Big snare – want it?
That’s not an elephant sized snare in the title; we mean it sound wise. So many of you tiny little n00bies wanted this shit, we decided to have a go at it. Cause having a big snare is in again. Even though some of you may still have nasty nightmares about the 80s and its slap-in-the-face, kick-in-the-balls snare sound, one can be hip again if he can achieve it… or at least something along those lines. Anyway.
Too much processing
In this day and age of easy manipulation (yes, we’re still talkin’ about audio strictly), people are tempted to process the throbbing guano out of every single sound. The snare drum (or sample) is not exception either. Including multiple layering. Why? If you ask them that simple question, they won’t be able to give you a rational answer. They just read lots of shit off the internet and copy their wannabe pro friends.
Want the big snare?
You don’t have to be a copycat like those guys, so your first step towards the big snare is to leave the track alone. And listen! Not changing anything, not touching an EQ or compressor is a big trick. The points most people miss when it comes to the snare is, it’s percussive, and it rarely hits simultaneously with another percussive element (unless it’s something like the “one drop” in reggae). Why are these important? Because a percussive sound has less energy than a sustained one. Also, because the snare rarely hits at the same time with the kick, you’ll be able to get away with lots of low end. So instead of high-passing or low shelving the snare track, listen how thick it is naturally. Sometimes you don’t even need to lessen the lows.
Kill the ring
Step two; watch for the ring. If the snare rings – usually around 500Hz, it’ll create an amateurish, punk rocky/grungy club-room-party impression. Unless that’s what you’re going for, try to EQ out the ring with a bell cut. Once that’s done, dial in the right amount of “crack”; you’ll be able to find it around 5kHz and above. If you add too much, it’ll become thin and harsh (takes quite an amount of boost for that to happen).
The next step is to make it larger than the original sound. Adding parallel compression is a way towards it, so you don’t lose the vital transients. With this, you can turn up the room sound, even going into that thundering distortion.
Dial in the magic
Finally, put it into some odd and/or bigger than life virtual space. Spring reverbs, slapback delays work great on the odd side. The real cannon shot stuff occurs though, when you apply some big, gated reverb. Some plugins nowadays have usable presets like that already, so you don’t even need to dial in the gate. The reason behind using a gate is to preserve the percussiveness of every hit. Without the gate cutting down the tail of a big hall or church reverb patch, you would end up with a distant sounding, greasy mess. Use the gate or the reverb itself to shorten the tail so it ends before the next snare hit. It will create the sense of the large environment without the clouding effect.