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What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to make kick drums in Ableton. I’ll be using sampling and synths as well.


Couple of months ago I was searching for a good and free kick drum synth plugin in 64-bit VST format, but I couldn’t find any suitable on the net.

I decided to make my own. I started to create kicks with a combination of sampling and synthesis.


The main idea, as seen in other kick plugins, is to use a sample for the attack and a synth for the body of the bass drum.

This is a working method and can be used easily to achieve great results.

Project Settings

The settings used for this project are:

  • Tempo 120BPM
  • Time signature 4/4
  • G0 notes for all the kick drum notes
Basic project settings

Essential Plugins

I’ll use these instruments and effects from Ableton Suite to create custom kicks:

  • Instrument rack
  • Simpler
  • Analog
  • Operator
  • Compressor
  • Limiter
  • Amp
  • Saturator
  • Reverb
  • EQ Eight

Kick, 2xSimpler

For the first kick I chose an attack and a body sample, loaded into Simpler and filtered at 600 Hz both for the high and low pass.

It is important to set up the filters properly


  • Simpler, Attack, filter HP24 600 Hz
  • Simpler, Body, filter LP12 600 Hz


  • Compressor: 1.7:1 ratio, 4 ms attack, 30 ms release
  • EQ Eight: low shelf cut, 60 Hz, -4.5 dB

Kick, Simp+Opr

The second kick is made with a Simpler and an Operator. The synth part is handled by Operator, providing the body part.

Sine waves are used for both of the operators in use. The body part uses a short decay and also pitch modulation.

Operator provides the tuned body part


  • Simpler, Attack, filter HP24 600 Hz
  • Operator, Body, filter LP24 670 Hz, attack 0, decay 600ms, pitch env +12st 100%, op A sine 0 dB, op B sine -30 dB


  • Compressor: 2:1 ratio, 6 ms attack, 50 ms release
  • Limiter, default settings

Kick, Simp+Opr+Amp

This is similar to the previous example, but other effects were used. The Amp effect is causing to change its character to a lighter, brighter sound.

The Amp gives a lighter character to the drum


  • Compressor, same as before
  • Amp, Clean setting with 3 Gain, 10 Bass, 2.9 Middle, 5.2 Treble, 3 Presence, 49% dry wet
  • Limiter, same as before

Kick, Simp+Opr+AmpDist

This is similar to the previous example, but the Amp is used in a more agressive way to produce distortion and an EQ is added after to balance the low energy.


  • Compressor, same as before
  • Amp, Heavy setting with 3 Gain, 8.8 Bass, 9 Middle, 4.6 Treble, 3 Presence, 23% dry wet
  • Limiter, same as before

Kick, Simp+Analog

This is a very synthetic and robotic sounding kick, because of the square wave used in Analog.

Another thing is that I didn’t set pitch envelope, but it still sounds good for this concept.


  • Simpler, Attack, filter HP24 600 Hz
  • Analog, Body, filter LP12 189 Hz, attack 0, decay 626ms, square wave


  • Compressor: 2:1 ratio, 5.4 ms attack, 36 ms release
  • Limiter, default settings

Kick, Simp+Ana+Sat

Again, this is similar to the previous example, but the Saturator is used to give it a different vibe.

The Saturator is a great tool for adding an edgier vibe to the sound


  • Compressor, 1.6:1, 5.4ms attack, 36ms release
  • Saturator, Analog clip, +16 dB, output -7 dB, 50% dry wet
  • Limiter, default

Kick, Simp+Opr+Amp+Rvb

The interesting thing is that I can use Reverb, to add a more realistic tone to the kick.

Understand that I have to use the Reverb very carefully not to overdo the effect. I set the Reverb to mono, with a very short decay and predelay.

The Reverb gives a more natural acoustic feel to the kick


  • Compressor, same as before
  • Amp, Lead type, 3 Gain, 4 Bass, 7 Middle, 5 Treble, 3 Presence, 10% dry wet
  • Reverb, 2.5 Size, 0 Stereo, 593 ms decay, 16 predelay 40% dry wet
  • Limiter, default

Phase Setting

Not just for flipping the sample, but for Operator, I can set the start phase of the wave in degrees.

With a proper setting, I can create a sound, that has a good portion of click.

Using 3 Bands Instead of 2

I can also work with 3 bands for the sound spectrum of the kick.

Three bands means low, mid and high. It can be easily created with EQ and instrument racks or effects racks.

Bonus Tip

Feel free to swap and move effects the way you like. It can create interesting results.

Usually the Limiter goes to the end of the chain, to prevent clipping.


In this tutorial I showed you how to creat a kick in Ableton.

I used Simpler, Analog, Operator and other effects. I also listened to how a dry kick sounds with and without reverb.

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