TonalityTools Studios, LLC Mixing, Mastering, Studio Engineering, Event Production We work with clients and musicians around the world!
TonalityTools Studios specializes in Bit Density Bit Density Processing™ for audiophile-grade music recording and production. We work hard to always be very affordable and budget-minded for all musicians, producers and industry partners.
“Engineers Steve Marlowe and Jonathan Horwich render the tracks—retrieved from best-condition source material - with extraordinary presence, illuminating the identifying nuances of each participant’s voice, not least the inexorably swinging drummers. ★★★★★”
— Ted Panken, DOWNBEAT Magazine
“Mastered by Steve Marlowe [TonalityTools Studios], who has mastered all the International Phonograph releases. The sound is superb with solid bass and instruments and well defined on the soundstage.”
— The Absolute Sound
“I have been involved in issuing jazz for many years, and in all that time I have never run across better digital sound than that created by Bit Density Processing developed by Steve Marlowe at TonalityTools Studios. The BDP process has been used on many of my most important jazz reissues; all of which earned accolades for their sound quality. Moreover, the application of Bit Density Processing to the recent Mosaic release, ‘Classic Savoy Be-Bop’ is an astounding example of how Bit Density Processing can restore and give new life to even old recordings.”
— Jonathan Horwich, International Phonograph, Inc.
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Interview with TonalityTools - Steve Marlowe
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Both. And if you want a vinyl release, we will do that too. But, let's be real...There is really no avoiding "digital"...Digital is how most musicians can earn something of an income. So, that's where Bit Density Processing™ comes into play. We at TonalityTools really do digital right. Send us a sample song and, at no charge, we will do a sample of Bit Density Processing for you. The whole song. Send the best (highest) native resolution file you can. And preferably without a lot of EQ, compression or "mastering plugins" on the mix. But also send us the working mix ("mastered") that you have been listening to in the studio or at home. Send both to email@example.com and we will do a sample Bit Density Processing master. Again, its free.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: It's your music. You know much more about it than we do. You have the creative vision. So we like to talk. Tell us what you want to hear. What are your goals? Try possible creative improvements here that inspire you. What do you think sounds fantastic? We have so many great tools and unusual sound capabilities. Have fun!!
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: We have quite a collection of world-class instruments for use in the studio - plus amps and studio gear. But, if I really had to land on a desert, I'd want my Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster made by John Page and John English together -- it is a Hendrix prototype and they both built and signed it together. And with it, I would take our handmade EL84 tube amp made by Jaguar Amplification in San Diego. Plus some Tusq picks and Analysis Plus cables - as well as a power generator, since I'll be on an island!
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Original songs! ...We love working with artists who are writing their own. And we don't care where or how the tracks were recorded. With Bit Density Processing we can make anything sound like a million bucks. We do a lot of independent music. But we also produce quite a number of jazz releases too. For example, we received a very nice write-up in The New Yorker for "The Year's Most Essential" jazz release - historic Bebop jazz, including a 19 year old Miles Davis! Plus, Kenny Dorham, Fats Navarro, Bud Powell and many, many more jazz greats.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Sticking with it, and not sticking it to people! Look...It takes a lot of hard work create a high-quality music release that really kicks and sells well. A great song, well produced, will be a complete success and stand the test of time. So, when working on a song, we ask ourselves with integrity..."Do we like it?" "Would we want to listen to this song again with no reservations?" If not, we stay at it until everyone is honestly happy and pleased with the results. If we try everything and do our very best yet you are still not happy with the result, there is no charge. We want nothing but smiles and happy folks!
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: A lot of studio folks came up the ranks doing live sound for small bands or a church. This type of experience is invaluable. However, often we find the typical mix to be "faders up, EQ and reverb". This will not always result in a totally engaging, immersive mix (or mastering) that has the breadth, dynamic power, space and full-range sonics that successful artists' music require. We are given a lot of music that sounds rather small and mono; nothing like what the band and audience hears live. So, we specialize in really fleshing out the power and emotion of music. Our songs have a great sense of space, fidelity and impact. Even gentler music performances require this! We know what it takes to make a mix sound powerful yet natural...These and many other qualities are what we contribute when artists and producers come to TonalityTools Studios. They want their music to sound better. And, that's what we do! We also have artists that send us mixes and masterings wanting some additional improvement or corrections made. Sometimes a song gets done, but then a needed fix is noticed. Perhaps those who produced the mix or mastering could not quite get the song sounding exactly like the artist envisioned. Often we charge no more if the artist has a legitimate new request to make an improvement in a song. We all know that as the production of a song progresses, we hear more "into the song". So, we try to charge "by product", not by hour. Often a desired improvement can be done fairly easily and quickly and there does not need to be any additional charge. We are on your team! And we want you to sound your very best. We are committed to you and the quality you are seeking to obtain.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: A lot of studios lack "firepower"...Meaning their computerization is not particularly powerful. We use the same server workstations employed for many Hollywood blockbusters - the special effects and editing for such requires huge computers. Our workstations are built for us in Burbank, California for this very reason. Other facilities typically have to render (commit and save) tracks order to not crash their computers and laptops. At TonalityTools, we are able to leave processing and plugins "live" during the course of mixing, even at high resolutions, so we can continue to do vital adjustments and tweaks as the mix progresses and refines. We are also expert at music editing. Often we are sent songs where the artist still hears small errors they wish corrected. Perhaps a note or word needs to be nudged into better time or tweaked before actual release. We specialize in making music sound its very best. It's what we do. And we stay at it until everyone is happy!
