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How to Fix a Thin Snare Drum

Dec 25, 2019

Sometimes your snare doesn’t have enough of the full and impactful flavor you need for it to sit properly in the mix and carry weight. We offer 4 tips for remedying this issue.

How to Fix a Thin Snare Drum

If your snare drum sounds like a pencil hitting a tambourine, you’ve got a “thin” snare drum on your hands. Snare drums don’t always need to be as “beefy” as kick drums, but they do need to sound impactful; this can be achieved using transient shaping, saturation, parallel compression, and equalization.

1. Sculpt Attack and Release with a Transient Shaper

A common cause of a thin sounding snare drum is that the tail end of the recording’s waveform decays too quickly. To overcome this, try using a transient shaper, like Smack Attack, to boost the sustain level of your audio signal. This should lengthen the feel of the snare in the track. If your snare needs more front-end “punch,” then boosting the attack should help. If your snare pokes in the wrong way, try instead to reduce the attack level in Smack Attack and then boosting the overall track level of your snare.

2. Saturate/Distort the Snare

Saturation and distortion can beef up the harmonic structure of your snare, but be careful not to kill the desirable transient information. A saturator will, on top of distortion, apply compression to your audio signal, which is where the transient loss can come from. However, applying tape saturation with J37 Tape, in moderation, can result in a snare that “splats” nicely out of your speakers.

For a more aggressive effect, try driving your snare through one of the guitar amp emulations found in PRS SuperModels or GTR3. If you’re feeling particularly creative, you could even try Berzerk Distortion on your snare and see what it does.

3. Use Parallel Compression

Applying parallel compression to your snare involves creating a duplicate track of your snare recording, heavily compressing it, and mixing it together with the original unprocessed signal. This mixing technique can result in snares that are full-bodied and bold. Use a compressor with a super-fast attack like the CLA-76 Compressor / Limiter and apply peak compression using a fast attack. Play around with different release settings to see what suits. You can aim for around 10 dB of gain reduction using a ratio of 4:1 or higher; the idea is to really crush the signal. Gently turn up the output level on the CLA-76 until your snare feels sufficiently full.

4. Overall Tonal Shaping with EQ

Everything you’ve done up until this point has involved making your snare bigger and meaner. You probably have a monstrosity of a snare that needs to be tamed. Applying a gentle high-pass filter around 60-80 Hz with an EQ like the Q10 Equalizer will help reduce mud. “Body” can be boosted or cut around 100-200 Hz with a gradual bell filter, and “warmth” can be controlled around 200-400 Hz. To put some “snap” back into your thick snare, try boosting around 2,000 Hz with a narrow bell filter.

Want more quick mix fixes? Get tips on fixing a boxy snare sound.

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