Mixing a Hip-Hop Snare Drum to Fit the Character of a Record
The snare right now, this snare, the main snare. It has a cool sound to it, it fits into the mix and sounds really good. What I wanted to do was give it more of a character that fit along with the record. Because right now it’s just sitting in there very nicely and cleanly, but I think because the record has this sort of dark gritty, almost kind of like a trip-hop vibe. I wanted to sort of muddy up the snare little bit in a compelling way. So, I took this vintage filter plugin and I’m using a filter to cut off everything that’s above 11 kHz. And you’re gonna hear that pretty distinctly.
[hip-hop snare drum before and after AIR Vintage Filter]
One of the things I like, aside from the fact that I like the colored sound of the filter, I also like this fat control. It adds sort of a combination of compression and distortion.
[hip-hop snare drum with ‘fat’ from vintage filter]
The flip side is I’ve lost some energy in the snare. To compensate, I’m pulling up an EQ and boosting a little 4k. I’m basically shifting, even though I’m taking the energy away from the top treble, I’m shifting it down to the lower treble. So I’m retaining the same amount of energy in the snare, it’s just in a different place. Now it sounds like this.
[snare drum before and after Waves SSL EQ boost]
Here we are in the mix before and after.
[hip-hop snare in the mix]
So it grooves with the feel of the song better and connects better with the aesthetic. When I first mixed tho record I approached it in a very general sense. Cleaning up the things that sounds dirty, setting balances, things like that. Sometimes even though something sounds good and it fits and it’s clean and is technically correct, that doesn’t always make it the best option. So I’m going to bypass this EQ as I play it and you’ll hear what I mean.
[snare drum with/without Q10 equalizer cuts]
The question is, what’s better? With the EQ or without. With the EQ the sound is more distinct, clearer, crisper, cuts through the mix better, takes up less space for other instruments. But without the EQ, it has more vibe, texture and fits in a compelling way, It’s dirty in a good way. So ultimately even though I took time to sculpt that EQ to begin with. One of the decisions I made to make this snare work is to take the EQ off at the end of the day. And that’s an important part — that is really the most important part of mixing. It’s making decisions that fit the record the best.
[full hip-hop mix]