If you can’t find the perfect snare or clap sample, make your own. Layering samples allows you to create the perfect blend. Bruce Aisher demonstrates.

Second only to the all-important kick, snares and claps define the rhythmic core of most drum tracks. In some cases genres can even be defined by the sonics and style of their kick, snare and claps alone.

On the face of it you might think it’s simply a matter of choosing a couple of appropriate clap or snare sounds, placing them on the 2nd and 4th beats of the bar and ‘job done’. This may work to start with, but there some simple techniques to take your rhythm tracks that bit further. The beauty here is that it’s possible to give your productions your own personalised sonic stamp armed only with a few of the choice tricks discussed below.

Start with the right sounds

Assuming your kick drum’s already in place, let’s get the snare going. To begin with it’s sometimes better to start with a full-sounding snare, rather than anything too weak and simple. This should give you plenty of scope for some shaping and tweaking later.

Now it’s time to add a clap sound. First layer it in exactly the same place as the original snare. The clap sound in this case has an altogether different tone and shape to the snare. Claps tend to have less fullness to them, with a staggered attack phase. What we want here is something that complements our snare, rather than treading on its toes in sonic terms.

At this stage you may want adjust the relative levels of the snare and clap elements to suit your track.

Managing the stereo field and adding width

This actually works quite well, but we can make some of our own tweaks to tailor the sound. First we’ll spice up the snare with some bitcrushing. This adds grit and some distorted harshness.

Next we can add some additional width to the sound, by inserting a stereo delay. The key here is to use two short (but different) delay times for the left and right channels. If possible, try some low and high cut on the delay feed, and keep its mix balance to less than about 30%.

Now we turn our attention to the clap. A useful trick for widening the stereo image of a sound is to duplicate it across two tracks, pan the tracks left and right respectively and apply complimentary EQ to each. In other words, at frequencies where one is boosted, the other should be cut and vice versa.

There are in fact plugins that do this automatically for you. In this case we’re going to use the ‘Stereo Spread’ plugin Logic, that automatically splits and pans a series of EQ bands.

Finally try shaving-off some of the low-end from both the clap and snare.


Moving them forwards or backwards

It is possible to change the groove and flow of the drums by subtly shifting the clap (or snare) slightly before or after the beat.

Let’s stick with the slightly delayed clap for now.

Author Bruce Aisher
25th June, 2012

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