Akai Pro MPC5000 - Performance Tools

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akai mpc5000 mainThe MPC5000 not only features great tools for song and beat production, it's also a powerful live-performance instrument. From dirty, gritty, in-your-face distortions to wacky modulation effects, the MPC5000's effects engine could easily replace an entire suitcase of pedals and other effects units. On top of the effects engine, the MPC5000's Q-Link assignable controllers, sampling engine, and of course, the velocity and pressure-sensitive MPC pads make for an incredible live performance tool. In this article, we will showcase a handful of live performance tricks.




Keying/Ducking audio

Let's start with a useful tip for dance music producers or anyone looking to “duck” audio rhythmically – in the studio or in the club. Ducking is an engineering trick has been around since the 1930s, then used to manage soundtrack and dialog audio in film studios. It has been widely used by radio broadcast engineers for as long as any broadcaster can remember to instantly reduce the volume of the music when the radio DJ speaks. Recently, ducking has become the secret ingredient in one of the most instantly recognizable sounds in music production: the kick drum's pumping effect found most in house and dance music. Most commonly, ducking is used stylistically to reduce the level of bass, pads, and/or strings from–or in response to–the kick drum. This enables the kick drum to more effectively do its job, cutting through the mix and making people dance. There are a few methods you can employ with the MPC5000 to create this effect.


Method 1: Tremolo effect

Select Tremolo Sync from the Effects list (Mode Pad 11) and assign it to any available effects bus. Choose the program you want to apply it to and turn the Send value up all the way in the PrgMIX tab of the Mixer (Mode Pad 7).

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Use this effect on long sustained notes such as a pad or single-note bass to have it duck in and out in time with the song. You can also apply this to both Synth and Sample Programs for other effects.

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Method 2: Using the Amp ADSR to Add Attack-Delay to the Beginning of a Sample

In Program mode (mode pad 6), press F5 (AmpEnv) and set the attack to 55 as a starting point, reducing that setting for faster response.

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This will enable you to manually set the amount of attack you want to roll off the kick drum. This works especially well if you are using drum rhythms that aren't locked into a steady quarter-note pattern. Set Sample Play mode to “Note On” by highlighting the sample in Program Mode, pressing Window, then changing each layer that has a sample assigned from “ONE SHOT” to “NOTE ON”. This forces the sample to only play as long as you hold the pad down, which is crucial for longer samples.

Now, ducking of this sample will be rhythmically paced according to your own feel rather than being locked into the tremolo's sync settings

Tip: Try also raising the Delay parameter to around 25 to move the entire sample forward in time by 25 milliseconds, giving the bass drum “first dibs” to the downbeat of the measure. Experimentation is important here.

Live Tip: Want the ability to instantly shut this effect off as the track is playing? Try keeping the AmpEnv window open and punching in Attack values of 0 and 55. Or you can assign the Attack of the AmpEnv to a Q-Link control.

Another way to control this in real time is to duplicate the Track into another Track. Duplicate the Program into another, but with the ADSR Attack time of 0. Assign the second track to this new version of the Program. Then use TRACK MUTE to turn the versions of the track on and off.

You can use this same duplication method with the Tremolo method by duplicating the pad data into another. Assign only one of the pads to the Tremolo, and control the two with the PdMUTE (F3) tab of the TRACK MUTE screen.


Method 3: Use a Hardware Compressor With Sidechain

This is the most difficult, and best-sounding method. For this technique, you will need an external compressor with a sidechain option, such as the Alesis 3630.

Route your kick drum, synth, or other signal you wish to use as the sidechain's modulation source from one of the MPC's outputs into the compressor's sidechain input.

Open the Mixer page (mode Pad 7), highlight the OUT for the pad that has the kick drum and set the OUT to 1 (or any desired mono output). Using a mono patch cable, line the chosen output of your MPC into the sidechain on the compressor.

The audio you want to compress must be sent out another of the MPC's outputs into the compressor's input, so repeat the above steps, choosing a different output and patch the cable out of the second output into the input of the compressor.

The compressed signal comes out of the compressor's into the MPC's RECORD IN, enabling you to sample the compressed signal, record it to a HD Audio Track, or if you are using an external mixer, route it directly out of the compressor into an available channel on the mixer.

