Second to lead vocals, the snare drum is probably the most important ingredient in a modern musical arrangement. This is especially true in rock, metal, and contemporary country genres.
Since the snare is one of the most audible elements of a drum kit, it’s a huge part of what drives a song’s beat.
There’s a reason why discerning drummers carry their personal snare from session to session, even if they’re going to be playing the studio’s in-house drums. It’s that important to their signature sound.
A compressor is a big — if not the biggest — tool you’ll use to craft a larger-than-life snare sound. Compression is what injects a well-recorded snare drum with that elusive punch.
In this post, we’ll dive into the proper way to compress a snare drum. We’ll also touch on other steps you can take to ensure a pro-level snare track.
Get It Right At The Source
Before you start processing your snare drum, you need to solo the track and give it an honest listen. If the snare was recorded poorly, no amount of compression or processing is going to give you the studio-quality sound you’re aiming for.
If you’re dealing with a subpar snare, your best course of action is to re-record it. If this isn’t possible (for example, you’re mixing somebody else’s project), you may want to investigate sample replacement.
Despite the term “sample replacement,” you don’t need to completely replace the original snare. Rather, you can use professionally engineered samples to bolster the original sound.
Once you achieve a solid snare sound, you’ll be ready to move onto the next step.
Clean Up The Mud
A muddy snare track equals a muddy mix. That’s why you should eliminate low-frequency mud and unwanted resonances before you start compressing your snare track.
While snare drums do contain a certain amount of low-frequency information, they’re not bass instruments. Thus, you don’t need to leave loads of low end in the track.
Low-frequency mud is easy to eliminate. Simply fire up your favorite EQ plug-in and apply a highpass filter to your snare track.
Start with a cutoff frequency around 30Hz and a slope around 12dB. Increase the cutoff frequency until your snare sounds too thin, then decrease the frequency until it sounds right.
You’ll also want to resolve any unpleasant resonances. Resonances are frequency buildups that not only rob your snare track of dynamics and headroom, but they also lend weird sonic artifacts to your track. ………
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