Using FM Synthesis for Heavy Kick Drums (Part I)

Until recently, I’ve made it a habit to only use kick samples that I’ve created. Here are some tips I’ve learned from working with FM synthesis and listening to Falcom Sound Team JDK.

I like kick drums with a good attack. Not only that, they’d have to be punchy, clean and proportional (meaning no volume spikes anywhere, everything is maxed out without clipping). How could I make such a kick drum? 4-Operator FM synthesis and a little bit of EQ-ing.

Back when I used to write tracks on OPL2, I normally had to create my own kick drum using 2 operators. On a single patch, the modulator would act as both the “snap” and the “punch” while the carrier would act as the “bulk”. Afterwards, the patch would be modulated by a downward portamento to create the kick. I’d normally end up with a kick drum with a heavy bulk and not enough snap or punch. Too much volume on the modulator would cause the snap to be dry or too rubbery sounding (depending on what setting the feedback was on), so you’d always have to be careful about how much modulation and feedback you were using.

A while later I heard the soundtrack to this videogame:

The kick drum patch in this game was really full sounding and had quite a bit of punch. I exported the patch for the kick and opened it in a VGM-tracker. It looked similar to the kick patches that I’ve been making on the OPL3… but had two more operators at work. More operators makes way for more layers, and more layers make way for a more interesting sounding kick drum.

Part II: Creating the kick drum… Up Next

you heard it on grove street!

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