PreSonus Blog

Friday Tips: Crazee Snare Enhancements!

You never know where you’ll find inspiration. As I was trying not to listen to the background music in my local supermarket, “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals—a song from over 30 years ago!—earwormed its way into my brain. Check it out at https://youtu.be/UtvmTu4zAMg.

My first thought was “they sure don’t make snare drum sounds like those any more.” But hey, we have Studio One! Surely there’s a way to do that—and there is. The basic idea is to extract a trigger from a snare, use it to drive the Mai Tai synth, then layer it to enhance the snare.

Skeptical? Check out the audio example.

 

ISOLATING THE SNARE

If you’re dealing with a drum loop or submix, you first need to extract the snare sound.

  1. Create an FX Channel, and insert a Pro EQ followed by a Gate.
  2. Add a pre-fader send from your mixed drums to the FX Channel. Aside from providing a more consistent level for triggering, a pre-fader send lets you turn down the main drum track. This way you hear only the FX Channel, which makes it easier to tweak the EQ and isolate the snare.
  3. With the Gate bypassed, tune the Pro EQ to the snare frequency. Use the LC and HC with a 48 dB/octave slope to provide the preliminary isolation, then use a super-sharp bandpass setting to zero in on the snare frequency (Figure 1). The EQ’s background spectrum analyzer can help by making sure the bar in the range you’re boosting goes as high as possible. In stubborn cases, you may need to double up the bandpass filter with a second sharp bandpass filter.

 

Figure 1: Use the Pro EQ and Gate to extract a snare drum trigger.

 

  1. Enable the gate, and click on Active to enable the trigger output. Set the Note and Velocity as desired (however when using noise with Mai Tai, the specific Note isn’t that critical). Adjust the Gate’s settings so that it triggers on the snare hits. Like the Pro EQ, the controls here are critical as well.
  • A short attack is usually best.
  • Keep release relatively short (e.g., 10 ms), unless you want to mix in some of the peaked/gated sound from this channel along with the Mai Tai and drums.
  • Hold times around 50 ms can help prevent false triggering. But you can also get creative with this control. If you don’t want to trigger on hits that are close together (e.g., fills), a long Hold time will trigger on the first snare of the series, but ignore subsequent ones that fall within the hold time.
  1. Insert the Mai Tai. Set its input to Gate, and enable the mixer’s Monitor button. Figure 2 shows the finished track layout.

Figure 2: Track layout for snare drum extraction.

 

TWEAKING THE MAI TAI

Now the fun begins! Figure 3 shows a typical starting point for a snare-enhancing sound.

 

Figure 3: Starting point for a cool snare drum sound with Mai Tai.

The reason for choosing Mai Tai as the sound source is because of its “Character” options that, along with the filter controls, noise Color control, and FX (particularly Reverb, EQ, and Distortion), produce a huge variety of electronic snare sounds. The Character module’s Sound and Amount controls are particularly helpful. The more you play with the controls, the more you’ll start to understand just how many sounds are possible.

BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE!

If the snare is on a separate track, then you don’t need the Pro EQ or FX Channel. Just insert a Gate in the snare track, enable the Gate’s trigger output, and adjust the Gate Threshold controls to trigger on each snare drum hit. The comments above regarding the Attack, Release, and Hold controls apply here as well.

Nor are you limited to snare. You can isolate the kick drum, and trigger a massive, low-frequency sine wave from the Mai Tai to give those car door-vibrating kick drums. Toms can sometimes be easy to isolate, depending on how they’re tuned. And don’t be afraid to venture outside of the “drum enhancement” comfort zone—sometimes the wrong Gate threshold settings, driving the wrong sound, can produce an effect that’s deliciously “right.”

 

  • Anderton

    Thanks for the comments! Actually, after a tip where I mentioned how the analog delay LFO didn’t go fast enough for vibrato, Arnd modified the range for an update. I was pleasantly surprised at the developer being so responsive. As to the built-in sidechain filters, they can be steep enough for kick sometimes, but you really need a super-narrow bandwidth to get reliable triggering from snares and toms. As mentioned, sometimes I have to use High Cut, Low Cut, and double up bandpass filters – the built-in filters don’t do that. On the other hand, they’re fine for the tip I did on frequency-selective compression for guitar, as well as for de-essing.

  • konstabel

    It is a joy to me reading you going over the plugins. Would have loved if you had done that much earlier (like e.g. before release, or at least early enough to change stuff)

    I do wonder why you do not use the builtin sidechain filters to isolate the snare. Not steep enough? I always hoped the swap button on them together with the listen toggle would enable a nice workflow..

  • Anderton

    Thanks, I know what you mean – they’re usually animated GIFs and screen captures. There’s even a screen capture utility in Windows, but they’re kind of limited…however that’s a great suggestion, and I’ll look into it what’s available.

  • Herman van Gelder

    You could also speckle your written content with some animated images just showing the important stuff. I’m not sure how to go about this but I have seen it multiple times. I hope you know what I mean cause I can’t think of an example at this time.

  • ManApeFish

    brilliant tip and learned something new about Gate.Off to see what else I can trigger with gate in S1 🙂

  • Anderton

    Videos take a lot longer for me to do, because I’m kind of a perfectionist 🙂 But you’re not the first person to ask for video content, so moving forward, I’ll see about doing some videos…maybe a “Friday Tip” could be a brief explanation of what the tip is about, along with a link to a YouTube video. And thank you for the feedback, I always appreciate comments!!

  • Thanks for this article I can see the huge potential and I’m trying it on a track. Would you post this in a video form? Nice that you have Craig A on your team!.