Music Production Lessons: Making the 909 kick sample your own

Updated: Jun 16

A staple element in past and modern-day house & techno productions, the 909 kick has been the foundation of many underground dance records! With new, modern productions often being mastered to club system shattering levels, we now have the need and opportunity to beef up the old 909 kick to suit new, futuristic house & techno productions.

In our example, we are using Ableton’s stock 909 drum kit focusing specifically on the kick drum.

Listen to our before and after example here

Step 1

Load Ableton's stock 909 kit which can be found under ‘drums’ in the left-hand sidebar.

Now, working in Ableton's session view, double click in an empty clip slot in one of the midi channels (two midi and two audio channels load as default in the starting template). Make sure the piano roll is set to eighth notes ( if not, right-click anywhere in the midi clip and set to ⅛ under the fixed grid options) and use the pencil tool to draw in a note on every beat at 1, 1.2, 1.3,1.4 on the grid 🎹.

Step 2

Moving away from the midi clip, click on 1-909 core kit in the bottom right-hand corner to move over to the channel view. This view can also be reached by double-clicking on the top of the channel also.

Let's raise the volume of our kick slightly to -8.5db in simpler. Make sure classic mode is enabled and set Attack to 0.00, Decay to around 267ms, Sustain to -31db and release to 414ms (there are no set rules here and you should play around with all the settings until you get something you like the sound of).

Step 3.

Adding FX ⚡

Now, let's add some FX to attempt to make the sample unique to us (there are no set rules here and you should play around with all the settings until you get something you like the sound of).

First load Ableton's Pedal effect to beef up and distort the kick drum (be aware of possible large volume increases here) and dial in the settings in the image shown.

WOW, what a difference. HUGE! Pedal has added lots of warm distortion to our kick and really emphasised the body and tail. Now, let's tame this sound and round it off a bit using some more FX

Drum Buss 🥁

Load in Drum Buss after the pedal effect. Let's reduce the volume by -4.2db on the ‘out meter’ and lower the dry/wet control to around 35% before we dial in some settings. Set the drive to 20%, compression rate to medium and crunch to 10%. We are going to leave the boom on 0% to allow room for a bassline. If you are going for a ‘kick only’ driven track (like some techno productions) you can experiment with the boom settings to get a more sustained kicktail.

Now, let's set the damp all the way up to 20.0K and the transient shaper to 0.10 giving us a little more bite. The kick sample is in the key of G so set freq to 49hz as this is relevant to the G1 octave. If you have transposed your kick, make sure to set the frequency to the according to frequency key. A note frequency chart can be found here. Finally, set the decay to around 70% and we are done with Drum Buss.

Saturation 🔥

Load up Abletons saturation effect using the ‘A bit warmer preset’. Now, dial back the dry/wet control to around 20%. This gives a little bit more punch a presence in the mid and high range.

Shaping the sound with EQ ⚡

Now, you may be thinking the kick sounds rather boomy and muddy. Here is where we really shape the sound with some EQ. Load in Ableton’s EQ8 and copy over similar settings from the image shown.

Node 1: Freq 20hz, Q 1.09

Node 2: Freq 225hz, Gain -8.10db, Q0.56

Node 3: Freq 2030hz, Gain +1.43db, Q0.71

Node 8: Freq 12700hz, Q 0.71

We have now taken a lot of the muddy and boxy frequencies out with a drastic cut around 225hz, we have tamed the top end with a medium slope cut around 12700hz - allowing room for hi-hats etc.

Erosion ✔

Let's add some erosion to add extra fuzz/noise. Load up Ableton's erosion effect with the 'sine 4.6mid' preset. Switch the mode from sine to noise and that is all we need to do here.

Compression - Glue Compressor 🎛

Let's compress all the effects and alterations together using Ableton's amazing Glue compressor. Load it up with the preset 'drum full parallel'. This will add some parallel compression thickening up the bottom end and providing more punch in the higher range whilst glueing all our effects together into one sound.

Play around with the threshold so the needle isn't dancing over 5 on the meter. We have set ours to around -9.52db but do this by ear and see what you like.

Extra and Final shaping with EQ8 🔊

Let's shape the sound further using more EQ. Load up another instance of EQ8. Make a sharp cut using the 4-pole filter on node 1 around 25hz. Let’s take out some more boxy frequencies at 150hz with a -8.1db bell cut with a 3.19 Q. Set node 3 to around 563hz and cut -1.67db with a 0.96Q. Finally set node 8 to 10600hz.

Utility/Mono ✔

Finally, let's add a utility plugin and toggle mono which will make sure the kick drum is completely mono and centre in our mix.

There you have it. We have taken a rather tame sounding 909 kick sound and made into a huge bouncy techno kick!. These examples are by no means the set rules and you should always play around with the settings on every effect until you get a sound you are happy with.

We hope you can use these tips as a starting block to get more unique sounding kicks into your techno and house productions!

Download the Ableton set here.

You will need Ableton 10.1.14 or higher for guaranteed compatibility.

Thanks! Team SKapade 😉

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