Synth Tutorial: Massive Wavetables


Watch Joe Hanley, the creator of Syntorial, as he guides you through Massive’s Wavetables and their related controls. To find your way through Massive’s huge list of wavetables check out the Massive Wavetable By Attribute tool.

This video is an excerpt from the Massive Lesson Pack for Syntorial, which contains 41 videos, over 2 hours of footage, and covers every inch of Massive. Get 4 more Massive videos for free via the Syntorial demo.


In this video, I’m going to be showing you how the wavetables, wavetable position and intensity work in Massive. And I’m gonna go beyond the manual. Instead of talking about this in a mathematic sense, I’m gonna give it to you in a more musical and pragmatic way. So that you know why you would actually use these things in a musical sense. What is its effect gonna be on your actual sound?

And this video is an excerpt from the Massive Lesson Pack for Syntorial. Syntorial is a synthesizer training app that teaches you how to program synth patches by ear. It does this using video demonstrations and interactive challenges in which you program patches on a built-in soft synth. The massive lesson pack adds 41 videos that show you how to take what you’ve learned in Syntorial and apply it to massive.

And you can get the first four videos free by going to Click in the try for free link, downloading this Syntorial demo for Mac PC or iPad. And that demo comes with the first 22 Syntorial lessons, as well as a sample from each lesson pack. You go into this drop down, download lesson packs, and you’ll see here at the top the Native Instruments Massive lesson pack. Download that, and you’ll get the first four videos. We also have lesson packs for Sylenth1, Z3TA+ 2 and the Minimoog Voyager, at the time of the making of this video.

Let’s get started. Massive wavetables, part two. So as you already know, you’ve got a ton of wavetable options here in Massive. And at the end of the day, it really boils down to experimentation, just kinda going through them, getting familiar with them, finding the sound that works for the patch that you’re making. But with this many, it almost starts to feel like you’re working with presets.

You know, it’s hard to know exactly what these are gonna sound like the way we know a saw and a square is going to sound like. So I found that re-categorizing these into sound attributes really helps kinda understand and get your brain kinda wrapped around all the wavetable options that we have here. I find these categories are not particularly helpful. So I’ve made my own. And you can check them out on Syntorial’s website.

You’ll see they’re grouped into nine categories like distorted and metallic and organ. Simply just click a box and it’ll show you the wavetables that have that attribute in Massive. Let’s look at some examples from each of these categories. So the first one was subtractive, which we’ve covered already. That’s our Square-Saw or Sin-Triangle or Sin-PWM.

Next category is Metallic. These are wavetables that have the kind of metallic tone you can get from FM or ring mod like, escalation, or Sonic. Next category is Distorted. These are waveforms that sound like they’ve been put through distortion. First one is these Drives, or a nastier example with Dirty Needle And the position knob just giving a sort of a different tone within that distortion.

Next category is Bitcrushed. If you remember the Bitcrusher down here, it’s a really nasty, almost kinda papery digital kind of distortion, it’s different from the sort of warm distortion that we’re used to. Couple examples are Crusher, or right below it Reducer Next category is Formant. These are wavetables that have a kinda vowel vocalesque sound to them. Let’s check out a couple Gentle Speech, and our position knob changes the vowel. Or right below that Modern Talking This one also has a kind of metallic or distorted sound. So you could put this one in multiple categories.

Next category is String. For these wavetables, they kinda have the texture like a wired string. So like an electric bass or guitar, or Rhodes or a clav. The first two obvious ones will be Guitar Pulse and E-Bass pulse. Just a very string-like texture. Additive mix V, if you turn the position knob all the way down, we get an electric bass tone. Or with Roughmath-I, we get a very clav sound. And with Herbie, we get a Rhodes-like sound. Next category is Organ. You’ve got some wavetables that just sound like organs, like these Flenders.

Next category is Multi. These are wavetables that contain multiple notes. So like Polysaw, and our position knob changes the notes. Or Multiplex. And then the last category is Dissonant. These are just real messed-up sounding wavetables like Camchord. Sounds like a demented old school telephone ring or Cicada. So as you can see, a lot of these wavetables have a lot of personality in them. It’s almost like some of the programming has been done for you. Some are kinda distorted, some are sort of FM sounding. So in some cases you won’t have to do as much programming if you find a wavetable that kind of gives you part of the sound you’re looking for.

Now, we know what this position knob does. Our wavetable has several waveforms in it and the position knob just scans through those wave forms. But what is it really doing to sound? At the end of the day, what is the end result effect on our sound? Well, in some cases, it’s switching between very distinctly different waveforms. like Square-Saw. Or this one Carbon. Several different sounding waveforms within this position. It really changes as you move this knob.

