Cubix – Drum synth and sample player
Psychic Modulation makes a selection of freeware VST instruments for Windows, that are more fully featured than you might expect. Cubix is a drum synthesiser and sample player with an onboard arpeggiated bass synth.
Onboard crossfade sequencers let you blend between the drum sections for easy live performance, and there’s randomisation and the ability to mix, match and manipulate beats. Having an integrated bass synth and being able to use sampled or synthesised drum parts makes this a clever little box for building electronic sequences.
W: http://www.psychicmodulation.com/plugins.html – Platform: PC
Hahaha DS-01 – Drum machine and synthesiser
Electronic drum machines were always more flexible than sample-based ones because their sounds were generated using synthesis rather than sampling, and therefore much more open to manipulation. The curiously-named ‘hahaha DS-01’ isn’t particularly hilarious, but it is a straightforward drum synth that the developer claims “would have existed in 1983” if it had been a real product.
The look is sparse, and you get eight synth sections, one for each drum type, from kick and snare to hi-hats and toms. The results are as you would expect: thoroughly 80s. Each sound can be extensively tweaked and has panning and volume controls.
W: http://www.pethu.se/music/instruments.html – Platform: Mac, PC
TS-808 – Emulation of Roland TR-808
Roland’s classic TR-808 has been emulated a lot, but if you can find a free version, so much the better. This Windows-only instrument takes original samples, analyses them and matches their waveforms as closely as possible to the real thing. As you might expect, the voices have more tweakability than those on the original hardware, but it’s still pretty simple to use.
Controls vary a little, depending on the channel, but most have tuning, tone and decay knobs as well as velocity, level, pan and selectable output. There are 15 channels available and you can create cool-sounding retro drum patterns with it. It’s simple to use and rather easier than trying to track down a real 808.
W: http://tactilesounds.blogspot.co.uk – Platform: PC
Minispillage – Drum synth module
There are fewer freebies on the Mac platform than Windows, but they tend to be pretty good. Minispillage comes from developer Audiospillage, and is a free, pro-quality drum synth plug-in with 64-bit DSP processing. It features three fully editable drum pads that can create a range of drum and percussion sounds: Bass Drum, Wood Drum and Electro Hi-Hat.
The Bass Drum module uses a single oscillator with pitch sweep, internal FM and harmonic controls. The Wood Drum synthesises natural and synthetic timbres from log drums to toms, and the Hi Hat module is a six-oscillator closed and open hat generator with noise source and dual resonant filters. It’s more advanced than you might expect.
W: http://www.audiospillage.com/minispillage.html – Platform: Mac AU
DSK SynthDrums – Drum synth
Synth drum kits form the basis of many kinds of music, and DSK SynthDrums is a quick way to bring them into your projects for free. It can store 12 patches and has a system for easily assigning sounds to the keyboard.
There’s selectable output and MIDI automation support inside your DAW, plus multiple effects, including filters, stutter, distortion and EQ. Each of the sounds can be controlled using the extensive synthesis sections, and patches can be copied and pasted, saved and loaded using the utility section at the top.
By tweaking pitch and other characteristics, it’s easy to create some authentic-sounding electronic drum parts in just a few minutes.
W: http://www.dskmusic.com/dsk-synthdrums – Platform: PC
Teragon Audio KickMaker – Dedicated kick drum synth
Some drum instruments are dedicated to making a single kind of drum sound. In EDM, kick sounds are very important, and Teragon Audio’s KickMaker is designed for creating kick drum sounds. It has four independent oscillators and a variety of effects.
Each oscillator has its own ADSR curve for shaping the sound, and there’s a further ADSR section for the summed output of the oscillators. You load this instrument onto its own MIDI track and program the kick parts separately from your other beats, or use it to bolster existing drum parts by introducing heavier kick parts underneath existing patterns.
W: http://teragonaudio.com/KickMaker.html – Platform: Mac