Traveling with Electronics : Coming Full Circle : Part 1


.....returning to the source is serenity



The first powerful sampler I ever owned was the now classic 12bit/40khz Akai S900. After that, I never got into their MPC line of samplers as I was in the Ensoniq EPS camp and followed their path until stand-alone hardware samplers just disappeared back in the early 2000's.....and a sad period of impassioned mouse moves ensued.

My (double S900) touring rig circa 1987 / 1988 with : Jon Hassell + Farafina


              check out a little history on the evolution of sampling : PART 1 : PART 2 :

As powerful as laptops have become, a QWERTY keyboard and a pointy-clicky thing have no ability to manifest nuanced expression in real-time. The expressive potential of a multi-touch screen combined with a well designed app holds great promise for playing rather than programing music, but tablets come with their own set of issues.

There is a slight return in the current tech-trend and things are coming full circle. 


  Akai Pro has just introduced their new stand-alone sampler : MPC-LIVE 


Now, there is no question that the MPC concept is aimed at the Hip-Hop and EDM crowd and this unit can easily serve up all manner of four-on-the-floor without ever breaking a sweat. The fundamental question for me is, can this unit really shine in the pan-rhythmic, real-time, improvisational world I call home? I'm going to find out.

I have been researching all this since January and while I am generally reluctant to play first on the block, some recent circumstances have moved me to do just that.

for the next few months I'll be exploring the MPC-LIVE and sharing the information


The first thing I did was install a 250 gig solid state drive in the MPC and load it up with pretty much everything I have in my home grown sample library - 16/44.1 wav.

The next thing I did was print out the 210 page manual - I recommend doing both.

If you want to create sample based music that doesn't sound like a whole bunch of other sample based music out there today, then you need to create unique samples. 

You need the manual - it's way too deep to just stumble around & think you'll get it.


If you are going to use a sequencer in an ensemble that actually plays in real-time (not to a click-track) then you need to set the sequencer up to function in seconds. This is the key to in-the-moment - fortunately the MPC has this level of flexibility.

THE SET-UP - looking for real-time - (quantize off : PPQ = 960 : 1/960 of a 1/4 note)

time signature = 1/4 : BPM = 120 : sequence length = 240 bars = 2 minutes 

(what makes this work is - the 1/4 time signature - obviously bpm and length are variable) 


A sequence can be up to 999 bars in length (8 minutes with this 1/4:120 set-up)

Each track of a sequence can have it's own independent length up to the length of the main sequence. By setting the time signature to 1/4 and the tempo to 120 each bar represents 1/2 of one second of time. This really opens the gates to a world of possibilities and to the realization of - master clocked poly-rhythmic compositions.

a simple example

track 1 - 16 bars (2 bars of 4/4 time) - 8 second loop

track 2 - 20 bars ( 2 bars of 5/4 time) - 10 second loop

track 3 - 28 bars (2 bars of 7/4 time) - 14 second loop

track4 - 240 bars (free over the top) - two minute loop (quantize off) 



Achieving a multi-clock condition is also possible simply by (in program edit) looping & tuning the samples used on each pad to create the desired pan-rhythmic density. (we'll be looking into all the possibilities found in the program edit mode next month) 


The MPC defaults to a, "master clock - 2 bars of 4/4 - 1/16th note", quantized reality .....but you don't have to leave it there!   

ON THE MPC - to set-up two minutes of real-time as default - 1/4:120:240

1- hit menu button

2- tap gear icon on top of screen

3- tap project defaults

4- tap and set tempo to 120

5- tap and set sequence bars to 240

6- tap and set time signature numerator to 1

7- tap and set time signature denominator to 4

8- hit main button 

The MPC will now power up with these settings - however to change the swing or the quantize resolution, or to turn quantize off - single tap the "tic" icon on top of the main screen - to change the counter from beat to time - double tap the counter window.

I get why they did it but I find it unfortunate that quantize swing & counter aren't saved 



This little bit of set-up has established the foundation for using the MPC in a real-time playing situation. There will be more to share next month as I dig deeper and deeper.


until next month the manual.....dino 


  Previously on Audio Log : one : two :   

  Episode : three (construction) 

  HIP SAMPLE (Extended Version 2017)

   in keeping with this month's sampler theme it's all sample based music