This week I explored something I have never done before – making kick drums with synthesizers. It is a very rewarding process that will generate a lot of content that you can use over and over again. The boiler-plate PATCH for synth kicks uses just a few modules. It sounds like this.


If you’re interested in making kicks like this, you’ll want to get comfortable with these 5 important techniques in Massive.

  1. Using quick, dramatic pitch envelopes.
    • This is perhaps the most identifiable characteristic of today’s synthetic kicks. It creates a clean “bite” and gives it a commanding presence across a large range of the spectrum.
  2. Using the “Performer” instead of the default volume envelope.
    • The attack time in Massive‘s envelopes is not fast enough to make kick noises with. The first few milliseconds of the kick are critical, so we need to “mute” ENV 4 (making the envelope a gate shape) and use the Performer to inversely modulate the amplitude of the oscillator – to smooth out the release.
  3. Achieving a consistent start phase of the oscillator.
    • A “Restart” option in the synth will make the attack sound equally clean each time it triggers.
  4. Adding noise and distortion.
    • Modulating the wavetable and position of your oscillator with the envelopes you used for pitch modulation will introduce the majority of variations in timbre.
  5. Using parametric EQ with respect to your song.
    • Kicks designed this way produce a very wide range of frequency content. You will need to make room in them for a good balance when other instruments are introduced.



The process for designing kicks in other synths like Serum and FM8 is very similar, except you can use their amp envelope since it has an instantaneous attack.

  • Make OSC 1 a Sine by selecting the Sin-Squ wave and moving Wt-pos all the way to the left.
  • Right click on the “4” next to the pan knob to “Mute” the amp envelope.
  • Go to the OSC tab.
  • Enable “Restart via Gate”.
  • Open the Performer (7 Perf).
  • Make sure “XFade Seq” is all the way up.
  • Click “Load Curve”.
  • Draw this shape with the curves provided.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.08.38 PM

  • Click “Load Curve” again to go back to the rate control.
  • Turn the rate up to about 4 o’clock .
  • Modulate the entire range of OSC 1 Amp with the performer.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 3.25.04 PM

  • Drag the pitch of OSC 1 all the way to 64.00 (WARNING: LOUD)
  • Make these shapes in ENV 2 and 3. You’ll need to turn the first “level” parameter all the way down and the second “level” parameter all the way up.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 4.08.51 PM

  • Modulate the pitch of OSC 1 down 40 semitones with ENV 2
  • Modulate the range of that control down 30 semitones with ENV 3.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 3.27.26 PM


Now that you have your boiler-plate synth kick, experiment with the settings below to create variations like these.



  • OSC Waveform
  • Wavetable Position
  • Intensity
  • Envelope Decay
  • Envelope Destination
  • The Noise Oscillator
  • Ranges of pitch modulation
  • Performer steps
  • EQ and FX