As a hobby electronic music producer I want to make my own kick drums. I am really stateside with the tail of the kicks I am synthesizing, but i got a feeling that the kicks lack a strong transient.

My current approach right now is:

I load a analogue triangle or sine waveform in Omnisphere. Then I lay down a Midinote on a F Fsharp or G with the desired length (usual 1/8 note). After that I use one Mod Envelope to control the pitch of the Oscillator. I aim for a knocking sound, where the pitch shift ends just before the 1/8 note ends. (Making house and 2-step garage at the moment i am more interested in the knock rather than the 50 Hz boom.) By shaping the decay curve, i shape the sound of the pitch shit. Right now I am satisfied with a fast decay that gets slower towards the end of the note. I aim for a ">" shape via adjusting the decay of the Amp envelope. I find that drums that have a Waveform like a > sound really punchy and on the point. Then I use another envelope to modulate the pitch. This one is very short (<30 ms) to get some kind of transient. It often creates a resonance around 500-800 hz that i eq out.

After that I add a very short white noise click via the b section of Omnisphere.

My signal chain after Omnisphere is SPL Transient Designer and Fabfilter Saturn. In Saturn i played around with the Envelope of the saturation. I tried to saturate only the first milliseconds to give them a emphasis.

So i get some ok Kick sound, but i get nowhere close to the artists i love. Right now i listen to a lot of disclosure. I really like there on the point, "simple" drum sounds. I know they use vintage drum samples. Put it seems, that the kick is synthesized.

What I realize, wehen I compare my kick to theirs:

  1. My Kick has the same Amp envelope, but their transients sound way thicker.
  2. Their kicks have a lot more noise in them.

So finally my Question.

What can I do to shape or create transients like theirs? And do they layer stuff over their drums for transients and noise or is it in their sound source? And what would be good stuff to layer on top to get those kicks?

Here is an example of a 2 step kick i made today https://www.dropbox.com/s/vmjj43i18j68p33/2step%20Kick%20Example.aif

Thanks for the help!

3 Answers 3


I played around a little with your Kick sample and was able to get a little more snap out of it with Waves Trans X Multi. I enhanced the transients from 80-500hz and 2.4khz-up while taking transients away below 80hz. if you don't have Trans X try using Saturn in a similar way by splitting the bands and treating the Low,Low-mid, mid, mid-high and high differently. I like to use smooth amp in the high end and clean tube in the low end.

I have also gotten some pretty good sounding kicks from Waves Element.

I hope this is of some help. Matt

  • Cool I try that out. COuld you upload your version for me to compare? Thx Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 8:08
  • I realy like the Trans X, It opens up a whole new dimension of sound shaping.! Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 7:30
  • kick examples The first set is the original then Trans X Multi, then Saturn, then CLA Drums with McDSP ML1 Limiter after it. Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 20:14
  • Thx a lot :) this is a great guideline Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 22:00
  • The CLA sound great on headphones.It is adding a lot to the transient Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 22:04

It's usually better to layer more sounds in than equalize or use transient/envelope processors. The reason is that the processors modify what's fed in, they don't necessarily increase the frequency content of the sound. Layering though is actually increasing the composition of the sound. Two different things.

Noise is used to create fullness (a bit crusher works for this as well, because it adds noise). A surprising amount of noise can be mixed in sounds without the sound starting to sound noisy (especially when it's buried in a mix), the sound just sounds more powerful.

Making good kick drums is tricky and a skill that takes some practice. Instead of synthesizing, a pretty pragmatic way is to combine existing kick drum sounds to make new kicks. That leads to a lot of variation and you can pick the best elements of all kick sounds that you find. E.g. if one kick has a particular good bottom end, then use that as the bottom end, but add another kick that has a particular good snap, and use that for the snap, while equalizing its bottom end down. A typical trick is also to layer rimshots (or hihats) on top of kicks, because rimshots have a good snap that can be mixed into kick sounds without the rimshot pointing out (more like they sound like a real extension of the kick). Use pitch shifting on individual layers to balance the overall kick sound so that it sounds integrated. Keep notice of what kind of balance sounds the nicest (it's quite well defined that certain Hzs and frequency balances lead to fullness). Use delaying and nudging and volume automation to ensure that the different layers don't unintentionally mask eachother and/or to free up headroom to be able to increase the overall perceived volume.

  • Thx for the information. Layering Drum parts never lead to a sound I liked. In all the kicks there is something i don't like, so i want to make my own to fix that issue :) - Do you have examples of a kick that i can use as a snap. Its really difficult for me to get that technique done :/ Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 16:00
  • "Layering Drum parts never lead to a sound I liked". Then why are you making sounds that you don't like? Make sounds that you like! :)
    – mavavilj
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 21:31
  • Haha yeah, what I wanted to say its, that I know exactly what sound i what. But when I start mixing ingredients that sound right to me, I get a total different outcome. I got really difficulties in finding the right amount of click. My clicks always either come out to weak, to aggressive or cause phase issues with the bottom end. :/ maybe its just more training Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 7:24

I have found that getting really sharp transients with synthesis alone, is tricky. Actually, the "snap" part of a sound shouldn't be too short - like a few milliseconds. I'd look more in the direction of layering in something with the right frequency content - like a woody clicking sound (like Claves, or maybe knocking on wood, literally). Part of what makes that work, is that the sound actually has a bit of tail to it; gives the ear time to register the "snappiness" - like with a gunshot.

  • Ok i try saturated acoustic drums right now to get the right snap :) its really a mission to find drum parts that work together :D Commented Sep 19, 2013 at 12:53

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