It’s perhaps no secret, but to get the maximum power out of Tempest, layering the analogue and digital oscillators is the way to go. There will be no silly discussions re: the relative merits of analogue and digital – this time less theory and straight into the mire.
Kicks are a matter of taste and vary widely between different styles. So let’s try building a flexible template that will allow us to go from boomy headbangers to more natural sounding kicks in a few knob tweaks. This is by no means the only approach, but it is one that has brought me satisfaction.
The three components we’ll use:
- A sub-sine to provide the body of the kick,
- a kick sample to provide tonal flavour, and
- the analogue oscillators to provide punch and click.
- Starting with an initialised patch, and based on the preceding sub-bass recipe, put a 130Hz sine on Osc 4 and for a start turn it’s pitch all the way down to -24. We’ll come back here to tune our kick…
- In Osc 3 put one of provided Kick samples. To start, try one that has some interesting harmonics (the sample called ‘Nice’ is a good one). But no doubt you will want to try them all at some point, as these provide much of the character of our kick.
- It’s essential now to play with the relative levels of Osc 3 and Osc4 – try to get a nice balance between the two.
Now, this should already sound pretty good and thumpy, without any filter or other settings. Which is handy because we can bypass the filter for the digital Oscs, leaving it free for other tasks.
- So yeah – but all means bypass the filter. I usually set the Pre/Post filter setting at 20/80 so that a little of the signal still goes through the filter. As usual, it’s a matter of taste and experimentation. The cool side-effect of this is that in 16 beats mode, tweaking the filter doesn’t affect our nice low-end. Opens lots of creative opportunities.
- Now let’s look at the Amp envelope. Of course increasing the decay allows more of the sub through. But we can also apply a little ‘Peak’ to give a more upfront sound. Peak is accessed through the rightmost softknob (above the screen) when in envelope mode. Here’s where we should set our primary velocity sensitivity also – v important!
- If the tail is going to be long it needs some animation. Therefore map LFO1 to Osc4 frequency – using a triangle wave to get a wobble going. Personally I like to keep it fast and vibrant – but it can also be tempo-synced; try 8ths or quarters to achieve rhythmic pumping effects. Let’s control it so that the LFO rate slows as the sound decays. First set LFO amount to a reasonable figure (say 60) and turn the Rate all the way to zero. Now go into ModPaths and map Amp Envelope to LFO1 Frequency. As we increase the Mod amount we can hear the effect we want (assuming we have the Amp decay set long enough. As the decay is shortened the wobble effect become less obvious but it definitely contributes to the overall character. And for the better in most cases IMO.
- Staying on the tail, and talking of character, set LFO2 to control All Osc Frequencies and try the Sawtooth (ramp-up) wave. Turn down the rate and set a healthy amount so we can hear our work – say 80. Now slowly turn-up the rate knob. Try various rate/amount settings whilst changing the Amp decay. I find this a great way to make a kick more interesting. Even at extreme settings there are plenty of sweet-sounding variants to surprise and delight. We can even sync this pitch rise to tempo – it can sound pretty cool in a 4/4 pattern when LFO2 sync is set to quarter notes and the Amp decay kept suitably long. Switching to the Reverse Sawtooth (ramp-down) gives us an extra pitch envelope which allows us to add a degree of punch to our digital Oscs. Loads to explore in the LFO’s – you know you want to…
- Now would be a good time to start switching the Kick sample in Osc 3 and re-tuning our Sub in Osc4. As we increase the pitch of our Sub we may also need to adjust LFO1 and it’s control via the Amp envelope.
Ok, moving on to the Analogue oscillators. I’m tending to use these to create the attack and much of the punch. The general principle is to apply several pretty extreme pitch envelopes to Osc frequency. Resulting artefacts – clicks and squeaks – can be hidden behind the sounds of the digital Oscs and controlled to good effect with the filter.
- I always start with Osc 2 with Mix at 0/100. This allows me flexibility to use Filter FM later if I wish (because, as we know, Osc1 is the FM modulator). TBH I haven’t found the Tempest FM very useful for kick-drums (yet) – it seems to impart a hollowing effect, but it’s always nice to have the options.
- However, because we’ve bypassed the filter for the digital oscillators we can, if we wish, use the classic filter kick effect to supplement the samples in Osc 3 and 4. No analogue oscs needed. Therefore, as we have discussed in part 1, use the 4-pole filter, high resonance, low cutoff and use the Filter envelope to simulate the pitch-dropped sine. Lots of variety here. Always a viable option for punchy/squeaky kicks.
For this template I will continue to use Osc2, so open the filter and close the resonance.
- Starting with a triangle, key follow off and wave reset on. Set the frequency at c3. If you’ve done the LFO reverse sawtooth to pitch mapping, you should already hear it’s effect on Osc 2. But it’s a bit weedy. Enter the pitch envelope. Set it to control Osc 2 frequency only and give it a healthy dose – say a decay of 30 and amount of 127. Yes, pretty extreme and you will hear the familiar squeak if you open the filter (but turn down the resonance first!).
- But I’m not stopping there. I also use Aux env 1 to control Osc 2 frequency, again with extreme settings; short decay (20) and full amount (127) for now (but play with this setting). A little trick from the DSI Tempest forums – the envelopes can be delayed – in the aux env1 screen press the right arrow twice and set the delay to 3. This will cause a slight doubling along with a click. This one is a matter of taste but very worthy of exploration (not only for kick drums – it’s also perfect for claps and snares where multiple amp envelopes, slightly delayed, provide a convincing ‘crack’ effect).
- As this will be all very squeaky, it’s time to close the Low Pass filter – just enough to lose the squeak yet retain a little body of Osc2. Now but using the Filter envelope we can control precisely how much of the squeak and click poke through with a decay of 20 and amount of 127 we are in pretty punchy territory.
- Whilst the Low Pass filter settings are critical to getting the right ‘thunk’ and solidity, it is the High-Pass filter that holds most surprises. Just start turning it up. Of course this is filtering only Osc2, but it gives more control over the attack and provides definition and clarity . With reasonable HP filter settings and shorter Amp decay it’s possible to achieve quite natural sounding kicks – however this is also dependent on the sample used in Osc3. A little compression and Bob’s yer uncle.
- Additionally, using the high-pass filter I find makes it safer to use high levels of Amp feedback. This can add some extreme clickiness or ‘knock’ for the hardest of hard kicks. But be very careful here because high Amp feedback + open filter = ouch for you and your equipment. However, judicious balancing of HP filter and Amp feedback alone provides huge variations. This on top of switching the sample in Osc3 and retuning the sub = who says that Tempest has no punch?
- Mapping the sliders to Amp envelope decay, pitch envelopes and the filter gives plenty of sequencing fodder.
OK, enough babbling for now. In Bass drums part 3 we’ll finally make that surdo and try a timpani.
As always, I’m happy to accept corrections, suggestions and reasonable critique.