Transforming Old Video Game Sounds into Modern Instruments with NI Massive
If you grew up when I did, then you can remember playing all the latest video games and the computers and systems they were made for. This quick tutorial will walk you through how you can take a simple 8-bit sound and transform it into a modern instrument using NI Massive.
Some of the most classic video game sounds of all time are the chorded, simple square wave synths that were used in almost every game spanning two of the most pivotal and influential decades the video game industry has ever seen. The Odyssey, the Commodore,the Atari, the Nintendo, the local video arcade… the list goes on and on. This type of sound touches the kid in all of us and we can use it in many of today’s modern music genres with great success. Whether you are producing bass music like dubstep or glitch-hop, or something a little less in-your-face like minimal electronica or some type of lo-fi indie music, these sounds can easily be slipped into songs for just a second or play a more major role. Let’s take a look at how to make one version of this sound and a few ways you can bring it into the modern era with NI Massive.
This sound starts out simply enough, with a default Square-Saw I wavetable loaded into both OSC1 and OSC2. The pitch has been raised one octave on OSC1 and two octaves on OSC2. A Polysaw II wavetable has been loaded into OSC3 to round the sound out. This gives us a classic video game synth already, but let’s bring it into today’s modern era with a few adjustments in NI Massive.
Let’s add a filter, so we have a way to introduce some cutoff modulation. First, route all of the main oscillators to Filter1 and set the filter output fully to Filter1. Next, load a Highpass2 filter and assign an empty Macro control to both the Cutoff and Resonance knobs. NI Massive makes it incredibly easy to control multiple parameters at once this way.
Pro Tip: Macro controls in NI Massive are interchangeable. Simply right-click on a macro control to easily swap positions with another for more intuitive layouts.
Now we can do the same with some effects. To start out with, a Dimension Expander would free this sound up quite a bit and make it much bigger without having to use any reverb. Some Chorus will thicken up the synth nicely, with added width as a bonus. Assigning a new macro control to the Dry/Wet parameter to each of these effects will allow you to add or removed them on-the-fly. NI Massive may not have the best effects in the world, but you sure can get a lot out of them when used correctly!
Pro Tip: Subtle delay can also be used instead of reverb to extend your sounds a bit, if used properly.
Adding a Bitcrusher insert effect is a great way to impart some subtle grit into the sound, which is a highly appealing option for today’s modern music genres. Again, add a macro control to the Dry/Wet knob gives you complete control when you need it. Take note of the routing schematic and where the insert effect was placed in the signal flow. Routing is pretty intuitive and easy to follow in NI Massive.
Pro Tip: For a touch more grit try enabling the Restart Via Gate feature on the OSC tab!
Here is a small sample of this synth in action. As the notes play, you can hear the sound becoming bigger, more intense and gaining more modern character. This is all accomplished by simply turning up the macros over time. No processing of any kind has been applied outside of NI Massive.
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