FM8 is a great synth for those tight tempo synced bass and lead sounds and some seriously cool grooves can be achieved. We will use tempo synced envelopes in combination with “silent” operators to achieve groovy bass sound but this technique can be used elsewhere and next time we will look how to create lead sounds using very similar technique.

Here is the midi sequence I am using trough out this tutorial.

Enable operator C.

Set it’s self oscillation value to 37 to add some harmonics.

Sync the envelope and set it to loop 1/8 of a bar.  Remember, if we want it to be looped we have to add another breakpoint between the two loop markers or else the envelope won’t loop (It needs at least two breakpoints to loop).

Now let’s go set the Unison page in the Master section.

Set both Polyphony and Unison voices to 2 for now.

Set detune to 55.

Also set the Mono button on. This forces FM8 not to retrigger the envelopes if the notes are overlapping. This way we can play different notes but keep envelopes looping without re-triggering them.

Now enable operator B.

Sync it’s envelope and set it like this. Also set velocity parameter to 30.

Set operator B to modulate operator C with amount of 40.

Now here is the trick. If we set operator C ratio to 0 it means operator C won’t be heard anymore because it’s frequency is zero. But because we are modulating it with operator B we will hear operator C only when it’s frequency is modulated and thus non-zero. And since we have rhythmic envelope in operator B this will result in a sort of a gating effect but not just that since the timbre is also being changed at the same time. This way you can create some cool sequences.

If you want more pronounced sound raise the self oscillation amount to 41.

Here you can hear the sound played in two different octaves, 8 bars each. I have also added simple drum sequence. No other effects are used in these samples except for some EQ and limiter on the master channel for some extra loudness.

Now we can take this even further. Enable operator D and sync it’s envelope and set it to something like in the picture below.

Now route operator D to operator C with amount of 38. So now there is also operator D “triggering” operator C.

Also try setting ratio of operator D to different higher (or lower) values so you can add more frequency content of your choice to the basic waveform of operator C.

We could also modulate operator B instead of operator C. This produces a bit different effect.

Now let’s set also operator B ratio to zero and use operator D to “excite” operator B. This will result in even more complex sequence and also in different, more aggressive sound.

I have also changed the slopes of envelope B to get more bass else it is being choked too much.

You can hear more dirt in the sound now.

We could also add operator A to also modulate operator B introducing even more dirt in to the sound.

Try changing self-oscillation amounts and modulation values to achieve different variations but most importantly play with operator B envelope to achieve different grooves.

Here is one extreme variation I particularly like (Changed the envelopes, ratios and modulation amounts, the sequence is the same). Only drum loop and one instance of FM8, no other sounds used.

Ratio values have great effect on the overall sound. Try to set operators A-D to something like this.

This strongly affects the sound (the midi sequence was not changed).

You can hear this results in a completely different sound but still with strong resemblance to the original sequence. So you could effectively use these variations as a different bass line parts in your song. Here are few variations of the same patch playing the same midi sequence to give you the idea. Beside EQ I have also added touch of delay to some patches. No other effects used.

This is it for this tutorial. In the next one we will look how to create and modulate lead sound using similar technique.

If you don’t understand something or have any other questions or comments feel free to leave them below.

Till next time!



Creating Sequenced Bass Sound in FM8

| FM8 Tutorials | 0 Comments

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  • JT

    Would you mind uploading the patch? I’ve tried many times to get even close to this sound and I end up with something that sounds very chiptune like many times.

    Or I could send you my patch and you can tell me where I messed up.

  • Erik Sjodin

    Have to agree with previous comment. I am somewhat disappointed with the tutorials on the FM8 page. The sister site for Massive is great, and all steps are explained in exact detail so it is easy to follow. On the FM8 site I feel one is left alone to figure things out all the time. Shame really, this sound for example is truly great and I would love to have all versions of it.

    Anyway, I will have to stick to using Massive, it seems that I am not smart enough to maneuver my way around this complex synth.
    Any chance this sound is available in some preset-package available for purchase somewhere?

    • OhmLab

      Hi Erik,

      Although I didn’t write this tutorial, I can say that it is presented well. I think that for the most part, the difference in the tutorials between the two sites have to do with a completely different interface and a completely different approach to sound design. I do not feel that the tutorials are lacking, when compared to those found on the Massive site. And I’m not just saying that because I write almost all of the original content found on both of them.

      FM Synthesis is a tough one to master, and sometimes it is the smallest difference in one parameter setting that can make your attempt sound different from what is shared in the lessons. It can be frustrating when this happens, yes. But if you stick with it, you’ll get it. Maybe just step away from a lesson you are having trouble with and return to it a week later with fresh eyes and ears.

      If you ever need help in the way of private lessons to really kickstart this for you, just let me know.


  • erik Sjodin

    Hey Ohmlab, thanks for the reply.
    I do partly agree with you, it is complex, and I was serious when I wrote that I am to stupid to use this synth, I have no illusions regarding that :)

    I am also sure that all the steps are explained in a good way, no doubt about that.

    However, the tutorials here in FM8 differs in one way a lot from the ones on Massive. On the FM8 site, most tutorials is written from a perspective that the reader know how to enable or control every function. That is not the case on the massivesynth-one.

    I came with no experience to the massive-site, I still managed to follow every tutorial and make the sounds close to the tutorial one. On the FM8 I have not been able to finish one single one so far.

    On the massive-site it will be written “assign the envelope bla bla bla to XXX” and then it will be followed by “You do that by… (followed by an explanation).

    In this tutorial for example, in the beginning it states:
    “Set it’s self oscillation value to 37 to add some harmonics.”

    Nice instruction, but it took some irritating extra time just to figure out how that was done.
    Anyway, I figured it out quite fast, so no biggie. Moving along.

    “Sync the envelope and set it to loop 1/8 of a bar. Remember, if we want it to be looped we have to add another breakpoint between the two loop markers or else the envelope won’t loop”

    Here I got stuck, never figured out how to add another breakpoint, and therefor never managed to recreate this part. It was extra irritating to try to figure it out since that part of the interface resets whenever one double-clicks, so basically I rage-quitted quite soon :)

    I am sure this is a great tutorial, IF you know how this synth works in full. The difference is that on massivesynth you can get on any tutorial and get through them with virtually no knowledge of the synth beforehand.

    You guys have really helped me to learn massive, and I am truly thankful for that. Unfortunately I do not see the same thing happening with FM8, but no biggie, some synths are not for everyone.
    I have nothing but respect for the work that you guys put in and publish for free, I think it is great and you deserve a lot of praise for that!
    And if I one day manages to raise my brain capacity I will be sure to check back on fm8 as well ;)