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Fix It In The Mix

Lesson 15 of 17

Snare Drum Techniques

Kurt Ballou

Fix It In The Mix

Kurt Ballou

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Lesson Info

15. Snare Drum Techniques

Lesson Info

Snare Drum Techniques

So as I mentioned before um despite the fact that the snare and tom's were mike on this kit during the live performance, it looks as though they're probably weren't enough inputs to the recording engineers recording device to record everything five times is a lot of tom's that's you know, that's demanding so all we really have for snare is this overhead track and the room my tracks so let's check out the overhead and see what we have to see how that sounds just kind of raw as delivered and uh I think I'll skip the intro and we'll just, um getting to like the body of the song all right? So just, you know, inspecting this thing visually um you know, we can see all the snare heads we can also see all the crash it's and see that those things are a little bigger than this near hits but there is kind of a decent amount of dynamic range here and the drummer is doing a good job of hitting a snare hard so it is, you know, peeking out above kind of the background noise level of the overhead trac...

k and um so what we're going to try to do is find ways to extract the snare drum or a snare drum single that we can process independently from the overhead from this overhead track and you know, some of the tools at our disposal are dividing up the frequency bands so you know, maybe maybe something we're focusing on the mid range we'll get a sim or snare and filter out some of the symbols and then also dynamically wait do have that we can see the snared I'm kind of peeking out above the background noise of the of the overhead track so we'll try some different ways too extract the snare drum and so what I've done is me enable couple couple additional tracks here um and switch down to my my mix um I've got this track called that I've called snare extractor and let's make that one active and this one is, um this one is just actually just a copy of the overhead track I'll see it's got the same name as thie essie overhead track um so it's just just a duplicate of the overhead track and um I just I should note that I'm going to be doing some processing to it with with some inserts, which I'm just going to disable for a second and then um we're going to run out bus back into a new track so that we can create a track called snare, which is this one oh, this thinks so we're um this is not pro tools hd so there's no input monitoring here, so typically I would drop up thiss snare one track into input monitoring and then feed the output of my snare extractor track out bus one into the input of my sneer track so bus one here we're going we're going bust one two bus one um and then I would just drop it and drop it into input monitoring as I was as I was listening and making changes and then I would drop it into record to actually friendship because is no input monitoring in regular old pro tools I guess I will just keep that thing you did for now and I'll just assign this thing out the normal output so um you know again should sound the same all right uh let's go shrink this one because we're not paying attention that yet? Um okay, so uh umm lola oh, yeah. Okay. So first step you know, my trusty old pro m b look a heads turned off we're in dynamic phase and we're going tow see if we can coax a bit of just snare out of the overhead just using pro ambi. So you see you especially when the cymbals hit the high band and the high mid band or grabbing pretty hard particularly the high band and you can immediately here when I toggle it in and out of bypass that the high hat level drops significantly that's all what a lot of that sort of background level is on the high attracts let's hear it again theo all right, so that's gonna give us a nudge in the right direction um and then right now, okay, I should also mention I'm not overly concerned with the tone of this near right now and I'm not going to be able to be really what I'm just trying to find here is some snare drum that I'm gonna have independent control over against against the overhead I'm not gonna be ableto have the most cheer policing steer in the world so you know, this is currently what we're hearing is a ah mohr mid range east near then I would typically go for but the fact that I'm gonna be ableto get a bit of an isolated snare sound to me is takes precedent over having me you know, the ultimate great sounding snare drum so next thing going to do is I'm going to get that that signals he will get out of that you know what? I bet we can filter mohr of the highs and lows out to really focus on the snare so let's engage um this uh this plug ins built inside change filters and so we have a high pass and a low pass filter that we can engage in order to really kind of have the, uh the action of the gate focused on this near frequencies something like that would probably work I turn off the audition button and then I'm going to set my attack to maximum will eventually be tweaking out the hold and release in the ratio, but let's kind of first tried dialling our threshold a bit, all right? You know, I'm gonna get a good loop going, actually. All right, so we're getting we're going to snap him out of there, you know, um, when I did this for real, I was using the again fat filter, my current favorite plugging company there, their gate, which is a little bit nicer than the shock. Did you get a little bit more accurate? And I think that ended up automating some of the parameters to the gate and listen through the whole song to make sure that I was always grabbing the sneers when he needed to grab the snares. Um, but let's, let's, you know, compare again here, so the toms air also sneaking through this gate, so we'll probably need to do some editing to it once once we've once we've printed this track and, uh, let's engage trans, if ias well, let's see, I'm not doing automation on it. Um, and we're gonna use trans if I tio boost the attack of the snare, so we're basically going to use trans if I kind of like an expander so which is the opposite of a compressor similar to a gate but it's it's it's an envelope fall over so it's never going