Using Envelopes to manipulate sound
This tutorial talks about envelopes in Native Instruments Massive and how they can be used for sound design purposes.
I’m sure the majority of Native Instruments Massive users will know how envelopes work, but i think it’s best to cover them as they will come in handy for beginners in more advanced tutorials i post on this blog in future, as well as a useful reference tool for more experienced users.
To begin with I’d like you to make a simple pad sound and then we’ll use an envelope on it so we can see (and hear!) what it can do to the audio.
Create a simple pad
This is a real simple pad – to be honest everything we do with envelopes in this tutorial can be applied to any sound in Massive, whether a pad, a stab or as an effect… but for the purposes of this tutorial lets start with a blank patch (file > New patch) and make this sound so we can walk through it together.
OSC 1 to Dirty PWM
WT pos – 12 o’clock
Intensity and AMP to 5 o’clock
(set F1/F2 to F1 – all the way to the top)
OSC 2 to Sonic
WT pos – 12 o’clock
Intensity to 5 o’clock
AMP to 12 o’clock
(set F1/F2 to F1 – all the way to the top)
Make sure filters are set to serial (all the way to the top to the left of the filters)
Filter 1 to Lowpass 2
Cutoff to 11 o’clock
Resonance to 9o’clock
Filter 2 off
FX1 to reverb
dry/wet to 12 o’clock
Size to 3 o’clock
Density and color to 12 o’clock
Decay Level (level knob next ot decay) 5o’clock
release 12 o’clock
Ok – this should be a fairly simple pad.
Now we’ll move onto the Envelopes and see what we can do to this pad with them.
In the center window of Massive you will notice 4 blue tabs and 4 green ones.
The blue tabs are the Envelopes (ENV) – as a default ENV 4 controls the sounds output as whole.
Before we do anything, hit a note or a chord and hear what the pad sounds like without the envelope.
It sounds quite dull, not really much character nor is there any shape to it.
First we’ll try sculpting the sound with a filter using one of the envelopes.
Drag the blu tab ‘ENV1’ on top of the first of the 3 small boxes underneath the cutoff in Filter 1.
A little blue 1 should now appear in this box. This means that envelope 1 is now linked to the cutoff – however to make the envelope control the cutoff we need to let Massive know by how much we want it to do so.
Click on the little blue 1 under cutoff and whilst still holding down the button drag your mouse up and down.
We want the blue ring that appears around the filter to open the filter to 3o’clock. What this means is the further round the knob the blue line goes the further open the envelope will open the filter!
Now if you play a chord or a note you will hear the filter open as you hold the note.
If you click on ENV1 you will see the envelope settings – the line you see in front of you, if you imagine that this is the position of the filter cutoff. From the left to right you can see that it is shut and rises up to open (from left to right of the blue ring on the cutoff)
Try changing the attack knob on ENV1 to 9 o’clock and then hit a chord – hear the difference?
Let’s get a bit more creative with the envelopes and assign it to some other parameters.
Let’s try adding the envelope to an effect.
Leave the ENV1 on the filter cutoff but use these settings –
Cutoff should be set to 7o’clock, with the blu ring going from 7 to 5 o’clock (whole way round)
ENV1 – set attach to 5o’clock, release to 3o’clock
Turn Effect 1 (reverb) DRY/WET to 7o’clock
Drag ENV1 tab to reverb and then to the bottom left box under dry/wet, drag up so the blue ring goes right the way around to 5o’clock.
Now if you hold a note or a chord the sound will start muted and dry and as the sound progresses it will start to brighten as the filter opens and is also being drenched with reverb as the dry/wet opens.
Perhaps we want to have a rising tone, rising up 1 octave as we hold a note.
Drag ENV1 to the first box under ‘pitch’. Now drag up so that the number reads 12.00.
This number represents semi-tones – of which there are 12 in 1 octave. So our sound will rise by 1 octave. You can of course set this to anything you like, but for the purposes of this tutorial 12 is fine.
So if you hold your chord or note down now, the sound will now rise in pitch.
Go back to ENV1 screen and try palying with the attack to see how exactly this effects what you’re doing. The further left the knob is the sooner the effects happens and the further right, the longer.
Keep everything as it is but change the 12 under the pitch in OSC1 to 3.00.
Click on EQ and drag ENV 1 to boost and set it so that boost is at 12o’clock and the blue ring goes backwards to 7o’clock. Drag ENV1 to Freq in the EQ and set it so that boost is at 12 o’clock and the blue ring goes forward to 5 o’clock. Set the HI EQ to 5o’clock
Set Effect 2 to Chorus with dry/wet to 7o’clock and drag ENV1 so that the blue ring goes from 7 to 5o’clock. Set rate to 3 o’clock and rate and depth to 12.
The sound – to my ears, still sounds a bit muted… so let’s give it some grit and make it a bit more usable!
Set up INS 1 as a PShaper and set dry/wet to 12 o’clock and drive to 5o’clock.
Now hit your chord or note to hear the final result!
Using the envelope as a modulator can open up lots of doors in sound design.
What we’ve done here is fairly simple stuff but by controlling various effects, filters or even the pitch of a sound we can start to really carve out a sound. For example although this is a pad sound, if you click on ENV 1 and hit ‘Select env preset’ and select the setting ‘rotor’ you will see how the sound completely changes to something more stabby. Drag the attack up to 12 o’clock on this setting and listen to what it does to the sound – stab a chord or note on your keyboard, you could add a delay to this in your DAW , or try turning the reverb in effect panel 1 dry/wet to 12 for some really nice sounds.
Things to try
1) Try adding ENV2 to some parameters in the sound you have created above (aside from the ones we’ve played with). For example assign ENV2 to the pitch of OSC 2 but instead of it rising an octave, what happens if you drop it by 3, 5 or 12?
2) Next time your working on a track or playing about with making your own sounds try using one of the envelopes to control a parameter – doesn’t have to be anything mentioned in this tutorial!
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