For years, many drum and bass artists have been using MASSIVE as their go-to synthesizer. It’s highly effective for creating pads and effects but, for drum and bass, it’s the synth’s abilities when creating dynamic drums and powerful bass sounds that really stand out, and have been used to shape so many genre-defining sounds.
I’m going to show you how you can create incredible sounds and effects using MASSIVE‘s LFOs, envelopes, and filters. These can add interest to any type of sound but I’ll focus on the bass and drums.
1. Creating the Reese sound
I’ll start with a drum and bass classic, the Reese, which describes a classic detuned bass sound, created in 1988 by Kevin ‘Reese’ Saunderson. The detuned effect can be used on sounds that branch into the mid frequencies as well, though, and so in MASSIVE you can give any sound that Reese character simply by employing two or more of the synthesizer’s oscillators and applying very slight pitch differences to them (I would suggest somewhere between 1 and 12 cents). To accentuate the lower frequencies of the sound for a more bass-like patch, try applying a low-pass filter to both oscillators. You can also achieve the Reese effect by utilizing MASSIVE’s Unison mode. In the Voicing section, set the Unison voicing parameter to 2 (or more) and the Pitch Cutoff as shown in the image below.
2. Creating dynamic bass
Now I want to make a solid bass sound, but one with some movement, both of which are key strengths of MASSIVE. I start with all three Oscillators set to sine waves, with their output sliders (found to the right of each) set halfway between F1 and F2 (representing the output to Filter 1 and Filter 2), so that they pass evenly through both filters. Now I’ll use these filters to add some harmonics and movement to the raw sine waves.
I assign Filter 2 to a low-pass type, with the frequency set to around 200Hz and the resonance to 35%, ensuring there is plenty of focus on the bass and sub frequencies, but also some added harmonic edge already. Next, I use Filter 1 to create movement, using a modulated band-reject filter. Band-reject filters basically remove a frequency range (200-500 Hz, for example), and I like to modulate the width and center value of this range.
The Cutoff of the band-reject filter controls the center frequency of the range, and when I assign an envelope to this, using a slightly percussive shape (see image), the center of the range jumps up fast, then drops to about half that level quite quickly, adding a burst of frequency change when a note is first played.
Finally, I assign an LFO (with the default settings of sine shape and 1/1 rate) to the Bandwidth control, so that the range of the band cut widens and narrows rhythmically over the course of each bar.
3. Building percussion effects
I’m mostly a sample-based producer, but I like to layer my productions with additional weird noises, percussion, and effects, made using synths to give a more interesting range of sounds in the final mix. MASSIVE is great for producing a popular kind of drum and bass percussion hit, by combining synth sounds with MASSIVE’s reverb to create short, impactful atmospheric stabs and effects.
A good way to create these is by employing MASSIVE’s Noise oscillator (in the bottom left corner of the GUI) as the source sound then shaping it. Here I’ve used Envelope 1 to create a short and sharp sound with the noise, and then added reverb on FX1 and delay on FX2. Experiment with different effects and try different noise types (white, tape, metal, etc.) to get some more varied sounds going.
Creating percussion is a similar process – you create the core sound using noise, as above – but you need to use much less reverb. Instead, to shape the sound I’ll employ MASSIVE’s filters (band-pass and band-reject modes work really well). I like to experiment with different filter and envelope settings to create different types of percussion hits, and then use the resulting sounds to create nice fills, interesting percussion, and noise elements.
When using any of these Reese, bass, or percussion techniques, it’s important to note that they can be applied to any kind of sound patch in MASSIVE. The most important thing is to experiment with a whole range of parameters when trying out these ideas, and to use trial and error, in whatever synthesis areas you’re exploring. Sound design is all about creating your own sound, as it will be this sound that distinguishes you from the many other artists out there.
These techniques have all been employed on my forthcoming EP Drama (on Rebel Music), Out Now.