Why, what kind of snare sounds do you know? When you are asked that question, you can answer with full certainty: “All kinds.” And what are these? Well, whatever your imagination and your instruments and audio devices can come up with. We have a couple of rules however, that you might want to bear in mind, when it comes to snares and their sounds. First of all, it’s got to have some “snap”. Serious “snap”, if you are serious about it yourself. That “snap” will need to be able to make your delightful snare cut through the mix, any mix; even the thickest kind. Snap lies in the midrange, somewhere around the most sensitive range for our human ears and mind. Once you have that desired cutting snap, you can turn even a dog’s bark into a snare sound.
Purge the lowest lows out of your snare track
Now what the snare doesn’t need is serious low and high end. You can however manipulate its texture with those two extremes, just don’t overdo it. You don’t want your snare to get in the way of either the kick drum or the cymbals, hi-hat or other high end carrying elements, like acoustic guitar or even some vocals. Also bear in mind the following thing: the snare is a percussive element. It comes and goes rather quickly, so you don’t need to overthink the darn thing. It usually won’t get in the way of other things too much even if the sound of it seems to occupy a wider frequency range.
Gating the machine
Our first example is a well known Cyndi Lauper song, with a fun and uplifting snare sound. It’s got some parallel compression going on (the room mic was seriously compressed, with a touch of reverb added to it). It’s also gated because it was pretty hip in the 80s, and it has that nice touch: a Roland 808 with a hand mixed to the snare sound in parallel, going into a Boss OD-1 overdrive pedal. The 808 was played manually by Eric Bazilian, the song was mixed by William Wittman.
Cyndi Lauper – “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”
Sometimes you don’t want all those smart and nasty tricks, you just want a pretty good, natural and snappy snare sound coming right out of the snare drum (and the microphones). Stewart Copeland‘s drum sound is about as tight as it gets, besides being fukken badass and musical at the same time. The snare sound comes from extremely tightened snare head with not much snare buzz, but with plenty of snap. Check out the choruses; the snare has a good amount of low end fatness left in the mix:
The Police – “Spirits In The Material World”
Amp’d up snares
Now an almost natural snare sound again, but with a twist. Part of the signal was going through a miked guitar amp cabinet, to give it that maximum midrange snap to Mick Fleetwood‘s snare hits. Mixed by Ken Caillat.
Fleetwood Mac – “Second Hand News”
A tricky one that hits hard
And finally, an incredibly recognizable snare sound mixed and recorded by David Z. (born David Rivkin). He took the head off of a snare drum and recorded it with an SM57, while he was banging away on it with a wooden ruler. He dimed 1kHz on an API550 EQ that the above sound was going into. He then added the samples of that to the sound of a Linn drum machine, then the whole thing was wired to an Auratone speaker placed upside down on top of a snare drum, so it could rattle the snares of it pretty good. It was recorded to tape (what else), with just a touch of reverb added in the mix.
Fine Young Cannibals – “She Drives Me Crazy”