A great sounding kick drum should be the foundation of any EDM track, however finding a kick sample 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 kick drum?
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!
In this short tutorial I'll be covering the basic sound design techniques to help you craft your very own kick out of any sound. Let's get into it.
How to make a Kick Drum
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 its 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. The fundamental frequency of most kicks 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 drum 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 shape our sound.
How to shape a Kick Drum
Let's split the kick into its lows, middle, 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 result:
And there we have it, a decent sounding kick from a guinea pig sample!
I hope you enjoyed this quick tutorial on sound design basics. If you're interested in making your own drums, then you also might be interested in the following article:
Don't miss my ultimate guide to drum programming:
Have a great day, and happy producing!