Transient Shaping Tutorial (with Free Plugin!)

Transient shaping is the art of altering the sudden peaks of a piece of audio – for creative or technical purposes. Find out more in our transient shaping tutorial!

If you’ve ever had a kick sound, or perhaps a guitar – especially one you’ve recorded yourself – that lacks a little bit of ‘thump’, then our transient shaping tutorial will come in really handy. Whereas compression works by looking at audio level, transient shaping works by examining the rate of change in audio level. This means that a transient – a sudden peak in sound – doesn’t have to be a certain volume, it just has to be a certain volume louder than the audio that came immediately before it…

Transient Shaping Tutorial

Check out our simple transient shaping tutorial below:

As you can see, there’s not a huge amount ‘to’ transient shaping, but if you’ve ever used a huge chain of compressors, gates, manual amplification adjustments and so on to get the thump of a kick to become more pronounced or the picking of a guitar to be softer then you’ll appreciate how a transient shaper can save you a huge amount of time for the same result!

Transient Monster: Free Transient Shaper Plugin

As mentioned in the video, there are tons of transient shapers, both in hardware and software. Native Instruments Maschine 1.8 now has a built in version of the Guitar Rig based Transient Master plugin, Propellerhead Reason has a transient shaper built into the Kong Drum Designer, and Logic, Cubase, and plenty more software have included transient shapers. If you don’t have one of those, or you want to try something new, then look no further than Transient Monster from Stilwell Audio. Transient Monster costs $50 (or just $25 if you use it in Reaper), but if you just want to try it out and play around with it you’re invited to download it for free directly from Stilwell. It works for Mac and PC, which is something we always try and find for plugins we recommend at OD – there are a few other freeware transient shapers around but we only found options that were for Windows or Mac OSX, no cross compatible options. Still, if you know something we don’t let us know in the comments!

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  • Project Tempo

    Great little tutorial of a technique that makes a massive difference. Would you advise combining it with a compressed or perhaps using it after you’ve compressed to bring back some snap?

    • Chris

      Good question Project Tempo. If you shape transients first you’ll retain more of the character you dial in attack/sustain wise when you compress but sort of soften it like a water colour, whereas if you compress first you’ll get more sharpness to your shaping. I’d say experiment!

  • VHS

    I hope this is a precursor to that drum layering/design tutorial you seemed to be alluding to, a few blog posts back, Chris. I’m really interested to see how your particular techniques differ from my own. :)

    As for the drawings of the waveform and transients, I say go for it. I think the use of the tablet (and stylus) or whatever it is you’re using is a good idea as it can be used to convey concepts in a more elaborate manner than just using charts and graphs. If I weren’t familiar with transient shapers I certainly would have been able to get the idea from those illustrations alone.

    • Chris

      Thanks VHS :) More drum design stuff is in the works!

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