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Fixing snare in the mix using BOSS PEDALS

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Joe P, May 2, 2006.


  1. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Right now I'm engineering the mixing sessions for Coppola's first EP. We're getting marvelous results at Bender Studios - a low-budget basement studio near Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA that I designed for Joel Kastner. The cuts that have come out of this studio thus-far prove that low-budget (maybe us$2500? for everything - labor all done by the studio owner) can get beautiful results!

    The Producers were dissatisfied with my capture of the snare drum (well, OK - it actually wasn't very good). They said it sounded like 'a cardboard box' (uh.. I guess it did, now that they mention it); it lacked punch, and you couldn't hear enough snare strainer.

    I decided that what it probably needed was the famous "over-compression with long attack-time" treatment, but all our compessors (three Behringer quads) had automatic attack and release - so they won't work. I thought about my BOSS CS-3 pedal, which DOES have an attack control, and can really give an exaggerated attack (that's why I use it for my bass)! I ran an analog out of the snare track, through the CS-3, and recorded it back onto a fresh track (first I plugged the output into a headphone amp to dial it in). Nice; I got the "POOM!", allright, but there was still no 'strainer' (in fact, it made the strainer-problem even a little worse!)...

    So I thought "hm.. since I'm already turning to Boss here, I could use my NS-2 to gate some reverb, since it has remote sensing". So!.. Analog-out from the snare track to NS-2 INPUT; NS-2 OUTPUT to a fresh record channel - then NS-2 SEND to the CS-3 INPUT; CS-3 OUTPUT to little Behringer board with built-in effects (noisy ones, though...), and the output of the board back to the NS-2's RETURN jack.

    Now I was able to choose a bright reverb setting to 'replace the the snare strainers', and still gate it off pretty tight according to the NS-2's RELEASE control.

    It worked great. I'm going to do this on at least three more of the tracks.

    The song I'm talking about isn't available yet, but there is a sample of our work on Coppola's Myspace site:

    http://www.myspace.com/coppolaband

    It's called Prologue, and was just mixed this last Sunday -- have a listen! For now anyway, you can also hear a producers track-dump of 'Bombay'; they shouldn't have put this one up - it's a dry, flat, unity-gain static reference mix - it is interesting to hear all the dry tracks as-recorded though. The one called 'Aesthetics' WAS one of my original scratch-mixes from the day of the recording session that had some kind of cheesy echo ADDED to the WHOLE MIX by whoever posted it - I had a talk with them about that...

    I'm really a Boss fan now.

    Joe
     
  2. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    OK. Uh... I don't know if anyone cares, but...

    Now two songs are up that have this special snare treatment on them. They are 'Bombay and Earl Grey' and 'Sibelius'.

    Real, authentic gated 'verb, anyone? ...(?)

    Joe
     
  3. detracti

    detracti

    May 5, 2006
    Seattle
    Getting a good snare is a topic of great interest to me.... so I'm trying to play that track, but it just says "buffering", and just sits there. Curious to hear what you mean.

    I don't claim to be an expert on recording/production, but for my bands demo tracks, I've used Drumagog to fix bad snare tracks. It has worked nicely.

    http://www.drumagog.com

    Not sure though if we're even in the same ballpark as far as what level of quality you're going for... sounds like you have lots of hardware to work with.

    The last time we went out to record, we had the engineer double-mic the snare -- top and bottom. And then set the bottom mic trac 180-degrees out of phase on the playback, and wow does it pop right out!

    Might not be useful, but thought I'd share.
     
  4. Neat to hear about other people doing this. Legendary ECM engineer Jan Erik Kongshaug pioneered this technique back in '78 on the Rypdal/Vitous/DeJohnette album, but with cymbals. It's probably the best cymbal sound I've ever heard: articulate, detailed, and capturing every nuance of the cymbal's ring. Good thing, too, because the wash of bowed electric upright, Rhodes, and guitar on that album could bury cymbals otherwise.
     
  5. detracti

    detracti

    May 5, 2006
    Seattle
    No kidding!! I can't remember where I read about doing that... I was feeling dogged about the bad snare tracks from the time before, and was poking around on search engines, and came across something somewhere that said to try double-mic-ing it. The engineer at the recording studio was reluctant to do it, but we insisted.
     
  6. Doctor J

    Doctor J

    Dec 23, 2005
    Grease
    Wow, I've never heard of an engineer being reluctant to mic both sides of a snare, they sound very, very different to each other and are good to be able to blend for different snare sounds.

    What I've started doing is putting a dynamic mic directly above the snare, low enough that it picks up a good snare signal, but not so low as to get in the way of the drummer, and then really compressing and distorting that. Add that into your snare mix and it can really add a lot of punch, though again you have to be very alert to phasing. It pays to spend a bit of time working out mic placements before you ever press the record button.
     
  7. detracti

    detracti

    May 5, 2006
    Seattle
     
  8. slip

    slip

    Apr 24, 2006
    I've run a snare signal through a Fulltone '69 (fuzzface copy) with the fuzz completly down and the bias and contour cranked. It works great for that edgy breakbeat sound; oodles of presence in the mix.
     
