There is no denying that kick drums are critical components in today’s electronic dance music. I am sure that many of you probably own different sample banks with various kick drum sounds. However, my goal is to help you understand how to make something of your own from the ground up. Therefore, in the next tutorial, I will try to demonstrate how to synthesize the kick drum.


What is kick drum synthesis?


I am sure you will agree that there are many reasons to synthesize your kick drums rather than use samples.  With the technique mentioned above, you can pitch-perfect kick drums for less clutter in the sub-bass frequency range. In addition to this, your drums become melodic instruments, and you gain more control over the fundamental drum texture.

You will need a synthesizer that has a fairly robust modulation system. Ideally, it should have a noise oscillator and a multiple waveform regular oscillator with good sounding primitive waves. In order to explain the kick drum synthesis process, I will use Massive by Native Instruments which I find very suitable. So, after this article, you should be able to make your own sounds in no time!


Let’s get started


The first thing to do after making a new midi channel with Massive in SoundBridge is to disengage all oscillators and leave only one working. On this particular oscillator, I will choose a pure sine wave waveform. Additionally, I’ll move the WT-position knob all the way to the left in order to hear that sine wave. To avoid the click at the beginning of every note played, I will go to the oscillator phases section and select “Restart via gate“. Now, every time I hit the note, it will sound exactly the same.






The next thing to do will be going to the performer section and creating a shape within it. It’s going to start at zero, and it’s going to ramp up to the max. Consequently, I am going to use this to negatively modulate the amplitude of the employed oscillator (by dragging and dropping the cursor icon on the amp knob). Now the rate knob of the performer section will control the duration of the oscillators envelope. It is important to remember that this gets rid of any popping clicks or noises at the end of the note.




Finally, let’s move to the pitch modulation. I will use envelope one and two for this. In the first section, I will make an envelope curve which will be pretty quick. The second one will be a bit slower. I am going to use them to modulate the pitch of the oscillator negatively. First I will pull up oscillators pitch all the way to 64 and later push it down using this upward ramping envelope.


Kick Drum Synthesis


Now let’s hear how it sounds so far.


~ Kick Drum 1


Furthermore, you can play with different waveforms found in the oscillator menu and further polish the sound with built-in EQ. I will use a “Bender“ waveform which has a sine wave core but with some distortion. What is more, when modulated with the envelope, one can really add nice top punch to the kick drum. Again let’s drag and drop the cursor icon from envelope one section to the “WT-Position” and negatively modulate it.




So let’s hear how the kick drum sounds with new modulation and EQ applied.


~Kick Drum 2


So this would be the basics of kick drum synthesis in NI Massive. Feel free to experiment with different waveforms, using more than one oscillator, modulating different knobs, and so on. The possibilities are nearly endless.


Download the patch here.