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How To: Electro Snares In Native Instruments Massive
Rishabh Rajan on Tue, September 11th | 0 comments
Native Instruments' Massive is an incredibly versatile synth, capable of even more than you might imagine. Rishabh Rajan shows you step by step how to make electro snares.

This tutorial is taken from the free ebook on Sound Design using NI Massive. You can download the ebook for iOS/Mac here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/native-instruments-massive-sound-design-recipe-book/id925322060?mt=11

Watch Massive sound design video tutorials here: https://ask.audio/academy?nleloc=category/audio/application/massive

In this tutorial we will see that a synthesizer like Massive can also be used to create percussion sounds, such as a snare drum. The concept behind creating a sound like this is quite straightforward. There are mainly two elements to this sound - the initial attack which has some sort of pitched information and the tail which is mainly created using a noise oscillator. The amplitude envelope also plays a very important role in creating this sound.

Step 1: The Oscillator Section

Reset Massive to its default settings by going to File > New Sound. We will only be using one oscillator which will be the pitched element in the snare drum. Select the Sin-Square wavetable in OSC1 and set the Wt-position dial all the way to the sine wave (hard left). Drop the Amp down to its lowest value as we will be using an envelope to bring it up. Finally make sure this oscillator is only feeding FILTER 1 by setting the F1-F2 crossfader all the way to the top. Now when you play a note, you will not hear anything as the Amp has been turned down but this is fine as we have done this deliberately.

Oscillator settings

Oscillator settings

Step 2: The Noise Oscillator

The second part of our electro-snare drum sound is the all-important noise oscillator. The default White Noise wavetable will work just fine, so leave it as is. Set the Color dial to its highest position, which will ensure that the timbre is not affected in any way and set the Amp to its lowest value. This is again done deliberately as we will use an envelope to trigger the Amp. Set its F1-F2 crossfader to F2 as we will be processing this separate from the main oscillator.

Noise Oscillator Settings

Noise Oscillator Settings

Step 3: The Envelopes

This is probably one of the most important steps in designing this sound so try to get the parameters as close as possible. Assign 1 Env to the modulation slot under the Amp knob in OSC 1. Click and drag on the modulation slot until the blue arc completely surrounds the Amp knob. Check this picture for exact settings.

Amp Modulation for OSC 1

Amp Modulation for OSC 1

Now let's change the ADSR settings for 1 Env so that its shape resembles the amplitude envelope of a percussion instrument. Set the Attack to the lowest value, the Decay level to the lowest value and the Decay to about 10 o’clock. The Release should be set to its lowest value and ensure that One Shot is enabled. The One Shot option will make sure that the envelope will complete all of its phases (except the release) even if the note is released sooner than the entire length of the envelope. Refer to the piecutr below for more accurate values.

Envelope 1 Settings

Envelope 1 Settings

Sine Wave with Envelope

Now you should hear the sine wave but it definitely won’t sound like a snare drum yet. We need to set up another envelope that modulates the pitch of this oscillator down, to simulate what happens on a snare drum. Assign 3 Env to the pitch modulation slot in OSC1. Click and drag on the modulation slot and set the range to 12.00. To get more accurate results you can click and drag on the number box itself. So now this envelope will modulate the pitch of OSC1 from its initial pitch to 12 semitones above.

Pitch Modulation

Pitch Modulation

Now let's dial in the settings for 3 Env which is going to be very similar to how we set up 1 Env, except that the Decay is going to be a bit shorter. You will notice that the Decay here is defining the length of the pitch drop, so we need to be careful with the parameters to get it sounding right. Make sure to enable the One Shot option so this envelope behaves a lot like the first envelope. Check below to be more exact.

Envelope 3 Settings

Envelope 3 Settings

Pitch Modulated Sine Wave

The last envelope we need to deal with is the one that will control the Amp of the NOISE oscillator. Assign 2 Env to the modulation slot below the Amp knob in the NOISE module. Click and drag on the modulation slot until the blue arc completely surrounds the Amp dial.

Noise Amp Modulation

Noise Amp Modulation

Earlier we set this oscillator to be fed to FILTER 2, so we won’t hear anything right now as we have not set up that filter. For now, set the F1-F2 crossfader back to F1. Now playing a MIDI note should trigger noise along with the pitch modulated sine wave.

Let's now adjust the 2 Env to work more like a percussion instrument envelope. We can use the exact same settings we used for the first envelope except that we will need a higher Decay value as we want this noise to decay out for a bit longer. Set it to about 12 o’clock. Also make sure this envelope is set to One Shot. Once you are happy with how its sounding send this NOISE oscillator back to FILTER 2.

