Drums are one of the first elements you should look to for size and dimension in your mix. A great drum sound can make a song feel larger than life or intimate and organic. The drum recording session alone can’t always get you to the end result you’re looking for though – you often need to apply some post-processing to fill them out a bit.
There are few tricks as effective at adding some dimension as layering in a short reverb with your snare track. By adding some reverb, you can add width to your snare sound. Combined with the right amounts of EQ & compression, you’ll be well on your way to an impactful snare track that cuts through your mix and drives the song to new heights.
Here’s what you need to know:
Clean Up Your Snare First
Adding reverb to a raw snare track is a recipe for disaster. It’s likely that the raw track needs some TLC before a reverb makes sense. Things like cymbal bleed and low-end rumble might have built up in the mic. There might be a harsh or unnatural frequency that needs to be EQ’d out before you can proceed. If there isn’t already compression on the track, the snare might actually be too dynamic for your reverb to work properly.
Using a time-based effect like reverb or delay on your tracks should always come late in the chain or on a separate aux track that you send your source track to. By using a send, you can route multiple sources to the same, shared reverb, which can be great if you’ve got a top & bottom mic or even a sample or triggered snare you’d like to blend into the reverb. It also cuts down on processing since you’re only loading that plugin once instead of an instance for each track.
As long as each track has been prepped and optimized for the mix – that same level of consistency and quality can be sent directly to the reverb so it can work it’s magic.
Use a Short Reverb
A short reverb is really the key to this whole method for adding width to your snare drums. By picking a short reverb time (500 - 600 milliseconds or so), you’re adding size without creating any unnatural sounds that might feel gimmicky or faked.
A great, short reverb doesn’t need any predelay, chorusing, or any other added feature you’ll find in the settings of your favorite reverb plugin. Using a stereo track with just a long enough decay for the reverb to liven up your sound should suffice.
What Your Snare Reverb Should Sound Like
The reverb itself shouldn’t be adding much of a tail to your snare hits, but you may hear a little extra “sizzle” on the end if it’s turned up loud enough in the mix. What you should be hearing is a bit of additional width to your snare as the reverb fills out the sides a little more. Like any parallel processing, you’re in control of how much or little of the effect you want to hear and should blend in the reverb track to taste.
To craft a truly subtle effect, I like to start with my fader all the way down, bring the reverb track up until I start to notice the effect, then back it off a dB or two from where I hear it.
For beginners, you should feel free to push the volume up a little louder while you work so you can hear exactly what the reverb is doing. This makes it easier to determine if you’ve got the right reverb length and if anything else needs to be done to your track.
Using EQ on a Snare’s Reverb
One of the most common “final steps” to mixing your snare reverb back in with the rest of your snare tracks is giving it some EQ of its own. If you started by cleaning up your source audio, this step isn’t always necessary, but it can help color your sound in a particular way.
For example, if you want to accentuate the top end of the snare and bring out some of the bottom mic’s character in the reverb, adding a boost to the top end with EQ can help create an airier reverb. Low-passing the reverb can also add a sense of depth and darkness to your snare without doing much to affect the original sound.
The same rules apply to processing your reverbs that apply to every other track – there are no rules. Find what sounds good to you and use it to make the best mixes possible.
How Comfortable Are You In The Studio?
Did you know that one of the main things clients look for when seeking out a producer or engineer to work with is their confidence? You could have a great portfolio of work, but if you can’t articulate how you got those results, they might start second guessing if you know what you’re doing.
Whether you’re a self-taught individual or someone with plenty of industry experience, it never hurts to know the terminology and techniques others are using to craft their sounds. Come check out the JST VIP section of our site to learn the key concepts we’re applying to every mix and learn a few advanced techniques along the way.