Another example is changing actual pitch. Like we saw with Polysaw. In some cases, we get a harmonic shifting effect. Like when you’re using something like Hard-Sync, it actually moves one of the synced oscillators. Or with Additives, we get the same kind of effect. It’s like we’re changing the pitch of an FM to oscillator. In other cases this position kinda acts like a low-pass filter. Like with the Acid wavetable. We just get a rounding effect. Or with a Formant style wavetable, it just kinda changes our vowel.

Now again, it’s not actually doing these things. It’s simply just scanning through waveforms within the wavetable. So for oscillator sync for example, this HardSync wavetable, it’s not doing any actual oscillator syncing or changing the pitch of an oscillator. They’ve pre-made these sounds, pre-made these waveforms, put them together in a wavetable, and this is simply just scanning through it.

Next we’ll move to the Intensity knob. Now by default, this kinda acts like a low-pass filter. Let’s switch over to just a Plain old saw, Just kinda rounds our sound out. Now you also hear it sort of adds other qualities, almost kind of like an FM-ish quality over here. You hear a little bit of metallicness. But it’s predominant characteristic by default, I find is usually kind of a low pass effect. However, if you change this drop-down up here, it will change what the Intensity knob does.

Now by default, we are in spectrum mode and that’s what gives intensity a low Pass like quality. Now in reality, intensity goes in and it grabs your waveform and it morphs it and changes it in different ways. However, instead of understanding what each intensity mode does to your wave form mathematically, I find it much more helpful to compare each mode to a sound attribute we are already familiar with. So with Spectrum, it’s kinda like a Low Pass filter.

Or for example, let’s look at Formant. This adds a sort of Oscillator Sync sound to any wavetable. It doesn’t matter which one, just grab a different one. So you can apply that sort of harmonic shifting from Oscillator Sync using this Formant Intensity.

And then we’ve got these three different Bend options. Let’s start with the Bend minus plus. For the bend, I find that the most predominant characteristic is that of a kind of Pulse Width changing. If I set this to the middle, it does nothing. So Bend Intensity is totally neutral in the middle. We’re just hearing our wavetable. But as I turn it away from middle, it has the kinda sort of thinning effect that Pulse Width has on our square wave.

Now it has some other effects in the sound, but it primarily has that kind of Pulse Width like effect. And I just find it helpful to compare it to Pulse Width. That way I kinda know what to expect and know when to use Bend Intensity. Now, in this case, our max to the right or our minimum to the left, it’s the same sound. It doesn’t matter which way we go from middle.

But in some wavetables case, it is going to be different. For example, Multiplex. So keep that in mind. If you decide you wanna add this sort of Bend Intensity sound, try both directions. As in some cases you’ll get a different sound. And when it’s different, one way or the other, that’s kinda where this minus or plus option comes in handy. If you just want the plus half, the half up here, you can switch to Bend plus. }

Now when your intensity is all the way down it’s neutral, and turning up gives you the plus range. Vice versa, when it’s Bend minus all the way down is neutral, turning it up, gives you the negative range. Now you may be wondering well, why even bother with the Bend minus Bend plus when we have them combined here? I find that useful for modulation. Maybe I want to modulate this with an LFO, have it moving back and forth. And I just want one of the ranges, I just want the plus sound. It’s easier for me to just set Bend plus, put this wherever I want it and set my LFO up.

Last thing about our Intensity knob, is in two cases, it changes its behavior altogether. So, pulse width modulation, wavetable, it’s an actual pulse width control as we’ve covered. And our sync wavetable, it’s an actual sync knob. So, we’ve looked through our intensity. We’ve looked through our wavetable position, all these different wavetables and we’ve been able to compare the different sounds to things we already know how to do. Like Low Pass filtering or distortion or FM, all those different kinds of things.

So in many ways, this kinda programming is done for us. It’s sort of built into the wavetable. We don’t need to do it in other places. However, where this really comes in handy is with modulation. We can modulate the position or the intensity, and it allows us to sort of morph between these different sound attributes in ways we couldn’t otherwise do.

For example, to see the rest of this video, as well as videos covering every inch of Massive, you’ll need the Massive Lesson Pack for Syntorial. And remember, you can get the first four videos for free by going to, click in the try for free link. Downloading a demo, and then within the demo, go into Download Lesson Packs, and Download the Massive Lesson Pack.