Update: Since the release of firmware 2.3, the workflow described in this tutorial is now superseded by my new Autosampler tutorial!
This has been my most requested MPC X & MPC Live tutorial ever – how to create ‘standalone’ MPC instruments from your favourite VST plugins!
We all know that we can’t use plugin instruments while in ‘standalone mode’ in our MPC X & MPC Live, but we can quite literally ‘clone’ those plugins by multisampling them and creating native MPC ‘keygroup’ instruments from those samples.
So I thought it would be pretty cool to come up with a really quick ‘plugin cloning’ solution for the MPC X/MPC Live community, so here it is, the ‘VST-2-MPC’ workflow that will allow anyone to clone their favourite plugin patch using nothing but an MPC X/MPC Live in under 3 minutes!
This 10 step workflow handles the bulk of the work for you, it even renames all your samples and automatically maps them to a fully working keygroup program!
Before You Start
The first thing to do is download the workflow files and extracted the contents to any location on your computer (e.g. Desktop).
Fire up MPC Software 2.x and connect your MPC Live/X via USB to your computer and turn on your MPC. Go to MENU and hit the ‘MPC’ chip near the top right of the screen and select CONTROLLER MODE.
Now this workflow can be completed entirely in the computer GUI (there’s one task that has to be done in the GUI) but on the whole I’m going to explain the workflow from the hardware/touchscreen UI as that’s what most MPC X and MPC Live users are used to.
Please note that to keep this tutorial as compact as possible I do assume you already have a working knowledge of the MPC X or MPC Live; if you need more help understanding topics such as multisampling, keygroup editing, sample editing and sequencing then check out my hands-on tutorial guide, ‘The MPC X & MPC Live Bible‘.
Step 1: Load the Project Template
Go to the BROWSER and navigate to the location on your computer where you extracted the workflow files. Enter the folder ‘Standalone Instrument Plugins Workflow‘ and double tap the ‘Standalone Plugins.xpj‘ project file (make sure ‘NO FILTER’ or PROJECTS is selected at the top of the BROWSER):
The project loads up a 100 BPM sequence called 5 Semitone 1v and sets track 1 as a ‘Plugin‘ track (currently no plugin assigned):
Step 2: Choose & Configure Your Plugin Patch
You’ll now need to assign a plugin to this track. I’m going to use the ‘Hybrid 3‘ plugin simply because this is built in to all installations of the MPC Software, however once you’re familiar with the workflow you can use this template to sample any patch from any plugin you wish; VST, AU and AAX – as long as the plugin is recognised by your MPC, you’re good to go.
While you can configure your plugin from the hardware UI, I recommend you head over to the computer GUI as it handles the plugin interface so much better.
In Main Mode in the computer GUI, make sure the Inspector on the left hand side is open – if it isn’t, hit i on your keyboard. Click the PLUGIN <none> box to open the Plugin selection window:
If you have TYPE and MANUFACTURER grouping enabled (bottom left of screen), you’ll find Hybrid 3 inside ‘MPC Expansions > AIR Music Technology‘:
Double click Hybrid 3 to assign it to our PLUGIN track. Now you need to select a patch you wish to ‘clone’. Click on the Plugin Window icon in the Inspector:
This will open the Plugin Window. Tap on the patch selector in the top right of the screen and from the ‘Soft Leads’ group select ’13 Analog Square Lead’.
Select pad BANK D or E on your hardware and play a few pads to preview the lead patch. When multisampling it’s often a good idea to sample your instruments as dry as possible as you can always add effects like reverbs, delays and chorus to your MPC instrument program at a later date, so head over to the EFFECTS tab in the Hybrid plugin GUI.
At the top you’ll see there are no effect inserts applied to parts A or B. However head down to the ‘MASTER‘ effects at the bottom where you can toggle through the three master effects using the tabs on the right; CHORUS, DELAY & REVERB.
As you can see, the DELAY and CHORUS are active, so for both effects click ‘ON‘ so the yellow light turns off. Close your plugin window.
Step 3: Configuring Your Sequence
Back in the hardware UI, head over to MENU > GRID VIEW for sequence 1 (5 Semitone 1v):
As you can see this is a 52 bar sequence containing 26 two bar long note events, each at full velocity. As the sequence name suggests, these events are added every 5 ‘semitones’ and effectively cover the entire note range of the MPC. (The 1v refers to this just recording a single velocity of each note).
Hit PLAY START; with the default tempo (100 BPM) each note in the sequence plays for 5 seconds. If you wish to adjust this you can just change the sequence tempo – pick a slower tempo of longer notes, faster tempo for shorter notes. I’ll explain this in more detail in the second example.
You’ve also probably notice that those really low bass notes in BANK A are just too low to be usable, but we’ll easily deal with those later (the template system gets messed up if we start deleting bars from the beginning of our sequence).
Step 4: Check Your Levels
In MAIN, tap the ‘eye’ icon near the top left of the screen to reveal the program channel strip:
Hit PLAY START and observe your LEVEL METER:
Adjust the slider to set a level that ensures there’s no clipping (i.e. the levels don’t go to the red). Alternatively, perform this in MENU > CHANNEL MIXER.
