You Call That a Snare Drum?
In ancient times, before nearly every recording of a snare drum got augmented with samples, engineers would key white noise (from a synth or a test-tone generator in the mixing console) off of snare drum hits to get a more interesting sound. They’d simply run the noise source through a gate with the snare drum track as the sidechain input, and voilà: Instant ’70s disco!
***Click on the image below to download a larger version.
Here, I do a modified version of that where I convert the snare track to MIDI using Massey DRM drum replacement software. The MIDI is used to trigger a synth that is set to a noise patch with a volume envelope that’s similar to the envelope of the snare drum. It’s important that you get the decay and release set in a way that blends with the snare properly. Set it too short and you’ll get a funny noise; set it too long and you might have the beginnings of a fake handclap track. I often bandpass-filter the noise so that I don’t get excessive “woosh” or messy rumble. A fixed filter can be especially effective in getting the noise to sound drum-like. At times, I also use a subtle phase shifter to help tune the noise, as well as to add a bit of movement through slight modulation of the delay time. If the snare doesn’t feel percussive enough, I sometimes add a second synth that just plays a very quick, attack-y thud. I usually create that using a very resonant filter that’s modulated strongly by a quick envelope generator.
In this audio example, you'll hear two bars of snare drum alone, then the white noise patch, then the thud patch, and then the composite sound.