Snare vs Kick
This tip is an example of how to make Snares fat without having to resort to more mixing and Plugins. It’s a technique used by big names in the Electronic Music world such as Madeon, Mat Zo and many others. Deadmau5 notably covered the concept in his insightful Masterclass.
I’d also seen a lot of my friends using this technique on Snares and Hats which fall at the same time on the grid as their 4/4 Kicks. Obviously there are more extreme versions of off-the-grid programming such as Dilla, Flume and others. Here however, our idea isn’t to hear our Drums off the grid but use subtle time shifts to give the drums more room to breathe. This way we can get the Snare Drum to smack hard against the Kick when the drum groove has a 4/4 foundation.
Step 1 – The Problem
When a 4/4 Kick is combined with a 2/4 snare, the Snare drum often loses some of its power. The Kick Drum usually has a much stronger transient in the highs and more power and punch in its low end. Each time the Snare lands the Kick steals some of that transient power. We can try to overcome this using EQ, gaining up the Snare or adding FX (distortion etc). There is a simpler solution.
In this example, I had a Madeon influenced beat which needed a big snare landing on 2/4 at the same time as the Kick. (fig 1 above). Madeon has some of the scarily biggest Snares you’ll hear.
Step 2 – Nudge the Snare
We are going to Zoom into our Snare part so that the arrangement window is almost at maximum Zoom. This allows us to select our programmed Snare part and move it around in tiny increments. Our goal is to nudge the Snare just a little ahead of each Kick Drum. You can see how far I moved the Snare forward in my project in Ableton below (fig 2).
Step 3 – Test
You shouldn’t be able to hear a rhythmic sensation of the Snare being rushed if you do this correctly. It should just sound as if the Snare feels louder and more present. It is almost as if you’ve gained up the Snare or added a bit of high end EQ or Saturation to it. But all we’ve actually done is shift the Snare ever so slightly ahead of the Kick. The Kick and Snare still sound like they’re in time, but the Snare sounds bigger than before. The reason this is happening here is that the Snare ‘pre transient’ gets to shine and catch the ear’s attention before the Kick’s huge transient takes over.
That’s it. This is a really simple way to make our Snares fat without using extra CPU, or changing the fundamental sound and tone of the Snare sample. Let me know if you’ve used this and how you get on with the concept in the comments below.