Step 5: Bounce Your Track
We’re now going to bounce this sequence to create an audio sample from it. To do this in the hardware UI simply go to MAIN > top pencil icon > EDIT > BOUNCE TO SAMPLE
Head over to SAMPLE EDIT; there should only be one sample in memory ‘Bounce – 5 Semitone 1v‘:
VERY IMPORTANT: Do not change the name of this sample!
Step 6: Create Your Chops
Press TRIM again to enter CHOP mode. Remember how our sequence contained 26 events? The means we need to create 26 chop regions. Select REGIONS as the chop method and set CHOP TO REGIONS to 26.
Perfect. Now hold down SHIFT and hit CONVERT. Choose ‘New program with new samples‘:
Make sure you check ‘Crop Samples‘ (we definitely want to create individual samples) and uncheck ‘Create new Program’. Hit DO IT to create your chops.
Go to MAIN and hit the folder icon at the top centre of the screen to view the PROJECT panel:
Make sure ‘All Samples‘ is selected on the left and you should see all your chops on the right (the samples ending in ‘Sl1‘, ‘Sl2‘ etc). Each one of these is a note from your multisampled Hybrid patch.
Step 7: Import Your Instrument Program Template
Head back to the BROWSER and open the ‘Instrument Templates‘ folder. Double tap the 5 Semitone 1v.xpm program and you will see this – don’t press anything else yet!
VERY IMPORTANT: It is vital that you select CANCEL here, do NOT press REPLACE. For some reason, pressing REPLACE causes the MPC to completely crash. So press CANCEL – this will load the keygroup program into memory.
Now go to MAIN, change track 1 to a KEYGROUP type track (just tap the keygroup icon). The newly loaded 5 Semitone 1v program should automatically assign itself to the track:
Here’s the magic – select, say, BANK D and start playing your pads; you should hear your new multisampled lead patch program in action!
How does this work? Well this ‘5 semitone’ program template contains 26 key groups to match the 26 sample chops we created via the ‘5 Semitone’ sequence. Each keygroup has a ‘key range’ of 5 semitones and is coded with the correct ‘root note’ to match the note that will be assigned to it. Here’s how keygroup 2 is set up (root note G-2):
Now, remember I said that you must never rename the original ‘bounced’ sample? That’s because when the MPC creates all those chops from that sample it uses a predictable naming structure, so we always know what the names of the 26 chops will be. So in the program keygroup 1 always looks for a sample 5 Semitone 1v Sl-1, while keygroup 2 looks for 5 Semitone 1v Sl-2 and so on.
When you load that program into your project the MPC realises that all the samples are already there in memory and immediately attaches them to your program. This means you don’t have to spend any time creating keygroups, assigning samples, or setting up root notes; the program does everything for you – but it only works if you don’t change the name of the bounced sample (nor any other names in the templates!).
Step 8: Tidy Sample Names
At this point your program and all the samples have the generic template names ut it’s ridiculously easy to fix this.
First, give your new keygroup program a more useful name, for example, ‘Hybrid Analog Square’, or if you want to use Akai’s tagging standard, ‘Lead-Hybrid Analog Square‘.
This can be done via MAIN > KEYGROUP PROGRAM row > ‘A‘ icon’:
Now the clever bit. In the computer GUI, go to ‘Edit > Program > Tidy Keygroup Sample Names‘ and take a look at the Project panel:
The MPC has now renamed all your note samples using the ‘program name’ followed by the the MIDI note number and pitch of the note the sample represents.
Step 9. Save Your Program
Don’t forget to save this new program along with all its samples! In MAIN, hit the pencil icon on the KEYGROUP PROGRAM row and select SAVE CURRENT PROGRAM.
As part of the tutorial download I’ve included a separate ‘Saved Instruments‘ folder which you could use to save instruments to, otherwise just save them wherever you wish.
Step 10: Reset The Project Template
Now that your plugin patch has been cloned and the MPC instrument saved, you can move onto multisampling another patch. But before you start, you’ll need to reset the project template.
The easiest way to do this is to just re-load the original Standalone Plugins.xpj file, either from the BROWSER or just drag it from your computer directly into the MPC Software GUI.
All done – you’re now ready to clone your next plugin patch by repeating steps 2-10 as many times are you need to.
Customizing Your Sequence Template
Let’s see how easy it is to customise this workflow to suit ay type of sound. First, make sure you’ve performed a ‘reset’ by loading the Standalone Plugins.xpj.
Assign an instance of Hybrid to track 1, this time select ‘Basic Basses > 13 Knocking PWM Bass’. As before, head over to the plugin’s ‘EFFECTS‘ section and disable the CHORUS, DELAY and REVERB.
Press PLAY START and have a listen to the bass patch. Unlike the previous example, the notes in this patch do not play for as long as you hold down the pads, instead they fade out quite quickly (after approximately 2 seconds).
