I was working on mixing our (I don’t know what this new project will be named) new song. This time around, I wanted a very open palette – very much like a well ventilated soundfield where instrument separation was of prime importance. This meant that I couldn’t use much of my go-to reverb designs. That would hamper the purity of tomes and lead to clutter. One of the problems I faced was to get a thick Kick sound without the boom and a sharp snare without making it nasal.
The process in four steps
I came across a nifty trick to trigger a pure tone along with the kick and give it a very controlled ring.
Here is a four step process to do it.
- Create an empty track (named here as Kick_thick) and set the number of channels to 4.
- Create a send from your original Kick track to Kick_thick. Make sure that the send of channel 1+2 is fed into channel 3+4 of Kick_thick.
- Using any tone generator, generate a pure tone. Here I wanted a D and so I have set it to 146.83 Hz. Set it to whatever note you want. Here is a chart. You will get a constant “annoying” sine wave.
- This sound should only be audible when the Kick hits. for that I have used Reaper’s default gate, ReaGate. Using the Auxiliary L+R (3+4 channel – as in step 2) as trigger, the threshold is set. Now you can play around with the attack, hold and release.
I did a similar trick with the snare. Only this time, instead of a tone generator, I have used pink noise. The output of this channel was fed into a nice, short ping-pong delay. An extreme case of this would actually lead me back to the 80’s hair metal snare sound. Metaphorically, I stopped right at the mid-90s.
Here are the before and after samples (some loss has occurred due to compression – but you can still make out with decent listening equipment):
In context of the mix:
It might appear to have been lost, but reality is far from that. At higher volumes, the thickness of kick doesn’t produce boom and the snare doesn’t expose nasal tone even though they are meatier and sharper respectively.
Bonus: How the engineers achieved the 80s snare sound
Why not hear it from Dave Pensado himself?