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Getting your snare to pop?


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Hi everyone

I'm just finishing up my mix for the Legend Of Mana remix proj, and it's pretty hectic. Most of my stuff is hectic, I guess, and maybe that's why I have so many issues with my snare.

I'm finding it so hard to get this thing to snap and pop out of the mix. It's the only thing I'm not happy with. Aside from judicious EQ and distortion and compression and all that basic sort of stuff, are there any cool tricks for this? I don't know, like the "New York method" I've heard about? It's in a metal setting.

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The fundamental of a snare is what makes it pop. Sometimes the low end of a mix can obscure the snare fundamental which, in almost all samples, will be between 160 and 200 Hz. You can EQ this range up a few db to add some pop.

It sounds like you're having a spectral issue getting the snare to pop out of the mix. Identify which instruments are stepping on it. Try turning them down and turning your snare up til it's as loud as you want it. Does the mix still sound good? If not, try doing a surgical EQ cut on the 160-180 Hz range (wherever the snare fundamental is) on the offending instruments and see if the mix still sounds good. Another tip is to sidechain the snare into the crowding instruments and use the sidechain signal to compress them. And for maximum clarity, do all 3 methods, although that's not always a good thing.

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If not, try doing a surgical EQ cut on the 160-180 Hz range (wherever the snare fundamental is) on the offending instruments and see if the mix still sounds good.

This all over. Try to avoid boosting EQ as you will clip your mix, and avoid changing your mix levels and putting them all over the place as you can completely void your mix.

Surgical EQ will remove the offending frequencies in the low end to allow your snare some punch to pull through, and if it requires a bit more snap to put it on top of everything else, then a tad boost between the 1.5-2khz range can really add some emphasis.

If you really must boost, then lower the level of your snare a tad to keep volume levels the same.

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Thanks guys. My guitars may be messing with the snare, definitely.

Currently experimenting with parallel compression on the snare's top and bottom mics - it's yielding some interesting results but seems pretty unorthodox and my ass, it does bring out the chain a hell of a lot. I love a good rustle on a cracky snare but this is rattle city.

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The rattle will be the actual snares that have been pulled through via the compression. To compensate, have your natural snare sound louder than your compressed snare, and lower the release time on your compressor with a faster attack.

What this will accomplish is a forced snap from the compressed snare, but will remove the rattling tail that follows afterwards. At least I think this is the problem you're describing haha :)

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I'm a big fan of parallel compression. it generally makes a drum kit sound better all around. I tend not to EQ sampled snares much, other than a lower rolloff. It's best to get the right sound at the source, rather than have to do bunch of fancy processing.

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Sometimes you just need to layer some samples together. There are times when the EQ AND the tonal character are what give the snare that pop, and not just the EQ. Bad samples and good EQ, mediocre result. Bad samples and bad EQ, bad result.

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What you want is a good transient shaper. EQ is great and necessary (200hz and 3500-5000hz are generally your most important frequencies for a good snappy snare) but you want to make sure you have a good solid transient to work with, especially considering how insanely overcompressed our music is these days.

Here's my checklist for how I go about mixing my snares (well all drums usually):

1. Making sure snare is dampened properly:

Most of the big huge snares you hear are actually pretty well dampened, the size you're hearing is from a well used reverb. What gives a snare huge natural decay are the overtones, so when you compress a snare to make it sound loud, you're boosting all those overtones, many of which will conflict with other elements in your song. Left un-dampened those overtones would dominate the mix. Listen to a huge snare from an album you love, chances are you'll hear a decay that is relatively overtone free and very clean, that means it's a reverb (or well used room recording, which is basically a natural reverb).

2. Proper EQ:

Like I said before, 200hz and 3.5-5khz are the places you want to check first. Generally I find that 200hz gives me the punch I need, then a very fine cut at about 500hz to remove excess "ping" (some snares have this problem as high as 1khz) and then boost between 3.5-5khz depending on where the sweet spot of the snap is. After that I play around with the 8-10khz for the high end.

3. Compression/Distortion:

I actually don't use straight compressors on my drums that much anymore, I've been moving more towards harmonic distortion and transient shaping+limiting instead of just a standard compressor. With a transient shaper I usually just boost a tiny bit so it doesn't clip and start throwing off what the limiter will be doing later in the chain.

The hamonic exciting/distortion is important because I've already "shaped" out some of the overtones with the EQ curve and dampening, and with a good multiband harmonic exciter I can add some distortion to the fundamentals, making them fuller and easier to hear in the mix (if you don't have a multiband exciter you can bus the snare out to a bunch of AUX channels, each with an exciter and EQ so that you can filter out all the frequencies you don't want and the mix that to taste).

4. Limiting:

The last step in my chain is a limiter. This varies very much depending on the song and the snare sound, but a general rule I've learned is that the harder you limit the more of the transient is lost. This is where soft vs hard knee becomes critical. A hard knee will "limit" your signal, letting you make it much louder without clipping but you will lose the transient. A soft knee will preserve as much of the transient as you want (using the attack and release settings) but the result can clip easily if you push the gain too high.

This last step is the most important for me, because it's a very delicate balance between "loudness" and power. If I compress the master bus too hard, I lose all that power and those transients I worked so hard to get, but if I don't compress then people might think it sounds weak because they don't believe in volume adjustment on their iphones. After I tweak the master compression to the point where I like the volume I'm getting, I can go back to the transient shaper for the snare (or kick etc) and adjust that to try and bring a little more of that attack out.

As far as reverb goes, I take care of that after the fact by bussing out the kit pieces to dedicated reverb AUX channels. I almost always use reverb just on the snare and (to a lesser extent) the toms.

