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Make Analogue Drums Like Moonbeam and Glimpse

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In this tutorial, I will show you how to produce a simple analogue style drum kit used in modern techno, progressive and house styles similar to artists like Glimpse and Moonbeam. The kit will contain a kick, a snare, an open hihat, a closed hihat, and a percussion sound. Most of them are based on sine waves or white noise. The synthesized sounds are not perfect recreations, but are good for starting out or build upon.

Processing is also important for drums, so I will have some tips on how to use, compression, limiting, saturation and reverb. For the tutorial I use Ableton Suite 9, but any other software can be used, which have synths (virtual analogue or subtractive with at least three oscillators and a noise generator) and effects similar to those used in this tutorial.

This is an example of the beat using the synthesized drum kit:


Kick

We will make a sine-based, punchy, long bass drum with a pitch envelope falling one whole octave. For a more reserved and even simpler feel, just disable the pitch envelope.

The note of the kick is G0. Usually this is the lowest pitch for an electronic dance bass drum. Many leading sample pack creators also choose this value. For this instrument all operators are used. To give the sound more weight and attack the phase of the two sine waves are slightly out of each other and some noise is added.

  • Algorithm - 11 (last).
  • Op. A - sine, 0 dB, Attack 0ms, Decay 969ms, Sustain -inf dB, Release 6.08ms.
  • Op. B - sine, -10 dB, Attack 0.81ms, Decay 969ms, Sustain -inf dB, Release 1ms.
  • Op. C - saw3, -22 dB, Attack 0ms, Decay 1.15s, Sustain -inf dB, Release 6.08ms.
  • Op. D - white noise, -62 dB, Attack 0ms, Decay 600ms, Sustain 0 dB, Release 50ms.
  • Phase, op. A 10%, op. B 35%
  • Pitch envelope, initial +12 st, peak +12 st.
small_kick-operator
These are the settings for the kick: all four operators and a pitch envelope.

Snare

The snare consists of a sine wave and a white noise. The sine part is similar to the kick drum and the noise layer has a longer decay to give it more power and presence.

  • Algorithm - 8.
  • Op. A - white noise, -16 dB, Attack 0.38ms, Decay 1s, Sustain -inf dB, Release 1ms.
  • Op. C - sine4, -33 dB, Attack 0.38ms, Decay 1s, Sustain -inf dB, Release 1ms.
  • Filter - High 24 dB, Frequency 200 Hz, Resonance 1.
small_snare-operator
How to set up the snare sound

Hihats

Open Hihat

This is a square and noise based sound.

  • Algorithm - 1.
  • Operator, enable op. A with -16dB and white noise and op. B with -22dB and square wave.
  • Op. A - Attack 0.38ms, Decay 969ms, Sustain -inf dB, Release 1ms.
  • Op. B - Attack 0.38ms, Decay 969ms, Sustain -inf dB, Release 1ms.
  • Filter - High 24 dB, Frequency 8 kHz, Resonance 1.
small_oh-operator
Open hihat settings

Closed Hihat

This is a very short sound with a sine and square wave.

  • Algorithm - 1.
  • Operator, enable op. A with -16dB and wave SqD and op. B with 0dB and Sin wave.
  • Op. A - Attack 0.38ms, Decay 73.5ms, Sustain -inf dB, Release 1ms.
  • Op. B - Attack 0ms, Decay 600ms, Sustain 0 dB, Release 50ms.
  • Filter - High 24 dB, Frequency 8 kHz, Resonance 1.
small_ch-op-1
Operator A settings
small_ch-op-2
Operator B settings

Simple Percussion

This instrument sounds like a tom and is based on a sine wave.

  • Algorithm - 1.
  • Operator A with Sin wave at 0dB.
  • Attack 0.4ms, Decay 315ms, Sustain -46 dB, Release 17.1ms.
small_perc-operator
Synthesizing percussion

Processing

There are a couple of effects used in order to get a better sound. I use these processing chains in the examples.

  • kick: compressor + limiter
  • snare: saturator + reverb
  • drum group: glue compressor
  • master channel: spectrum analyzer + limiter

The compressor on the kick thickens the sound and the limiter catches any peaks that could cause clipping. The saturator on the snare gives a distorted character to it and a very small reverb is used to make it sound more natural.

The glue compressor on the drum group makes it louder and integrates the loop to be more fuller. And finally the spectrum analyser is just a tool to visualize the look of what is going on and a default limiter is there to catch any peaks.

Optionally we could further enhance the sound with another reverb added before or after the glue compressor, but please be careful with the filtering, because we usually don't want to get a muddy mix caused by reverbing the kick.

kick-chain
Compressor and limiter on the kick chain
snare-chain
Saturation and reverb for the snare
drum-group-chain
Glue compressor for the drum buss
master-chain
And finally... this is our master chain

Tip: Effects on Hihats

In this tutorial, I went for dry hihats, but you can try panning, mid/side EQ, overdrive, chorus, delay and reverb as well, because high frequency contents like these respond well to stereo effects even in full mixes.

Tuning Drums

Usually we tune the kick, the snare and the toms (pitched percussion) to the key of the lead melody. The kick is the lowest playing the root note of the G-minor scale (G0), the snare is higher by two octaves (G2), and finally the percussion is the highest (A#2, C3, D3, D#3).

simple-percussion-midi
Percussion line / tuning with MIDI

Rendering and Sampling

It is a good idea and common practice to render each finished drum sound as individual files, and import them as samples to use in your next song. This will ensure that everything is perfectly retriggered so there isn't any moment when the sound becomes weaker. For example, this is most important for the kick drum.

rendered-audio
Rendered drum loop

Conclusion

jomox-xbase
Jomox analogue drum machine

This was a quick overview of synthesizing and processing simple drum sounds. Of course you can mix or layer these drums with samples recorded outside the studio. A lot of sounds can be interesting, which have good transients when you want to make drums.

I wish you happy experimenting, and don't forget to show us your version of drum sounds (or loops) in the comments!

The sounds in this tutorial were inspired by these sample CDs: Glimpse - Deep Analogue Techno, Moonbeam Analog Particulars.

(Photos by adactio / flickr and Gerald Moore / flickr).

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