Creating extra space between elements using reverb
Using varied reverb treatments allows you to create a mix with a better defined sense of space between individual elements. Instead of a straight ‘Hall’ or ‘Room’ reverb, a basic ‘Early Reflection’ program can work well. Early Reflections are a tightly clustered series of delays that normally come before the denser reverb tail. On their own they can provide some additional, yet uncluttered ambience.
Of course there’s nothing stopping you adding a longer reverb, but you may want to automate this so that it only occurs on certain beats.
The ambient tweaking doesn’t need to stop there. Adding reverb to the snare hits can work well, but for a denser and cleaner approach consider turning to your DAWs noise gate and side-chain functionality. Set up the snare to send to a reverb as per normal, but follow it by a noise gate and set its side-chain to receive audio from the snare channel itself. By tweaking the gate’s threshold, hold and release settings it is possible to ‘shape’ the reverb with a swift (or even instant) decay.
Two final layers
If you need to add some extra bite to your existing clap/snare layer then adding a short burst of white noise from a synth can help. In this case we’ve chosen an analogue-style synth plug-in and triggered it via MIDI notes programmed to occur at the same time as the existing snare hits.
Finally, we can add another clap to the equation. This time it’s a long clap sample that’s been reversed and placed to lead into the original clap on the last beat of the loop.
Lastly, we’ll add a dose of compression to all the snare/clap variants (but not the kick) by routing them to their own buss, and processing as one. This tends to glue them all together in a more coherent way for the overall mix, and allows a degree of final shaping by adjusting the Attack and Release parameters.