While you can just go ahead and create your bounced chops with the default sequence settings, each note is going to be sampled for 5 seconds which means you’ll have a long empty gap at the end of each sample. This is not very efficient in terms of memory usage, and while we can edit the individual samples (either at the chop stage or after they’ve been chopped), it’s a lot easier to adjust our sequence instead.
In MAIN, start to increase the BPM from the default 100.00. If you increase the tempo to 200 BPM (i.e. twice the tempo), you’ll get notes that are half as long, i.e. 2.5 seconds.
Hit PLAY and listen carefully, we want to make sure the bass note has completely faded out before the next note plays. Sounds pretty good to me!
The next tweak you could perform is to remove those really high notes from the sequence. After all, this is a bass, not a lead so do we really need all those squeaky notes in banks G and H?
I reckon the last event worth sampling is the one at bar 31, so in GRID VIEW, change BARS from 52 to 32. As you can see, all the events from bar 33 onwards are now disabled and will not be included in our bounced track.
Now repeat the rest of the workflow exactly as you did before – the end result is a perfect clone of the original bass patch – if you want to ‘tag’ the program, use ‘Bass-‘ at the beginning, e.g. Bass-Hybrid PWM Bass.xpm.
Customizing Your Instrument Programs
The keygroup instruments you create are just standard MPC Keygroup programs, so you can tweak these to further customise your instruments. Let’s take a look at four easy tweaks you might want to make:
We previously disabled the effects from our plugin patch as ideally we want to be able to control this kind of thing at the program level. Adding effects to your program is very easy. Make sure your program is assigned to the currently active sequence track and with the channel strip open in MAIN, tap in the INSERTS box to reveal the Inserts window.
Here you can choose to add up to 4 insert effects. Remember to retain ‘standalone’ compatibility, you must choose Internal or Vintage Effects, not VSTs or AUs.
Adjusting The Release
The generic template has a fairly short release on all keygroups, but for some sounds (such as pads or strings) you’ll need something much longer; this way, when you ‘release’ the note you’ll get a nice amount of gentle fade out. Go to PROGRAM EDIT > FILTER/ENV:
At the top of the page, tap on the ‘KEYGROUP‘ box and turn the data wheel anticlockwise to select ‘All‘ – now any changes you make to the envelope will apply to all keygroups.
Under AMP ENVELOPE, tap on the RELEASE value and adjust this to suit your sound – keep previewing the sound with your pads as you adjust the release.
Don’t forget you can of course adjust the other envelope settings to further customise your instrument – for example increasing the ATTACK value will produce a softer, more gentle start to each note.
Creating a Monophonic Instrument
Many lead patches benefit from being ‘monophonic’ which means they can only play a single note at a time. Go to PROGRAM EDIT > MASTER and change POLYPHONY from ‘Poly’ to ‘Mono‘.
Removing Unwanted Samples
Before we bounced our bass patch sequence we reduced the number of bars to avoid recording the excessively high notes. What we couldn’t do at that stage was remove the excessively low notes as this would have messed up the automatic slide labelling and assignment in the templates.
Now we can’t actually fully ‘delete’ keygroups from the start of a program, but we can remove the unwanted samples from them – if a keygroup has no samples, it effectively becomes ‘disabled’.
Go to PROGRAM EDIT > SAMPLES and at the top of the screen select KEYGROUP 1.
In LAYER 1, single tap the trashcan icon to the left of the sample name to remove the sample assigned to this keygroup. Repeat for all the key groups you wish to disable. Once you’ve removed all the samples, re-save the keygroup program.
Converting To Mono
The MPC always bounces sequences in stereo, but in order to save memory we can often get away with using mono samples in our instruments. You can of course convert your stereo ‘chops’ to mono at a later date, but it’s easier to convert the entire bounce sample before chopping it. In SAMPLE EDIT > TRIM, select ‘PROCESS > STEREO TO MONO’.
You can choose to SUM both channels or use just LEFT or RIGHT, the best option will vary depending on the patch so you might have to experiment.
The most important thing to remember is that your newly created mono bounce will no longer have the correct name for our workflow template, so you’ll need to delete the original stereo bounce first and then rename the mono version back to ‘Bounce – 5 Semitone 1v‘.
If you want to hear an audio preview of your new instrument each time it’s selected in the BROWSER, you’ll need to create a ‘Program Preview‘ for each one. I’ve covered creating program previews in my Expansion Pack tutorial, and the method is the same for the MPC X/MPC Live browser, i.e. create your audio demos, rename them to match the program name, and place them in a [Previews] folder in the same directory as the instruments.
Advanced Multisampling Options
That’s it for this tutorial, but there’s plenty more advanced options you could consider as you get more comfortable with the multisampling workflow. You could for example create custom templates to multisample more notes (e.g. every 3 semitones, or even chromatically), or to record over multiple dynamic levels.
You could also sustain loop your sounds so they play back for as long as you hold down your pads (which will also save memory). You could set up velocity sensitive filters to emulate natural timbre changes, configure LFO to mimic tremolo and vibrato settings on electric pianos, and much much more. I cover many of these techniques and more in my hands-on guide to the new standalone MPCs, the ‘MPC X & MPC Live Bible‘.