Pro Audio Files Logo Pro Audio Files

Elevate Your Ears Become a Member

How to Enhance a Snare Drum with Multiband Saturation

How to Enhance a Snare with Multiband Saturation
How to Enhance a Snare with Multiband Saturation
Hey guys, Derek here from Equinox Project Studio and The Pro Audio Files. I’m gonna talk to you guys about snare drum processing but we’re gonna focus on some different thing. You see a lot of videos about compression or EQ, but we’re gonna talk about applying harmonics to the snare drum. I’m gonna show you how that can really open up the sound of your drum in the mix. So let’s jump into Pro Tools.

So we’re gonna look at how adding harmonics can bring out your snare in the mix. Let’s dive in and show you how it sounds. In a metal breakdown section of this track I’m working on.

[metal breakdown + snare with bx_saturator harmonics]

One of the things I tried to get out of it was top end brightness and the sound of the wires, the snare wires in there, which come through really nicely when you add harmonics to the top end. And then I wanted to accentuate the body of the snare and make it sound full. I did most of that with harmonics. What I’ll do is solo the drum group and let you listen with the harmonics on and then with harmonics off so you can hear what it’s doing.

[drums with bx_saturator harmonics]

That’s on. I’ll bypass them and — it was adding some addition gain or volume — about 5 dB, so I’ll go ahead and throw 5 dB on there to compensate.

[drums without bx_saturator harmonics]


It wasn’t as full or crisp on the top end. Harmonics is one of the best ways to polish the snare. It almost turned it into a completely different sounding instrument. So what I’ll do is put a new instance of the saturation plugin I’m using which is the BX Saturator. You can do this with many plugins. I’ll show you my workflow.

I’ll set a loop region here and we’ll apply harmonics. The way this plugin works is it has a crossover frequency and you apply harmonic content below and above the crossover point. We’ll try and search for the sweet spots when we’re playing back this track and find a good spot to start adding harmonic content.

[metal breakdown drum loop]

And I actually in this case will solo this snare by itself here.


Ok I like that frequency down there. And I like the one above it too. So those are two good starting points to work with. Something I like to do in the lower frequencies that I’m saturating — I like to get it to clip — which really makes it more aggressive and gritty and adds to the attack and helps it cut through in a dense mix with heavily distorted guitars and a lot of midrange content. Let’s get that clipping.

[snare loop]

You can hear how that’s clipping pretty good, which isn’t gonna sound bad in context of the mix. Let’s check out the high end frequency and make sure those wires are coming through.


Let’s throw on the entire drum group.

[drum group with bx_saturator adding harmonics]

You’ll also notice you have gain on individual frequencies and I wanted more body. We’ll just go ahead and boost that a little bit. And the master gain fader. Or pot rather, that I’m using to control the overall volume — output volume of the plugin. Let’s go ahead and play back the section with the full mix and see how it sounds.

[full mix with harmonics on snare drum]

You can hear there’s a lot more top end — the wires are coming through with a lot of smack. It’s also got gritty midrange in there too that adds body and helps it sound a bigger in the mix. Those are just a couple of things that you can do with a saturation plugin on a snare drum.

So you guys can hear some of the benefits that adding harmonics to your snare drum brings to the mix. Gives you a lot more top end and makes it nice and crisp. Also gives you a lot of nice body and warmth that helps it stand out in the mix. Especially a dense mix. So harmonics are something I definitely advise you guys play around with on your snare.


Derek Pearson

My name is Derek Pearson. I’m an engineer, producer and musician from Boise, Idaho. I provide quality remote mixing and mastering services to online clientele and also offer recording services locally. Learn more at