Getting a Big Classic Rock Snare Sound
This is both a Tutorial/FAQ and a thread. It is by no means prescriptive and is
meant to spawn a discussion about snare drums.
For an example of this treatment in action, please see 'Down' on
My Songs Page.
I have an obsession with snare drums that probably
requires psychotherapy and medication. It all started back in the mid-1980ís
when I heard John Cougar Mellancampís
Scarecrow. The whole album is literally built around Kenny Aronoffís massive
snare. Itís probably Mellencampís highpoint as a songwriter, where he was able
to quell his indulgent songwriting long enough to let some important themes
through. (Later, of course he'd return to writing complaint lyrics and building
embarrassing arrangements with fiddles and other 'traditional' American
instruments) Anyhow for me, Scarecrow's sound changed the way I think about
More than any other instrument in Modern Western popular music, the snare drum
moderates our gutteral reactions. Often, I'll get comments from folks who'll
say, "yeah, the song sounds good, but it's not my style of music." Then I swap
out the treatment of the snare drum and let them listen to it again. I almost
always get a different reaction.
IMHO, the snare drum is the most subconsciously emotional instrument in the
modern music (<50 years) arsenal. Hip Hop folks will definitely take issue with
this, and probably maintain that the dominance of the kick drum in recent
history proves this false, however I still assert that the snare is the pulse of
<history=ĒonĒ mode=Ēvery briefĒ>
With the rise of hip-hop and rap into pop musicís mainstream, weíve seen
an arguable decline of the big, massive, reverbie snare drum. Hereís a
little massive snare drum history. Many maintain that the Rolling
Stonesí Charlie Watts moved the snare to the center of a mix. For me I
start counting popular music snare hits with Elvis Presley. In
particular, itís his interpretation oh Hound Dog (the song is virtually
perfect, with its guitar solo moving to pure rock transcendence). Of
course big snares go back much further than Elvis. Much of the Chicago
Blues sound is built around a banging of the snare drum.
So how do you get a snare drum sound that can stand out against 2-3
guitars, bass, organ, and piano (not to mention the other parts of the
drum kit)? Well hereís how Iíve been doing it in my sequencer, which,
BTW, is an adaptation of how I used to do it back before our computer
In my example, Iím using all of Cubase SX 2.0.xís built-in effects and
processors. Obviously youíd get better mileage out of more advanced
tools like Waves. However I canít afford these.
- Cubase SX 2.0.x
- VST Reverb ĎAí as an insert (see below)
- VST Reverb ĎAí as a send (for ĎAirí)
- VST Multiband Compressor
- Native Instruments Battery (using small stereo drum kit)
- Using both the right and left hand samples
I like to use very large rooms with an extremely short decay. Many folks
like using big rooms with a noise gate on the end of it, but for me this
always seems like a waste of time and it makes your snare sound too
1980ís-sounding. There was an incredible abuse of gated reverb in the
1980ís, particularly with a lot of mainstream rock acts. Maybe todayís
aversion to reverbed snares is a reaction to this. (Just have a listen
to Springsteen's Born in the USA)
- I used the effectís dry to wet slider to control the Ďsizeí of the
snare in the mix. If itís too wet, it will substantially muddy the
mix. So use conservatively. This is one of the downsides of using a
large room to treat the snare.
- You can always Ďshrinkí the room size if the effect is too much
for your tastes.
Hereís something I didnít have 10 years ago: a multiband compressor. In this
example using Cubaseís built-in compressor, Iíve chose to go with more Ďpopí to
the snare. Hopefully you'll hear that in the sample. I chose this method because
the mix is quite busy and I want the snare to cut through. If the mix (literally
the arrangement) were simpler I could get away with a fatter, bass-ier snare
which would be ideal.
Iím constantly fooling around with the signal chain order. For the song
that Iím using in this example, I chose to insert the Reverb in front of
the Multiband comp. This tends to mute the reverb a tad and
interestingly, it also modifies the decay. Back in my analog days, Iíd
always compress the crap out of the snare before sending to any
Iím sending part of the signal to my effects bus which is essentially
the same Reverb A, however with a longer decay. This helps fill-out the
snares presence in the mix.
And lastly regarding the EQ, I typically do not add this much EQ to any
of my instruments. I usually find myself subtracting more than adding.
However it is really necessary to kick it up a few notches in some key
area. Where you kick it up will depend heavily on the sample, of course,
but tweaking the EQ in conjunction with the Multiband compressor can
really alter the snareís tone.
DIY-projects by Owel
Techniques of Lyric Writing by Doug
Getting a Big Classic Snare Sound by kernmount
Tips for Better Cymbals using Samples--by Hepcat
Go to this tutorial in the forums
to see replies or add your own