Danielle Smith, known as “Danielle the Engineer”, is a Philadelphia based recording, mixing, and mastering engineer. I connected with Danielle on Instagram and started noticing something about her reposts: her clients felt a lot of pride about working with her, using phrases like “my engineer” when referring to her. I was so curious to know what she did to create such loyalty, so we connected via Zoom to chat about her methods.
How did you get started with audio engineering?
Training wise, I interned at Marsten House Recording. That was my first studio experience. It wasn’t a typical internship. It was basically me observing any and all sessions that the two owners were recording, sitting in on all of them. They’d occasionally just throw me in a chair, like, “Listen, D, you’ve been watching long enough. Record.” If any issues were going on, they’d help me problem solve. They threw me in the water and I learned to swim pretty fast. Along with that, I was going to the Community College of Philadelphia in their sound recording program, so it was nice that I could learn the textbook stuff and the studio stuff at the same time.
How often are you working with a client through the whole process of recording, mixing, and mastering?
For the majority of my clients, I’m touching the majority of things. I do have clients who get in touch with me online who just want mixing services, but my clientele in Philly, if I’m recording them, then 9 times out of 10, I’m going to mix it as well.
When you have clients recording at home, how do you handle the quality of the work that they’re sending you?
I do come into quality issues a lot of time with people recording at home, especially now, with people being quarantined. I respect that. When people send me stems over and I notice that the quality isn’t that great, I’ll let the person know, “Hey, I think you should re-record this before we start the mixing process.” A lot of people don’t understand the process, but I find that a lot of people are really receptive if I ask them to re-record it so we can get the best quality.
What advice would you give somebody recording at home before they send files off to a mix engineer?
Two things. When you’re recording, check your gain levels. You don’t want to be recording too soft or too loud. Also, learn to organize your files when you’re recording. Challenge yourself to organize your own recordings. I don’t mind doing it on my own, but for someone’s personal knowledge, it’s cool to be able to manipulate your own session files.
As you know, one thing I love is watching your interaction with clients. It’s so rare that people say “my engineer”. People seem to take a lot of pride in working with you. Why do you think that is?
It’s so wholesome that people claim me like that. It speaks to how it’s a struggle to find someone to really care about their music, make them feel appreciated, and make them have an experience in the studio. I think that’s the difference between me and other engineers. A lot of times, the experience part isn’t really pushed in a lot of studios. It’s, “Okay, let’s record.” It’s a set way of doing things. I’m doing things differently. You come to the studio, it smells good, the lighting’s right, I’m setting the mood before you get there. If someone comes to me, we’re having a great session. I think that’s very uncommon. When people finally find it after the trials and tribulations of trying to find a studio and engineer, it’s like, “Wow. You’re mine. I’m not going anywhere.” I love that.
What are you excited about working on the future?
My friend Tsehaitu and I are working on an album, so people can hear a lot of the more in depth sound design that I do. I’ve never released it. I’ll finally be able to debut what I’ve been working on the last couple years. We’re blending both of our styles. It will be a great example to hear how versatile my work can be and how I can put my personal style into music that I’m trying to push forward.
Danielle Smith is a Philadelphia based audio engineer. Connect with her on Instagram @danielletheengineer.
Social media links:
Danielle the Engineer Instagram
Omni Sound Project website
Omni Sound Project Instagram
Written by Lisa Machac :
Lisa Machac is a musician and director of the Omni Sound Project, an organization dedicated to being the most accessible point of entry to the music and audio industries. Omni Sound Project strives to provide affordable opportunities for learning to under-represented communities as well as spotlight the talents of female and non-gender conforming audio professionals.
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