How to Mix Snare Published in Mastering

When mixing a snare, keep in mind that the fundamental plays a large role in the snare’s body, and an overtone, usually above 1kHz, will help the snare cut through a mix. You can use an EQ, saturator, or transient expansion to emphasize these important frequencies when mixing a snare.

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Find Fundamental and Overtone

The chapters in this video are in no particular order.

When mixing a snare, I like to find its fundamental note and boost it slightly with an EQ - then I’ll find an overtone in the high mids and boost that a little as well. The fundamental is responsible for the body of the snare, whereas the overtone makes it sharp and clear.

Let’s listen to how these simple EQ filters improve the fullness and clarity of the snare.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Saturate High Frequencies

If your snare is lacking clarity in the highs, we can use saturation on the high frequencies to help it cut through. I’ll use this PSP saturator to find the overtone we discussed last chapter and saturate those frequencies, and maybe emphasize the fundamental as well.

If you saturate high frequencies, be sure to enable oversampling to avoid unwanted aliasing distortion. Let’s listen to how the snare brightens up.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Reverb & Side Transient Expansion

If I have reverb on the snare, I like to use this trick - I’ll create a send or parallel track on which I’ll insert the plugin MSED to isolate the side image. Then I’ll use a transient shaper to expand the transients of the side before blending in the effect.

The side image created from reverb rarely has transients, so creating them gives the snare an impressive and punchy sound. Let’s listen with the effect higher in the mix before blending it in.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Layering Snares in Sampler

Sometimes one snare doesn’t have the right sound - for that reason, I like to layer snares using a sampler. This way, multiple samples trigger whenever the snare’s midi is present, causing a complex and robust sound that I’ll collectively process later on to sound cohesive.

Let’s listen to how layer snare samples create an impressive snare.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Utilize Channel Strips

If you want to quickly mix a snare, you can combine some of the forms of processing we’ve discussed so far by using a channel strip. I’ll use this one to introduce some mild degradation, boost the frequencies we discussed in chapter 1, and saturate with a pre.

Then we can add compression with makeup gain to bring peaks down and the quieter aspects of the snare up.

Let’s listen to how a channel strip quickly covers a lot of bases for the snare.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Layer Short & Long Reverb

When adding reverb to a snare, I like to start with a short reverb full of early reflections - this will thicken the snare and make it sound complex and impressive. Then I’ll add a longer reverb to give the snare a larger, and stylistic sound.

Let’s take a listen and notice how combining these 2 effects creates a complex snare.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

1176 Compression on Snare

If you want a punchy snare, one of the best ways to achieve it is with an 1176 compressor. By utilizing a short attack and release, then pushing the signal into about 5dB of compression, we impart harmonics on the snare’s transient, creating a super punchy sound.

Let’s listen and notice how the snare sounds more upfront, and aggressive, and how the transients are emphasized.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Upward Compression on Snare

Upward compression is going to capture quieter aspects of the snare - usually some of the higher frequencies that are lower in amplitude than the fundamental. To make the effect even more pronounced, place this after the 1176 compressor to create an incredibly full sound.

Let’s listen and notice how upward compression makes it easier to hear the finer, often lost details of the snare.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Ensuring Snare is In-Key

If we know the key of our song, we can ensure that the snare is in-key as well. By monitoring the frequency response shown on the EQ, we can observe if the fundamental occupies an in-key note; if not, we can pitch shift the snare.

Be sure not to shift the snare too aggressively if you want to preserve the snares details.

Let’s listen to a snare that’s out of key, and one that’s in-key.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Reverb & Air Frequencies

If you want your snare to sound airy and ethereal, I’d recommend starting with a brighter plate reverb - then follow the reverb with an EQ than emphasizes air frequencies. Fresh Air is a good free option, and if used subtly, will augment the needed frequency ranges.

Let’s listen to the snare, starting with the reverb on, and then we’ll enable Fresh Air.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

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