Dubstep Mixing Guide – Snare Drum and Mix Placement

Mixing the snare drum for dubstep

Your snare drum will be sitting at around 500hz-6khz, a +3DB boost at around 1khz will bring out some definition and bite along with some punch. Also adding a compressor with fast attack (1.5 – 3ms), 8:1 ratio and 8-10db of gain reduction will ensure the snare is prominent and hard hitting in the mix. I always add some subtle overdrive or distortion to my snares to further enhance the dynamics, and add more punch. Go easy, you don’t need a lot.

As the snare is a vital part to any mix its important to get it to stand out, even in a very busy mix. Here are some pointers about how a snare is made up:

The Body: This is the part of the snare that hits you in the chest, try experimenting with subtle wide boosts at around 200-400hz, be careful here as this is also around the potential muddy areas so you will have to find the exact frequencies and use very precise EQ.

The Crack: The crack of the snare occur between 900hz – 2khz, a peaking band works well here, so by using a narrow boost of a few db on the specific area should help define this part of the snare in the mix.

The Wires: For those unfamiliar with the design of a real snare drum, to get the resonant high frequencies the drum has ‘rabbit wires’ under the drum, kind of like loose springs that vibrate when hit. These can be present or not in snare drum, the dry ‘ping’ kind of snares do not have the wires, were as snare that are more ‘psssht’ and toppy will more likely have wires. They usually can be found in the 3-5k region.

Head: This is to the top part of the snare sound, boosting the 6-10khz range can add a lot of texture to the sound.

Here are a few compression settings that tend to work well:

Hard hitting: Ratio 8:1, 10db gain reduction, 1.5ms attack 200ms release

Medium: Ratio 6:1, 7db gain reduction, 3ms attack, 200ms release

Soft: full: Ratio 4:1, 3/4db gain reduction, 4ms attack, 200ms release

Root Understanding: Mix Placement

When mixing a track you are essentially trying to spread out all the sounds into individual clear spaces in the 3D sound space. You have 4 main controls, volume; this controls the sound up and down in our 3D sound space, pan; this controls the sound left or right in the 3D space, reverb; this controls the sound back and forward, more reverb will make a the sound appear further away from the listener. There is also a 5th; phase, this also controls the sound back and forward similar to reverb, sounds out of-phase with the mix will sound further away, were as reversing the phase on 1 stereo channel can cause the sound to jump out. You should use all these tools available to create space and clarity in your mix.