How to mix your drums - The Snare - Keep It Sample

The snare is often an essential part of the core beat throughout a song.

Usually, we placed it in the center of our mixing space.

When I mix my snares, I always follow the same procedure.

This one is the effects chain I use:

EQ ➡️ COMPRESSOR ➡️ EQ ➡️ REVERB
snare chain

EQ - REMOVING EXCESS FREQUENCIES

I insert a high-pass filter at around 100Hz – 400Hz (the range where the snare has its lowest tone) and a low-pass filter at 20kHz (I don’t cut any lower; the snare needs all its frequencies).
eq removing excess frequencies

COMPRESSOR

ALERT: If you use an already very compressed sample, you can ignore this passage. There is no point in using a compressor if it is not needed; indeed, it can be counterproductive.

I compress it by 1 dB to 6 dB with a ratio around 4:1.
compressor gain and ratio
To enhance the punch of the snare, I set the attack time from 5 to 20 milliseconds.
compressor fast attack time
Then, I play with the release time; usually, the sweet spot is between 20-150 milliseconds.
compressor release time

EQ - BOOSTING

After removing the excess frequencies and compress, I look for the snare main frequency.

Once found, I apply a slight boost with a notch filter (no more than 4/5 dB).
eq boosting
This way, I add “body” to my sample.

REVERB

Lastly, I use a reverb plugin to give it more room.

I tend to set a short decay time, but it depends on the sound I want to get.
reverb decay time

These are the plugins I used:

FabFilter Pro-Q 2

FabFilter Pro-C 2

Valhalla Room


To conclude this post, below, I’ve collected some tips I found around the net.

They’re really useful to fix some of the most common problems during a mix:

  • Snare sounds thin: If the snare sounds thin, it lacks low frequencies. Make sure you have not set the HPF too high. Use a bell filter to boost frequencies between 200Hz and 400Hz to give the snare more body.

snare sounds thin

  • Snare sounds characterless, flat, not round: If it sounds characterless, flat, and not round, it misses a distinctive tone. Use a notch filter to boost its note frequency.

snare sounds flat

  • Snare sounds weak and lacks punch: If it sounds weak and lacks punch, make sure you've set the attack time of the compressor right after the attack time of the snare, this is often somewhere between 10 and 25 milliseconds.

compressor fast attack time

  • Snare sounds muffled: If it sounds muffled, it lacks high frequencies. Make sure you haven’t set the LPF too low. Use a bell filter to boost frequencies between 6kHz and 20kHz. Or use a high shelf filter to boost frequencies above 6kHz.

snare sounds too muffled

  • Snare sounds too harsh: If it sounds too harsh, it has too loud high frequencies. Use a high shelf filter above 6kHz to decrease the volume of the harsh frequencies. Or, use a bell filter to decrease frequencies around 8kHz to 13kHz to get rid of the harsh but maintain its highest frequencies.

snare sounds harsh

  • Snare sounds too distant: If it sounds too distant, it most likely lacks mid-high frequencies. Use a bell filter to boost frequencies between 600Hz and 4kHz to bring it more to the front of the mix.

snare sounds too distant

  • Snare doesn’t cut through the mix: Have all synths, instruments, vocals, and sound effects be side-chain compressed by the snare. Every time it sounds, the other elements get compressed and softer.

 

  • Snare sounds dry: If it sounds dry, it lacks a sense of space. Add a little drum reverb or main reverb to it.


📥 If you have any questions feel free to contact me at lorenzo@keep-it-sample.com.

DrumsMixing tipsSnare