Context in the mixNaturally with us starting with the bass drum, the next logical step would be looking at how to mix the snare! If the bass drum was the part that set the foundation of the rhythm then the snare is the part that actually sets the pace of the music. It has two main parts in the mixdown, a lower ‘thump’ and a higher end ‘snap’ which extends the majority of the frequency range, this can make it a little trickier to get right so let’s begin!
The main fundamental with regards to the snare drum would have to be around the 200Hz area or so. This area is very prominent in a lot of commercial mixes out there and if boosted can sometimes add a bit more punch in the low end. If the snare is already a little muddy before this area is boosted then try sweeping around that area with an eq and then notch out any ‘rogue frequencies’ before attempting a broader boost instead. The ‘snap’ in the snare drum usually is found up near KHz and boosting this can usually add a bit more life to a dull snare drum. As well as this a high shelf can also have the same effect. Bare in mind eq can only go so far with getting the right sound. If you are having major issues and this is a dance production then it may be worth looking into trying a different sample or layering one on top to get the right tone.
Just like the bass drum with regards dynamics with the snare it’s usually trying to strike a balance between something that has ‘weight’ to is and something that can ‘pop’ through the mix. Again, downward compression will help create the weight here. One thing to point out though is that because the snare tends to deal with a lot higher frequencies you can tend to get away with a bit more distortion / saturation without the sound breaking up, so try experimenting with these techniques to get a more aggressive feel. Transient shapers are great for dull snares that need a bit more ‘pop’ to them. They help to cut through the mix, overdoing this however will leave a sound that is very ‘clicky’ and ‘brittle’.
The ambience tone for a snare is very much dependant on the style of music. For a very aggressive song with a tight mixdown we may not want to use a great deal of reverb on the snare. This would simply make it sound very distant and maybe just a very tight short reverb dialled in a small amount would work better for the genre. For more atmospheric genre’s such as Trip-hop, Dub etc which have a fairly minimal mixdown then we may want to use a longer reverb to give a feeling of space.
Misc Tips / Tricks
– Parallel compression as well as parallel distortion can work wonders on a snare drum. – If you decide to layer up different samples for a snare drum try other instruments such as hand claps, rim shots, white noise etc. These can give a more varied tone. – Make sure not to over compress your snare! doing this can take away the punch and result in mush. If you have to compress for volume sake maybe look at upwards compression or parallel compression as mentioned.
A lot of techniques that can be applied to processing a snare drum were covered last time in the bass drum tutorial so it’s worth a read if you want to learn a bit more and really get this area mastered.