to remove the signal but what it's going to do is in certain frequency bands it will follow the shape of the transient and I'm going to use it to exaggerate the transient so every time as you're going along whatever it sees a snare that goes like that it's gonna make it go like that so we have even even greater dynamic range from the snare I'm gonna go look at the the low may admit and travel bans and just kind of boost up the attack on those bits so we're definitely getting a lot more crack out of the snare now by using trance if I, um symbols they're still a bit annoying on dh they're still in there but we'll figure out a way to deal with those through through some editing I think okay, so um actually can we switch the slides for second let's uh let's see where we're at here so now we've created our snare extractor track which is this this sort of mustard a yellow one and uh you know, as I as I mentioned earlier it's nice to commit to things and make some decisions so what I'm letting teo is um actually bounced down this snare extractor track to a new track which sometime I've already done this bounce a tte home, so I'm just going to disable my snare extractor trackers. We don't need it right now and then I'm going to enable, uh, the track that I bounced it too, okay? And now this track had a whole bunch of stuff before it and after it, you know, like the intro there's, actually, no snare drum in the intro, so I just, you know, edited that track clean in the intro and actually let me down here is the overhead track make that big just so we can we can see we're although, you know, just for the time being, I'm gonna move the overhead track next to this near track, since they are made up of the original track. So what? You're seeing him in a disabled, the inserts that are on that thing for now? Eso what you're seeing is, um, this this right here is the overhead track and this right here is this snare that we made from the overhead tracks so it's, pretty remarkable, just just inspecting visually how much we've been able to modify the overhead track just from those three simple plug ins to create, um, this new track and, uh, hopefully this will play if I sign this output to kurt's mix theo, you know so there's still a bunch of symbols leaking in all that stuff and that's that's fine for our purposes, we're not gonna be relying on this track super heavily. So it's ok, that it's not perfect sounding obviously the tone, al it easily a little bit different than what you were just hearing on my snare extractor track just because I was using a different gate plug and slightly different trance if I settings in order to get to here but this is this's. So this is where we're at um, go back to the slides for a second. All right, so, um, the next thing we do is for some further tonal control and dynamic range control of the snare were to do, you know, typical type of processing which would be, uh que a gate and a compressor on the snare extractor. We're not going to spend it's hunting time dialing that stuff in really precisely yet because mostly what we're using the snare extractor track for is to re emphasise nair. And this is, I think, a strange concept to a lot of people, but what you can do actually is to take ah snared around that's already been recorded, send it out of out of your dog through into a power amp and then into a speaker I like to use like a small mid may based driver, maybe like a four inch mid based driver, that's got pretty fast transient response, and then I'll in my case, I'm using a small cair que speaker that had it was it was powered speakers, so I'm using the power and portion of that speaker and that I've extended the speaker cable that I'm placing the speaker itself onto the head of an actual snare drum. Um, people do this in all different ways. Sometimes, though, you know, you could take a guitar combo and lay it on its back and flip us near them upside down and drop it on top of that guitar combo. Or you could put the snare on its side next to a speaker of what really makes this thing work. Is that the speaker sound? It will never have the same, like crack of a drumstick hitting the head, but what it does is it sort of blast through the drum excites the snare wires on the on the underside of the drama causes those two teo reverberate, and it gets you the tone of sort of a drum that's struck with a medium to medium light velocity, so we're not going to use that for like a supermom mastic aggressive, snare sound, but in the case where you don't have we've recorded a snare drum but you didn't have a bottom mike and you need to get a bit more scariness or maybe the drummer usedto extremely tightly tunes drum because they needed some fast response but the song calls for something with more body you khun reem through a drum with some depth to get cem cem extra tone um and uh yeah so anyway uh the other nice thing about about rehabbing is you don't need to worry about drumsticks hitting your microphones so you khun mike wherever you want um a lot of cases I might below the drum I try not to make super close to the speaker because I don't want to get a lot of of the bleed coming from the speaker I just want to get this drum sound and not the sound of them feeding into the drum in order to get the drum sound um but in this case I decided to mike from above um about about eighteen inches above the drum uh I felt like I was getting to a point where the low end was building up in a nice way and giving me sort of the throaty kind of kind of snare sound so what so in order to feed this snare we wanna have a we still want to preserve some of the dynamics of the snare performance but we do want to accurately gate them because basically anything that's feeding into this mike is going to cause the snare drum to go off so if there's tom's feeding into it or if his bass drum feeding but it's going to give you a kick a snare sound whenever there's like a kick for example so we want to make sure that our the track that we're going to use to feed the snare re imp is really is on ly providing us with um with, uh just a snare stuff so we could even be kind of like hyperactive with our gating because really you just want like a transient attack you don't really need anybody from the single that you're sending out to this area so so