3 Ways to Deal With Hi-Hat Bleed

It’s a universal pain point for all engineers…

The dang hi-hat bleed in the snare mic!

In fact, how to deal with hi hat bleed is one of the most common questions I get from other engineers.

Since it’s such a pesky problem, I figured it would be good to put together an article with some tips on how to deal with it.

It should be no surprise that, as with most ‘mix problems,’ the best solutions are actually found in the recording stage.

So here you go… 3 ways to deal with hi-hat bleed in the snare

1. Get away from the walls

If you’re recording in a small room, you’re going to get more bleed – period.

This is something I learned from recording dozens of drummers in my tiny project studio.

You can combat this by making sure you don’t set up your drums too close to a wall… especially the snare and hi hat!

Sound is going to bounce off the walls and back into the mics. So the closer your drums are to the walls, the louder that bleed will be.

So make sure you have some high-end absorbing panels on the walls and leave at least a few feet between the drums and wall, whenever possible.

2. Use your mic’s pickup pattern!

Remember that cardiod mics like the SM57 will reject sound to the rear.

You can reduce bleed in your snare mic by being strategic about placement.

If you’re getting too much hi-hat, move the snare mic so that the back of the mic is aimed at the hi hat.

Simply taking advantage of the mic’s pattern can make a big impact on the amount of bleed that gets through.

3. Make up for it in the mix using samples

I’m not gonna give you some fluff about how you can use a gate to get rid of hi-hats in the snare mic. 

If you’ve ever tried this, you know that there’s only so much you can do with a gate on the snare. You’ll never completely eliminate the bleed without some really unnatural sounding results.

So if you’ve set your gate and you still can’t get enough high-end out of the snare in the mix, the best solution is to use a strategic snare sample. 

I often use samples to augment specific parts of a drum. 

If can’t get enough top end out of the snare because of bleed, I’ll choose a bright snare sample, boost the high end, and blend. 

That’s the beauty of samples in the first place… you can do unlimited EQ with them because there’s no bleed! 

So don’t think that you can’t mess with your drum samples in the mix. Feel free to shape and tweak them to suit exactly what you’re missing with your live drums. 

In the end, hi-hat bleed is just a fact of life for us engineers. It’s gonna be there, and it’s always gonna be annoying.

Keep these three tips in mind from now on when you’re tracking and mixing, and you should end up with a cleaner and more usable snare track in the mix.