Drums are the foundation of modern music. Without a strong beat, most compositions immediately fall apart. Of all drum elements, your snare and kick are probably the most important ones, but they're also the hardest to truly control. There's a fine silver lining between having a snare that's buried under your mix and having a snare that just floats on top. Today, we discuss the 3 best ways to make your snare cut through a heavy mix.
You might have seen this one coming, but EQ is still one of the primary ways we mix. Maybe your situation doesn't actually call for anything magical. Maybe you just need to find the area where your snare drum hits and cut said frequency out of your overly distorted guitars and bass. Simple solutions often work, so perhaps give the good 'ole Channel EQ a try before doing anything outrageous.
Before you dig up your mighty war hammer or try to strike me down with a lightning bolt, I want to make sure we understand each other: there are 2 kinds of clipping. There is clipping as we most commonly know it: the volume of your track exceeding the digital limit or threshold of 0.0 decibels, and then there is the less known tool: clipping on purpose within a plugin. The overloading nasty clipping sound is not what we're looking for, but there's a lot of tools out there that recreate the harmonic saturation often heard when a signal clips in a sonically pleasing way. These "clipping" or "clipper" plugins will add a nice warm drive to your snare that makes it cut through the mix, whilst simultaneously blending better overall. If you want to try this for yourself, there's actually a free clipper plugin, called "Clipshifter". Feel free to google it after you've tried technique #3 !
3) Sample Layering
The most common technique, often used in heavy music, is sample layering. This basically means one takes a sample of another snare and layers it underneath the original snare hits. This thickens the sound and makes the snare drum more impactful. Most modern metal and rock productions utilise 2-3 snares layered on top of each other so this is definitely a technique to try out!