let's add some plug ins to our to the track that we bounced from the extractor track and see how that sounds so this one is using just the stock cube was a q q three seven band um hi past lowe passed to get rid of any remaining bass drum and to filter out some more symbols and then also a couple of bell's kind of dialed in on the attack e ist frequencies both in the crack range and in the meat range just to give a bit more punch to the signal that we're sending out there so let's hear that again and a tuggle bypass on and off so one of the things we need to watch out for is if the drummer's hands are in sync sense, where we're using just the overhead track for this, um, you know, if if their right hands a little bit ahead of their left hand, you might have a bit of high hat that precedes the snare track, and so you might need to, and in some cases, you might need to edit off that high hat or but my hope is that the low pass filter that I'm doing is removing enough of the high hat that, um, the attack of the high hat won't cause thie sneer reem to activate. So next in line, we're gonna get even more just so it's, super crisp. All right, so now we just have a bunch of bunch of stab e peaks and its control, the dynamic range just a little bit. If the dynamic range is controlled too much, then you can have instances where, you know, as the top mike kind of goes up and down the bottom. Mike stay static, and it feels like the it can feel like the blend between the top and bottom mike's is changing too much, so we don't want to do too much of this, but a little bit a little bit of of dynamic this is this is actually not so much for dynamic range control as it is. Playing with attack and and released times in order to get a bit more crack out of the er out of this this track so you know, not hugely different I'm also getting this went up a little bit just just for further level control of the of the rio okay, so now what I'm gonna do is really the drum obviously I don't have a microphone and a drum set up here so let's go back to the slide for a second and just look again at what my setup is so this is something I did in my studio and I have that um that track available toe listen tio here so we're gonna, um we're gonna check that out in just a second um so we're going to record a re m ped snare track back into pro tools and let's uh let's check out what it sounds like actually it's some out uh, since we've already actually run the re implying that I'm just going toe I've already disabled this track that feeds the snare rima ri I'm just going to hide it so we don't have to look at it and I think at this point now I can move my drum overhead back to where it needs to be and let's listen to what I want I want this area let's check out the snare rieff see how it sounds you know I have some river right now I'm just gonna disable that and disable these plugs real quick so it's it's a bit honky sounding and you know, it's interesting to look at is um look at that transient response like that does not look like what you want to scare them to look like um it's kind of ramps it ramps up and ramps back down so we're not gonna be able to use that for really much of any crack if this is just going to be for some snare drum tone and realism and a bit of isolation and it's also nice tohave have this here as a thing that we can send reverb from because this gives us a new independent signal we can use a reverb send so if we don't want to send river from our overhead for example, now we have a bit of separate river control even though it's not the most you're pleasing bottom snare sound I've ever heard but let's try to make it sound little better we'll see what we can do so again love pro que tu let's hear it so um let's forget kind yeah you can see you can see like me and gain this thing back up let's look at let's look at the on this thing yes you look at that honky ring that's why I'm kind of like notching out in that in that region so we're adding a bit of air in a bit of a bit of depth, which was lacking in the original snare sound or the extracted sneers and also, since the extracted sneer sounds so mid rangy using adding a bit of air up at what I do and like six, six and a half k that we don't have that freak, those frequencies really available to us and are extracted snare sound, so we're going to be getting some of the highs and the snare from from the bottoms near mike and again, you guys know I love trans if I so hopefully it runs were to try to add a bit of attack, even there's, not much tact there we'll see what we can do in terms of making this our sound more like a normal snare by using trans if I oh, I can't hear it here, but I think I heard it at home we try some more extreme settings, all right set more extreme, I can definitely hear it here there's more there's, more crack to the drum so let's let's split the difference between what I'm doing now and where I had it when I was at home s so now we have a sneer reem track and as I mentioned earlier, we consent from river I have a master reverb running down here, which I'm compressing any queuing a hair with the with the dj channel strip plug in and then into um and in an instance of this uh revived I can't remember yeah revive um and this is kind of just going to help supplement the room mike and we would try to pick we try to pick it up a decay time that's kind of similar to what the decay time in the room sounds like so later on we're gonna be listening to the room track and we'll we'll spend some more time on riverbed but let's just hear with this sneers with this sneer bottom sounds like when we add some reverb so sounds like river it widens the snare a bit and feels more like it's in the room okay? And then um also I have now a duplicate of the track um I'm just calling it snare but this is the same this is the same stuff that I bounced from the snare extractor track just minus all of those plug ins which I used strictly for my send to my snare re amping speaker so now I've kind of stripped this back to be just what the extractor track was let's hear that one more time? Well, that sounds crazy not really sure what that sounds delayed but uh we'll investigate that I guess later it's your privilege as a pre live well anyway, I don't know what's going on there I'm not gonna worry about