Traveling with Electronics : Coming Full Circle : Part 2


.....confined to the limits of style?



Last month I asked a simple question about the new AKAI MPC-Live stand alone sampler/sequencer : "Can this unit really shine in the pan-rhythmic, real-time, improvisational world that I call home?" : or is it confined to the limits of style?


The short answer is that I'm finding it to be a little bit of both.....but I still have hope! 


on the plus side : "yes you can use this in a real-time performance situation" 

As I pointed out in part 1 you can easily set the sequencer up to operate in real-time (1/4:120:240) and by using 1/4 - each track in a sequence can have a unique time signature - allowing for the streamlined realization of polyrhythmic compositions.

The expressiveness and playability of the pads (which are stellar) combined with the flexibility and resolution of the sequencer (PPQ=960 with quantize off) are two of the strongest aspects of the MPC and allow it to walk a very fine line between being an instrument that can actually play music and being merely a music play-back device.

This distinction between "play" and "play-back" should not be taken lightly, in a time when lock-step-beats, tempo-synced clip-launching and auto-tuned vocals have had such an effect on music, music creation and musicianship, as to redefine them all - for better or worse is a matter of opinion. I embrace technology from an acoustic background so playability is of the essence and how I choose any piece of gear.

Akai has added the currently dominant music creation model, tempo-synced-clip-launching, to the MPC as well as the ability to record and play-back 8 stereo audio tracks in stand alone (unlimited when using a computer). This makes the MPC very attractive as a complete production option as well as a performance instrument for projects where a scripted (yet flexible) timeline is controlling the arc of the event. 

the touch screen is very responsive and makes editing audio, move quickly


pour in unique sounds and you have an expressive performance instrument 


on the minus side : "it's confined to the limits of style, but akai could easily fix this"      

The release version of the MPC has been so optimized to facilitate a fast workflow for the target user group that it actually creates quite the opposite experience for anyone working outside of that particular stylistic box.....let me elaborate.

here is an excerpt from the e-mail I sent to Akai :

In terms of a straight up sampler, a drum program has the widest range of creative possibilities. As it defaults in the MPC currently it provides one very specific way of working with samples and for your target user group (hip-hop & edm), this makes total sense in terms of a fast work flow…..but…..for anyone working outside of that box it creates quite the opposite, a very cumbersome workflow.

Here is an example of the workaround I am using :

1- I make a dummy sample - one second of silence, chopped into 16 regions converted to a drum program.
2- In program edit I choose ALL pads
3- I set polyphony to poly
4- I tap LFO Modulation and set sample play to NOTE ON (which gives me the full ADSR envelopes) and I set MUTE GROUPS to OFF
5- I tap FILTER/envelope, dial in the filter settings I want and set the AMP envelope release phase to 101
(any old school sampler knows - this allows you to juggle loops rather than firing off one-shots and this is the distinction between a drum sampler and a drum machine)
6- I tap SAMPLE 4 times and turn loop ON
I now SAVE this program as my Live-Sampling Template and I should now be able to sample into this program to get the results that I (the user) want to achieve.

unfortunately you have made that impossible
I go to SAMPLE and create 16 samples using PAD TAP (a wonderful feature by the way), after I've captured my samples I should be able to play, but this is not the case.
I go to edit program (1) and choose ALL pads (2) - this should be remembered in my template, but it's not.
I tap LFO Modulation (3) and everything is how I saved it EXCEPT MUTE GROUPS is set to 32 - BUT I do not want this (4) - I have to reset this.
I tap SAMPLE 4 times (5,6,7,8) and loop is off - BUT I do not want this (9) - I have to reset this.

Now this would be annoying enough in a studio environment, but in the middle of a concert while Live-Sampling say an orchestra, you simply do not have the time to make 9 completely unnecessary moves because this powerful sophisticated piece of technology thinks that you want to "make a beat".

But, the good news is that all of this could be fixed and all of the people who engage in real-time performance or sound-design and film scoring would be so very happy if you would simply let "the user" save a program edit set-up as their Default Drum Program in the Preferences Menu - including : loop on off settings and mute group settings - you know, everything that can be defined in Program Edit.


I have been assured by a support representative that my feature request has been passed along to the development team, but of course you can't talk to anyone who can actually do anything and Akai isn't known for moving quickly, so at this point in time I have to say :

        "the real-time audio capture ability of the MPC-Live is very weak"         

There are worlds of music that would be well served if Akai would just let them in. 


mix-mpc/ipad2/ipad4                          mpc-live                             scarlett 2i2/ipad4 


looper/control    ipad4                                ipad2                         mpkmini/ipad4    nanokey/mpc

  ipad4/running in aum/thumbjam/samplr(live-sampling)/drumjam :  ipad2/samplr 


While I feel less than fluid on it, I used the MPC (in this rig), for a concert on 6/23/17 (see this months audio log - backchannel) : 0:00 - 8:00 playing electric piano via usb keyboard (nanokey) : 18:05 - 22:50 live sequencing of drums via mpc pads : 31:00 - 34:20 live sequencing of ring modulated acoustic piano via mpc pads : 36:20 - 37:20 playing electric piano via usb keyboard (nanokey).

All the live-sampling of the flute & sax (played by Mark Harris), was done on an ipad4 with Samplr - it's just faster & more flexible for audio capture than the mpc right now. 

will akai enhance the real-time audio capture ability of the mpc? I live in hope


 check out this review 

until next month travels.....dino


previously on audio log : one : two : three

 episode : four (ensemble) 

this month : three trios working in long-form group composition 


Farrell Lowe - guitar : Mark Harris - flute, alto-sax, voice : J.A. Deane - samplers/live-sampling 


 2005 : TAIJI POLE

J.A. Deane - flute/electronics : Carlos Santistevan - bass/electronics : Matt Deason - bass/electronics 



   1993 : BURNING CLOUD : Butch Morris : Le Quan Ninh : J.A. Deane