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How to Mix Layered Hip-Hop Snare Drums

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Tips for Mixing Layered Snare Drums in a Hip-Hop Mix
Tips for Mixing Layered Snare Drums in a Hip-Hop Mix - youtube Video
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss —,

We’re gonna keep talking about snare drums. Here we have a different approach which is composite layering to form one single snare sound. Here’s our snares.

[snare drums]

This snare is really a component of three different ones, here’s the first [snare], the second [snare 2], and the third [snare 3].

As the mix engineer, my job is to figure out what the producer’s intention was having these 3 snares coming together. So let’s listen to it in the mix.

[full mix]

So obviously this snare here is providing the ambience.

[ambience snare]

While this snare here is providing attack.

[attack snare]

And this snare here is providing texture.

[texture snare]

One thing that I think all the snares need is more attack. I’m going to throw on a transient designer just to add a little bit of hit to it.

[snares + Trans-x transient shaper]

Obviously I’m gonna need to do more to get more pop out of these snares, but that’s already a good start. First thing is the attack snare.

[attack snare]

I’m gonna pull up an EQ and do some pretty simple stuff: take out low end and enhance the midrange which is where that snap lives.


[snare + Waves SSL EQ]

Just focusing that energy right on that attack tone which is living at around 1.5k. Now we have the spring reverb snare.

[ambience snare]

Pulling up an EQ, I’m doing the same thing. Pulling up that exact same tone. And then pulling up a transient designer to add a bit more edge to it.

[ambience snare + SPL Attacker]

Then lastly taking out a bit of that darker muddier midrange.

[snare + FabFilter Pro Q EQ]

Here’s before my processing and after.

I’m not trying to separate the two snares tonally. I want them to blend together.

Then I have the texture snare here.

[texture snare]

It’s a little dull, it’s not really giving a lot of life to it, so I’m doing some pretty extreme EQ. When it comes to EQ, you know, people will say if you’re doing more than a certain amount then it’s gonna be too much or it’s indicative of a wrong choice or something like that. That’s BS. That’s something snobby mix engineers like to say when they don’t know how to make a good mix. We have knobs that go plus or minus 15 decibels and they do it for a reason. Sometimes you need a lot. So here I’m doing some pretty radical EQ. It’s gonna change the sound dramatically.

I’m adding a lot of treble to the overall snare. Because this snare has the presence of the snare band in the sound and the other snares don’t really have that. By brightening this one up, I can actually give the snare a lot more dimension and life. Here’s the three together.

[All snares]

The difference between having the high end is almost like the snare sounds like it came from the 70’s without it from 2014 with it. These things can make a pretty big difference. Here it is all together in the track.

[complete mix]

So when you’re looking at layers of snares, figure out if they’re supposed to blend, what they ’re bringing to the table that maybe the other snares aren’t. What things you can bring out of them to make the texture interesting. And experiment to figure out what you like.


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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