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Tips for Adding Punch to a Snare Drum with Compression [Excerpt]

Alright, so now we’re going to start looking at compression on the close mic, starting with the snare. So, the very first thing, and this is a workflow thing that I do. You don’t have to do it this way, but I like to do it this way. I take all of the mics that are capturing one single drum, and I bust them onto my own aux.

So if I’m recording the snare with two mics, they all go down to one single snare aux, which I’ve got highlighted here, but it’s the same thing with like, kicks, rooms, overheads, anything that’s kind of capturing the same thing, I like to put them on the same channel and process them at the same time. It’s not that I won’t necessarily go into the individual captures and kind of mess around with them, it’s just that I usually don’t I usually think of it as one sound.

So in this particular case, we have the snare mics, we have the top and the port capture coming together, and all I’ve got on it so far is just a little bit of EQ.

Sounds like this on its own.


And it sounds like this with the rest of the drums.


Honestly, that sounds very good. So we could actually call it a day here, we’ll just find the level of snare we actually want, set it in the mix, and move on. That wouldn’t be much of a tutorial, so let’s talk about why we might want to do some dynamic processing, specifically, compression.

Well, there’s a couple of reasons we might want to do it. One reason is to add a bit of energy. We might want to do something that brings out the punch of the snare, adds a bit of grit and tone to it, maybe brings out some of those inside notes a little, or we might want to do some heavy handed compression that brings out the size of the snare and makes it feel really big and really full and really fat.

Those are kind of different approaches, and I’m going to show you each. They both involve using a very fast compressor. An 1176 or FET style compressor is usually a good choice for these, because they can act over a very, very quick period of time.

So this one is going to be used to bring out the punch of the snare, and the idea here is to set the attack very slow, and the release very fast, and then just to adjust the input and output so that you’re getting about the same overall amplitude, but you’re finding that energy and that punch.

Here is the before and then the after.

[snare, before compression]


[snare after compression]

So if you listen to that, you can hear a few things that change. On the one hand, the tone sort of flattens a little bit, which is one of the tradeoffs that we get, but we get a little bit more of that like, low mid punch coming through, we get a bit of the upper-mid range being stretched, because of the tone of the compressor, and we also get a little bit more of the ghost notes, so we get a little bit more of the groove.

One more time, before and after.

[snare, before and after compression]

And then ultimately, it’s just a question of how much you want to drive it. So we could really push this into the compressor here, and maybe back this off a bit.

[snare, harder compression, then light compression]

It’s a little hard to level match though. Probably about like that.



There we go. So the secret to setting this up is just turning the attack as slow as it will go, and turning the release almost as fast as it will go. If you turn it really fast, it starts to sound pretty two-dimensional.

[snare, adjusting release]

Right? It sort of starts to sound kind of flat. So just slowing the release ever so slightly kind of helps to retain a little bit of the dimension.


And then the ratio control really does change the texture of the drum, so I’m going to go from four and then go up.

[snare, adjusting ratio]

So you hear that eight is actually, even though it’s a higher ratio, you would think it would be doing more compression. It’s actually sort of a snappier and more in-your-face sound.

[snare drum]

So one more time, eight…

[snare drum]



So usually, I’m at eight or sometimes 12, depending on how in your face I really want it to be, but eight to me sounds a little bit more natural. It just really depends on what we’re going for. So let’s listen to this in the context of the mix. Here’s before.

[drum mix]


[drum mix, after]

One more time, and listen to the placement of the snare, like where it seems to sit in like, the top to bottom frequency world.


It seems to lift the snare kind of forward dimensionally. It like, moves the energy up into the upper-mid, and kind of brings it a little bit closer to your face. It’s not like a huge change, but sometimes, we don’t necessarily want a huge change.


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch:

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