How to Make a Kick Drum From a Sine Wave

Sounds are dynamic and can be created with a variety of samples and synthesis methods. A sinewave is used in this tutorial to create a kick drum. It is easiest to use a pure sine tone synthesiser, such as Operator in Ableton Live, but the principles can be applied to any synthesiser or digital audio workstation.

Similar topics were more prevalent prior to the availability of easy-to-find samples, dating back to 2002, but the principles remain the same even with modern software.

This tutorial employs a simpler method than those described in the article, relying solely on a midi trigger, a sine oscillator (VCO), and a low pass filter (LPF), each with an envelope generator (AR contour generator).


1. Create a new project and assign a midi channel to an instance of the Operator preset “Sine Waveform” under “Components.” Adding a Spectrum Analyzer also aids in visualising the sound.

2. While designing the sound, create a midi pattern with evenly spaced notes to play automatically. It is a good idea to know the key of the song for which you are creating the kick and to select a root note that will be in sync with the other elements.

3. Pitch envelope should be adjusted. Once a tone is playing at a consistent interval, the pitch envelope can be adjusted to simulate the “thud” of a kick drum. Check that the envelope is active (the square should be blue) and that operator A in the “Dest. A” setting is affecting the envelope. Adjusting the envelope is a personal preference that will vary depending on the desired sound, but 18 to 24 semitones above the root note for the “Initial” and “Peak” is a good place to start. The pitches for “Sustain” and “End” can also be changed, but be careful not to deviate too far from the root note.

4. Activate the filter once the desired pitch envelope results have been obtained using the pitch envelope settings. Select the low pass filter from the dropdown menu. To achieve the desired sound, adjust the frequency and resonance. The filter envelope can also be changed, but the frequency and resonance will have the greatest impact on the sound.

5. Effects should be added. Finally, effects like EQ and compression can be applied, but the most effective way to shape the sound is to design it correctly from the start. To normalise the sound and add some “punch,” a limiter is still a good idea. Make sure not to exceed the limiter’s 3 to 6 dB reduction, as indicated by the metre.

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