When I first started mixing, I always had issues getting a big snare sound. I would add tons of reverb only to find that its sound degenerated into a cheesy, arena-rock mess. The 80’s were great, Bon Jovi kicked ass (Livin’ on a Prayer?!…c’mon…amazing!), but those days are gone and those mixes now sound dated. So are we doomed to live with small, dry snares?
Nay, I say…naaaay!
I just finished mixing a (freaking awesome) tune from The Stray Natives, hailing from South Africa. Take a listen:
I knew from the start that I wanted a huge snare to compliment the monstrous arrangement they sent me. A dry snare sound would detract from the song and big, over-the-top reverb would cheese it up too much. So what to do in this situation? Three steps to glory!:
1. Find a big, explosive snare sample.
I had a sample lying around that had that “explodes-every-hit” type of sound. Perfect.
2. Add a ridiculous amount of distortion along with a large room, but quick decay reverb.
Who says you need to spend thousands on plugins or else they’re no good? Both of these plugins are stock that come with the basic ProTools setup. Use what you have and stop making excuses.
Of course, this sample sounds freaking ridiculous on its own. But then…
3. Mix it back in with your drums, way underneath everything else.
If you keep this sample quiet compared to the rest of the drums, you can get the cavernous sound without all the cheese. The best part is that it isn’t particularly noticeable once it’s in the mix, but it still gives it that big feel. In The Stray Natives’ mix, I made sure to automate this “massive snare” track up and down to fit with the feel. Down low in the verses, up loud in the choruses. Remember, dynamics is what makes your choruses huge.