Synthesizing Kicks: the Joy of Complete Control


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(x-posted to isratrance)

Recently I grabbed a 'how to make a kick drum' tutorial off of here (can't remember which post) and had a go at it with Gmedia's Minimonsta. I have now found my favorite synth for kicks. In addition, I've finally figured out how to control various aspects of my kick.

Here's a synopsis of what I've been doing:

First I crank the resonance the full, and the env. amount to full. For the Filter Env, I set the attack, sustain, and release to 0, and the decay to about 30%. For the Amp Env, I set the attack, sustain, and release to 0, and the decay to about 30%. Then I crank the filter down.

This is my starting point.

Now I'm a fan of having a kick in tune with my bass, so while my bass is playing I will tune my kick. I do this in several ways.

*Filter Cutoff:
The filter cutoff dictates the lowest frequency my kick will reach, so this I set via the numbers as it will be a little low for my Event TR8s to reproduce. I set it to around 20Hz, depending on what key I'm in. 20Hz is a little low for PAs, but I'll highpass the kick later and like it to behave as if it's going down to 20Hz or so.

*Filter Envelope Sustain:
Once I have the filter cutoff set, I'll start adjusting my Filter env. sustain to fine tune the kick's pitch. More sustain and the kick will start to go up in pitch. If you can't hear this, increase the filter env decay a bit and maybe the amp env decay, until you start to hear a tone in the kick. I'll adjust this until it's in tune with my bassline.

*Filter Envelope Decay:
Then I'll adjust the filter env decay, which sets how fast the filter sweeps down to the frequency set by the filter cutoff. This is KEY when I'm getting my kick and bassline to gel together as the length of my kick ought to compliment the length of my bass notes.

*Amplitude Envelope Decay:
Then I'll go in and tweak the amp env decay amount, which affects how long the kick lasts. Too much and my kick will be flabby and still be playing when my bass comes in, too little and I won't get any low frequencies.

*Filter Envelope Amount/Filter Resonance:
The env amount and resonance will impact how much pop/crack is in the kick (I like kicks with lots of crack, mmm!), with varying results.

Sometimes I'll shave off some of the pop by increasing the amplitude env attack, or make the pop a little 'pocky' by increasing the filter envelope attack, there's a lot of variation to be had in the sound of a kick.

At this point my kick will start to sound a little bit like my bass notes. This is when I switch over to my bass synth and start tweaking that, trying to get it closer to the kick. I've found that the key to this is on the bass's decay and sustain on the filter envelope and on the amplitude filter. When I get it close, I switch back over to the kick and tweak a little bit more, then back to the synth, etc.

Your desired results may vary, but my goal is to get my bass sounding like my kick and my kick sounding like my bass, until there's almost a constant droning bass sound of whatever key I'm in.

When I'm done I'll bounce a single hit of the kick to wave, make a few short versions (for fast rolls of the kick drum) and voila, I'm done.

Happy tweaking!



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Purusha said:
Rolling your own kick is definitely the way to go.

As it goes, I'm currently getting my best results from Absynth 3.

Oi, there's a beast I have yet to dig in to. It scares me!


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Let me know if you want any help on the computer set-up side of things Biggins.

Absynth is only scary if you start thinking about how the presets are produced. I tend to think of it as a simple synth with shed loads of very flexible envelopes.