The big 80s snare drum
With 80s and 90s influences appearing more and more in music, here’s a quick tip to help you get that big 80s snare drum sound in your productions. In this lesson we are going to look at a more modern version of the big 80s snare.
In a future lesson we’ll also look at how to apply the full gated reverb technique. All you’ll need is a song with a snare part, some pink noise, a sampler, an EQ and a Reverb.
How to make a big Snare sound in Ableton
Step 1 – Duplicate
We’re going to copy our snare part into a new channel in Ableton and add a Simpler (Ableton’s basic sampler plugin) to the channel strip. To duplicate the snare part select that channel and hit Command-D (⌘D). Next drag in a Simpler device to the track from the Ableton menu. (See fig 1 below).
Step 2 – Load Pink Noise
Load a pink noise sample into the Simpler window. I used a free Pink Noise sample I downloaded from the super cool website Freesound.org but any will do. With that sample loaded in, we will need to tweak the ADSR envelope. This is so that when a burst of Pink Noise is triggered, the sound has an envelope close enough to our original snare that they mix well together. (fig 2 below). For this particular example I found that I could achieve the sound I wanted with a Release time of around 600-700 ms.
Step 3 – EQ
We’re going to EQ the Pink Noise sample a little, to remove some unwanted mud in the low end. Pink Noise has quite a lot of energy in the Sub and bass ranges so it felt like it was clouding the main snare sound with the full Sub. Removing some bass (fig 3 below) using a High Pass filter at around 120 Hz allowed me to push the Pink Noise layer higher in the mix for more impact.
Step 4 – Reverb
To get the big 80s snare, another key factor is to add a liberal amount of reverb – because its the 80s! I used a plate reverb preset in Valhalla Vintage Verb but any reverb will work. At this stage, we want to check the effect the sound is creating when the rest of our drum mix and instruments play. Set the Wet amount to the level which feels best for the track while listening. Because this is meant as a layer beneath the main snare sound, we can therefore use a little more reverb than on the main sound. I ended up with 25% Wet on the Mix dial.
As we’ve seen, it’s quite quick and easy to add that big 80s snare vibe to any production. All you need is Pink Noise, EQ and some Reverb. As I mentioned earlier, we could also use a more traditional technique using a reverb triggered by a gate and I will look at that technique in a future lesson. Let me know how you get on and any questions in the comments below.