it right now um what I'm concerned about right now is let's kind of compare and zoom in a bit let's compare uh oh you know what I've already I've already done it um I had to do well say he didn't do a very good job either but when I when I initially printed that sneer e of track just due to some latent see and what not it was it was offset you know it turned out that it came in somewhere over here so what I did was I measured this offset in samples and then I used the um the uh what they call it um time adjuster yeah used time adjuster um to delay the tops near tracked by a certain amount by by my rough estimate of how many samples I needed to delay it and then kind of slid around until I found a position where I felt this and they also you adjust polarity from within this plug and slip it around until I found a position where I felt is though thie thie extracted snare track and my reem snare track combined well together and work were complimentary and phase so let me just move that back to where I where I had it and let's hear let's to hear those two tracks together now so first just near extractor that I'm gonna add the re and we'll see what that does to it so like this bottom mike is way louder than a bottom mike would ordinarily be in one of my mixes but it's our only like truly separate snare first that we've we've had yet some I'm favoring that here and uh back the slides for second and the next thing that I want to do is actually create a master to some all the snare mike's together so I've assigned um go back I've assigned the output of, um of my extracted snare track and the output of my snare re up to a bus and then I have this uh this ox input here called snare master and so this is this enables us to process these two sneer tracks together as a group and we're going to add a bit more stuff to him let's hear what dfx site khun do for this combination of sneer tracks so it takes it from from boring to, you know, a bit more aggressive it a bit more attack eeg also obviously have to be like really careful of of the symbols that are bleeding in through that extracted sneer track because they're still there's those overhead remnants were never really going to get rid of, but hopefully in the context of the mix once once the overheads and the room mike's air in there, the high frequency content of those mikes will mask the highs that air leaking in through through this track and if not you know then we we go in here and we back off on the trouble in fact let's try that yeah, that might actually sound a bit better using a bit maur the high mids and a bit less of the trouble frequencies in order tio make it sound more like a normal snare and then finally like you do with the kick since I'm mixing in the box and as opposed to on a consul I could normally do I needed some kind of just kind of master q and compression control some using brain works be ex consul that I'm getting a whole lot more meat a lot more um more like kind of in the chest sound from the snare and that's due in a lot of cases to the on this thing so let's just talk about the cube in and out just sounds mean er but I'm also hitting the compressor a little bit it's nice that they you know it takes a little while to find your way around this plug because there's somebody bells and whistles but they haven't given us a couple of bonus features of high pass filter which I probably should be using um and mix I guess I'm one hundred percent on the mix in the high pass filter but if I wanted to kind of wet dry the snare I could do that here let's actually try that so one of things I'm doing with the compressor here is using sort of ah slower attack time and more slower attack and kind of medium release which enables the peak of the transient to sneak past the compressor and then a bit of the decay and the residence of the snare drum is then compressed which actually even further accentuates the leading edge of the trains in giving us more attacks in the serum so as I this this I don't know why they call it el see but as a toggle elsie and out that's the that's the compressor or maybe only with level or limiter compressor that's probably wise healthy um so we was here how that changes the sound so just sounds like the drummer's digging in a bit harder and putting a bit more stick on it um so that's pretty much where we're at with regards to snare drum um and uh let's do it again of the river we were curious what that delay wass when you get a look coming again, I have no idea why the scent from that channel is delayed but not the other ones I'm just gonna turn that one down because we don't really need much of that that anyway and it was built to press on I don't really have a lot of time for fighting fires today, so I'm not gonna not gonna worry about that um all right, let's go I think that's pretty much all we need to talk about about snare for now although it wouldn't be surprised if there are any questions about that revamping stuff do we have anything or do you guys have just do one question at what point would you have tried a program like drama tom to extract the snare was that tracked beyond what could be helped? Yeah, drama thomas is pretty cool we're actually going to get into drama tom in I'm going to do it annd ish inal song towards the end of the day and that one does I have isolated snare and overhead and tom tracks drama tom I use it, I believe there is approaches version of it I don't use that I used to stand alone version of drama tom, you load your tracks into it and then you kind of tell it, you know, this track is near tracking this track is an overhead track and it does some kind of computer re brainy stuff on all that it kind of back calculates what from like it'll calculate kind of from the overhead track what is the symbol bleed in the snare track and that allows you to remove that, but where in this case I'm trying to get everything from the overhead tracks so drama there's enough actually nothingto load into drama tom without having without there being a snare track. There's. No way to extract a snare from an overhead, because there's nothing to tell the overhead track. What is bleed you can't like it can't extract lead from itself, so drama tom wouldn't wouldn't be applicability this case, but we are going to use drama tom this afternoon.

