Understanding NI Massive: The Modulation OSC
This series has quickly become a MassiveSynth community favorite, because it helps shed light on the different parts of Native Instruments Massive synth. This time, we cover the Modulation OSC panel.
Welcome back to another installment of the popular Understanding NI Massive Series, where we take an in-depth look at individual components of Massive in an effort to gain a deeper knowledge of how it works on its own, as well as with the other parts of the synth. Today we are going to discuss the Modulation OSC panel, which is a big mystery to many users out there, but really does not need to be. It can be a bit odd at first, but once you know the mechanics of it, it all comes together quite easily.
First thing to note is that it is not your usual oscillator. In fact, you may even argue that it is not an oscillator at all. Perhaps even more of an effects panel, of sorts. But, if you take into account how it actually works its magic, then you begin to see why Native Instruments billed it as such. See, it does not generate any sound on its own, it only affects signals the are sent through it. And, in addition to that, it only really does its job once a Pitch value has been set that is different than the pitch of it’s target oscillator or Filter. Yes, I said filter.
To start with, let’s take a look at the basic navigation. You will notice that there are a total of four Modes that can bee applied to all three main oscillators, with the exception of the Filter FM Mode, which we will get to later. You can say that the three main Modes are Ring Mod, Phase and Position. Let’s break these down so we can understand them each in their own right.
The Ring Mod Mode is a classic ring modulation effect, where an implementation of amplitude modulation or frequency mixing, is performed by multiplying two signals, where one is typically a sine-wave or another simple waveform. In this case, one of the signals if the target oscillator (either OSC 1, 2 or 3) and the second is the Modulation OSC. So first you select the Ring Mod Mode by clicking on the name, then you assign the Oscillator. Now set the Pitch, and away you go.
The next two Modes work in a similar fashion. The Phase Mode is a heavy-duty phase, and you quickly learn that as soon as you begin applying it. You will also notice right away that each of the various Modes work best in traditional frequency steps, like 5ths. While whole octaves are measured in 12 semitone steps, you may have better luck here with a setting of +/-7 semitone increments, for instance. Phasing introduces a phase shift to produce a very fat sound, perfect for adding some serious punch to a bass.
The Position Mode is modulating the relative position of sound in the wavetable of the target oscillator, which makes for some very interesting effects. Now each of the three main Modes are best used when there is some motion involved, so setting up a controlling modulator on the Position knob or the Pitch value is generally how people use it, perhaps an LFO or Performer, for instance. This gives you some serious development over time in your music.
As for the Filter FM Mode, this actually affects the Filter of either the Filter 1 or 2 panels, depending on which you assign. You should also experiment with modulating both the Cutoff knob of a filter and the FM of Filter knob for the biggest impact and range of effect.
So, as you can see the Modulation OSC panel isn’t all that daunting after all. It’s all pretty easy to grasp once it has been explained. Now comes the fun part. Experimenting! So go to it, and consider sharing with us something you made as a by-product of this tutorial.