MPC Essentials is a one-track version of the full MPC software. Although this may seem limiting at first, there are plenty of ways to use this to your advantage and allow MPC Essentials to expand with you as your productions grow. This guide uses the MPK Mini MKII and Ableton Live Lite to go over the basics of using MPC Essentials as a plug-in in your DAW, and how to use multiple instances for several tracks worth of MPC features and functionality.
- Installing And Unlocking The Plugin
- Scanning The Plugin Into Your DAW
- Setting Up Your MIDI Keyboard
- Loading The Plugin
- Using Multiple Instances of MPC Essentials
- Further Technical Support
The first thing to do here is make sure that you have the plugin installed. The MPC Essentials software is located on your Akai Pro account page. If you have not yet done so, navigate to Akaipro.com, create an account or log in, and register your product. You will then see a download link for the latest version of MPC Essentials located beneath your product on your account page.
When you are installing the software you will be given a page where you can check off the versions that you would like to install:
Generally, you should only need to install the VST plugin version in both 32 and 64 bit. This is the version used by most DAWs. If using a Mac, you will also see the option for an AU version, which is also very common, though only used on Mac. I'd recommend to install at least the VST and AU versions of the plugin. If you are using Pro Tools, you'll want to install the RTAS and AAX versions.
The next step is to decide where the VST plugin will install and it's important to take note of this location. Mac systems use one common location for all of their VST and AU plugins, so this step will not be necessary for Mac users.
For Windows, there are a few different places the system may keep it's VST plugins. You are welcome to change the install location of the plugin if you're familiar with this process or have your own common VST folder, though for our purposes I'd recommend to just leave this alone. As you can see in the picture above the installer will put the 64-bit VST version of the plugin in this location:
- C:\> Program Files > Steinberg > vstplugins
Keep in mind, the 32 bit version may install to the same folder in Program Files (x86). Please be aware of this location in case this is different for your system.
Before moving on, make sure to open the standalone version of the plugin and unlock MPC Essentials. If you received this with an MPC Element, please follow this guide. If you received MPC Essentials with an MPK2 or MPD2 product, you will find your software serial number on your account page, above the download links.
Now that the plugin is installed and unlocked, you want to direct your DAW to find it. This is a very common process for any DAW, but for our purposes I will be using Ableton Live Lite.
- Open your DAW.
- Navigate to your DAW's plugin manager. For Ableton, you can get there by choosing Options > Preferences (or Live > Preferences for Mac) and then clicking on the File/Folder tab in the preferences window.
- Under the Plug-in Sources section, find the option for "Use VST Plug-in Custom Folder" and turn this On.
- Directly below that, click on Browse and find the folder where your MPC Essentials plugin was installed.* Typically, this should be:
C:\> Program Files > Steinberg > vstplugins
*Ableton is unique in that it only allows you to scan one folder for VST plugins. This is where it may come in handy to have one common location for all of your VSTs. If you received multiple plugins with your product, you can run the installer for the plugin and move the VST install location to a common folder.
- Once you select this folder, your DAW should scan the folder for any available plugins. If not, you will typically see a Re-scan option that will scan the folder again. You can also just close and re-open the DAW and it should rescan the assigned plugin folders
Every DAW is going to have their own process for scanning plugins, but they will all typically follow these general guidelines. If you're unsure how to do this with your DAW, check with the developers website for any guides or tutorials on the topic. If you are using Pro Tools or a Mac computer, the plugins should install to a common location and the DAW should scan the correct folders automatically.
Before we get started with using the plugin, we want to make sure that your DAW is "listening" to your MIDI controller. Similar to the setup in MPC Essentials, most DAWs will have some sort of device setup menu where you can activate the MIDI ports for your keyboard so that the software knows to respond to any incoming MIDI signal from that device. Because MPC Essentials is a plugin inside your DAW, your DAW will be in charge of accepting and delivering any MIDI signal from your device to the plugin. Here's how to do this in Ableton:
- Navigate to your Preferences window (Options > Preferences for Windows, Live > Preferences for Mac).
- Click on the MIDI/Sync or MIDI/Link tab, depending on your version of Ableton.
- In the MIDI Ports section, turn on Track and Remote for your device's input and Track and Sync for your device's output.
If you are following this setup guide for an MPK2 or MPD2 controller, you can follow our separate setup guides for more info on setting up your controller with Ableton:
- MPK2 Series - Setup in Ableton Live 9 Lite
- MPD232 - Setup in Ableton Live Lite
- MPD226 - Setup in Ableton Live Lite
Because the focus here is to use your device with MPC Essentials, you will also want to your device to be using it's MPC Essentials preset, and not necessarily the preset for your DAW. You may end up going back and forth between both.
