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

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