Hello there and welcome to the Snare EQ, Compression and Effects – Mixing A Snare Drum Guide! In this post I’ll show you how to eq, compress a snare and use effects. Or to say it better, here’s my way of mixing a snare drum.
I’ll show you some of the exact VSTs I use but any plugin will do. Even the stock plugins will work fine! The trick is to understand what you need to do and use your gear – analog or digital – at its best.
Also, feel free to check out my whole Full Signal Chains For Each Instrument Series.
Let’s start then!
Note: As always, when I share my chains – settings, I advise you to bypass the plugins to actually hear if you’re improving the sound or not. Sometimes, out of the 5-6 plugins I recommend, 3 or 4 might be enough for your mix. This entirely depends on how the track is sounding without any FX on it. I will share everything I use though, so you can experiment with everything and let your ears decide what to keep or not.
Snare Tracks – Top and Bottom
We mostly use 2 microphones on the snare drum. The bottom mic and top mic.
The top mic gives you the body or fatness of the drum and the bottom mic adds some brightness to the drum.
First, let me start by mentioning some of the crucial frequency ranges of the snare, so if you come across a problem and want to fix it, you’ll get there easier.
Or if you just want to enhance a specific frequency range, then the frequencies below will help you a lot.
Top Snare EQ
I usually start with a high pass filter at around 70Hz to 80Hz.
Then I use a low pass filter at around 12Khz.
If you snare rings too much then try some notch filtering (cutting with really narrow Q) from 280Hz to 1Khz. You may use many notch filters to remove more than 1 annoying resonances in this spectrum area.
To remove mud try cutting at around 200Hz to 500Hz.
If you snare sounds flat/two dimensional cut at around 500Hz and 1Khz, this will give a “3d sense” to your snare.
If you snare still doesn’t sound fat enough try boosting at around 100hz to 200hz.
For brightness try a boost from 7Khz to 10Khz. Beware of the cymbal bleed.
Still can’t be heard to your dense mix? Boost at around 2Khz to 5Khz. Beware though cause these frequenices can really hurt your ear if you boost them way too much.
Top Snare – Compression
Slow attack, 10ms to 30ms. Release from 50ms to 120ms. Ratio from 4:1 to 8:1.
You’re trying to add punch to your snare that’s why you need to use slow attack so you can let the attack of the snare drum through.
Too much compression may bring up the hats so care about this.
Try a transient designer.
I use this as a last resort and can really help you get what you need.
Bottom Snare – Compression
Really Fast Attack and Fast Release. Use the compressor mostly as a Limiter so the Ratio should be more than 8:1.
As you can understand we do not want any transients or punch from this snare track. We want its dynamics to look like a brickwall and its main purpose is to shape the sound of the whole snare drum by blending it with the top snare track.
Feel free to add a Limiter on the back end to cut any remaining sudden transients.
By keeping it squashed to death we can manipulate it easier and prevent some sudden snare spikes to our mix.
Bottom Snare – EQ
High Pass Filter at around 100Hz.
Boost around 5Khz for brightness.
Since the top snare contains more mud at the low frequencies we may use the bottom snare’s track to boost the low end and get away with some more fatness… 100Hz to 200Hz can be fine!
Bottom Snare – Limiter
On the back end use a Limiter to remove the really annoying and untamed transients.
Don’t kill the punch though!
Blending The 2 Tracks
Now feel free to blend these 2 tracks and create an awesome snare sound!
When the blending stage is done send these tracks to a group track so you can alter the volume level with just a single fader.
Happy mixing! Feel free to check out more full signal chains here.
Note: By no means you should copy-paste the chain or settings. This is just a good starting point of how I mix in personal. Feel free to ditch some steps and always follow what your ears are telling you. If the sound that you’ve got from the source was well recorded you won’t need to do much, just becaused I’ve included everything does not mean you have to use everything. If you find yourself using everything you can see here, chances are that you need to re-record or find a better sample to begin with. Have fun!
UPDATE: I forgot to add that snares love Plate reverbs. It’s always a must for a snare drum. Make sure to mix the reverb signal along with the source sound. First, find a reverb that enhances the reverb sound and then EQ it to taste to blend the 2 sounds together. And now you’ve got a full snare drum signal chain 🙂 Talk to you soon!
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