Maschine users, you get a little freebie in the 2.6.8 update Native Instruments quietly released this week – a new bass synth. Ready for some acid?

First, if you missed 2.6.6, that added drag-and-drop musical exploration in “Ideas View” – the non-linear arrangement tools that will feel welcoming if you’re used to Ableton Live and the like.

2.6.8 has two banner features. One is an isomorphic keyboard layout for Maschine Jam – basically, the ability to easily play melodic parts on the Jam hardware. (The “isomorphic” bit means that you can find chords easily by moving your hands around, even without a previous instrumental or theory background.) And the other big one, for everyone, is a new Bass Synth.

The Bass Synth isn’t an SH-101 or TB-303 clone, but it is inspired by various useful bass synthesizers and designed for easy use. Now, I’m a big fan of synths that use simple controls. Far from limiting your options, I think they encourage you to dial in sounds you love and push a bit against limits, focusing on listening with your ears rather than getting stuck thinking about parameters.

And sure enough, this one is fun to play with. Adjust the shape (from sine to saw), plus the filter and envelope, and you get heavy sub bass lines, tasty acid, and other basics. Here’s a look at those parameters:

The less-obvious one is glide. Hidden on page two, you’ll find a parameter that shifts glide on or off. Obviously, this needs to be on before glide works – including the glide time parameter on the first page. On Maschine Jam, the top row of the piano roll corresponds to per-step glide controls. On other hardware, or with your mouse, you can modulate the Glide parameter on the second page to add glide on particular steps (or leave it on) – just remember this is also going to be dependent on the length of your steps, plus the Decay parameter for the sound.

The Bass Synth is good fun – and maybe a reminder to explore other synths in Maschine, too. And there’s plenty you can try here:

  • Try some presets in the Browser.Select: All Sounds > Bass Synth. There are some great sounds, revealing this instrument’s hidden range, and they’re a good starting point for tweaking and experimentation.
  • Make acid basslines by turning up resonance and adjusting envelope and filter.
  • Create sub bass by adjusting octave down.
  • Use this as a melodic synth in higher ranges – and think SH-101 style, adjusting the oscillator shape.
  • Set mod amount to the middle of the range, and create accents with the JAM accent controls or by playing higher volumes.

And yeah – hardware, software? Why not both? This should go nicely with Roland’s TB-03 (or new SH-01A) or, for that matter, our own grimy MeeBlip, and of course you can either sync Maschine with external hardware or use it as a sequencer. (Plus, since the main gripe about laptops I hear is reliability, if you play live with hardware/software hybrids, what you get is all important redundancy – if anything breaks or luggage gets lost or anything horrible like that, you can still play.)

There are a number of fixes in this release, too; NI unusually quick to ship fixes on Maschine for its software and hardware.

2.6.6 contained a huge set of fixes, so if you’re behind on updating, it’s worth doing.