Creating Skrillex Style Tech Basslines Using Multiple Instances of NI Massive
This series of quick tips will outline how you can use the ever powerful NI Massive synth to create techy basslines used by artists such as Skrillex. In this example I have used Cubase but the same principles will translate to pretty much any other DAW. Here is an example of the kind of sound you can expect to end up with at the end of this series:
In this third and final installment we will look at how by using multiple instances of Massive and some sequencing tricks we can build a complex bassline from our patch.
Step 1 - Melody
Now that our sound is almost finished we need to program a simple melody for our bassline. This is likely to change a little later on so only the general idea is needed. Here's what I have come up with:
Step 2 - Even More Distortion!
We are now going to create an even rougher sound than what we have been working with so far. Duplicate the instrument track you have been working with. This should also duplicate all of the effects we were using. For now mute the original, and open up the bitcrusher we inserted earlier. Increase the sample divider up to 24, and now add another bitcrusher on the end of the effects chain, to further crush the sound - in this example I've set the second sample divider to 5.
This sound is possibly too raw to use throughout a track, but by playing the occasional note on this channel we can add some emphasis here and there. In this example I've taken my original melody, and copied the MIDI from the original instrument track to the new distorted one. By removing a couple of notes from the original track and removing all but those notes from the distorted track we can split the sequence like this:
Step 3 - LFO Automation
By automating the speed of our LFO you can get that classic wobble effect heard in dubstep. This has been covered in many other tuts so I'm not going to go into too much depth here but duplicating the instrument track again allows us to keep our original sound intact. I've also removed the bitcrusher altogether from this version of the sound to add sharpness and clarity. By splitting our melody across this track as well we can get even more variety.
Step 4 - Pitch Bend
Adding some pitch bend to the sequence can get some great results. Manage the pitch bend range from the OSC tab in massive - an octave is always a good bet. Big bends up or down sound great. Try applying a pitch bend over a series of notes for a more crazy tone - also, pitch bend applied to the heavily bitcrushed track can result in some really strange artifacts. Creating another duplicate of the track allows you to add pitch bends over a smaller range - two semitones can create some more subtle shifts.
Rapid retriggers on some notes can add even more variation. At this stage it's all about playing around with the various tricks and techniques outlined here until you have a sequence you are happy with. When you're getting close try routing the outputs of all the tracks to a group. Now you can add a little more light distortion, compression or EQ to help 'glue' the separate sounds together and unify them.
In this example I have also layered a simple sine wave sub bass beneath the other bass channels, to add some bottom end depth. The rest is all achieved using the techniques outlined in this series of tuts. I also decided that I preferred the sound of the patch played a few semitones lower down the keyboard - play around and see which range brings out the character you want from your bassline.
I've also automated the sample divider on the heavily bitcrushed version of the patch to get a shifting dynamic. This whole process is fairly organic and can take a while to master but if you stick at it you can get some great results. Try experimenting with different waveshapes for oscillator 1 - 'modern talking' seems to be a favourite at the moment.
Best of luck!