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I was listening to Say Hello 2 Heaven today by Temple of the Dog. Matt Cameron on this track (and often with how he sets up) seems to have a wet snare sound.

How is this achieved? I assume it is by lowering the top head tension as compared to how someone like Abe Cunningham (from deftones) has his snare tuned. (Almost piccolo tension)

I've experimented with a less than ultra taut top head tension, but it never sounds as good.

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  • The terms "wet" and "dry" usually refer to the amount of reverb on an instrument, so I'm not quite sure what you're looking for. Is it the deeper pitch? Or the lack of ring, perhaps? – Peter Dec 31 '20 at 1:22
  • It must be reverb then. Cameron's sound is muffled compared to other drummers. – Jason P Sallinger Dec 31 '20 at 1:26
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Are you trying to achieve this sound "live in the room" or at recording?

A couple of hints for both…

You can tune ring in & out of a snare same as with toms, by finding one of the optimum resonance bands then dropping one corner to pitch it out of resonance. You then tune the bottom head to optimise the snare decay. Bottom snare head doesn't really affect the top head pitch in the same way as on a tom, but if it's sympathetic it will ring & the snares will buzz for longer than if it's in an 'anti-node' type tuning.
If you have to put tape on it, it's not tuned properly;)
A slight exaggeration, I carry a ½" piece of gaffa with a single layer of paper tissue in the centre in case I get a slight over-ring :p
Also note that where you hit the snare & at what angle will affect the ring. Smack dead centre with a high stick angle will be massively damped compared to a low angle & hitting just beyond the centre.

You can even remove apparent attack transient by using heavier sticks - even if that sounds counter intuitive. Light sticks & a shallow angle can be really 'whippy' whereas heavier sticks give a fuller body.

After that comes the mic technique.

The mic in the recording linked sounds to me like it's quite a way off the head & perhaps pointed slightly to the skin edge. I'm not hearing a bottom mic, though it might be in there & pulled way back in the mix. It's hard to tell precisely because of the additional ambience on the kit. Part of that 'distant mic' sound may be coming from the overheads or ambients rather than the actual snare mic itself.

You can do some trial & error - move the mic to different distances, from different directions & pointing at different areas of the head; from sneaking up just under the hi-hat, to way over the drummer. One interesting alternative which is very ringy & resonant (in a good way;) yet with highly detailed transients, is to sneak an omni in between the gap where all the heads line up, set just slightly higher than the intersection of the planes of all the top heads, snare & toms. If you get that right you can mic a whole kit with two close mics and two ambients, removing a whole lot of the need for gating or fighting with phase discrepancies.

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As suggested in the comments, this is far more down to how the snare is being recorded than any particular properties of the drum itself. The 'attack' of the snare hit is broader and less focussed than you would get on say a Deftones record, that is, the drum is recorded in such a way as that the inital drum hit is spread out over a wider amount of time – firstly by using a short reverb but also by placing the microphone differently to where you would place it if you wanted that 'whip-crack' kind of sound. You would be amazed at how different the same drum sounds to a microphone depending on what bit of the drum it's pointed at and how far away it is. Unfortunately this means that you can't really do anything to an actual real-life drum to make it sound like it has a reverb on it and is miked a certain way! Of course as you have noted there are many other factors that contribute to the overall 'picture' of how a drum sounds, such as different batter and resonant head tensions, depth and material of the drum shell, the size of the stick tip, all sorts of things, and you may be able by trial and error to get to something that evokes that sound for you, but it really isn't so much a case of "some drums sound like this whereas some drums sound like the other", as much as it's a case of different recording/sound engineering decisions.

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  • Choice of microphone also plays a role. Some mics are "punchier" than others. E.g. the Sennheiser e904 and e604 are supposedly the more and less "high quality" series, but for a less punchy "warmer" sound, you might actually prefer the cheaper e604. (You'd probably choose neither in the studio, though, they are predominantly live mics.) – Jörg W Mittag Dec 31 '20 at 9:51
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Both the previous answers made good points, but I wouldn't underestimate how much of the sound comes from Matt Cameron's playing technique, rather than from anything about sticks, drum and recording. I'm not enough of a drummer to analyse the specifics of his playing reliably, but what's for sure is that he hits the snare really hard. Furthermore I would reckon he hits it not quite at the center, so more of the asymmetric overtones are excited, but then keeps the stick pressed into the head so instead of ringing out as a tone, these partials just give a really juicy crunch from the snares. He seems to hold the stick at quite a steep angle, which can be useful to control rebound. (At least there doesn't seem to be any rimshot component to his hits.) When done with a loose grip, perhaps traditional, this would tend to result in a jazzy or circus?-ey rebound-roll behind every stroke – which is also “wet” in a sense – but with a tight more broomstick-like grip, the after-strokes won't be individually audible and instead the press just affects the sound of the single first hit.

Again, I could be wrong in these details, but definitely try out different playing modes in addition to tweaking the drums.

As a comparable story: I read somewhere about a drummer who kept searching for the Stewart Copeland snare sound. Kept trying different drums, changing the tuning, experimenting with mics... nothing quite worked. Then one day, he actually met his idol, who sat down on just some random drumset and started playing... and there was the Stewart Copeland snare sound!

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High hat.

Watch what he's doing with his foot in the first few minutes here.

Temple of the Dog - Say Hello 2 Heaven - Alpine Valley (September 3, 2011)

He's counting with his heel. He 'wets' it with his toe.


How do I get a short snare sound?

Mine kinda sounded like his because I have no idea how to tune a set; everything just as tight as it gets; then make it tighter. I also had a Kevlar head which had no choice but to mute itself.

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