I was doing some spring cleaning (just before Thanksgiving) in my control room the other day. I ALWAYS put on a major label cd that I think sounds good. I happen to be listening to Audiovent’s Dirty Night In Paris. (HUGE sounding modern rock recording). I noticed that snare drum was THICK. I mean it sounded like it had WAAAAYYY more low end in it than I had EVER mixed with on a snare drum. (I’m using the caps key quite a bit today, it seems!). I made a mental note of this massive low end chunk in the snare and went on with my day.
When it came time to mix tracks for a rock band called Lost Possum, the snare didn’t have that huge chunky sound that the Audiovent album did. While I’m certainly not trying to copy that sound I heard on a Audiovent recording, it was clear that my snare sounded a little anorexic. So I thought about using eq, but that never seems to work the way I intend and decided I would look around at all the plugins I never really use. (There has to be a reason that they make so many plugins!) So, I started goofing around. Hmmm. Waves Rbass? Let’s see what this does.
I fired up the Waves Rbass on the snare and, of course, the default setting was weird, but after moving the frequency up to the high 100 / low 200 Hz region (depending on the song) I was able to get EXACTLY what I was looking for. On it’s own, the snare top is way too chunky, but I had captured plenty of the natural crack of the snare drum in the overheads to keep the snare still sizzling. I had to reduce the intensity of the plugin several times throughout the mix, but I’m very, very happy with the results.
The Rbass has a way of really bring out the low end of the bleed in the snare too. I found that there was something pleasingly added to the kick and toms after adding the Rbass, if used in moderation. (On a few songs, I gated the snare and knocked off 10dB of bleed). While the toms on this record are from a drum kit and drummer that have consistently delivered me the best tom sounds I’ve ever gotten over the course of a few albums, there is something about the Rbass set up around 200Hz that makes those toms sound great on other systems. For the first time on my computer stereo, my toms have this larger than life quality what I’ve always wanted. It appears that 200Hz isn’t a “bad frequency” at all! I think I call it BALLS!
Lessons #1 – Always listen to great sounding recordings on your studio monitors when you are messing around in your control room.
Lesson #2 – Fire up those plugins you disregarded in the past. Try weird techniques to get what you need.
Lesson #3 – Learn why the weird techniques worked well. It’s very possible that I could be placing my snare top much closer to the drum, I may be able to get this chunk in other recordings Of course, I need a drummer who gives me plenty of snare in the overheads and I need to mic the overheads in a way that gives me plenty of crack / sizzle in the snare. It’s also very possible that I could have gotten similar results by eq’ing the drums to have quite a bit more energy in the 200Hz region, but maybe not.
Lesson #4 – The lesson I’m going to be reminded of immediately on the next mixing project is this trick probably won’t work twice!