Overall, nothing will help you more than a good balance within the full mix. Your guitars/bass/keys/kazoo should be mixed well so that everything can be heard as much as it needs to be heard without drowning out the drums. Turn your volume down low and mix the music with the drums until you hear everything the way you like it, then turn it up loud and listen to hear if the power is where you want it. When using master compression or mastering, the drums are usually the first to get lost, so if you make sure you have a good mix with a lot of headroom before you hit that master compression you should have a cleaner/punchier mix at a louder volume in the end.

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Depends on what sound I want.

If I want something punchy, then I zoom in the snare sample, find the transient I want to keep and have the attack time that duration. and return time low depending how snappy.

if I want that 90s sound, I would also add an EQ and and boost the low 200-499hz range with the verb of my choice in the beginning of the chain.

but usually if I generally want a powerful snare with nothing more special, all I will do is have the snare as one of the loudest elements in the mix (and I mix pretty dynamically and low), with no compression or EQs and probably a reverb being sent from a return track to the snare.

But thats how I do things, and generally I avoid using compressors and over using EQs for things that really do not need to be EQ'ed :neutral:

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There is a ton of great information in this thread already so I doubt I can add much of anything but one thing I have been trying is mixing with pink noise. You can read up on it here. http://mixingtips.org/forum/mixing-tips-(general)/mixing-with-pink-noise/

Instead of setting your tracks to each other you set it to pink noise one at a time. Solo the instrument you want to set, bring the volume up until you just barely here a peak come above the noise, then move on. I''ve noticed that my drums sound alot better than they did and any EQ'ing you do after is alot more sensitive which could make your snare more prominent.

I don't have any examples up just yet but in my few attempts doing it this way it seems to really have changed the way I work for the better.

Edited by Garpocalypse
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Sidechain it! You can make everything that's not critical to the main melody (pads, hi freq bass etc) duck the snare. You can make even the main leads duck the snares sometimes; the trick is to turn the sidechaining temporarily off during fills that have several snare hits. This way the sidechaining is less intrusive. You can use fast attack and release, and remove excess length of the snare sample to make the sidechain less obvious and thus not annoying.

Edited by Byproduct
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Sidechain it! You can make everything that's not critical to the main melody (pads, hi freq bass etc) duck the snare. You can make even the main leads duck the snares sometimes; the trick is to turn the sidechaining temporarily off during fills that have several snare hits. This way the sidechaining is less intrusive. You can use fast attack and release, and remove excess length of the snare sample to make the sidechain less obvious and thus not annoying.

Yes, agreeed! I do this in alot of house track when I want snares or claps to blend in with a bit of a snap, which excuses me from using master track buss compression.

kinda of like this, but I think I used the stab pluck on the snare. I dont remember

https://soundcloud.com/aires/town-joker-electro-house-remix

Edited by SonicThHedgog
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Sidechain it! You can make everything that's not critical to the main melody (pads, hi freq bass etc) duck the snare. You can make even the main leads duck the snares sometimes; the trick is to turn the sidechaining temporarily off during fills that have several snare hits. This way the sidechaining is less intrusive. You can use fast attack and release, and remove excess length of the snare sample to make the sidechain less obvious and thus not annoying.

Sounds like more work than necessary. You shouldn't need to sidechain the snare to the bass or anything else. It just adds a weird pumping effect to the entire song if done badly, and it hurts the transients of other stuff. :| Just max out the snare volume, control the transient with a transient shaper or a compressor (or both). Then lower the volume, and raise it back up until it barely hits 0dB or so (your preference). Do that while everything else is playing at the same time---it stacks.

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Mixing all your individual tracks to 0dB is the #1 way to lose all your transients. Never send that much information to your master fader. If your master fader is clipping when at 0dB then turn down all the tracks going into it, that headroom is the key to a clear mix.

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It [sidechain] just adds a weird pumping effect to the entire song if done badly, and it hurts the transients of other stuff. :|

But you don't have to always overdo it! You can do it subtly so that the pumping effect isn't audible (to most listeners anyway) but only makes the snare stand out a little better.

At least in electronic genres with prominent snares (say, drum'n'bass or brostep for example) I would guess that it's almost always sidechained. But of course it's not the thing to do in every genre or song, and maybe I shouldn't have recommended it like that. :) But it's a good trick to add to your bag anyway and sometimes very useful.

And yes it's a bit of extra work, but not too much, and I always thought quality over quantity anyway. :)

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The advice you're getting here is too general. Post the snare in question for us to listen to and we might be able to give you advice that's actually applicable to your situation.

This :roll:

Also 2nd'd Snappleman on 0db. Headroom is king.

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This :roll:

Also 2nd'd Snappleman on 0db. Headroom is king.

Oddly enough, I just mix by ear, ignore everything about transients that pertain to the gain, and then turn everything down at the end before it reaches the limiter, until it looks (smexoscope) and sounds right. A bit unorthodox, but it works for me. In most cases I can just look at a song's waveform and tell if the whole thing is too loud or something specific is too loud. In short, once you get good you can just trust your ears, and check later with a waveform viewer.

Edited by timaeus222
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We wouldn't want to hear the whole track dude. ;) We all know the project guidelines and general rules. If you are uncomfortable sharing the song for various reasons that's cool.

BTW if you are still having trouble give these two vids a go:

You might not have the plugs, but they should give you a general idea. They are techniques that have been used for decades.

Also if your snare is in the same frequency range and stereo position as other elements of your mix some slight side-chaining could go a long way. Side-chaining doesn't always mean pumping can just be some slight ducking.

Vid for creative side chain uses:

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