I'm working on a song that I'd like to have drums similar to Radiohead's "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors." I love the way the bass kick sounds like it's cloudy, as though I were hearing it through plugged ears. The contrast it has with the snare-like clicks is perfect.

What effects or equalizer settings in Ableton Live would create a similar sound? I spent some time messing with combinations of EQ, compression and other things that might destruct or squash the sound the right way, but to no avail.

Granted, I could just sample the song, but I'd much rather have my own version so I can tweak it to my heart's content.

  • 1
    For migration to SD please Tim
    – Dr Mayhem
    Jan 27, 2014 at 16:11

4 Answers 4


Do you have your kick on a separate track? If so, there is this cool plugin that will trigger a midi note depending on the sound input. You could use that to trigger a synth, or your own sample as Robert Harvey says.

As for transforming this sound:

First thing you notice is that there is a delay in the left channel. This reduces the impact as the sound is not heard simultaeously in both ears.

Second, the lows are cut. I'm guessing under 100hz things are not really happening. It's probably boosted a bit at 120Hz. Youtube is also having an affect on this. You should test this yourself with a high quality copy of this song in an analyser. AL (8?) has a pretty good one.

Third is there are not many highs. If your kick is a real drum kick, you'll need to eq the sound of the drum skin.

Fourth is some kind of FX: Maybe bit reduction and possibly some chorus. There are many ways to acheive this. If you want something warmer, you could also use some distortion.

However, all of this should really be applied reverse. At least the delay in the left ear should be added last so that the chorus (used to smooth out the harshness of bit reduction) does not sound like a "CHORUS".

They are using a constant delay on the drum kit. It sounds like a right-left-right delay. No center. AL has some FX for this. There is ping pong delay and simple delay. I'm not sure which one allows for panning (I'm not in the studio). But you'd want to delay back and forth between right and left channels with just enough feedback to only have three repetitions. Also the falloff (rate the sound volume diminishes) should be rather low, so that you continue to hear each successive delay clearly, rather that it getting quieter.

The beginning of the track, they've mutted the drum track on and off. It sounds like the kick and snare are being hit at the same time. You can automate this with envelopes in AL. This gives the impression that there is no delay and that the kick is sort of a double hit or has some kind of a reverse reverb on it.

If you want to make something sound like your ears are plugged, you'd need to cut out a lot of the mid-range and high-end, as that is what is blocked. Considerable low-end still gets though. Though, I don't think that is exactly the sound you want judging from your example.


I listened to the song, and it almost sounds like the bass drum is not a bass drum at all, but more like a distorted puff of air. If I were trying to reproduce that sound from scratch, the first thing I would do is try gently blowing into a cheap microphone. I would bet you dollars to donuts that's how Radiohead created the sound originally.


my first approach would be to take the kick (either miced or synthesized), filter out a good amount the extreme lows, the mids, and the highs, then send it through a gated reverb.

the gated reverb was kind of popular in the 80s. it can be easily recreated by using a noise gate (with a sidechain input) and a compressor.

an example signal flow, in beautiful ascii art:

   |                                             ^
   |                                             |

so the dense plate reverb is a plate reverb setting you should be able to find/create. if you can find one which has a lot of sustain and fast release, that will decrease blurring. however, part of this is the gate's job.

the compressor is pretty hard/squashed, with a short attack/release times - this keeps the signal's amplitude fairly even.

the gate uses fast attack/release, and a fairly lengthy hold -- the hold should determine the duration.

you can accomplish a variation using:


in any case, the reverb's energy will be higher than the source's energy, particularly for the sustain. the signal path you choose will create different effects, and alternates will be required depending on the performance/song.


This kind of thing doesn't generally come from applying effects, but from the right source sound in the first place. I would try many kinds of sounds from whatever origin you can think of. For kick sounds, once I miked myself slamming the sofa I was sitting on with my palm, sounded very organic. At some point you are bound to get a sound that you will instantly see that fits your idea, and then you can put fx on it. Actual source sounds are under-rated in production.

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