Allsorts of Stuff

In The Studio – Simple Kick making in Operator

So I been noticing a lot of guys on youtube, pushing the theory that sample packs these days are giving us some really shitty kicks, I have also felt that I have to whack loads of extra bits ontop of these samples or layer them to get a decent sounding kick out of them. So I figured I’d look at designing my own kick in Operator, I haven’t spent a lot of time learning how to use Operator yet, I think its time to start digging deeper into this instrument and stop using sampled kicks as much. I wanted a simple thumping kick and came across some good stuff, so thought I’d share it. Here is the first screenshot, the whole chain, with all effects so you can see where I ended up and then I’ll go back and show you a little behind the scenes.

kick with effects chain

So as you can see, well I hope you can wordpress  has changed and it looks very small to me, I have a Saturator on there, this is what makes the kick sing for me. I started with a preset, Mid Range Phattener. I figured it might work, now it sounded ok but the mid range was a little high for a kick, so I dropped the frequency down to where it is now. It really brings out the low end, sort  of my low end phattener, in fact I think I’ll save that preset now. I also shortened the width control aswell. Just in case you wanted to follow along from scratch and tweak it to your own perfection.

I feel though that we better look deeper into what I did with Operator, here is a shot of the base layer, A. In the picture below I have higlighted the important bit with a yellow box, the envelope is what is most important. That is the shape you need for a kick. I’m still learning a lot of this myself, I love to test boundaries, but for me no release was best. I chose a sine wave as this is the bass side, if you will of the kick. Kept the volume at full and set the frequency to fixed and decided on 92Hz, this just sounded right for me. I dare say you could go slightly lower or higher depending on your preference.

operator A

Given that layering is always common in Kicks and well you need a high end as well as a low end in kick sounds often, I put in another layer, B. I am guess I was going for a hard thump with this kick, not sure if its quite there but I figured a square wave would be the best choice. I didn’t want the volume as high as when played even at a lower frequency it does seem to distort or carry some high end noise or an airy sound if you will. The envelope on this wave is slightly different, with a longer decay time. I feel this adds a better feel to the sound, I’m just playing by ear here, so tweak it to your pleasure.

Operator B

Given that the sound seemed pretty much there now, I decided to try adding an LFO, I figured if it doesn’t work I can always take it out. I didn’t feel that adding a filter would do much for the sound at this stage, I knew I would be tweaking it with an EQ8 later so why not see if an LFO adds some depth to the sound. I didn’t do much with this I just kind of tweaked around, settling on the screenshot below, I know it might sound a bit unknowing but I just slapped it on there and well when it sounded good I kept it. I feel people sometimes get too bogged down in the technicalities of making music. So just tweak it if needs be, everyone has different tastes.

LFO section

So that is the base of my kick. From here you can add whatever effects you want or if you feel it would benefit from it, add a filter in the initial operator patch. I personally decided to opt for my EQ8 and Saturator. Incidentally I didn’t add the EQ first I went for the saturator, which I have already discussed. I added the EQ at the end. Even after a little VST they call Ohmicide. Please note I know that a lot of people won’t have Ohmicide, I’d recommend giving it a go, I’m a big fan of trying before you buy, so get on the hunt, I’m not sure if there is a demo available but this is a world class multiband distortion VST. You don’t have to use Ohmicide, although personally I feel better doing so as it offers me, a more colourful range of options compared to the built in distortion Ableton offers.  So a quick look at the EQ and then you should have your own simple kick.

EQ8 4

The first section to note is the 4th node. I have used a shelf to quieten the high end, this I feel compensates for the lack of a filter in the initial preset. In my opinion I feel I have more control.  You can tweak this to whatever you like, take out more, have a less prominent cutting slope, cut less from the sound. EQ 8 is a versatile tool, although little spoiler I think the new Ableton 9 has a better even more versatile tool. So onwards to the next point. Node 3 I believe.

EQ8 3

A subtle lift to the lower end here at just below 80Hz gives the kick a little more to it I feel. It doesn’t overpower though which I think is an important point. So there you have it my simple kick. Well of course,  Ohmicide does add that extra subtle or pounding distortion, so here is the settings I used for it and I will post my 4×4 loop on soundcloud to let people see what mine sounds like.


Highlighted in yellow is the section where I made edits to the default preset. I changed the type of distortion, the gain controls, the shape of the distortion. I also set the band frequencies, I think I forgot to set the third one that isn’t in the box but usually I would. Its a habit I got into after watching a video on using the VST. Anyway hope this is of some use. I enjoyed sharing it with you and happy tweaking.

4 x 4 Loop is here

Thanks for reading,



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