Envelope 2 Settings

Envelope 2 Settings

Finally 4 Env will be used as the overall amplitude envelope. This is already assigned to the AMP section so we just need to tweak the ADSR parameters. This will also be very similar to the other envelopes that we have set up but have a look at the below for the exact settings.

Envelope 4 Settings

Envelope 4 Settings

Step 4: The Filter Section

We will be using both filters in this sound. One will be for the sine wave and another for the noise. Set FILTER 1 to Highpass 4. This is the filter that will receive the sine wave. This filter is actually just a dummy filter. A sine wave does not have anything other than its fundamental frequency so there is nothing to filter out. We just want to keep it separate from the NOISE oscillator. Set FILTER 2 to Bandpass and set the controls as shown in the picture above. Make sure the Ser-Par crossfader is set to Parallel. The Mix1-Mix2 crossfader controls the balance between the two filters. We want more of the noise and less of the sine wave so set this to about a quarter.

Filter Settings

Filter Settings

Sine Wave and Noise Oscillators

Step 5: Filter Modulation

The sound we have created thus far is quite good but I feel it's too clean. We need to dirty up the sound especially during the attack of the sound. Let's add an LFO to modulate the Cutoff frequency of FILTER 2 but we also need to make sure it only does its thing during the attack of the sound. Set up 5 LFO in the modulation slot below the Cutoff parameter in FILTER 2. Set the range to be about 25% on either side of the current Cutoff value. Check below for this.

Filter Cutoff Modulation

Filter Cutoff Modulation

Change the Rate of 5 LFO to its highest value. We want a really fast modulation to create FM-type distortion.

Now this modulation can be quite subtle. To really hear it, increase the Decay of the 4 Env and even 2 Env if necessary. You should notice the dirt being introduced but like I mentioned earlier, we want this to only last for the attack stage of the sound. We could use an envelope for this but unfortunately we have used up all the envelopes for other purposes. Fortunately the LFO module in Massive has an internal envelope which we can use to modulate the Amp of the LFO.

LFO Settings

LFO Settings

On the extreme right, in the 5 LFO tab, you will see Internal Envelope. Click and drag the crosshair next to it and drop it on the Amp modulation slot of the LFO. Set the Amp to its lowest value, then click and drag on the modulation slot till the blue arc surround the knob entirely. Set the Attack of the Internal Envelope to the lowest value and Decay to about 30%. Set the XFade Curve to the sine wave shape. Check figure 8-12 for more accurate settings.

Step 6: KTR OSC & KTR FLT

One thing you may have noticed is that the pitch of the sound changes depending on what note you play, just like it should in a synthesizer. This is called keyboard tracking. This is the default mode in Massive, but since we are going for a percussive sound which is not pitched, we need to disable keyboard tracking. In the KTR OSC tab, select "Off" as a source for the target OSC 1. We are not doing this for OSC 2 as noise does not have a definite pitch and is not affected by keyboard tracking. Keyboard tracking happens for the filters as well. As you play higher on the keyboard the filter opens up more. In the KTR FLT tab this can be disabled by selecting off as a source for both targets Flt1 & Flt2.

Oscillator Keyboard Tracking

Oscillator Keyboard Tracking

Filter Keyboard Tracking

Filter Keyboard Tracking

Key Tracking Off

Step 7: FX1, FX2 & EQ

We have come quite close to emulating all the complexities of a snare drum. Now we just need to enhance the overall timbre with effects and EQ. In the FX1 slot add the Classic Tube module. This will help bring out harmonics in the sound and just make it louder overall. Check below for the parameter settings.

FX1 Settings

FX1 Settings

In the FX2 slot, add the Small Reverb module. The reverb module will give the sound some life and widen the stereo image a little. It's a small room emulation so we won’t be getting too much of an additional tail.

Finally the EQ module will be used to boost the lower mids and the high frequencies. I also turned down the Low Shelf just a tad to compensate for any low end boost introduced by the low mid adjustments.

Feel free to adjust the Decay value of 4 Env to extend or shorten the snare sound. You can even assign it to one of the MACRO CONTROLS for easy access via MIDI controllers.

Final Sound

This tutorial is taken from the free ebook on Sound Design using NI Massive. You can download the ebook for iOS/Mac here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/native-instruments-massive-sound-design-recipe-book/id925322060?mt=11

Watch Massive sound design video tutorials here: https://ask.audio/academy?nleloc=category/audio/application/massive

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