Selecting the right snare for the job is essential, but that may not be enough to win over your listeners. In the big picture, learning how to EQ a snare drum will guarantee consistent results throughout your projects.
I rarely come across a snare that couldn’t use some “extra love”.
And come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a snare that sounded like another.
They’re all UNIQUE.
However, since we’re dealing with an “acoustic” instrument, we can’t simply “dial-in” a tone.
So if you’re working with a “real” drummer, your options are limited…
I mean, most of them probably own a couple of snares at most.
With a sample library though, you’ll have much more “colours” to work with, but trust me…
You’ll still need to use an EQ.
Once you listen to your project as a whole, you’ll begin to notice “weaknesses” on certain tracks.
But can an EQ really address these?
By following this tutorial, I’m confident that you’ll have the ability to do so. Are you ready to learn how to EQ a snare drum?
“Harmonic” Sounds vs “Inharmonic” Sounds
When it comes to incorporating percussion into any project, we need to keep in mind that they are “inharmonic” sounds. You may not be familiar with the term, so let’s use an analogy to gain an understanding.
If “harmonic” sounds are like colours, then “inharmonic” sounds are like “shades”.
In other words, “inharmonic” sounds are quite dense, so they take up more room on the frequency-spectrum.
This is why our snare drum will always require an EQ, regardless of how good it sounds.
You can view this process as “cleaning up” the unnecessary frequencies that constitute a snare.
As we progress, we will be covering several areas of a snare’s “profile” that will require “boosting/cutting”.
I just needed you to make the distinction as EQing percussion is a little more labor-intensive.
It also requires more knowledge and ACUTE HEARING.
Let’s start listening to some examples to determine EXACTLY what we want to hear.
How to Analyse a Snare Drum
There is most certainly a “recipe” to EQing a snare drum, but it won’t always be the right fit. We need to learn to use our EARS to determine what we need without relying on “presets”.
First and foremost, we need to hear what an ENTIRE drum kit sounds like before any post-processing.
You’ll realize that everything sounds “fine”, but wait until you hear the snare drum on its own.
Just so we’re clear, everything you just heard is from Steven Slate Drums 4 Platinum, not a “live” performance.
However, the techniques used to record this sample library are identical to those that you would use on a “live” kit.
Since we’ve got several microphones creating an image, it sounds “complete”.
But take a listen to the snare drum on its own…
Can you hear how “thin” it sounds?
Can you hear how “noisy” it sounds?
All these “weaknesses” and “unnecessary frequencies” were being covered up.
I personally love the sound of this kit, that’s why I chose it, BUT…
How do you think these subtle “imperfections” would impact the entire project?
Remember, everything changes once you begin adding more tracks.
Here’s the snare after post-processing… (bonus: can you guess what pitch it’s tuned to?)
It has more “body” and it takes up less room on the frequency spectrum.
Would you like to know HOW I did it?
Routing your Snare Drum to an Individual Bus
As a preliminary step to any post-processing that involves drum, I ALWAYS route my drums. If you want to control every “element” of your kit, you need to mix using several busses.
If you’re working with a “live” drummer, this is already taken care of (you already have multiple tracks).
I’m using Steven Slate Drums 4 Platinum, but this will work for any high-quality sample library.
In my plug-ins mixer window, I have the ability to route each “microphone” to a different output.
Keep in mind that everything that is not “overheads” and/or “room” microphones should be routed to a MONO output. (I did STEREO, oops…)
Once this is done, I need to create an auxiliary channel (aka bus) that is dedicated to my snare.
Now we need to select our “designated output” from our instrument plug-in as our “input source”.
Great, we should now rename our track “SNARE” and we can now insert our EQ plug-in.
7 Steps to a Perfect Snare
It’s really not that difficult to EQ a snare drum once you’ve got the hang of it. Whenever I EQ, I always start from the low-frequencies and work my way up.
Step 1 | LP Filter at 100 Hz
Step 2 | Boost for “Body” at 150 – 250 Hz
Step 3 | Cut for “Boxiness” at 500 – 800 Hz
Step 4 (optional)
Step 5 | Cut for “Ringing/Whistlin” at 4.5 – 8 kHz
Step 6 | High-Shelf for “Sizzle” at 8 – 10 kHz
Step 7 | Reduce Gain to Compensate
Once you’re done, I suggest you save this “preset” to use a reference for your future projects.
Remember, there is no “one size fits all” solution, so you should definitely tweak these settings.
Every snare is unique and every project is different.
Use Your Ears to EQ a Snare Drum
Besides providing your snare with the “body” it truly deserves, everything else is arbitrary. You may not need to process your snare as much as I did, or you may need to do more.
I always try to be as subtle as possible when it comes to EQ, especially for “boosting”.
The best advice I can give you is to sweep through frequencies using a “peak” to diagnose any unpleasantness.
Since your snare has a “tuning”, you will want to eliminate any frequencies that fall outside of this spectrum.
So did you guess the tuning of the snare in the example? It’s C#
I took that into consideration when I was “boosting/eliminating” to avoid any dissonance.
As I said, learn to use your ears and they will become more reliable as you progress.
I hope this tutorial has been of great value to you.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment or send me a personal message. Feel free to share any of your own tips and tricks as well!