Join Brian Lee White for an in-depth discussion in this video Layering the snares, part of Mixing a Hip-Hop and R&B Song in Pro Tools.
So now I have a solid kick drum sound. I want to move on to my other percussion, my Snares, my Perc Hits, my Claps, and things like that, and really add some nice brightness to the low end that I got with my kick drums. And what I first want to take a look at is this 808 snare here, this actually matches the same drum machine that the kick drum came from. So let's just go ahead and listen to that here in our verse. (music playing) Cool. It's kind of doing that Dirty South, Trap Beat kind of accent hits, where it's not really acting like the main 2 & 4 snare or Clap Instrument, but it's really giving us those accents and those little fills.
And so what I actually want to do with this is really draw that out, because it's kind of sounds plain right now, it doesn't have a lot of texture, doesn't have a lot a brightness or attitude in general. And so I could approach it with traditional EQ and Compression, how I might approach other snare drums. But in this case, I'm going to go for my Saturn plug-in again because I can really get a lot out of one plug-in. I like any time that I can get a lot of things done in one plug-in, I like that, because it simplifies my life.
And I actually have a preset that I made here for my top end of drums. Let's just listen to that. (music playing) With the kick Drums. (music playing) And let's add it some volume, so we might want to pull that snare down. I don't want to fool myself in terms of, oh I just made it louder. What I've actually done here is I've got two bands of distortion.
I've got a little Gentle Saturation for the top end, and I've got some Heavy Saturation which is the bit of dry for the bottom end, and that's going to give me some grit. (music playing) It's that sizzle. (music playing) I don't want too much. (music playing) I just want that that nice texture out of my snare, before it was really just kind of plain. (music playing) Kind of just a boring sample, and now I have kind of... (music playing) ...really drawn it out.
And so I am getting a little bit compression, that's the nature of the Saturation tools. But I'm also kind of using this as an EQ because it's been broken up into bands, I can actually adjust those bands, and there is even Tone controls on these bands that allow me to kind of shape that. So I am not using it as an EQ in the traditional sense where I have specific frequencies because this snare, I am really just this kind of looking for brightness, darkness, texture, and in general adjectives like that. I am not looking to go in and surgically change any frequencies on it.
Now the other thing I like to do with a lot of my snares is just to give them extra punch is use some kind of Envelope Shaper on it. In this case I am going to use the SPL Transient Designer. This allows me to give a little bit extra attack and then play with the sustain, in this case the snare has quite a bit of sustain to it, and I just want to kind of tuck that back a bit. (music playing) Not that much. I like that.
We're overloading a bit, so I'm going to let's just check our level in the mix. (music playing) Cool. I really like that. It's really going to let those snare accents punch through, and it gives it a nice texture that's going to fit with the aesthetic of the song. And if you haven't already noticed we are kind of going for that Dirty Vinyl samples kind of sound, where it's not going to be a super clean Pristine Mix, it's going to have a lot of character and grit to it.
It's going to really drive the emotion of the lyric home to the listener. Now the two other Percussion elements I want to focus on in this specific video are the Perc Hits and my Cross Stick and these three actually kind of go together. Now my Perc Hits just go ahead and listen to those. (music playing) Now you notice these are the exact same sound, I have just split them onto separate tracks, and the reason I did that as I want to be able to process each alternate hits separately to add a little bit of variation or color so that the listener doesn't get bored with hearing the same exact sample over and over again.
Now what I am going to do to these, actually something that I would have done during the production stage, but I decided to go ahead and pull that processing off so I could share it with you in this tutorial, because it really gives good insights into how a lot of the decisions you make can actually happen while you're picking samples and arranging the song. So especially with electronically produced music Urban, Hip-hop, Electronic, EDM, and things like that, a lot of the production mixing decisions will carry on through the final mix.
So a lot of the tones that I'm picking, the EQ, the Compression, the Distortion, I am picking during the production stage, and I'm shaping the sound as I write so that really gets me interested and invested in the song. So mixing in a traditional sense of well we are going to just record the song, we are going to leave everything dry and then we are going in later, when we are all done recording it, mix it. That traditional idea of mixing has really changed now with Digital Audio Workstations, Virtual Instruments, and the way that we can write and produce music.