On the compressor, set the attack to 25-50ms, the release to 200-500ms, and the threshold according to how drastically you want the audio to duck out. As you manipulate the ratio, you are effectively managing your mix, allowing the kick drum to do its job without muddying the mix.


Robo-Voice Effect

Let's start with a trick for using the MPC's effects engine with a microphone. We're going after the Robo-Voice effect similar to some effects boxes or vocoder emulators.

  1. Plug in a microphone to the MPC5000's MIC IN. We suggest a vocal mic with an XLR connector for the best sound.
  2. Set the Input Select switch to MIC on the top panel of the MPC5000 and the combo-jack switch on the back panel of the MPC5000 to MIC.
  3. Press MODE + PAD11 (Effects) to enter the Effects screen. For this example, use Bus 4.
  4. Select Frequency Shifter and try some of the following settings:


  5. Experiment with hard panning, extreme frequencies, and Async settings to create the effect that works for your track. You can get everything from warbling robotic sounds to intense sub-bass and harsh, whining frequency splits.


Manipulating Filters with the Q-Links

Let's try using the Q-Link controls to automate manipulation of a filter. The assignable Q-Link knobs, faders, and buttons empower you with tactile control. You can just assign the desired filter parameters to the Q-Link you want to use for controlling it. (MODE+Pad 1)

  1. In this example, Q-Link Fader 1 (Q1) is assigned to control the frequency of the kick sample filter and the Q5 Knob is assigned to resonance.
  2. To automate filter adjustments, first ensure that the Q-Link Setup (F3 tab of Q-Link page) reflects the Default Q-Link Mode that you want to automate. With this setting, you are selecting whether the adjustments you make on the Q-Links will be recorded for automation or effect control.

  3. Assign a Q-Link control by returning to [Prg Q], moving a fader or knob, and pressing WINDOW.

  4. Enter record mode on the MPC5000 sequencer and manipulate the Q-Links while the sequence is in Record or Overdub mode. Your filter changes will be part of the sequence when you save.


Manipulating Effects with Q-Links

With MPC5000 OS 2.0, you can now automate all parameters of any effect using the Q-Links. This means that you can record your performance including the ways you manipulate effects for later recall.

View this by entering Grid Edit [Mode + Pad 14] mode, changing VIEW to Real Time, and changing the T/C time to a high number such as 1/64th to see higher sequence detail.

Let's say you want to pipe in some audio from your DJ mixer and use the MPC5000 effects to make the transitions between tracks more interesting. Here's one example of what you might do.

  1. Assign the Resampler effect and a Q-Link to the Decimator parameter.
  2. Fade the Decimator control UP as you crossfade songs with your other hand.


Stutter Loops

Using the Trim Mode and the Q-link sliders, a specific section of a sample can be highlighted on the fly and looped using the P > LOOP sub-function of Pad 14.

  1. Load up a sample in the Trim Mode screen.

  2. Using the Q1 fader for the Left selection point and the Q2 fader for the right point, press Pad 14 to play the selection as a continuous loop.
  3. Each time you choose a new loop selection, quickly release and retrigger Pad 14 to play the new loop selection.


You can select part of a sample, choose Edit, and apply an effect such as Reverse or Bit Reduction. Now you have a sample that you can use to create some wild sounds by moving the loop selection over and around the affected sections.

Using Random Zone Play to Trigger Random Samples

Random Zone Play is an MPC5000 feature that enables one of the four velocity zones on a pad to trigger randomly each time the note is struck.

  1. Using MPC Note Repeat, you can retrigger the pad while changing the Timing Correct subdivision for an immediate and controllable stutter effect. This is great for vocals and snares. You can also tap the desired tempo out using the Tap Tempo button to fine-tune your exact repetition speed.

  2. You can then tap the desired tempo out using the Tap Tempo button to fine-tune your exact repetition speed.
  3. Create a new collection of affected samples all based on the same sound, such as a snare.
  4. Each sample could have a variation of an effect such as a Parametric EQ or a High Pass Filter. In the Program screen, assign each sample to a layer of a pad and turn Zone Play to Random.
  5. Set each layer to NOTE ON and experiment with pan positions.

    You can now spice up a track with a snare drum that changes randomly without ever muddying the mix. Keep in mind that you can do all of this while a sequence or song is playing if you need to add some flavor to your live production.


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