How to create a drum kit with D16’s Punchbox

Illustration: Ronin Wood

Although D16 Group’s Punchbox is a bass drum synthesizer geared towards designing kicks, it can be used to craft any part of the drum set and even non-drum sounds.

In this tutorial, we’re going to look at some of the great features of Punchbox and how they can be used to create the different components of a drum kit.

Check out the Ableton project containing all the sounds we’ll explore here:

Creating the kick

Loaded with over 800 presets and 1100 samples, Punchbox ensures there will be no shortage of inspiration when you’re searching for the right kick. These presets are well organized with tags that help you narrow down the results to find the sound in your head. You can surface more presets in the interface by clicking the Expand Results icon:

punchbox-kit-results

Punchbox is able to preview the presets without committing to them – try using the arrow keys to quickly audition presets (you can even go left to right through the list).

punchbox-kit-kick-browsing-preset

Creating the Snare

One of the great features of Punchbox is its ability to load any sample into any of the Click, Tops, Tools, and Sampler modules. To load a snare downloaded from Splice Sounds into one of the sampler modules, click on the Browse button at the bottom right of the module:

punchbox-kit-close-up-5

Click on Edit Mode and an Import Sample button will appear. You can use this to batch import your Splice samples into your user library. Once the snare is loaded, you can use Punchbox’s powerful FX and sampling modules to sound design the snare.

punchbox-kit-import-samples

punchbox-kit-snare-import

Creating the Hats

Punchbox’s sampler modules are broken down into the following categories:

  • Click – generates the short initial click / attack of the kick
  • Tops – responsible for the accent’s sustain (typically slightly longer tones with higher frequencies)
  • Tools – adds additional rumbles and background sounds to accompany the primary tone
  • Kick – generates the primary tone of the sound

For the hi hats, we can browse some of the many samples included in Punchbox. By browsing the Tops module you’ll see a HiHats & Rides filter. Once you audition and pick the hi hat, you can try dialing in some distortion to add some extra crunch to your sound.

punchbox-kit-hi-hat-tops-select

Creating the Tom

One of the most unique and powerful features in Punchbox is its randomization function. Click on the top right Random button, and you’ll see an orange Randomize icon appear at the bottom of the GUI. Once you click the icon, Punchbox will randomize the samples in each of the four sampler modules, the Sample Start time of the Tops and Tools modules, and lastly the Mode of the Kick module.

Once you’re happy with the sound, you can turn off the randomization on individual parameters.

Try randomizing until you get a lighter percussive sound:

punchbox-kit-perc-randomize

One great feature of Punchbox’s Kick module is its ability to Keytrack, or in other words change the pitch according to which note is played on the keyboard.

punchbox-kit-keytrack

By turning on Keytrack at the bottom right of Kick module, we can play different pitched toms across the keyboard.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the sonic possibilities of Punchbox, but hopefully this inspires you to try experimenting with the plugin yourself. If you don’t have the plugin yet, grab Punchbox for $4.99/mo.

Let us know your favorite tips and tricks in the comments!

April 4, 2018