  9. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    So this plugin REPLACES the drums with samples? I'm pretty sure that neither I or the producers would have gone for that! For these musicians, and this kind of music especially, that would have left me feeling somehow... dirrrrty or something. I wouldn't be this way on every band or song - but to me, these beautiful and intimate works from this extraordinary young songwriter (Eric Hillman) and his band (Coppola), need to be as much as possible preserved with the nuances of the original session. Hardly any tracks were replaced; most everything on the EP will have been recorded all-together on the same take, except for vocals - but he was wearing a headset mic during the instrumental recordings that just went to the headphones (...and bled into the ambient mic, a little. Oops.), so there is a true and complete 'band groove' throughout the record.

    Lots of hardware? uh.. Not! That's why I'm using my bass pedals to mix the thing! It's quite a mish-mash of gear, I'll tell you. The board (which includes the mic pres) and compression are all Behringer; the recorder is a Fostex VF160; Drum micing is accomplished with a Rode pair for overheads, an AKG for kick, and an SM58 on snare (we didn't even have a '57!); the vocal mic is a beauty, though: Groove Tubes GT-55 - I love that mic! besides the aforementioned compression, processing includes the noisy, built-in board-effects, an old ADA delay/chorus, Aphex C with Big Bottom, some cheap 1/3-octave EQs... And as it turns-out: all my BASS PEDALS!

    Anyway: We added something else that made a huge difference - it's what Doctor J mentioned - now I added my ODB-3 bass distortion just-BEFORE the compressor. It has the blend control, and we put just the teeniest-bit of the distortion in-there. I don't remember if we'd done that yet on Bombay, but I know it's on Sibelius.

    Joe
     
  10. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    What has a lot to do with these sounding as nice as they do, is the acoustics designed into the Studio room. I wrote a special computer app for working-out modal pileups, optimizing dimensional ratios, and predicting reverb times. I take every opportunity I can to remind folks (YOU-guys) that it usually costs NO MORE to put a wall either here-or-there within a foot or two, but even INCHES can have a huge impact on the overall sound of the finished room - especially if two of the dimesions are already fixed, as is usually the case!
    Also remember that when it comes to sound absorbing panels, don't forget about the LOW frequencies!! It's in the LOWS that all those modal pileups cause trouble, anyway. Two inch thick panels do NOTHING for freqs below like a few hundred Hertz; you need SOME amount of either 6" or 8" or more thick 'broadband boxes', or something like that (I'm doing an acoustics job now inwhich I'm finally going to try the Auralex "Atom-12" trihedral corner traps - I can't wait to see what only four of these does for this big, tall room I'm designing for!), else the room will sound boomy and uneven - and that'll get on every mic you ever put on there. I used much gain and compression - always with fast release times - so the sound of the room is more prominent than one might think on these; plus, since things were only isolated with some gobos, there's plenty of mic bleed all over the place (heck - there wasn't enough, I guess; we even put an ambient mic in the corner for a few of the songs); but this little seven-foot-cieling room cuts the mustard very nicely with the right design!

    Joe
     
  11. detracti

    detracti

    May 5, 2006
    Seattle
    Yeah, its a drum replacer... and its amazing how well it pulls across the original feel of the drummer for being an automated tool. For a kick or snare track that is beyond saving, it does a fantastic job.
     
  12. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Well - have any of you LISTENED to the tracks?

    What do you think?

    Joe
     
  13. Doctor J

    Doctor J

    Dec 23, 2005
    Grease
    Yes, I did. Good songs but the Coldplay influence is a little to strong for my tastes. They have talent but maybe need to find their own sound a little more.
     
  14. chrisp2u

    chrisp2u

    Aug 15, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
    I'll take your word for it that the snare sounds better than it did previously, but to my ears... you pretty much sucked the life out of it (too much compression?). Kinda sounds like a drum machine snare (except there's timbre change in the hits from the drummer's "feel"... little change in velocity though due to the high amount of compression). Overall, the snare just doesn't fit the overall sound or sit right in the mix for me... not big enough for the rest of the music. This could be as much the drum itself, though a bad recording will only make it worse.

    I think some selective EQ would go a long way in saving that snare too... not really sure what gear you might have available to do that though. Of course this depends on the drum (size, material, heads, etc) and how well it was tuned to begin with... but I'd roll off everything below 80, and you can usually get rid of "boxiness" by subtracting a bit somewhere in the 400-1k range, you can add a slight boost around 150 to fatten it up, and then boost in the 4-6k range for presence and attack.

    Of course, this is just one mans opinion... it's hard to tell what's really going on listening to those files on myspace with the high amount of lossy file compression, but overall... beyond the snare, it sounds decent-- I think-- and the performance sounds good.

    It's always a bit unfortunate when you end up having to fix things in the mix... especially when it was a keeper of a track. Best of luck.
    ---
    c
     
  15. chrisp2u

    chrisp2u

    Aug 15, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
    I was thinking U2 meets Colplay.
    ---
    c
     
  16. Dkerwood

    Dkerwood

    Aug 5, 2005
    Midwest
    +1 to chrisp2u.

    Man, this is a common issue. Could you just be starting out with a bad sounding snare? There's no crispness to it. No natural decay.

    I don't know, man, but it just doesn't fit. You could try washing it out with reverb and boosting the highs through EQ.
     

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