Jonathan Smith

Engineer and Drummer

4 Reviews (1 Verified)
Jonathan Smith on SoundBetter

Credits include Turkuaz, Amanda Palmer, Hungry Hands and more. I'm a drummer, engineer and producer with an affinity for big open drums and unique soundscapes. Every record should have its own voice, let's find it, eh?

Simply stated, I love recording. The process, the challenges, the rewards. Being around creative people and making things that will hopefully last beyond our years is an endless source of inspiration. What a life.

I grew up in Massachusetts listening to rock music (thanks Dad!) and picked up the drumsticks at an early age. Fast forward twenty-something years and I have a music degree, a recording studio in Brooklyn and a somewhat unhealthy addiction to gear.

Drop me a line and let's see what kind of sounds we can make together.

Click the 'Contact' above to get in touch. Looking forward to hearing from you.

4 Reviews

Endorse Jonathan Smith
  1. Review by Josh Pawley

    Jonathan gets the job done. He provided great sounding Multi-tracked drums with lots of character. I would definitely use him again!

  2. Review by Benjamin Jacobs

    Jon is one of the best engineers, producers and musicians I have ever worked with. Though he is extremely versatile his true strength is the sonic identity he has cultivated over the years. He always leaves his mark and every project we've worked on together has been that much better for it. I would highly recommend him for your next project!

  3. Review by Jeni Magana

    I've hired Jon as an engineer for multiple projects and they have always come out sounding great. He works hard to get the right sounds, but is able to stay attentive to the best performance of the players. Just finished recording 2 songs with him and it's been a great experience-he even played drums and helped connect me to musicians for overdubs!

  4. Review by Marc Plotkin

    Jon is one of my favorite producers/engineers/drummers to work with. He has impeccably good taste and will work his ass off to get you where you need to get to. He's knowledgeable and experienced with a huge array of music styles and makes anything he contributes to 10x better. I definitely recommend working with him on your next project!

Interview with Jonathan Smith

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

  2. A: Last year I played drums on a solo effort by a very close friend. The demos were immediately inspiring and hearing the mixes now that the songs are fully realized has been very rewarding. Hoping the album goes far as I think it deserves attention and celebration.

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

  4. A: Wrapping up mixes for the second Hungry Hands record, mid production on an EP for a soft rock solo artist, seeing through the final stages of a lo-fi pop EP. Not to mention finishing records with both of my bands. Keeping busy!

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

  6. A: I'm brand new here, but Marc Plotkin turned me on to this site and he's a very hard working and creative person- definitely check him out.

  7. Q: Analog or digital and why?

  8. A: Depends on what you're after. I'm a sucker for drums recorded to tape but sometimes it's not the right sound, or maybe you don't have the budget for that style of recording. I think there are great aspects to both, the trick is knowing when and how to use either approach. I do try to get some aspect of every project touching the analog realm though. Whether it's a softsynth printed through an analog compressor/eq or using a stairwell as a reverb instead of a plugin, I think it adds a nice contrast to a project that might otherwise spend its whole life within a computer.

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

  10. A: To get them a finished product they can be proud of.

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

  12. A: Can you think of anything better than doing something you love day in and day out?

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

  14. A: Sometimes people think that since this work can often be fun that it is also easy. Many people don't understand the work involved not only physically but emotionally.

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

  16. A: I try and get them to form a sort-of mission statement for the project. What are we trying to accomplish? Who are you? What does this represent? Who are you trying to reach? I try to get them to think more in terms of the big picture and to keep checking our work against that idea to make sure we're on track.

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

  18. A: Always make sure you know why you are hiring someone. How do you compliment each other? Knowing the difference between someone who is simply able versus someone who you will vibe with is huge.

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

  20. A: Could I bring a console? I feel like I could somehow make a life boat out of a console...

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

  22. A: I've been playing drums from an early age, so I guess that's when my career started, though my sister still tells me I don't have a real job. Around high school is when I got interested in audio (good old tascam 4 track) and decided to go to college for music/recording. After school I immediately moved to NYC (almost 8 years ago now) and worked a few internships before ultimately deciding that I was better suited for freelancing than climbing the old model of the studio ladder.

  23. Q: How would you describe your style?

  24. A: Typically I'm the rock guy. I have a deep love for rock drum recording. But I don't like the idea of being one dimensional and enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone if given the chance.

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

  26. A: People like Bjork or Trent Reznor or Kevin Barnes. The common thread being they are incredibly prolific and talented in many many areas. I would love to sit down with someone with such all encompassing skills and just learn.

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

  28. A: Just turn down the cymbals. Everyone will be happier. And this is coming from a drummer!

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

  30. A: Rock, Folk, Jazz, Funk.

  31. Q: What's your strongest skill?

  32. A: Staying focused. I always try to keep in mind what our goal is rather than veering down a path that while might seem cool at the time, it might not fit into the larger whole.

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

  34. A: I think it really depends on what an artist is going for, but if given the chance I try to bring a uniqueness to a song. Whether it's a sonic choice or an arrangement decision, trying to challenge yourself to do what you might not normally expect is something I'm constantly wary of.

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

  36. A: Every project is different so I try to avoid a "typical" process, but I do try to encourage every one of my clients to play together (if it is a full band). To me it's a large part of what music is about- communicating, listening and interacting. It's what brings a song to life and where the so called "magic" comes from. If that's not possible, it's not the end of the world, but I try to start there. Beyond that it's all about making the right choices to serve the song. The song is king, we must all bow down to the song.

  37. Q: Tell us about your studio setup.

  38. A: My home setup is centered around a UAD Apollo and a pair of NS-10s, with the most notable piece being an Ampex 351 tube preamp. I feel pretty comfortable tracking vocals and mixing at home, but for most projects I encourage being at the studio:

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

  40. A: Too many musicians to list, but as far as production, the last few years I've really been into John Congleton and Dave Fridmann. Long time favorites are Brian Eno, Jon Brion, Steve Albini, etc.. the list goes on. Playing favorites is hard.

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

  42. A: I typically get calls to record drums as it is probably my strongest skill. The runner up is mixing.

Migrations by JJ Byars

I was the Engineer, Producer, Mixing Engineer, Drummer in this production

Gear Highlights
  • Lomo 19a19
  • Coles 4038
  • Ampex 351
  • API 3124
  • Empircal Labs Distressors
  • etc
  • etc
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