Few drum elements are more discussed when talking about modern electronic dance music than the snare. Snare sounds come in all shapes and colors, and many techniques are used to incorporate an otherwise isolated sample into a mix. In this tutorial, we will show you a technique that uses white noise to help you do just that.

As usual, we have prepared a short sequence in our SoundBridge: DAW. Here, we have all the essential elements of a full mix, including the snare drum. Let’s listen to it.

SoundBridge sequence for white noise layering

SoundBridge sequence for white noise layering

~Full Mix- Unprocessed Snare Drum

The snare drum from the audio example above lacks some impact and a bit of high-frequency content. We could use standard tools like EQ and compression to fix that, but in this case, we will show you a different approach.

The technique consists of layering the snare drum with a pink/white noise layer. It’s a really common and useful technique to add high energy content and change the timbre of the snare or help it stand out and cut through the mix. You could use an audio sample of white noise for this, but an even better option to tweak the sound would be to generate white noise from a soft synth. For this purpose, we have chosen Massive by Native Instruments.

As you see in the picture above, we have bypassed all the oscillators within Massive. This is because we will be working only with the noise generator which can be seen in the bottom-left part of the interface. Although there are other noise type presets you can choose, we will choose the white noise for this one.

Massive interface - noise generator

Massive interface – noise generator

Next, on top of the original snare drum, we will write corresponding notes in the MIDI editor of the Massive synth’s track. Let’s have a look and take a listen.

Layering MIDI notes

Layering MIDI notes

~Snare Drum + White Noise Layer (Unprocessed)

White noise envelope control

You just heard the white noise layer unprocessed, and not that useful yet. However, with a few tweaks, we will turn it into something much more appropriate. In order to do that, we need to control its timing. Let’s do that by modulating the Amp parameter of the noise generator with a volume envelope. It’s a pretty simple task and you can do it by dragging the cursor icon of the envelope section and dropping it on the first empty slot, under the Amp parameter. The Amp parameter value will be set to 0 and the blue line circling the knob represents the amount of modulation controlled by the envelope. You will notice in the picture below that we set a really short decay value.  Sustain time is set to 0. We do this since we want to emphasize the punch and high-frequency content, which the original snare drum did not have in the first place.

Envelope modulation for noise generator

Envelope modulation for noise generator

Let’s have a listen to the snare drum noise layer together with the original snare drum.

~Snare Drum + White Noise Layer ( Volume Envelope modulation)

You could further add some reverb or EQ to the white noise layer, although that’s optional.

Lastly, let’s listen to our new snare sound with the other elements of the mix.

~Full Mix – Processed Snare Drum