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Never stop learning: Mastering engineer Katie Tavini reflects on a year of writing for PSNEurope

Marking a full year since submitting her first PSNEurope column, mastering engineer Katie Tavini ruminates on the importance of always testing oneself and diving into the unknown

Photo by Dom Sigalas

Hey friends, guess what? This is my 12th article for PSNEurope! A whole year of writing each month. That seems like such a tiny thing, and who am I to be typing about this insignificant achievement *eye roll*. Well actually, for me, it’s a huge achievement, and it’s taught me a bloody lot of stuff along the way.

Honestly, if someone had told me that there’d come a time when I was going to be asked to write monthly articles for an actual printed magazine, then I’d have told them to get lost. I can’t even write. I’m just an engineer, what do I know? So when PSNEurope asked me to write for them, every month, my own column, with my actual face next to it I was like “No, what wait? Are you joking?”

You see, I’m dyslexic, and in school English was never my ‘thing’ (nothing was really my ‘thing’, to be honest). When you’re told you’re not good at something enough times, it tends to stick. Even writing emails to mastering clients was somewhat of a stress. But, you really never know what’s ahead and how an opportunity is going to present itself.

So, out of all the things I’ve learnt this year, I’d like to encourage you all to say yes to something that you wouldn’t normally be comfortable with. I’m not talking any weird shit, but career opportunities. Definitely don’t say yes to a ride with a stranger. But definitely do say yes to the thing that someone asks of you that you think you can’t do.

I was so close to saying ‘Thank you very much but no thanks’ when I got asked to write this monthly column, but it’s actually been one of the best things I’ve ever done. How is that relevant to being a mastering engineer though?

It’s been so empowering to have an excuse to think about what really matters to me, and to have a platform to express those things. I’ve also learnt so much about other areas of the music world from going out and interviewing colleagues and friends about their work. It’s helped me understand my work as an engineer more by giving me a free pass to be curious, to ask questions, and to rant a little. What I really wasn’t expecting to happen though was to develop a new hobby.

It’s quite rare for music types to talk about the hobbies they have outside of music. Plus, as a freelancer, who even has time? Well, that’s the second major thing that writing on a monthly basis has taught me; you have to bloody well make time.

The music world is a fast one, and it’s so easy to get caught up in this little bubble. But taking half a day to write some thoughts, ask some questions, and absolutely be out of my comfort zone has increased my concentration when I am working, and made me question and re-think some of my workflow, tastes, and the way I approach certain things. Before this year, I literally never switched off, and I never self reflected. I was becoming a workaholic recluse who was perma-stressed. So please, learn from my mistake and take a god-damn break. Breathe a little, switch off and reflect. You’ll come back to your work with a clarity and enthusiasm which probably wasn’t there before.

And the third major thing I’ve learnt from writing monthly for PSNEurope is deadlines. Fuck. I thought I knew about deadlines already from my work as a mastering engineer; artists having super short windows to complete mastering before their release. If you don’t do the work on time, people get pissed off. But for some reason, writing for a printed magazine makes that all the more real. And so it’s made me rethink the way I approach deadlines for mastering too. You kinda think that when you’re done with uni, you’ll never have any deadlines again and your life will be wonderful and stress-free with kittens everywhere. So, so wrong. But you can prevent the stress by implementing ways to stay organised, and managing others’ expectations. A well organised diary can transform your life from all-nighters and caffeine to actual manageable workloads. Obviously there’s the odd exception, because you never know what’s around the corner, but planning and good communication really are the two golden rules of not having to get your greys coloured as often.

I’m so, so grateful to PSNEurope for giving me this incredible opportunity and the platform to express my opinions, and I really hope that some of the topics I’ve covered this year have been useful / inspiring / infuriating / insert feeling word of your choice here. And I really hope that my being honest will be of some benefit. We never stop learning, and I’m thankful to be on this journey with you all. If there’s something I’ve not covered this year that you think could be a cool or interesting topic, feel free to email me at Hope you all have a wonderful New Year!