Graham Sparkman

Audio Mastering Engineer

Graham Sparkman on SoundBetter

Let's pour some atmosphere on your songs!

I deliver professional, "radio ready" audio masters. I can provide this service for a single release or for an entire album.

I also offer mastering for audio book narration and pod-casters.

In addition to these services, I also provide audio consulting. Send me your mix, I’ll give it a listen. We can schedule a call...I'll give you my honest opinion as to how you could improve your mix, in order to get the best potential master possible. This service is listed as "post mixing".

Check out my homepage! https://www.grahamsparkman.com/

Send me an email through 'Contact' button above and I'll get back to you asap.

Interview with Graham Sparkman

  1. Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?

  2. A: In 2019, I released an album that I produced titled "Nativity Fire". This album was a true labor of love! It functioned as a collection of ancient folk Christmas carols from the Christian East. The regions represented included: Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Greece, Czech/Moravia and Armenia. All of the carols were translated into English. The goal of the album was to introduce these beautiful Eastern carols to a Western English-speaking audience, for the first time, in the English language! I had to put together a massive team of people, to help me pull this off. I worked with the translators, singers, musicians and artists for two years before the project was completed. My specific role was to bring all of these various folks to the table for collaboration, assign work, keep everyone on task, oversee the budget, record overdubs, mix/master audio, hire the album artist, commission merch, and participate in promotional interviews. All of the work paid off. It is one of the most unique albums that I've ever been affiliated with!

  3. Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?

  4. A: Yes! I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to work with a wide variety of musicians, singers and music producers over the years. Here's a few that I have collaborated with, who I would highly recommend. Dow Tomlin- Bass Randy Kohrs- Dobro Avery Bright- Strings Aliah Guerra- Vocals

  5. Q: Analog or digital and why?

  6. A: Now there’s a loaded question LOL!! This is what I've experienced...folks who have dropped a ton of cash on analog outboard gear are monetarily and emotional invested. Therefore, they will typically always be pro analog. By contrast, folks who can't afford analog gear will have all sorts of opinions as to why digital is better. Personally, I think this topic is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Although, not all that long ago, the two technologies were further separated from each other. However, currently we are seeing a shift in the audio industry. Fully analog studios are becoming boutique/niche environments, specifically marketed to those who are looking for "an experience", more than anything that will actually translate into the recorded music. While at the same time, digital recording/mixing has gotten to the point to where it can now give us all the benefit of "analog sound", without any of the hassle/cons. Currently, it's my opinion that "in the box" mixing and mastering has far more pros compared to analog. Granted, there will always be a special place in people's hearts for analog gear. But the question is "can analog outboard gear deliver higher quality recordings compared to digital?" I would say, this is no longer true. First of all, I believe firmly in the philosophy that you should never compare the worst part of one technology with the best part of another. Unfortunately, this happens far too often. For example, if you compare a CD, such as Alanis Morissette or Oasis, from the mid to late 90s (during the peak of the “loudness wars”) To... let’s just say a Barry White album from the mid 70s, what do you think will sound better? catch my drift? We’re currently living in an incredible sweet spot for digital music. Analog emulations have come so far! It basically presents all of the positive aspects and things we love about analog, such as harmonic saturation, analog drive/distortion, and sonic vibe from pushing emulated transformers/valves etc., without the hassle of high signal to noise floor ratio, gear going out of spec and needing calibration, tape hiss, etc. Oh, and let’s not forget the nightmarish recall sessions that analog afforded. The point is, what we absolutely loved about the analog process is now available to us in the digital domain, without the horrible side effects that were intrinsically tied to that workflow back in the day. So, to answer your question, I love working in the box with the highest quality emulations of analog outboard gear. I truly feel that it is the best of both worlds!

  7. Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

  8. A: The question that seems to circulate a lot is: Q: Why is your mastering service better than an online mastering service such as LANDR? A: Many online "robot" mastering services provide a "one size fits all" approach. If you sign up for one of these services you will likely get a "smiley-face" EQ, and heavy-handed compression/limiting. The end result will have a hyped hi and low end, as well as sounding noticeably louder. This will no doubt give you an immediate "wow factor", however after uploading it to streaming services such as Spotify, the attenuation will cancel any benefit of loudness and the loss of dynamics will in fact make it sound smaller. A human mastering engineer compensates for all of these algorithmic mistakes, ensuring that your master gets the treatment that it deserves, showcasing it in the beast light possible.

  9. Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?

  10. A: It's hard for me to put a date on how long I've been doing this. My musical journey has been an organic process form my earliest years. I was raised in a musical family. My grandfather was the owner of several radio stations in East Kentucky. In the 1940s, he was the "front man" for his band "The Kentucky Hilltoppers". My father and uncle worked in the family radio business. I basically grew up around all of that analog outboard gear, including real to real tape machines, consoles, turntables, cart machines, microphones, studio monitors etc. I recorded my first radio station I.D. when I was two-years-old. In addition to being a vintage guitar collector, my dad was also in a successful gospel band. They were signed to "Harvest Records" in Nashville, TN. Every few years they would go down to cut a new LP. We still have VHS tapes from some of those 80's sessions. Being on the road with his band gave me the opportunity to experience setting up the PA system, sound check, and tear down...and just life on the road. As for my personal musical journey...At age eight, I started formal drum lessons. When I was twelve, my dad began teaching me guitar. I started singing and writing songs in high school. In college, I was the worship leader for the Baptist Student Union. During this time, I was also in a few bands. In 2000, I attended a school for musicians in Lake Side, Montana. For the next two years, I traveled abroad, teaching music workshops in India. During this time, I took a strong interest in Indian Classical Music, and even sought out sitar lessons. In my early to mid 20's I picked up the banjo. It remains one of my favorite instruments...especially as it pertains to traditional East Kentucky musical culture and playing technique. In 2002, I went into a local studio to record a full-length LP. From the first moment, I was hooked! Over the next few years I found myself gravitating more towards audio engineering/recording and less towards live performance/gigging. For the next several years I went from a small 8-track recorder, to a 16 track, and eventually got my first DAW in 2007. I have released five LP's, produced an album, released singles, and re-mixes. I've also worked on film scoring and audio books. To varying degrees, I was involved with the mastering process on each of these projects. All things considered, I've been working in professional audio for the better part of 20 years.

