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Synthesised Kick with NI Massive

Learning to synthesise your own kick drums not only teaches you some fundamental knowledge of drum synthesis, but also gives you a much larger amount of control over the drum sound than you would have with a sample. Here’s an audio example of the sound we’ll be creating here, playing alongside a tops loop:

And here’ the MIDI, a simple four-to-the-floor pattern. It doesn’t matter what pitch the notes are as the pitch will be determined by the pitch envelope modulations we apply:

MIDI Screengrab

Step 1

Begin by selecting New Sound from the File drop-down menu. Now head over to Osc1 and select the Sin-Square wavetable, then take the Wt-position control all the way to anticlockwise so we only have a sine wave playing. Take the pitch down to -36.00 (-3 octaves).

Now head to the centre panel of Massive, and click and drag on the crosshair of 1Env and drop it in the first box underneath the pitch of Osc1. You will now see a blue 1 in the left panel of this box, indicating that modulation routing has being applied. Click and drag up on the right panel of the box until it gets to 60.00. We’ve now applied envelope modulation to the pitch of this oscillator.

Step 1

Step 2

Now to set up the modulation envelope so the sound is more like a kick drum. Bring the attack all the way down to zero, the decay to a third of the way and the decay level down to zero.

Now head to 4Env, which is the amplitude enveloe. Set this with the same timing as the modulation envelope.

Step 2.1 Step 2.2

Step 3

Next, head to 2Env and click and drag the crosshair to again modulate the pitch of Osc1. You should now see a blue 2 in the second pitch modulation box. You should also see a small SC underneath the 2. Click this and underneath the first pitch modulation box you should see a dash, click this once so it turns into an upwards arrow.

We’ve now applied an envelope to control the shape of our pitch modulation. Provided we set 2Env correctly, this will firm up the body of the kick. Set 2Env up the same way as the previous envelopes, except this time bring the decay right down to just past a quarter of the way. Holding alt (option on a PC) and clicking on the blue 2 on the second pitch mod box, you can mute and un-mute this modulation to hear what it’s bringing to the sound. We now have something that resembles a club kick.

Step 3

Step 4

Over in the Filter1 section, load up a Lowpass 4 filter, turn up the cutoff frequency all the way and bring the resonance down to zero. Although very subtle, this filter drives the sound slightly. Turn the filter’s blue power button on and off to hear the effect.

Now, in the FX1 slot, load up a Classic Tube effect for some subtle tube saturation. Set the Dry/Wet to just before halfway and the Drive to just past quarter of the way.

Step 4

Step 5

Now click on the EQ section of Massive and turn it on. Push up the Low Shelf to two thirds of the way to add low-end weight. Take the Boost down to a third of way and bring down the Frequency to a quarter to take out some lower mids. Push the High Shelf all the way to maximum

Step 5

Step 6

Things are sounding OK now, but the kick would definitely benefit from some more accurate EQ work. Here we’ve loaded up an instance of Fabfilter’s Pro-Q 2 and applied some surgical EQ. We’ve rolled off any low frequencies below 20 Hz, boosted at 40 Hz and 80 Hz to add more weight, and we’ve applied six cuts to scoop out some of the mids. These cuts occur at 127 Hz, 167 Hz, 209 Hz, 564 Hz, 750 Hz and 940 Hz. These mid scoops are vital to allow space for other sounds in the mix.

Step 6

20th December, 2015

Tutorials is sponsored by

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Roland Cloud is your creative hub for Roland hardware and software. Access legendary recreations of Roland Classics, find new sounds for your favorite products, and download updates and companion apps to make music fast and easy.


  • Christmas just arrives for me ! Thanks a lot for all this tutorials !

  • 10 essential drum techniques??? 10 tutorials on how to do this or that using very particular DAWS and Plugins. Total waste of time.

  • I do like Attack and despite me mainly being into underground hip hop I play disco and some nu disco (which is house haha) and still love techno as in the minimalist Detroit sound, not bloody tech house. I DJ and come from a great position clubwise. Growing up in South London in the 80’s there was the soul scene then the warehouse, hip-hop, funk, Boogie, disco anthems, Kiss FM when it was a pirate was our Bible and on a Tuesday night there were prob 5 good clubs to go to, on a Saturday, 25 maybe. who knows. Then I lived and loved through 88- to about 93 when the original Balearic, anything went, all about the tunes was starting to go slowly and it was about the DJs and had split into 1000 genres. Boys Own, Slam, and others still kept a more undergrounf scene going away from momeymakers like MOS. (only time I went there I lost my mates within about 20 mins and looked in vain for a few hours. That wasn’t what it was about. I was in Brighton then anyway and we had the wonderful Zap. Now what we got? A weekly decent hip hop night on a Tuesday, once a month clubs like Russ Dewbury’s terrific Soulful Strut where I do the odd slot.. All the sefront clubs which were once cool are now for the geezer and hen night crowd.Then there’s patterns. If there is a decent DJ it;s worth it. If not it;s the usual kid playing his perfect and completely broring seamless tech house set. The crowd don’t actuyally seem like they are having a particularly great time and most people in their 20’s just go to the pub and I’m not surprised. Your ‘What makes a great DJ’ was terrific as it so backed up what had happened. Itl;s turned on it’s head so instead of buying tunes as u knew they would be bangers I can tell that tracks are downloaded ‘cos they fit in with other tracks, I call it anti-DJing and it’s nice to see Attack interview some of the greats like Derrick May etc. You would think that the kids who think they are DJs now (despite there not being many places to DJ) would respect people like that. Indie kids in bands worship those who went before but no…they think they know best, they DJs who shock horror mixed with vinyl and would drop lots of banging tunes on the One as we punters couldn’t have cared less about the mixing really. It was all about the tunes, Depressing really. Good that the drum and bass scene and a few others have kept going by not becoming commercial. Sad thing is in Brighton there are loads of us that want to put proper small nights on with little risk like u used to be able to but there’s no where to hire out now.

    Anyway I think all that was saying that you seem to be taking a more mature approach instead of articles like one I saw online which was “Is it possible to mix without using your EQ?” I just stared at it tbh in horror. The only time I tounch my EQ is when I turn the bass down for scratching. Oh couple of requests. How about a few more Beat Dissected on hip hop. The Underground has all kinds of leftfield beats and talented producers, and more minimalist techno. We of a certain age could make a house beat in our sleep. And can you please not make your tutorials so expensive plugin specific? We donl;t all use or can afford Ableton, Pro Tools, etc. I use Reaper, MPC Element and the best free plugins and synths that I have found. I’m sure Variety of Sound and Tokyo Dawn plugins could give a lot of commerial ones a run for their money. And making hip hop TyrellN6, Firebird and SQ8L certainly do the job. The only plugins I’be bought are the DopeVST Hip Hop romplers. And how about some tips on leftfield hip hop? Do people really still actually make ‘House Leads?’ I have about 50 in various presets that sound alright. Andy

  • Thanks for all these tips, great article!

  • This seems to be an advert for various (expensive) plugins rather than a tutorial on essential drum techniques. This should have been done using a DAW’s native plugins.


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