The lines have blurred, and we are starting to do things earlier on that carry through the end of the mix. So that said, one thing I did with these is I tamed them down with a plug-in called Decapitator, and that's a saturation plug-in. I am going to go ahead and just solo up one of these Perc Hits and... (music playing) Yeah. That's a little too bright, so I am going to carve that back.
Yeah with a little High Cut. Get rid of the mud. (music playing) That's nice. I really like that. Now most people and most mixers would say, hey, that's kind of a really aggressive decision you're making at the mix stage. Again, this is something that I decided at the production stage that I wanted to be the aesthetic for the song. I might not make the same decision if someone had given me their finished song to mix, I wouldn't necessarily go, oh, I'm just going to throw distortion on everything and make it sound gritty unless that's what they were going for.
Now like I said, these are both the same sound, these two tracks here and so what I want to do is I just Option-drag that plug-in, I am just going to add a little variation in the Dark Bright Control and the High cut so that there's just a tiny amount of variation between the two hits, kind of make sure that they are match volume wise. (music playing) Cool. That sounds really good.
They are a little bit muddy now that I added that distortion. I really like that texture of that distortion, it really kind of drives home that sampled overdriven sound. They might get in the way of the vocals, but since I have not gotten to the vocals yet, I haven't found my vocal sound, I'm not going to worry too much about that. And again, Mixing is an iterative process, so it's okay to come back to sounds after you have worked on other things and adjust them to fit in the context. Now the last thing I want to address here in this specific video is the Cross Stick, and that's actually because the Cross Stick is designed to be a response to these Perc Hits.
Again, another production decision that I made, and the cross stick alone isn't that interesting, so if we go, kind of take a listen to what that's doing. Here are some hits right here. (music playing) Kind of just a boring sound, so what I'm going to do is I am going to copy that Decapitator. (music playing) Give it that kind of Saturation, that little bit of texture, little bit of grit. Now what I designed this to do is actually be a response to those Perc Hits.
So I designed this to have a delay that is 100% wet. So you don't actually hear the dry rim sound playing, you're actually just hearing the taps of the delay. So in this case, I am just going to set up a Tempo tap delay, ping-pong style so that it goes left and right. It's going to extend that stereo field. Again, anywhere where I can sneak in a little extra stereo information to make the mix that much wider, I like to do that. And let's try a 16th note, let's listen to that.
(music playing) That's cool. We are going to need some feedback, and I want to texture this delay, so this studio tape is just a little too clean, let's try that TelRay. (music playing) Yeah, that's really nice. Let's hear that against one of these Perc Hits. (music playing) I like that. I'm going to remove a lot of the low frequencies, I just don't need that, it's not really going to help me by carrying all that lower frequency later in the time.
(music playing) Yeah. (music playing) Cool. So let's listen to that in context real quick. (music playing) Cool. And so that's just a little extra ear candy, so I'm not actually using the Rim or the Cross Stick as a direct sound, I'm actually using it as a delay response to these Perc hits which are my main kind of 2 & 4 snare hits.
And my snare is actually just kind of giving me little accents and fills, and so in this sense it's not like a traditional rock or pop song where you have your kick on 1 and 3 and your snare on 2 and 4. I've got different Percussion elements playing different roles and how I layer them and how I process them and how I choose to treat each sound in terms of texture and contrast to the rest of the mix is going to directly relate to its place in the mix. Is it a main Percussive sound? Is it more of a response sound or a fill sound? Those things are going to tell me how I need to place them overall against the other Instruments.
Recommended prerequisites: Pro Tools Essential Training and Pro Tools Mixing and Mastering
- Setting up the mixer
- Layering kicks and low-frequency management
- Enhancing the lead vocals
- Working with rap "stabs" and "adlibs"
- Processing vocals with EQ, compression, and other effects
- Warming up bass and low-frequency tones
- Re-creating a "sampled vinyl" sound
- Creating "width" and "depth" in the stereo field
- Adding automation
- Mastering the track with compression and limiting
- Bouncing out a stereo mix