Before we start getting into the depth of synthesizing a Kick drum sound let’s see what exactly is a Kick sound.
Bass Drum commonly known as Kick Drum or Just Kick in the electronic music genres has been used in all kinds of music but specifically famous for:
- Orchestral Bass drums [ex: Gran Tamburo, Gran Cassa]
- The kick Drum which is attached to a beater pedal.
- Marching bands Bass drums [are pitched according to the other instruments]
In any given Dance music track, the most used sample will be the “Kick” sound which can be termed as the backbone of the track.
Since Roland came with their TR 808 and TR 909 it has been used extensively in all the genres.
With all the genres and their sub-genres, the most important thing which make them different from another is their Kick sound.
New age Trap music is famous for his hard hitting 808 Kicks whereas Psychedelic-trance uses more of a tight and punchy Kick but with a hollow element in it.
It’s important to have your Kick sound in tune and all the other parameters in control so that it can be mixed flawlessly in the mix.
This tutorial can be helpful if you are:
- Still using same Kick samples used by other producers?
- Not aware of how to synthesize a realistic kick sound?
- Want to learn how to make original and unique Kick samples as well as have full control on all the parameters of the sound.
There are already various VSTi plugins available in the market which is solely dedicated to Kick sound designing like BazzISM, Kick Synth by Sonic Academy plus, various paid and free Plugin but our aim is to learn how to make Kick from scratch.
If you don’t have any of the mentioned plugins doesn’t worry as this technique can be applied to any other VSTi for creating your original Kick sound. (See Best Drum Plugins)
We will be using Ableton’s Operator, Native instrument’s Massive and FL Studio’s Sytrus so that you will get the basic idea behind how to create a Kick drum from scratch and how it can be applied to any other VSTi with Pitch modulation.
Open operator and select the midi note C3 and loop the 1/4th of the Kick. By this, you don’t have to make 4 different notes for the kick. If you listen to it now, it is nowhere close to a kick sound.
Most important part is how the sound is played by the Operator. Select Trigger option from the highlighted area for the single shot effect. You should try the other settings too as each setting will develop a new tone.
Next highlighted area is Transpose which should be lowered to -24 cents to make the kick sound more realistic and heavy sounding. Still it is not even close to a real kick sound as we also need a Pitch envelope to make it more realistic.
Increase the pitch ratio to 100% and increase the Initial and Peak to +12 cents which will make it +24 cents. As a real Kick drum sound is made by hitting the Kick drum with a velocity on the tightened [pitched] calfskin or the plastic, which creates the Kick sound.
Decrease the highlighted Decay as it will help in deciding the main character of the Kick sound. By this we will have a heavy [somewhere around 808’ish] Kick sound. But it might sound a little empty as we still have to layer it with a click sound [ experiment by adding different samples you already have for creating some unique hit sound].
Once we have our Initial Kick sound, experiment with different layers and sounds can lead to a unique sound. For the Click Sound Increase, the Phase to 20% as this will give a hit sound which can be adjusted. For adding more thump and texture to the sound add Osc B and follow the same process used for Osc A.
If you click on the highlighted area near Time, it opens up the different Algorithms which can be used for designing or processing new Kick sounds.
This is how the Kick sound looks like without any external processing or Eq. Limiting your sources and exploring various parameters while creating a Kick sound will also help in learning more about the VSTi.
The kick made with Operator.
Use the same note “C3” and select clean Sine wavetable as a clean sound works better than the rest.
OSC 1 detunes it to -24 cents and add the Pitch envelope 1 to the modulation parameter.
Change the envelope settings to:
- Attack to 0
- Decay somewhere around 8:30 [according to the sound you are after]
- Level to 0
- And change the modulation setting of envelope 1 to 24 on OSC 1.
By this, you will have a kick sound along with other unwanted frequencies.
Using Low Pass Filter and decreasing the resonance to “0” [as we do not want any resonance] and Cutoff for selecting the necessary cut in the frequency, we can get a thumpy and heavy kick sound.
Once we have the base it’s time to add color and punch to it.
Select Noise and look for Tape > increase the Amp [not too much as it can make it sound muddy]> Color controls the amount of tape effect.
Feedback > increasing the feedback will give the sound a large boost.
Sine Shaper > increase the wet signal very little while decreasing the Drive > It will provide the extra punch > although too much of Drive can change the sound drastically.
Go to the Fx section and select for T-Tube for some extra grit > keep it very subtle.
Now once we have a perfect punchy Kick go to the EQ setting and Increase the Low shelf for the heavy as well as tight Low end.
The kick made with Massive.
Sytrus is pretty easy to work with, select for the default preset option.
Select OP1 and select a frequency [check for the frequency charts and its related Key for more information]
I have selected 43 Hz as the main frequency so that we can get a Sub focused Kick sound.
Now select the Pitch envelope and activate it by clicking the highlighted single button on the left corner. Adjust the envelope while playing the sound in real-time.
Now click and activate the volume envelope and change the sound accordingly. As you can see that I have made two different sounding kick samples just by changing the volume envelope.
As the technique is same for all the Kick sounds but what makes the sound different is its Designing and processing.
I haven’t used any external VSTi or FX so that we can only focus on the basics of the Kick sound designing without killing time although it is really important to EQ and compress the kick sound to make it more professional.
Keep on experimenting with different sounds and layer them together to create some interesting and unique Kick.
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