Posted on 06. Mar, 2016 by Daniel Duskin (Record Producer, Mixing & Mastering Engineer) in MixingThis is part of a series on getting a professional snare sound without samples.
Reverb can define the perception of space for the entire drum set. This makes reverb choice of primary importance while mixing. This also makes it rather common to send more reverb to that drum than any other, often using reverb only on the snare, and sometimes even using a different reverb on this drum than any other drum in the kit.
Remember, it’s okay to not use any reverb. Never add reverb just because you think you should. Only apply reverb if it’s actually improving the sound!
Because reverb is so subjective to snare sound, music genre, song arrangement, and personal taste, I cannot tell you what kind of reverb to use or what settings to choose. But I can tell you what reverbs and settings have been shown to work more than others… the rest is up to you.
Be sure that you place your reverb on an effects-send, and not as an insert directly on your snare channel.
While just about every type of reverb has been used to sound great because it fit a particular song like a glove, the most common snare reverb type that has worked in more musical variations than any other is the plate reverb. I personally recommend trying the Universal Audio EMT Plate 140 plugin if you can get your hands on it.
If a plate reverb is too lush, you can try a room, or a chamber. Plates often work better in dense mixes. I can’t advise too much on all of the various reverb settings like decay, diffuse, early reflections, and tonal adjustments—because it’s so very song specific, I can only recommend that you should experiment with the pre-delay.
When the pre-delay is increased, more space is added between the hit of the snare and the onset of the reverb. When extreme, it can be used as a slap back effect, or can be rather annoying. When used in small amounts (5-20 milliseconds) it can ever so slightly separate the snare hit from the reverb so that the snare attack isn’t washed out. Whatever you end up choosing, just make sure you choose what sounds best, and never use a technique just for the sake of using it.
Experiment with sending only the bottom mic channel for the snare drum to your reverb—that can often sound better than sending the top mic. The most important thing is that you try sending the top to that reverb send, and the bottom to that reverb send, then choose which sounds best.
A rather crazy reverb you can try on your snare in the mix is a non-linear reverb. The sound of a non-linear reverb is characteristic of the 80′s—which you might have a knee jerk reaction to, good or bad—but there is no doubt that a non-linear reverb can make a snare sound enormous—usually bigger than any other type of reverb can! It has the added benefit of having a sharp cut off instead of a long decay that doesn’t get in the way of other instruments in your mix.
I have to mention, in styles where snare reverb is used often, the snare reverb can be as much—or more—of the snare sound than the dry snare sound itself!