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Akai MPC 3000 MIDI Production Centre (part 7)

Before I describe the sequencing abilities of the MPC 3000 I should mention the pads and associated controls, since this is where much of the input will be carried out, rather than at a MIDI keyboard which for the drums will prove to be rather less suitable.

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Sequencing

Before I describe the sequencing abilities of the MPC 3000 I should mention the pads and associated controls, since this is where much of the input will be carried out, rather than at a MIDI keyboard which for the drums will prove to be rather less suitable. There are sixteen large rubber pads which are velocity and pressure sensitive. Since sixteen drums and cymbals are never enough for real drummers there is no reason to suppose they would be enough for the sequenced equivalent. But rather than setting up a ton of wood and metal on scaffolding, all you have to do is press the pad bank switch and you have four sets of sixteen sounds at almost instant disposal. If subtle dynamics are not to your liking in sequenced drum tracks - and why should they be? - then there is a ‘Full Level’ button to set the volume of each pad always to maximum. Another possibility is to set the sixteen pads to play the same sound at sixteen different velocities, tunings, decays or a couple of other options. This style of operation can be combined with normal operation in a single sequence, on the same instrument on different overdubs if you like. ‘Note Variation’ is an interesting trio of controls which allow continuous real time variation via a short slider in the tuning, attack, decay or filter setting of a sound. This can be done during recording or afterwards as an overdub, and once again this style of operation can be combined with the standard method.

As a sequencer, it is probably obvious that without the luxury of a computer style display, sequencing is going to be a matter of working in numbers rather than graphic objects. I once used to complain about this style of working and I used to say things like, “One day, computers will show the MIDI data graphically rather than as long tedious lists.” Well, I haven’t changed my tune, but I do now realise that there is a lot to be said for working in bars and beats, and after all, composers have been doing it for hundreds of years (and Mozart still gets more airplay than Wet Wet Wet!). At the bottom right corner of the MPC 3000 is an array of larger keys which offer transport functions and five major functions you will want to have close to hand. Let me list these…

Obviously Erase is going to be a very important key, and as you would expect it will scrub out anything recorded on any note you hold as the sequence plays, or you can erase by track or by bar number. You can even identify a particular type of data as something to be gotten rid of. Timing correct sets the quantise level, and the MPC 3000 can quantise as you record or after, and it can swing too. I remember that on the old version of the MPC, when you tried to advance or retard a whole track then there was a tendency to mess up whatever clever quantising you had done earlier. Here this is corrected and overall track timing can be adjusted either way without changing the quantisation.

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
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