- For any of the MPK or MPD2 series products, use the preset button to find and select the MPC Essentials preset.
- For the MPK Mini MKII, use this guide for instructions on how to load your MPC Essentials preset
Now that the DAW has scanned all of your plugins, you'll want to create a new Instrument/MIDI track for MPC Essentials and open the plugin.
- Create a MIDI track in Ableton by clicking on Create up at the top and selecting Insert MIDI Track.
- On the left side of Ableton, select Plug-Ins under the Category section and you will see your MPC Essentials plugin appear in the window to the right.
- Click on MPC Essentials and drag it to the top of your MIDI track to load it onto the track. The plugin should then open automatically.
- Finally, you'll want to make sure that your track in Ableton is "record armed" and the monitor is set to "Auto" This means that Ableton will actively be sending MIDI information to your track and plugin and will playback all audio coming out of the plugin onto the track.
At this point, you should be able to open a plugin or create a drum program inside your MPC Essentials plugin, the same way you would in the standalone version. All MIDI information will be sent to the plugin and all audio from the plugin will be sent out to your track in Ableton.
As always, keep in mind that this process will be a little different for another DAW, but the idea should be the same. Other DAW's will typically have you create an Instrument or MIDI track and then select MPC Essentials from a list of plugins by clicking on an insert slot in the track header. If you're unfamiliar with loading plugins onto a track in your DAW, check for any guides or tutorials from the developer that will show you how to do this.
One of the biggest benefits to using MPC Essentials as a plugin in your DAW, is that you can use multiple instances of the plugin, giving you several different tracks worth of MPC Essentials features and sounds. This means that you can have a drum program on one track in your first instance of Essentials, a piano plugin on the second track of Essentials and so on and so forth. You can do this for as many tracks as your computer and DAW can handle. Now you can combine your Essentials sounds with sounds/instruments from your DAW, vocals or other audio recordings. Every instance of Essentials will follow the transport and tempo from your DAW, meaning all of your sequences in each instance will line up perfectly with your DAW.
For basic use, you can simply create another track as discussed in the previous section. Keep in mind, that your DAW is in charge of routing the MIDI signal to each of your plugins. Use the Record Arm button on your track to choose which plugin/track will be listening to the output from your keyboard, and thus which instance of the plugin you are playing and recording.
A popular way to use the MPC Essentials plugin with your keyboard and/or pad controller is to use MIDI channels to route different signals from the keyboard to different instances of Essentials. Using the example from earlier, this means you could send your pads to your first instance of Essentials to play the drum program, and keys to the second instance to play the piano plugin. All by assigning your keyboard/pads to use different MIDI channels and routing them in Ableton. Here is an example of how to set that up with an MPK Mini MKII:
- Start by assigning your pads and your keys to different MIDI channels by using the editor software. Follow the guide here to download and load the MPC Essentials preset for your MPK Mini MKII.
- Before sending the preset, change the MIDI channel assignment for the drum pads at the bottom of the editor window. Channel 10 is a standard channel for drum pads.*
*If you are using one an MPK225, 249 or 261, the pads will typically be set to channel 10 by default. Press the EDIT button below the display and hit each pad to check it's current channel assignment.
- Send the preset to the MPK Mini MKII. Make sure to save your new preset in case you need to use it again.
- Now that your MPK Mini MKII is all set up, load two Ableton MIDI tracks with 2 MPC Essentials plugins. In the first instance, load your drum program and in the second instance, open the plugin of your choice.
- Assign each track with a specific MIDI port for your device and a specific MIDI channel. This can be done in the MIDI From section of each track. The first drop-down menu will decide which port the track is "listening" to:
And the drop-down menu below that will choose which MIDI channel it is "listening" to:
Do this for each channel. The first track will be set to MIDI channel 10 so that it only listens to the drum pads, but set the second track to MIDI channel 1 so that it only listens to the keyboard keys.
- Finally, hold down CTRL (CMD on Mac) and click on each Record Arm button to enable both tracks.
And that's it! Now you can play your drums with the pads and piano or other synths with the keys!
Keep in mind, using different MIDI channel assignments is a universal way to route MIDI signals and the setups can get a lot more complicated than this. You can always experiment with using even more instances of MPC Essentials by using other MIDI controllers on different channels.
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