Class Description

The best way to get a great recording is to start with great source material, but that’s not always possible. Occasionally you are stuck with a less-than-perfect recording and the only thing you can do is to try and clean it up. 

Lucky for you, there are reliable techniques for restoring poorly recorded audio, and Kurt Ballou will teach you everything you need to know in Fix it in the Mix. 

While replacing drums with samples and reamping guitars are often effective ways to rebuild a sub-par recording, they are time-consuming and can diminish the uniqueness of the original recording. 

Fix it in the Mix will explore organic approaches to recovering and enhancing the natural tones from the original performances. Kurt will use recordings from real-world scenarios and walk you through, in detail, the audio restoration process. 

In Fix it in the Mix, Kurt will show you how to think outside of the box to come up with creative solutions to audio restoration problems every engineer has faced. 



An absolutely fantastic course for anyone who is new (or even experienced) on how to use very innovative techniques to help bring some life to an otherwise poorly recorded demo. Thank you Kurt!


another fantastic course in the creative live audio section, kurt kills it,!! thank you!

Ashton Thebault

Definitely some handy tips in here that are useful for mixing live music, poorly recorded tracks and anything else that couldn't be rectified during recording. Kurt gave some tips I had never thought of and there were some valuable insights that came out from his discussions with people in the room. Very valuable if you deal with any sub-standard recordings and if you just want to get some tips.