Hats Off to This Series: Synthesizing Hats in the Final Percussion Synthesis Post
We did it! This is the last post in our percussion synthesis series. We’ve talked about kicks, snares, and claps, and finally we’ll be talking about hats. “But Markus,” you may be saying, “surely you’ve left out toms, cymbals, maracas, tambourines, cowbells, and various other percussion instruments I don’t know the name of??” Well, you’re right! But here’s the thing. If you want to synthesize a tom, turn your kick drum’s pitch up and it becomes one. If you want a cymbal, mess around with making the hat patches in this post longer. If you want a cowbell, I’m sorry. What I’m saying is that if you’ve read through this whole series, you should be able to start figuring out your own sounds and make an entire 73-piece drum kit if you really want to!
A note on the BIA (again):
We won’t be using the Basimilus Iteritas Alter this time, for real. It’s designed for percussion, and this series is more about making stuff from fundamental building blocks. If you have a BIA, though, you’ll know that it has a Metal mode. Just flip it into Metal mode, mess with the pitch and the parameters, and you’ll get hats in no time. You don’t need my help with it, promise! It’s a lot of fun, too.
Let’s not emulate the 808 this time
If you’ve looked into how the tr-808 creates its hi-hats, you may know that it requires a ridiculous amount of oscillators; six, in fact. While this is interesting, it doesn’t really make sense to do in a simple Eurorack patch.
In broad brushstrokes, the oscillators are mixed together and run through a bandpass filter. The filter is modulated by a decaying envelope, and then run through a VCA, which is also controlled by a decaying envelope. This makes a pretty convincing hat. If you happen to have a ridiculous amount of oscillators in your system, try to patch this up! It takes some tweaking but can sound very interesting.
Let’s also not emulate the 909 this time because that’s literally just a sample
Yeah, the tr-909 just uses samples. If you have a sampler, hat samples can definitely sound good, but this series is called Percussion Synthesis, not Percussion Listening-To-Stuff-Someone-Already-Recorded.
Making the patch
Let’s compromise here. We’ll use a modulated bandpass filter inspired by the 808 to make most of our tone, but instead of using a whole bunch of oscillators to make our starting sound, we’ll just use white noise. It’s a pretty simple patch:
Pretty simple! Here’s how it sounds:
The trigger from whatever sequencer you’re using activates both envelopes in Pons Asinorum, and the accent changes the length of the VCA envelope. If your sequencer doesn’t have an accent out, fear not. It can really be anything: a CV channel from your sequencer, a gate, what have you.
There’s actually not a whole lot more to explain here. Tweak the filter to taste and add some resonance (I think I had mine set to around 2khz and the resonance pretty high) and maybe add some further processing like reverb or distortion.
Even simpler: AT into SB (or SE, if you're oldschool)
Ataraxic Translatron can generate some pretty awesome hats, too. Try running it into Sinc Bucina, or Sinclastic Empulatrix (or another VCA/envelope/filter/whatever combo) to make some more abstract hat sounds! Hats can get creative too, so don’t be afraid to try out weird oscillator setups like this.
In conclusion: we’re done
If you’ve read through this whole series, first off, thanks! If you haven’t, you should go read the rest of the posts here, here, and here. They’re a lot of fun and you’ll be well on your way to creating your own Eurorack drumkit from scratch. If you make any of these patches, or get inspired by them and create something else (or you just want to say hi), tag us in a post on our Instagram page!