote to all the major ones asking if there were any vacancies.
“EMI were the only ones who got back to me and told me about a role at Abbey Road where they needed someone with a background in classical music to work on their classical back catalogue. That was back in 1990 and I’ve been here ever since.”
How have things changed in the time you’ve been at Abbey Road?
“The main thing would have to be the technology. When I first started we were still running things off tape and there were only a handful of computers in the whole building, including an Apple computer with Sonic Solutions software which we used for around 10 years.
“In 2000 we were working on 5:1 surround sound projects but still had to play tracks in real time to upload which was obviously very time consuming and could lead to digital errors.
“Things are a lot simpler and streamlined now and it’s mind boggling how far things have come with things like online mastering now being the norm.
“But innovation isn’t something that’s just come about in the past few decades – it’s a big part of Abbey Road’s history. The marriage of old and new is something we’ve been doing for decades from wax disc cutting to analogue tape in the ‘60s through to the digital world we operate in now.”
What is your process when you take on an online mastering project?
“It’s the same as when I do any mastering project. If the artist provides you with a great recording then my role is to give it a final polish and make it sound musically coherent and rewarding to listen to.
“It’s important to understand what the artist is trying to do and build a relationship. Artists can obviously say they want it to sound like this or that but there is only so much that can be said with words so it’s vital to really listen to the mix and ‘get’ what they are doing – building trust is vital in the process.”
Why is mastering so essential?
“We are all aware that the artist is giving us music that they’ve worked extremely hard on and may be reluctant to let go of – I’m a musician myself and understand what’s involved in that for them.
“But mastering is an essential stage and getting a professional to do it is equally as important.
“At Abbey Road we have an incredible team who work with the best equipment in spaces where we know what ‘good’ sounds like. The experience we build up when listening and training our ears to really listen rather than sit and enjoy the music means we’re analysing everything throughout the track – from the vocal to the instrumentation to the sound of the mix.
Learn more about online mastering and working with our team of world-leading engineers now.