JSJII's Recording Studio Tips - 3 Ways to Mix Big Fat Snare Drums
Like many of my producer peers, I am constantly on the hunt for MASSIVE sounding drums. Nothing makes your track hit harder and sound more mega than some big ole fat drums, especially the snare drum. I think this is a sure fire way of getting your track to sound more commercially viable. Here are 3 ways to mix big fatty-fat snare drums (or as my friend and former drummer Michael McGee used to say, a snare that “sounds like you’re hitting a 24oz steak!”). Note: these techniques also apply to kick, toms, etc.
A really quick and easy way to beef up your snare drum is with EQ boosts (or cuts). It’s usually best to find the resonant frequencies already inherent in the sample you’re using, but a good boost at around 60Hz will give you some serious bottom end, a boost around 200Hz or so will give you a nice low-mid “FWAPHH!”, and a boost in the upper mid-range (4-6kHz) will give you that snappy attack you’re looking for. The problems with this technique is there may be a lack of those frequencies in the sample you’re using and you might create some really wonky sounds. I personally prefer the second method.
This is BY FAR the best way I’ve found to mix big fat snare drums. I use Native Instruments Maschine, and I find that there are a plethora of great samples of all shapes and sizes to get you wherever you’re trying to go. What I usually like to do is scroll through and preview a few till I find one that sounds the way I want the overall snare sound to be. Then I’ll look for one with some nice bottom end to it (I too am all about that bass, Meghan Trainor), which usually ends up being a Prince 909 or linn drum sample). Then I’ll find one with some nice top end crack to it and trigger those all together using Maschine‘s grouping function. Usually 3 to 4 snare samples will get you right where you need to go. At this point, you may have to EQ some room out of each snare to make room for the bandwidth that each snare provides (roll off the high end of the snare that you’re using for the bottom, and mid and lows out of the snare that you’re using for the top, etc.).
This step you can use in addition to the other two or independently to achieve a big fat snare drum sound. Once you get your snare fwappin’ and crackin’ (one of many ways to describe a great snare timbre) like you want it, the next step is parallel compression. This technique can also be used for other drums independently or the entire drum mix, if you really want to beef it up. You first create an auxiliary track and create a bus from your snare drum track to this auxiliary track. On the auxiliary track insert one or multiple compressors (more compressors lighten the load of the amount of work each one has to do) and either lightly or heavily compress the “parallel” auxiliary track to your liking. Then you can move the fader up or down to blend this snare with your other snare till it sounds as you want in the mix.
There you go! Hope this helps! Enjoy and happy snare FWAPPING!