Drums - Isolating - Top Snare Drum Micorphone

Video Created by JOEL CAMERON - Transcribed by TOM BOWSER

These notes use the Pro Tools Expander/Gate Dyn 3. The basics covered in the video and notes apply to any similar device/plugin. The goal is to get some isolation over the top snare mic.

NOTE: You do NOT always need to gate the drums. Don't feel like you HAVE to process something. Listen and decide! Sometimes the leakage between drums is the sonic glue that makes things/drums fit together and sound natural. If you get to MUCH isolation it almost sounds like you're working with drum samples. What and if you process can depend on what overall processing you intend to do.

Use the plug-ins BYPASS button to monitor what your settings alter relative to the natural sound of the snare.

You will notice that the default attack time of the Pro Tools Expander/Gate Dyn 3 is to slow and cuts off the front end/attack of the snare drum.

  • Instantiate an instance of the Expander/Gate Dyn 3 on the top snare.
  • Increase the ATTACK time to it's fastest setting of 10.0us (turn knob counter clockwise) to let the transient of the snare through. You may hear the gate "chattering" as it slightly opens and closes. Listening to the chatter can help you hear what things (for example the kick drum) are opening the gate. Once you know what is triggering the gate you can adjust the ATTACK and THRESHOLD to illuminate the chatter.
  • Adjust the range control using it to listen for what opens the gate. For a more natural sound increase the range to let more leakage through using for example a GR (gain reduction) setting of from around -8 to -12 dB. You want to be able to hear the ring and sustain of the snare drum. At this range setting you may still hear some wash from the cymbals or other leakage. However, once the track is in the mix you probably won't notice it. You will still have pretty good isolation.
  • Adjust the threshold to a point just above the chatter to where the gate opens and closes without chattering.
  • Adjust the hold so you can still hear some of the ring and sustain of the snare. You will probably need to increase the HOLD time (turn knob clockwise) in order to still hear the ring and sustain of the snares harmonic frequency.
  • Increase the RELEASE time (turn knob clockwise) to increase the amount of time it takes for the gate to close/how quickly it closes. Verify your changes using the BYPASS button of the plugin to listen to both the processed (gated) then unprocessed sound.

Generally when you have a fairly complex mix with a lot of elements happening the tightness to the drum mix that gates provide often makes the drums speak a little bit clearer.

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