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Working with artists and producers and hearing newly written songs, that's what we enjoy the most. Original songs are like amazing paintings - and each is so special. John Mayer once said that the very hardest thing for him to do is complete a song. It takes quite a lot of work, patience and persistence. So, I feel extremely honored when an artist shares their original song with me. I know how much work they have put into completing it. And, I enjoy nothing more than helping to bring their songs to audiences with extreme quality.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: Two things are common misconceptions...First, is that we may be too expensive for you. Not true. We work very hard to establish a budget you can afford, even if you are living out of a station wagon! The second, and even bigger misconception, is that turning out a song is fast and easy. "That mix will only take a couple of hours!" Rubbish. And what about really listening after a mix is done??...One must listen on multiple audio systems, in cars, etc. Take a break and listen again with fresh ears the next morning. Then make the improvements that are required with integrity. ...And listen fresh yet again! When a song is truly done to a very high quality standard, who cares if it took 2 days or 2 weeks. When someone hears it and loves it, then it is worth all the time and effort!
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: The New York Times named Julius Hemphill's stunning album, "Dogon AD" as one of the "100 Most Essential Jazz Recordings". We are extremely honored to have mixed and mastered the release.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I started playing music when I was 6 years old. And, in the studio world, I first started as a "gofer" ("Go for this! Go for that"!). And I started in the days of analog tape. So, soon it was, "Go tune up that Studer (tape machine)".
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: I was once working closely with Bruce Swedien, the famous engineer who produced all the Michael Jackson albums. I happened to mention to him that a friend was about to record a large chorus and would he (Bruce) give me some tips on how he gets those huge choral backgrounds heard on many of Michael's songs?? Mr. Swedien's reply? ..."If you want Bruce Swedien, you hire Bruce Swedien." Then he laughed! But, I realized something: While we often read, study and watch videos to learn tips-n-tricks to make music sound better, there is nothing like actually working directly with the likes of Bruce and the many other top pros I have been fortunate to personally learn from. So, my "tip" for you is simply this..."Learn by Doing!", and try to work directly with pros and skilled folks who have some experience. Really work right with them. Then you not only hear their words of advice, but you actually DO and TRY the actions and things required to make music sound wonderful. Then, find your own style and develop your own unique and clever tricks! We always try to help our clients to learn and become better at what they do. And, when you come to us to help make your music sound fantastic, we hope to impart some of our experience and tips-n-tricks so you continue to learn and grow as an artist. More importantly, we also wish to learn from you! What are you doing that sounds incredible?
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Our "style": Lot's of fun and creativity. That's our style here at TonalityTools. Keep in mind that "creative" means coming up with fresh, totally new ideas and ways to do things so your music sounds unique and captivates audience interest. That's what gets your music sold and great music reviews that generate even more sales and increasing audiences at your shows.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Lots of great folks. But, thank you for considering us for your next project!!
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: We are small...So we ask about scheduling and we try hard to schedule accurately. Then we work to stay on time. But, sometimes a song takes a bit longer than anyone expected or could possibly predict. If we are working extra on someone's music, please keep in mind that we will do the same for you. Be patient. After all...“If you want something done, ask a busy person.” ―Benjamin Franklin
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: You! We would like to work with you. I'd love to hear your music and if we can help, all the better! Feel free to send us some examples of what you are writing and performing. Securely send your music to, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: A terrific New York artist doing originals. Wow. Can't wait for everyone to hear his work. We will let you know soon!
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: You either like it or there is no charge.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: See above!
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: What is our typical work process??h That's simple to answer...Hard work, and sticking at it till it is fully done. That's the "process"! We work quite hard for each of the artists and producers who come to us. And, we are surprisingly affordable because we discuss budget upfront and make sure it is affordable for everyone who needs our help. There is no way to always predict how much work a song or album will take. No one can afford endless hours jacking up the bill. At TonalityTools Studios, we don't want our clients stressed and worried about money. So, we make every effort to stick to the budget, even when changes or improvements are requested. We consider ourselves to be your partner, and good friends! We want you to sound as terrific as possible..."That's what friends are for."
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: Everyone from RedOne to Charlie Parker! Butch Vig, Rudy Van Gelder, Dr. Dre, Brendan O'Brian, Andy Sneap, Kongos, Green Day, Garbage, Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey, Christina Perri, the Steve Gadd Band, Dizzy, Miles, Parker, Jeff Beck, Foo Fighters, St. Vincent, Alice in Chains, Béla Fleck and Victor Wooten - Anyone who is putting out terrific music! We are huge fans and love music of all types.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: We are sent music of all types and styles for our special Bit Density Processing™ mixing and mastering. Even songs that have already been mixed or mastered benefit. And often there are still tweaks and improvements the artists desire and these can be addressed during the Bit Density Processing as well.