Posts Tagged ‘ Snare ’

Do something different with rhythm

Break out of your usual rhythms.

Think about all the usual assumptions you make when you’re programming drums and rhythms for other parts. People often speak of breaking the rules… what happens when you break your own rules?

Take the kick drum for example… do you only ever place the kick drum on quarter-notes? See what happens when you place some kicks on eighth-notes between the quarter-notes. Syncopate them.

Too easy? What about placing the kick drum on the first beat of each bar? Find out what happens when you start each bar without the kick drum. Don’t just do it once or twice – do it for a whole section. Maybe a few sections. Maybe make it a feature of your next song or track.

Same goes for the snare. How often do you place a snare (or snare-like sound, such as a clap) on the second and fourth beats? Do you ever think about why you’re doing it? What happens when you shake it up a bit? Put that snare somewhere else. Listen to how the other instruments respond.

Some of these explorations might sound ‘wrong’ when you listen back. Some might make you feel uncomfortable. Some might be weird, or even interesting. Rhythm plays a critical role in establishing the way the music feels. Is it quick and nimble? Slow and lumbering? Solid as a clock? Wobbly and unpredictable? It’s right there in the rhythm.

Even if you try out a bunch of ideas and eventually return to your comfort zone, you’ll have a better understanding of why your comfort zone appeals to you. You’ll be in a much better position to deviate – even if only slightly – in a way that makes musical sense, rather than simply making random variations.

Drums are usually the main contributors to a song’s sense of rhythm. But don’t limit yourself. Break out of the usual rhythms you use for basslines, accompaniment parts, even melodies.

Still too easy? Try some less-common time signatures. Try 6/8. 5/4. Alternate between 6/4 and 4/4. If you’re feeling adventurous, go for 7/8 or 7/4. This kinds of time signatures will force you to shake up your usual rhythms. And you’ll invent something fresh.




Five secrets to making your mix louder

Don’t dismiss this post yet! Even if you’re in the ‘more dynamics’ brigade, these tips will give you clearer mixes that suffer less in mastering. That means better-preserved dynamics and higher fidelity!

For those of you who really do want your mixs SUPER LOUD, this tips will let you push more volume without your sound turning to mush.

  1. Go easy on the bass. That includes sub bass, kick and melodic bass. It always tempting to turn them up, but the low frequencies really use up a lot of headroom (high peak level for the same perceived volume). The more headroom your audio needs, the less you can push it in mastering and the worse it will sound when it’s pushed hard. First try to compare your bass levels with commercial reference songs. Listen carefully to the level of the low frequencies in comparison to the rest of the spectrum – you might find there’s less than you initially thought! Also consider saturating the kick or the bass.
  2. Saturate those peaks. Take a look at your mix bus peak meter to see if any tracks are ‘poking out’ of the mix – often it will be the kick or the bass. Used carefully, you can use saturation to reduce the peak level of your kick or snare tracks without reducing the perceived volume. Often peak level reductions of 6-9dB are easily attainable without adversely affecting the audio quality. Limiters are usually not so useful here because they’ll tend to change the sound too much.
  3. Embrace the background. Push some instruments further to the background. If you try to put too many sounds in the foreground you’ll end up with an indistinct mush. This indistinct mush will quickly become even worse when you apply heavy limiting in mastering. Instead, try to identify the three or four most important elements of the mix (typically the snare, kick, bass and lead synth/vocal). Be bold and push everything else to the background! You’ll get a mix that’s more focussed and more powerful.
  4. Leave your stereo widener at home. Stereo widening tricks might be fun to play with, but they’ll rob your mix of punch and power. If you want those foreground sounds (snare, kick, bass, lead) to hit as hard as possible, stay clear of any stereo width manipulation. Some subtle widening is sometimes useful for special background effects, but remember – if you do it, do it in moderation.
  5. Be careful of the lower mids. The region between 100Hz and 1000Hz is the cause of many troubles. It’s very easy to put a mix together that has a lot of mud build-up in that area. To get the ultimate clear mix, get brutal with an EQ! Make some big dips in the lower mids for all background instruments, and make sure you don’t have any excess lower mids in your foreground instruments. You need to keep some lower mids, because that’s where your body and thickness comes from. Here’s a secret though – a mix with body and thickness only needs a few foreground instruments to have that body and thickness. To put it another way, a few fat foreground instruments makes for a fat mix. A lot of fat instruments makes for a flabby mix.

With these mixing tips you should be able to get a few more decibels of clarity in mastering!


Processing snare (in a drum kit)

Those who come from the world of electronic music and samples may experience some shock when mixing a real, live drum kit!

Traditionally, sampled drums have been mixed with one sound per channel. There might be a kick channel, a snare channel, a hihat channel, and perhaps more channels for cymbals, toms and auxillery percussion. If you want the snare to sound a specific way, it is (relatively) simple to process the snare channel – adjusting the tone and dynamics of the sound – to transform it from its original form into the desired form.

When mixing a live drum kit, however, this is not such a simple process. If you come from an electronic or otherwise sampling background, you will probably be tempted to solo the snare channel. From there will will realise that the channel is much “dirtier” than you might be used to – the sound is very dry and raw, and there’s bleed from the rest of the drumkit! You might battle for some time with gates, EQs, compressors, and perhaps even transient shapers. When you are satisfied with your sound (or get close enough without going insane), you’ll unsolo the snare to hear it in context…

And be shocked that it sounds nothing like what you thought it would!

And soon enough, you’ll discover the second difference between mixing samples and mixing a live kit – more bleed! Specifically, the snare drum will be picked up by several channels. This will at least be the “snare” channel (the one you meticulously processed) and the overheads. The snare may also be coming through the tom channels, a hihat channel if you have one, and even the kick channel!

Zealously gating the bleed out of all the other tracks will ultimately produce something that doesn’t sound much like a live drum kit. Sorry – you can’t perfectly control every aspect of the sound!

It might be more appropriate to approach the drum kit as a single instrument instead of a collection of individual sounds. Listen to the whole drum kit and focus on the snare. That sound is coming from at least three channels – the snare channel and two overheads. Solo each channel individually and listen to how the channel contributes to the overall snare sound. When you’re imagining your desired snare sound and thinking about how to transform what you’re hearing into what you’re imagining, consider that you might have to make changes to more than one channel to achieve it. Also consider than no matter how much you may process a single channel, you will only be changing one component of the sound.

Finally, keep in mind that the more processing you apply, the less natural your sound becomes. Presumably, you’re using a live drum kit because you want the sound of a live drum kit in your song. If you process it so much that it sounds like a bunch of samples, you negate the main reason for using a live kit in the first place!