  11. Q: What type of music do you usually work on?

  12. A: I am open to pretty much working on any type of music, however, because of my moral conviction, I will turn down projects that have satanic/demonic content, as well as explicit lyrics or overtly sexual content.

  13. Q: What's your typical work process?

  14. A: My work process always begins with a natural conversation with the artist. It’s extremely important for me to understand their creative and technical needs in relation to the release of their material. I do not believe in the “one size fits all" approach to mastering. Every song is an individualistic, creative expression of art. I utilize an entirely different mastering configuration based on genre, dynamic range, and LUFS reading. I also keep up with streaming platform trends in relation to attenuation of audio. Initially, I like to simply listen to the song, in order to get a feel for the creative vibe. I then listen to it a second time to make notes on anything that I’m hearing that is unbalanced. In a worst-case scenario, I will ask the client to readjust levels and resend the mix before continuing with the mastering process. This is usually pretty easy to manage and straightforward.

  15. Q: Tell us about your studio setup.

  16. A: I have dedicated mixing/mastering room that has custom acoustic treatment from GIK Acoustics. My near-field monitors are isolated and decoupled. They are also measured and are in the "sweet spot" for my listening position. I master in the box with top-notch Industry professional plug-ins from UAD, IK Multimedia, Waves etc. I also have a vintage 1974 UREI “Mod One” small format, “sidecar” console. I’m currently in the process of having it restored. I also have a collection of vintage and modern microphones.

  17. Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?

  18. A: My grandfather, my father, my mother, my brother, my aunt...but aside from them, it would be a list too numerous to mention! Hers a few: Arvo Pärt, Ralph Stanley, John Tavener, George Gibson, Georgy Sviridov, Ravi Shankar, John McLaughlin, Morgan Sexton, Hamlet Gonashvili, Roscoe Holcomb, The Mystery of the Bulgarian voices, Peter Gabriel, Jean Ritchie, The Gipsy Kings, Björk, Vangelis, Dead Can Dance, Brazil '65 Philip Glass, Brian Eno, etc...

  19. Q: What are you working on at the moment?

  20. A: I'm currently producing a children's jazz album. I'm also gearing up to work on an ambient lo-fi instrumental project.

  21. Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?

  22. A: The biggest misconception is that I just make things louder. In our current musical climate, nothing could be further from the truth. Granted, I can make things louder. However, the client should know that most all streaming services attenuate the levels. At the end of the day, they could be sacrificing dynamics with no benefit of loudness.

  23. Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?

  24. A: I'll work hard to ensure that my clients are happy with the end result.

  25. Q: What do you like most about your job?

  26. A: I love having the opportunity to carve out the best elements in a song. It's also very gratifying to deliver a professional master to a satisfied client.

  27. Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?

  28. A: I usually ask them to provide examples of what kind of master they are looking for. For example, do they want a modern bright and heavily compressed/limited sound, or do they want to retain more dynamic range, with a slightly darker and more open feeling.

  29. Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

  30. A: I would encourage them to think about their current mix in relation to a professionally mastered mix that they admire. Sometimes having a tangible example can be very helpful in order to determine the end destination.

  31. Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?

  32. A: My DAW, interface, monitors, condenser mic, headphones. I can pretty much always create music with that set up.

  33. Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?

  34. A: Tim O'Brien. First of all, I'm a big fan of his catalog. We also grew up in the same region, so I think we would have a common foundation.

  35. Q: What's your strongest skill?

  36. A: My ears are my greatest asset. No piece of gear should ever replace taste and discernment. Beyond that, I’ve spent decades listening to every conceivable genre of music. It’s important for me to have a strong understanding of how the final product should sound within a given genre.

  37. Q: What do you bring to a song?

  38. A: I can take a dull, lifeless song and make it shine! I can take a standard mix and make it sound like a polished record! I can increase the depth of the stereo image, making a flat-one dimensional recording sound spacious and lush.

  39. Q: How would you describe your style?

  40. A: My personal mastering preference is slanted towards music that retains a healthy degree of dynamic range. Although, I can certainly tweak things in any direction, in order to meet the client's needs and expectations.

  41. Q: Can you share one music production tip?

  42. A: Sure thing! Practice good gain staging at every step of the production process, and your mix will sound so much better! Also, your mastering engineer will thank you LOL!

  43. Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.

  44. A: I deliver professional, "radio ready" audio masters. I also provide audio consulting services. Send me your mix, I’ll give it a listen. We can schedule a call...I'll give you my honest opinion as to how you could improve your mix, in order to get the best potential master possible.

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"Sliding Doors" (Re-Mix) By CLO

I was the Mixing and Matering Engineer in this production

Terms Of Service

Typical turnaround is 1-2 business days for a single, 5 business days for an LP. I can listen in advance and let you know my thoughts regarding your mix at no extra charge. Details can be worked out.

GenresSounds Like
  • Ralph Stanley
  • Vangelis
  • Brian Eno
Gear Highlights
  • Logic Pro X
  • UAD
  • Waves
  • IK Multimedia
  • UREI Mod One Console
  • KRK Nearfield Monitors
More Photos
  • Check out my "news" link for up-to-date info.Sep 21, 2021

    https://www.grahamsparkman.com/news