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Kick Back, Episode 1

Here at Noise Engineering, we love percussion. Especially me [ed. note: and me.]. I wrote a whole series on the subject of synthesizing different drum sounds. Now, you may be thinking, “isn’t one series about synthesizing percussion enough?”


In this series of posts, we’ll be making kick drums! And we’ll be making them out of everything. Oscillators, filters, anything we can possibly make kick, we will. We’re on a mission! Today, we’ll be starting with three sound sources: Manis Iteritas, Ataraxic Iteritas, and Viol Ruina. We’ve made kicks with Loquelic Iteritas Percido, Loquelic Iteritas, and Basimilus Iteritas in other posts. The three we’re looking at today are a bit more tricky to get kicks out of which, in my opinion, makes them even more fun. Let’s go!

Manis Iteritas

Obviously, BIA is a go-to for kicks. But what about its weirder sibling, the MI? Being based around saw waves, it can be hard to get a clean kick sound out of it. But it’s possible!

This patch uses the filter to roll off a lot of the aggressive high end that comes from saw waves. Tune the MI down so it’s subsonic, and this lets us only hear the low harmonics being pitch bent instead of that crazy smashy noise the MI usually does so well. Here’s what it sounds like:

And here’s the patch:

Manis Iteritas: Bash and LPF at 50%, envelope at 25%, other knobs at 0%. Mode switch in center position, Range switch in left position.
A quick note: you’ll want your utilities for all of this

We wrote a blog post recently about how handy utilities can be. Sure enough, this is one of the times when they’ll come in especially handy. As you’ll see in this next patch, we need some attenuation and a VCA to get our kick, well, kicking. Attenuators to the rescue once again!

Ataraxic Iteritas

Learn more:

Manis Iteritas

Viol Ruina

Ataraxic Iteritas

Sinc Defero

Pons Asinorum

Ataraxic Iteritas is an oscillator, not a full voice, so we’ll need some extra modules on this one. Two decay envelopes (from something like Pons Asinorum), an attenuator, and a VCA, to be exact. AI doesn’t have a sine setting, but I got some surprisingly pure tones on the SQR algorithm. The Comb parameter also gives some nice-but-subtle timbral shifts to the kick, so patching some slow modulation like Clep Diaz to that can create some nice variation in a set.

The patch is easy: one envelope modulates AI’s pitch with a quick decay, which creates a big transient. This is how most kicks are created, and how the MI patch worked (it’s just all under the panel; you can learn more about that in our post all about making kicks from scratch).

The other envelope controls the VCA. We could also use Sinc Bucina for a more characterful VCA/envelope combo, if we’re in that kind of mood. Match the knobs on AI to the picture below, patch its output to the input of your VCA, and send in some triggers!

Here’s how AI sounds.

And, of course, the patch:

An attenuated decay envelope from Pons ASinorum runs into the Ataraxic Iteritas pitch input. All knobs on ataraxic are turned to 0%, except comb at 50%.

Viol Ruina

Viol Ruina, obviously, is a filter/distortion module. However, we can use it as a sound source with some clever patching. An old trick that has been used in percussion synthesis for a long time is called filter pinging. Running a pulse into a resonant filter, with the right settings, makes the filter resonate then die out at the frequency the cutoff is set to. This creates a natural-sounding decaying sine which is great for kicks. I always use short decay envelopes instead of pulses in this sort of patch because you don’t get clicks when the gate goes high AND low, only when the envelope first starts.

We’ll need two envelopes here: one to ping the filter, and one to modulate the filter’s frequency. As you can see in the patch below, we need to route one envelope to the audio input of the filter to create the “ping”, and the other through an attenuator to the filter CV to create the fast filter sweep which creates our kick. Patch out of the Mangle Out to your mixer and you’ve got your kick!

Here’s how that one sounds:

And here’s the patch:

Pons Asinorum sends two decay envelopes to Viol Ruina. One envelope runs through an attenuator into the Frq input, the other goes into Filter In. Viol's Frq knob is turned all the way down, and Q is at 55%.
More kicks to come

This series is called ALL the kicks for a reason. We’ve got more coming. Got a cool kick patch? Send it to us, or tag us in an Instagram post!

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