The Perfect Snare Sample - Layered
As I’m sure most of you have experienced as a Mixing Engineer, I too have always searched for that perfect snare sample. You know. The one that just sits beautifully in every mix? It can smack you right in the face but still become the backbone of your track. It can be loud or quite low but can always be heard. It’s bendable. Malleable. It’s just perfect. Always.
As you may have also realized, that’s not really a thing. The perfect snare sample is the one that works in the song you’re mixing today. Tomorrow? It could be terrible. And that’s OK. We’re NOT supposed to be painting by numbers. If this was easy, anyone could do it and you wouldn’t really have a skill. You would just be following directions. So the craft is really defined by being able to find the perfect snare for the song you’re mixing at any given moment. But I digress.
The real perfect snare sample is many snare samples. Afterall, we all have DAWs that allow unlimited tracks. So why devote only one to the most important element in the rhythm section? Some might argue, the most important element in the mix?
So what I do is devote 3 or 4 tracks for the snare sample. And I always “enhance” the real snare drum. Never replace. There’s always something usable in there. Even if it’s just the fact that each hit will be more unique when you use a real player as opposed to a sample.
When choosing these samples, keep in mind, none of them have to sound great by themselves. In fact, sometimes the nastiest ones work the best. They are specialists.
The point of layering many snare samples is to get a very different sound from each and being able to manipulate the result with the balance of all of them. In other words, instead of reaching for the EQ to bring out something in the snare, you can just change the balance of your snare samples.
I tend to start with a sample of the bottom snare. It has very little attack but it has tons of top end crispness and rattle as the snares vibrate. This is very useful to give the overall sound more of a natural “snarey” sound. Without adding more attack or body to the snare.
I’ll find another sample with mostly attack. It can almost sound like a click or a stick. Adding this in can bring out the attack tremendously without affecting the rest of the snare sound. It will just sit on top. Again. Don’t get caught up in what one of these samples sounds like. It doesn’t matter. No one is going to hear them in isolation.
I’ll grab enough sample which is all body. It could be deeper with a lot of punch especially in the lower midrange. This one could be used very sparingly or quite prominently when the song requires a bigger full sounding snare drum.
Finally, I’ll choose one with a really nice ring to it. Many of us who record real snare drums fight with how much ring we want when recording that snare. Using muffles or zero rings to tame it.
It can be really hard to get rid of it but many times you need a bit more in the mix than you recorded. This sample serves that purpose and now it’s completely controllable. So you can add as much or as little as the song dictates. And it really adds some bold character.
So with these four (or more) samples, I can add them to my real snare and blend them to taste. Even change the blend from the verses to the choruses or go in a completely different direction for the breakdown.
The huge benefit here is that you can stop fighting with EQ and even compression and simply adjust the faders to add more or less of any snare sample to get the perfect snare, every time, for the song you’re just about to mix.
You can learn more by watching my videos at www.groove3.com
I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia