Drum Synthesis Recipes: A4 Holiday Notes

Hi y’all,

Spent the last week of Holiday with my new Analog Four, and dived into finding out how to sound-design drums and percussion. Had a great time analyzing different types of presets and acquired patches (how do people call that, backward designing or something), and sifting through tips shared here on Elektronauts.

There’s lots to find here on the Forum, but it’s all a bit scattered. So I thought to share here my compilation of analyses and some tricks shared by others. I plan to print them out and hang them with my gear. As I started off my notes just for myself, I haven’t kept track of the sources of the tips found throughout the forum. So just a general thanks and credit to the people who’s tips have ended up in this list. Sorry not to be able to quote you more handsomely.

I hope it’ll help some other people new to synthesis to start trying out making their own drum and percussion sounds, as I was until now a bit shy to try and have found it really way easier than I thought, plus it’s upped my synth game and enjoyment considerably. Consider it an entry-class, as opposed to a master-class (being no master myself, and meant for readers likewise). This also means there might be some small errors in the recipes below. But I think there’s enough to learn from, that you’ll quickly start spotting and fixing potential mistakes below, or experimenting with your own variations.

If people end up sharing more tips here, I can add them to the list!

Some notes:

  1. I started my holiday reading the Sound On Sound synthesis articles. But I hadn’t the stamina to go through those, focusing much on the proper theory and maths behind áctual fysical drum instrument sound properties. So this list is really more a practical functional drum sounds kinda thing, then an in-depth reference for realistic sounding drum synthesis.
  2. Lots of info in the list comes from me analyzing drum patches, looking at for examples 12 snare patches and finding similarities and different tricks used. This means I’ve often listened, tweaked, and guesstimated why certain parameters are used a certain way - and sometimes I might be wrong in my conclusions, or there might be more reasons behind a certain parameter used, or I’m lacking in the words I’ve used to describe them. Feel free to add or correct me if I’ve got things wrong or incomplete in my notes.
  3. I’m posting this under A4, as that’s what I’ve used, and which parameters I’ll reference. But I’m sure most of these recipes can be used on any other mono or poly synth with a good set of common synth parameters.

Finally, to counter in advance the arguments against synth recipes, of “just use your ears” and “there are no rules”. I disagree that recipes are in the way of that: I think using recipes and tricks towards patching classic sounds, trains your ears a lot. And I think rules can be often better broken after understanding them.

Not yet explored, but looks promising:

Last note: in most percussive patches I’ve found, LFO’s are most often used for one shots of the “exponential shape” (“exponential decay” when applied with a positive value), in a quick time. On different values applied, this gives different sounds to the first attack phase of the drum sound. In the recipes below I might sometimes just mention “one shot LFO” and forget to mention the details/shape. I’ll most likely mean this.

Kicks recipes

Principle: Low Osc, Short AMP, Short Filter Envelope, Oneshot LFO or short Filter mod for Punch and Attack


  • OSC: Often only OSC1, OSC2 zero volume
  • OSC1: Tuned -22 - -32, level 100-127
  • OSC1: No Fine or Detune needed, no Tracking
  • OSC1: Shape triangle or FDB
  • OSC1: Pulsewidt sometimes
  • OSC1: PWM 0
  • OSC1: Most times no Sub
  • OSC2: not used
  • OSC2 submenu: Often none used (no AM, Sync, Bend, Vibrato)
  • AMP: Attack 0, Decay 42-75, Sustain 0, Release 8-42
  • AMP: Sometimes Sustain 100-127, for longer bassy kicks
  • AMP shape: attack doesn’t matter, decay/release shape often exponential
  • Sometimes some noise with a quick fadeout +42-+63
  • FILTER1: Frequency around 0-70, Res 0-32 (some patches up to 100)
  • FILTER1: No Drive or Tracking
  • FILTER2: Highpass, Frequency 17-26, Res 28-127, no Tracking needed
  • FILTER2: Often PK (Peak) shape or LP2
  • FILTER: Filter 1 Mod Depth 20-45, Filter 2 Mod Depth 0-20
  • ENV1, Decay: Longer Envelope Decay means longer Filter Sweep means more tone (because ENV1 is standard routed to Filter Mods of FILT1&2, so it takes longer for especcially the lowpass Filter1 to close)
  • ENV1: Attack 0, Sustain 0 or little, Release little
  • ENV1: No Gate
  • ENV: Often Pitch Mod +20 to +30 on OSC1
  • ENV: No PWM
  • ENV: Note: Using FILT2 Frequency Depth (mod #39) at for example +32 in the Envelope page sounds different then F2 Filter Env Depth on Filter page. Maybe someone Wouldn’t they be the same thing? Maybe someone here can explain…
  • LFO: F1/F2 Freq. One or half shot, 16x up to 1K. Most often positive value, but I’ve come across a patch with a negative value. This gives the Kick its attack (maybe this gave more of a thud instead of a click?) Sometimes also PichMod used instead or together with FiltFreq.
  • LFO: patch example: PMX: OSCX Pich Mod: One Shot +50, 1K

Hihats recipes (OHH)

Principle: Simple Patch. Short AMP, Noise Generator, most low and mid frequencies filtered out with a high pass filter


  • Noise + Coloring
  • Highpass Filter to remove low and mid frequencies
  • Short Amp Decay
  • Often no OSC, no Filter Mod, no other filter patching, no LFOs
  • TRICKS: LFO to remove the tail a little bit; use fade-in parameter to only affect the tail [EN]
  • TRICKS: Use OSC Vibrato with a fade in to make the tail move [I read this on EN, don’t fully understand it, I suppose it only works if you use OSC2?]; or LFO on other parameters {EN]
  • TRICKS: High Res. In high frequency area of the filter
  • TRICKS: A little chorus and reverb can help [EN]
  • TRICKS: Overdrive can be nice
  • TRICKS: Use FILT1 highcut to lower the tone of the hihat
  • TRICKS: Delay 1/8th dotted with moderate feedback makes nice 16th CHHs from a backbeat OHH. Use Delays HPF around +50 to +64 to change the tone of the CHH’s
  • TRICKS: LFO oneshot on Noise S&H to affect tone
  • TRICKS: As long as you low-cut most of the frequency with the Filter, you can use OSC1 and 2 to add tone/character. Try applying with AM 1>2, 2>1, and Metal. Use a very quick one shot or “Trig” LFO to move the sound/parameters of the AM / Sync of the oscillators.
  • TRICKS: Use one shot exponential shape LFO in a small positive value and a very quick time, to add some extra attack, like the drum stick hitting the HH
  • TRICKS: Try opening the filter more towards mid frequency, you might find a nice PERC/Snare

Snare recipes

Principle: Like Hihats but added tone, Short AMP, Noise Generator, some added tone and a little less highpass filtering (some mids tones also audible)


  • Always noise, 100-127, sometimes fadeout used
  • Mostly also one OSC used (only very sometimes also OSC2)
  • FILT1: Around high frequencies, sometimes with res turned up. Or frequency a bit lower and FiltMod Depth used (+10 to +40)
  • FILT2: Most often HP2, sometimes PK, sporadically like F1 above
  • FILT2: With HP2, Frequency around 40-45 for lower sounding snares, 50-65 for higher sounding snares
  • AMP: Attack 0, Decay often around 20-35
  • AMP: No sustain for 808, 909, Perc, and rim types of snares (Rel. 10-40)
  • AMP: Sustain used for more boomy, hard, loud, and whiplash type snares (Rel. sometimes longer up to 80)
  • ENV: Often Pitch mod (short, like AMP envelope, moderate positive value approx +12 - +32)
  • ENV: Sometimes a quick envelope on level (high value), on frequency or on resonance for some extra attack at the starting phase of the snare
  • LFO: quick one shot sometimes used on Pitch Mod, Frequency, or Overdrive
  • LFO: one nice example used a short one shot LFO on Chorus Send (16x speed, exponential shape, one shot, quick fadeout, for some nice attack in the starting phase of the Snare)
  • TRICKS: Pitch mod LFO oneshot, Depth f.e. +40. To “fix” the resulting poing-sound of the quick filter sweep, use a quick fadeout on the LFO.
  • TRICKS: Freerunning LFO on OSC Pitchmod. Very high speed. “Random” LFO waveform. As soon as you turn up the P.Mod on the OSC, it changes from tone to noise - but a more complex / rougher noise than the Noise Generator. This can then also be combined with the noise generator.
  • TRICKS: Use a véry brief envelope (Decay +2) on OSC-frequency for a quick high blip, followed by a lower basy thump/pop. Add noise. This gives a little extra lower register after a higher sounding attack to the otherwise mostly heard noise of the snare.
  • TRICKS: All other kinds of sounds can be added with OSC1 and/or OSC2, to layer some sounds behind the noise. I found that often with 808/909 sounding patches, this was the case, with a soft short sounding clave or tom-like pitched sound hidden behind the noise. Other way around: Try adding noise to your Perc patches!
  • PATCH: Use OSC1 & 2. No AM or Sync. Both OSC levels around 75. Both square wave shape (I think to make the sound more transient). Both a bit detuned. No subs, no PWM, no TRK. Then add noise. This makes a harmonically more rich/detuned snare sound.

Tom Recipes


  • OSC TRK on (for chromatic, pitched tonal toms)
  • Either OSC1 & 2 (often triangle waveform, sometimes one oscillator with a square)
  • Or: no OSC’s > Filter 1 & 2 Resonance both way up (2x 127)
  • No subs, no PWM, PW zero
  • OSC1 submenu: Often noise used, with a quick fadeout (+ 45-60) for some attack
  • OSC2 submenu: OSC retrig often on
  • OSC2 submenu: no AM1 or 2, no Osc.Sync. Try to taste
  • OSC2 submenu: often some positive bend and slide, no vibrato
  • Sound settings: often no legato mode, often F1 Res. boost, often OSC drift (not sure how necessary these settings are)
  • AMP: attack and sustain zero. Decay 35-75, Release 36-64. Exponential decay shape.
  • F1: often around 75-85, little reso (0-25). Positive filter-mod depth
  • Filter envelope (Env1): very quick decay (7-25), for a short high burst like a drumstick hitting the drum before the rest of the lower “boom”.
  • F2: LP around 50-60 with a little reso and filter mod depth (Env1)
  • Exceptions: One patch used highpass on F2 with resonance on 127 in the low-end
  • Exceptions: One path used F1 frequency set to 0 & Reso 127; and F2 (peak type) frequency on 34 & Reso 127. No filter envelop mod, filter tracking on. Simply focussing on the low end frequencies.
  • LFO not used often. One patch used a fast Trig-lfo on pitchmod. Didn’t hear much difference when turning it off.
  • Tricks: Env2 on OSC level or pitch mod at a positive value

Perc recipes
non-skin percussion like clave, woodblock etc.

A4: (started to get tired so a bit botched these last ones:)

  • OSC: Often one or both OSC’s
  • Often noise, no fadeout (as opposed to toms)
  • AMP: Quick Decay (16-32), no Attack or Sustain, Release 0-32.
  • F: Often one or both Filters with high Resonance
  • F: Little or no filter envelope mod depth (maybe that’s more for resonating skin-type drums)
  • F: Often a combination of F1 lowpass and F2 highpass with some Reso on both, to enhance the high with F1 and low-mid frequency with F2
  • Sometimes AM1 or AM2, sometimes OscSync, sometimes slide or bend, occasionally vibrato. No legato mode.
  • Little use of Filter2 or LFO’s. If so: pitch mod or filter frequency (only some, positive value)