Everybody loves a nice and beefy snare drum sound. Most of the time, in a modern production, those kinds of snare drum sounds are made up of at least one snare sample. As such, if you like those kinds of snare sounds, you should learn a thing or two about sample layering.
Sample selection, phase, and tuning between layers are probably the most important elements of sample layering, so let’s talk about them.
As always, remember that you can always check out the video at the bottom of this page if you get confused about anything while reading.
Sample selection is definitely the most significant step in this process.
At the end of the day, if you have a snare sound that you want to go for in your head, but you pick a snare sample that doesn’t come close to that sound in your head, then you’re headed down a fruitless rabbit hole.
Instead of just picking any snare sample and tweaking for hours upon hours, find a sound that’s already in the ballpark of what you’re looking for.
Find a sound that’s really close to what you want, but it’s not quite there? Maybe it doesn’t enough crack or body on it. Whatever the case may be, this is a great chancing to start playing around with sample layering. For example, if your snare sample just needs a little bit more crack, find an additional snare sample that’s really bright and aggressive sounding. Blend them to taste, and try to come up with something that’s unique to you and your production style.
If your snare samples, or samples for any kit piece, are out of phase with one another, you’re going to destroy your drum sound, and not in a good way.
Let’s say you have a live snare sound that you’re happy with, but you want to add a sample. When you do, though, you feel like your snare gets a lot thinner and more weak sounding. You may be wondering how that could be. After all, you’re adding to your original snare, so how could it possibly sound smaller than it did before?
The answer is phase and polarity.
Now, I could go on a whole rant about phase and polarity, but for the purposes of this post I don’t think that’s necessary. Just know that phase and polarity are different things, even though the terms are often used interchangeable. Polarity moves along the y-axis, while phase moves along the x-axis.
If you feel like the above situation is happening with you, simply flip the polarity/phase (however your plugin refers to it doesn’t matter, it’ll use one of those terms) of your sample and see if you get some body back.
When you’re layering drum samples, the last thing you want to do is throw random samples together. Instead, find some that work well together. At the end of the day, you want to create a sound that sounds like one cohesive snare sound, not a sound that just sounds like a bunch of samples mashed together.
A good way to do this is to compare the fundamental frequency of your original snare with that of your sample(s). Use an EQ with a spectrum analyzer alongside the tuning knob within your drum triggering plugin to do this. Listen as your samples start to mix with one another much more cohesively.
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