Are you ready to dive into designing your own samples? In this article you’ll learn how to make the most important element of a track - the kick drum - in 5 steps. We’re going to be using only Ableton Live and Xfer Serum.
1. Initial setup
In order to get started with designing our kickdrum, let’s set up the MIDI and basic synth settings.
First of all, let’s make a MIDI clip with a single long note. Today we’ll use G, but you can get started with C as well - you can always tweak the pitch later in the synth.
Now let’s drag in Serum and change the initial wavetable to a sine wave.
2. Oscillator Level
Now that we have a simple sine wave loaded up, let’s shape how its level changes over time. For this purpose we’re going to be using an LFO instead of an Envelope - it’s much more flexible.
Let’s first change LFO 1 into a simple downwards shape by dragging the middle breakpoint to the left. Next, set the Mode to “Env” and the Rate to “⅛”.
It’s time to assign the LFO to the Level. Let’s move the Level knob all the way down first. Now you can “drag and drop” LFO 1 to assign it.
The sinewave should now go from maximum to minimum level as you play the clip.
In order to shape the sound further, we can tweak the LFO.
3. Pitch Level
In order to give the kick drum its body, let’s shape the pitch of our sine wave. We’re going to use LFO 2 for it.
First, repeat the initial LFO settings from the last step (change into a simple downwards shape + set the Mode to “Env” + the Rate to “⅛”).
Assign LFO 2 to the “CRS” control (Coarse Pitch).
Important: Change the direction of the modulation to unipolar.
Now the pitch should be modulated. Shape the sound further by changing the LFO and the Modulation Amount. You can also tweak the modulations in Serum’s “Matrix” tab.
Let’s add a click to our kick. For that we’re going to use the “Noise” oscillator.
Enable it and select a noise type - we’re using BrightWhite.
To get a click, we need to modulate the noise’s level. For that we can use an envelope (Env 2).
All we need in Envelope 2 is zero sustain and a few milliseconds of decay.
To map it, let’s lower the Noise Level, drag and drop Envelope 2, adjust the amount.
Now that the basis of our kick is ready, we can proceed to adding some effects. The most commonly used are multiband compressors, saturators and equalizers. You can use Serum’s FX tab, Ableton’s native effects or third-party plugins.
Every kick made in this way is going to be different. Slight tweaks to the envelopes can impact the sound a lot.
Make sure to see our new course to learn designing kicks, snares, hi hats, shakers, loops, effects and tonal samples.