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How To Create Kick Drums in Serum: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

The art of drum synthesis is a vast field, rich with intricacies and nuances. Creating a powerful kick drum using a synthesizer like Serum not only yields impressive results but also provides the flexibility to tailor your sound precisely to your track’s key.

While this approach demands more detailed work compared to using drum samples, the payoff is a kick drum that is uniquely yours. Here’s a step-by-step guide to synthesizing a punchy kick drum with Serum.

Step 1: Setting Up the Oscillators

Serum Kick Drum Tutorial - Oscillators
Similar to when creating an 808 bass with Serum, the sustain for the kick drum has to be turned down completely.
  1. OSC A: Select a sine wave for OSC A. This will form the fundamental tone of your kick.
  2. OSC B: Choose the “Basic Mg” wavetable for OSC B. This waveform adds some thickness to your kick. The “Mg” does not stand for milligram, but it will certainly give your kick some weight.
  3. Modulate Pitch with ENV 2: For both OSC A and OSC B, use ENV 2 to modulate the Coarse Pitch. This modulation is crucial for creating the pitch drop characteristic of kick drums. Remember, no sustain is needed for percussive sounds. Use the decay to shape the genre-specific character of your kick.

Step 2: Configuring Envelopes

Serum Kick Drum Tutorial - Envelopes
Envelope 2 modulates the pitch of both oscillators. This is what creates the kick drum sound in the first place.
  1. Volume Envelope (ENV 1): Set the main volume envelope (ENV 1) with no sustain and adjust the decay to control the tail of your kick. A shorter decay for a punchier kick, and a longer one for a more bass-heavy sound.
  2. Pitch Envelope (ENV 2): ENV 2 should have a fast attack, zero sustain, and a short decay. This controls the pitch modulation and should be applied to both oscillators’ Coarse Pitch parameters.

Step 3: Adding Click with Noise Oscillator

  1. Noise Oscillator: Select the noise sample “XF_KikAtk_12” for the Noise Oscillator. This sample will add the necessary click effect to your kick drum.
  2. One-Shot Mode: Enable One-Shot mode for the Noise Oscillator to ensure the click plays through completely each time the kick is triggered.
  3. Modulate Noise Level with ENV 2: Use ENV 2 to modulate the Level parameter of the Noise Oscillator, ensuring the click blends well with the rest of the kick.

Step 4: Applying Filters

  1. Filter: Choose the “MG Low 24” filter type. Set the cutoff around 2,000 Hz to keep the low-end punch while trimming off unnecessary high frequencies.
  2. Routing: Ensure both OSC B and the Noise Oscillator are routed through the filter.
  3. Drive: Increase the Drive slightly to add some grit and character to the sound.

Step 5: Adding Effects

Serum Kick Drum Tutorial - FX Effects
Depending on the genre, the amount and setting of the effects plays a big role.
  1. Distortion: Select the “Diode 1” mode in the Distortion effect. Turn up the Drive to add aggression and punch to your kick.
  2. Compressor: Use the Multiband mode on the Compressor. Boost the lows and dampen the mids slightly to enhance the kick’s impact.
  3. EQ: Apply a low-shelf boost to the EQ to thicken the body of the kick drum further.

Conclusion: Now It’s Your Turn

Creating sounds with a synthesizer like Serum can seem daunting at first, with so many parameters to tweak. But after some practice and a few tutorials, the process becomes second nature.

While it’s tempting to stick to preset sounds, the real magic happens when you dive into sound design. Spend time experimenting, and you’ll discover how to create entirely new sounds that are uniquely yours.

The journey might be challenging, but the reward is a deeper understanding and a more personalized approach to your music production.

For more sound design inspiration, check out our detailed guide on How to Make 808 Basses in Serum. Additionally, consider exploring the premium drum sample packs available at Hex Loops.

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