Traveling With Electronics : Slippin' Through the Backdoor : MPC-Live


.....sometimes it's your best and only option 



            What is the difference between a sampler and a live-sampler?              

Most samplers are really drum machines in that they are set up to fire off short one-shot (non-looped) bits of sonic information quantized to a master-clocked grid and in most cases choke the playback of similar-sounding-samples as they are played. 

A live-sampler is more of a loop-juggler where longer bits of sonic information which are looped with long ADSR release phases are played polyphonically and in most cases off the grid creating a much more organic pan-rhythmic tapestry of sound.

What gives a sampling device the ability to accomplish this task in performance is determined by the time it takes after a recording is made (0:00 seconds) to the time that the player can use the sample (?:?? seconds) without introducing any silence.

The majority of my real-time performance work requires a live-sampler : 1 : 2 : 3 :


The MPC-Live is a beast of a machine and the first hardware sampler in a long time that reminds me of the heady days of Ensoniq and the emergence of a new form of creation. But unlike the Ensoniq samplers.....the MPC really sucks at live-sampling. 

Akai's rather myopic vision of music creation is baked into the MPC at the "Project Defaults" level and is at the core of what holds it back from being a truly powerful live-sampler (rather ironic that it's called the MPC-live). I hope that this will change.  

There is however a work-around and if you are willing to create a dummy program & do some shedding you can slip through the backdoor to your real-time advantage.

Since the MPC defaults to drum machine behavior (one shot), we first need to set up a program that will lock in a new set of defaults for loop-juggling. The real key to this workaround is using the LOOPER to capture audio and assigning those samples to our newly created program. This works because the LOOPER doesn't take over and reassign the pads when it is in use so we can continue to play while we're sampling.  


MPC-Live/MPC-X : Live-Sampling Work-Around

1- The Dummy (Zer0 Program) PROGRAM EDIT (warp & bpm sync OFF)

Create a new drum program : set pads to ALL : Master set polyphony to POLY

Samples 1 load a ***silent sample and set slice to PAD set pad loop to ON

***the silent sample is a placeholder and needs to be there for this to work


Samples 2 set level to 101

Filter/Env filter type MPCcutoff 111res 11, env 11 : modulation 0, 0, 0, 0

filter env A 22 D 22 S 122 R 22 : amp env A 11 D 88 S 88  ***R 88 to 111 

LFO/MOD mute group OFF, layer VEL, play NOTE ON, pad poly 2

velocity 0, 0, amp 127, 0 : LFO wave S&H, rate 11, sync NONE

destination 0, 0, 0, pan 77

The settings above can be set as you like ***amp env R is most important 


Save This Program (after setting pads to CURRENT)

***When you load it : on main page next to program name

tap EDIT SAMPLE : hold SHIFT - tap 0snap ON

***(you need to to do this whenever you load a program : it is not saved - lame) 


2- The Backdoor : (How to set-up the LOOPER function)  

Input 1+2, stereo, bars 5 (= 10 sec)

sync OFF, record to PLAY

output -INF db, monitor OFF or ON 


1- press CLEAR

2- press REC

3- after it goes to play press EXPORT (program Zer0 in display)

4- tap the PAD you want

5- press KEEP (the sample is now active)



After you capture a few samples press MENU then press PROGRAM EDIT

***Samples 1 tap a PAD and set pad loop ON

***(when a new sample is added to a program pad loop defaults to OFF - lame)

on sample screen set start / end as desired

repeat for all new samples

Samples 2 tap Qlink one time (semi) tap a PAD and TUNE sample as desired

repeat for all new samples 

this can also be done with the sequencer in record and with automation on


3- The Shed : PRACTICE

Play random sound files into the Looper and practice until you are Real-Time Fluid. 


         Setting the Sequencer to Record in Real-Time (metronome click OFF)          

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. 

with quantize off the resolution is 960 pulses per 1/4 note : PPQ = 960

***a PPQ of 960 means that you are going to get back exactly what you play in!


time signature = 1/4 : BPM = 120 : sequence length = 360 bars = 3 minutes   

Each track of a sequence can have it's own independent length up to the length of the master sequence, presenting options for poly-rhythms & evolving automation.

Setting the time signature to 1/4 and the tempo to 120, each bar represents 1/2 of one second of time. The looper defaults to 4/4 with up to 16 bars, so 5 bars in the looper = 20 bars in the sequencer = 10 seconds of live-sampling time (per sample).  

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.  


To set-up three minutes of real-time as default - 1/4:120:360

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 360

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 you still have to turn quantize off - lame)



  ***Hey Akai*** 3 things that should be user defined defaults but are not

          1- 0snap on/off

          2- loop on/off - (when a new sample is added to a program)

          3- quantize on/off 



        Now that the pre-production is done let's do some live-sampling        

A Yamaha Reface CP plus 2 instances of Beathawk 1- tympani rolls / 2- bowed vibraphone 

the combined audio (CP/Beathawk) is the source for this MPC Live-Sampling workaround video


As you can see in the video below this workaround does facilitate Live-Sampling on the MPC. Sometimes it's the wisdom of water, finding the lower path, that takes you around the obstacle rather than confronting slippin' through the backdoor.

The point of Live-Sampling is to capture musical gestures and then perform those samples as another instrument, completely in the flow as the music unfolds. Once you watch the video for it's how-to advice, try listening again with your eyes closed.

 Of course while making this example video, thoughts of a slow and deliberate set of visual cues that were clear and easy to follow kept me way up in my head. I'm going to leave you this month with another piece : #8 from the workaround series : Reface CP / Beathawk / MPC-Live-Sampling.....which is free from any visual considerations.


For all of you who are currently using an MPC-Live and for those of you who are thinking about getting one, I hope that this information serves you well! TUBEDIGGA is another great source of useful information on the MPCX/Live 


Check the history of the thing that changed music & as always follow the $$



until next travels.....dino 

 JUNE 2018 AUDIOLOG : (real-time)

MPC-Live-Sampling : (#8 in a series, exploring a live-sampling workaround)