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 first installment we will look at the basic parameters you will need to set up to build your synth patch in massive.
Step 1 - Oscillators
Once you've got an instrument track set up and opened massive you will need to start a new blank patch. Change the waveform for Oscillator 1 to digigrain II from the 'digital' sub menu. This oscillator will provide the main character of our synth. You can scan the WT position knob back and forth to hear the different tones within this waveform.
In addition to this oscillator we will add another one below it to fill out the sound, adding body. For Oscillator 2 select the sine/square waveshape, leave the WT position turned up to 100% and lower the pitch by 12 semitones. You may wish to turn the amp on osc2 down a little to get a better balance.
Here is an example of the two oscillators together, played at C2 with a little manual movement on the WT position for osc1.
Step 2 - Adding an LFO
We are now going to apply an LFO to the osc1 WT Position. Drag the icon from the first LFO modulator, found in slot 5 over to the relevant slot on the osc1 panel, and turn up the modulation amount about half way as shown below:
On the LFO panel slide the mix fader all the way up to the top so that we are just working with a sine waveshape, and turn on the sync with a setting of 8/16 or half a bar. This will help us to achieve a nice synchronised ramp up every time we play a note. Make sure the LFO is set to restart its waveshape every time a new note is played.
You should also drag the sine waveshape left or right to make sure the waveshape starts at the bottom each time. Setting the shape to start slightly before it's lowest point can add a nice 'kick' to the start of each note. Here's how your LFO panel should look:
Here's how the patch sounds so far, alongide a beat at 133 bpm (I'm just playing some 2 beat long notes at the beginning of each bar):
Step 3 - Applying a Filter
The next stage is to filter our oscillators. Make sure that each oscillator is set to send to filter 1 only, and choose the Low-Pass 24 dB/octave filter (lowpass 4). Turn up the resonance a little, and then apply some modulation from the same LFO that you used to modulate the WT Position in osc1.
Here's how your filter panel should look:
Here's how the patch sounds with the filter added - the combination of two parameters both moving to the same LFO is already starting to add some nice dynamic to the sound:
Step 4 - A Little Onboard EQ
Usually at this stage I like to add a little EQ using the EQ provided in the effects section of Massive. A simple boost to the high and low shelves should suffice to add some attitude to the sound. The sound will no doubt be EQed much more precisely during the mixing stage but I feel like some rough adjustments here can be an easy way to get closer to the sound we are working towards.
As a final reference, here's how the entire synth panel should look at this stage:
In the next part in this series we will be adding some effects and processing to the patch to really help it come to life.