How to create a Kick Drum from any sound
A great sounding kick should be the foundation of any electronic dance production, but finding one that works well in your track can take a lot of time. Instead of endlessly scrolling through hundreds of samples though, why not make your own? The advantages of doing this are obvious - you then have complete control over sculpting and perfecting the kick to fit precisely within your mix. It's also very easy to do and a lot of fun !
There are many ways in which you can go about producing a kick, however I've chosen to attempt to create one from a sample. And not just any sample either...it's the squeal of my daughter's guinea pig! (named "Coffee" btw) .Here is the original audio in all it's glory:
No guinea pigs were harmed in the making of this tutorial.
I'll be using Ableton for this tutorial, however the concepts are transferrable to any DAW. First steps are to load in your sample in your DAW, and grab a couple of free plugins to examine the waveform. Here I'm using s(M)exoscope by Smartelectronix and SPAN by Voxengo.
Next find a good starting point in your sample. Try to select a non-crossing point (where the waveform crosses the central line), as this will naturally add more of a transient to the beginning of the sound, which is ideal for a kick sound.
From looking at the SPAN spectrum analyser, we can see in this example that our sample is peaking at around 1.4 MHz. Most kick's fundamental frequency lies within the 45-55 Hz range, so the next thing we need to do is transpose the sample. This can be done within Ableton's Sampler device, but only to a maximum of 4 octaves. To get us the rest of the way, drag a Frequency Shifter onto the track, and adjust the fine tuning until the kick is peaking at your desired frequency.
Next we need to boost the signal. This can be done either from the Sampler device, or from a Utility plugin. Also make sure that you put the sound in mono rather than stereo. I've also added some saturation, reducing the output gain to compensate for the increase in drive.
It still isn't sounding much like a kick though. To get a closer match we need to increase the pitch envelope on the sample (in this case by about 24 semi-tones, and adjust the envelope decay until we're happy with the sound.
Getting closer ! Next we want to split the kick into it's lows, mids, and higher frequencies so we can process them individually. In Ableton this can be done by dragging in an Audio Effect Rack, and creating three separate channels. Rename each channel to Low, Mid, and High, before adding a Multiband Dynamics unit to each one, and soloing the corresponding band in each channel.
Listen to each channel separately and by ear decide what action needs to be taken. For example, in my case I added a separately tailored Gate effect to control the release on the length of the sound on each channel. I also added some saturation to the high end to emphasise the click of the kick, and some compression to the low end. You should also experiment with adjusting the level of each channel to taste. Lastly I brought the channels together by means of a Glue Compressor with a fast attack, some further compression, and a limiter.
Here is the end result:
And there we have it, a fairly decent sounding kick from a guinea pig sample!
I hope you enjoyed this sound design tutorial. Have a great day, and happy producing !