In this MPC One, MPC X and MPC Live tutorial (adapted from my book, The MPC Bible), I’m going to transform an innocent clap sample into a thick and gnarly beast of a clap using nothing but the tools available in a standard MPC X/MPC Live DRUM program.
Loading The Basic Clap
Firstly, download the tutorial files, then unzip and transfer the ‘Clap From Hell Tutorial Files’ folder to your MPC X/MPC Live/MPC One. The easiest way to do this is to enter ‘controller’ mode and transfer the files to an SD card or USB stick, but you can also copy them to an internal SATA drive if you have one installed.
For more information on how to transfer files to your MPC One, MPC Live or MPC X, check out my ‘Standalone MPC File Transfers’ guide over at MPC-Samples.com.
With the tutorial files now transferred to an attached MPC disk, create a new blank project; to do this go to MAIN and hit the folder icon in the top centre of the screen:
At the bottom of the page hit NEW. Back in MAIN, you’ll see the default blank DRUM program, ‘PROGRAM 001’, is assigned to the DRUM PROGRAM row:
Tap the ‘A’ icon at the end of the row to bring up the on-screen keypad; rename this program to ‘Clap From Hell’.
Go to the BROWSER, select Places and navigate to the disk where you transferred the ‘Clap From Hell Tutorial Files’ folder (in my example I’m using an SD card called MPC DATA). Now double click the ‘Clap From Hell Tutorial Files’ folder to enter it.
Press pad A01 so it becomes green – this tells the MPC that the next sample loaded should be assigned to pad A01. Locate the classic-clap sample and double tap it to simultaneously load it into your project and assign to pad A01 (alternatively, single tap the file and press the LOAD button).
Setting up The Layers
Go to PROGRAM EDIT and press the SAMPLES button at the bottom of the screen – with A01 still selected you should see the following:
Hit A01 to have a listen to our clap. It’s a very standard clap sound, nothing special, but we’ll soon change all that.
Let’s assign a second copy of this clap to LAYER 2 of our pad. First, single tap the LAYER 2 ‘tab’:
Tap in the SAMPLE field and turn the data wheel clockwise (or hit the + button) to change this from ‘None’ to ‘classic-clap’.
Alternatively you can assign samples to multiple layers in the second SAMPLES screen. Notice how the ‘Samples’ tab has four dots underneath?
This indicates that there are three additional ‘SAMPLES’ pages available each with their own unique set of parameters – to access the second SAMPLES screen, simply press SAMPLES once again:
Here it’s more clear how the samples are currently stacked on top of each other, so when it comes to initially layering your samples you can choose whichever interface you find more intuitive.
Panning & Tuning The Layers
The next stage is to start applying program parameters to differentiate the two duplicate layers and create stereo width.
The last column in the SAMPLES screen lets us adjust the PAN for each clap layer. The default PAN value of ‘0’ places a layer bang in the centre of the stereo field; a negative value pans it to the left and a positive value pans it to the right.
Single tap the PAN parameter for LAYER 1 and turn your datawheel anticlockwise to set it to -15 (slight left pan). Now set the PAN for LAYER 2 to +15 (slight right pan).
Hit pad A01 to preview what our panned layered clap currently sounds like; by panning each layer to opposites sides of the stereo field we’ve given the clap a bit more width and presence. You can experiment with the amount of panning to change the overall stereo ‘width’ of the clap.
Now turn your attention to the ‘SEMI’ column. The SEMI parameter controls the pitch of each layer. Lowering the SEMI value will tune down our clap to give it a darker feel.
Tap the SEMI value for LAYER 1 and set it to -6. Now adjust the SEMI dial for LAYER 2, but this time set it slightly differently to -7. The reduced tuning gives the clap a darker, grittier vibe, and by using slightly different tunings on either side of the stereo field we enhance the overall stereo effect.
Applying The Pad Offset
Hit the ‘SAMPLES’ button once again to enter the third SAMPLES screen:
This is the OFFSET screen. Here we can ‘offset’ the two layers against each other, so rather than both layers play exactly in unison, the playback of one layer will be slightly delayed compared to the other. This will this create a nice ‘dragging’ effect.
To do this, tap the OFFSET parameter for LAYER 2 and start dragging the virtual slider to the left so the offset value is becoming increasingly negative:
If you find using your finger a bit too clunky on this dial, you can just single tap the slider and turn your data wheel anti-clockwise. This will adjust the offset in units of 100 (per wheel click). For even greater accuracy, hold down the SHIFT button while you turn; this will change the offset value in single units.
However, you can also use the Q-LINKS. If you have an MPC X you can see the current Q-LINK assignments displayed in the little OLED screen above each Q-LINK dial. But for the MPC Live/MPC One, simply hold down the Q-LINK button until the Q-LINK screen appears:
As you can see, to adjust the LAYER 2 OFFSET, turn the second dial from the top in the 2nd Q-LINK column (holding down SHIFT also improves accuracy with the Q-LINKS).
From the Q-LINK overview screen you can activate the setting ‘SHOW Q-LINK STATUS WHEN TOUCHED’ – now when you lightly touch any Q-LINK dial a status window appears at the side of the screen which shows the Q-LINK assignments for the currently selected Q-LINK column:
At lower negative values (e.g. -100), the two layers are just phasing, however as you reach -1200 or greater, the phasing is gone and now we are instead getting a different type of sound – the clap is now ‘dragging’, it sounds a lot thicker and has much more presence. If you set the offset too high it becomes less of a ‘drag’ and more of a ‘double’ (or a ‘flam’ in drummer terminology).
Set your OFFSET to somewhere around ‘-1800’.
Adding Some Effects
I’m pretty happy with the new ‘dragging’ clap, but let’s try adding a bit more grime to it to get things a little more nasty. Hit pad A02 and press the EFFECTS button at the bottom right of the screen:
In the EFFECTS page we can insert up to four effect plugins on our pad – remember insert effects are applied to the entire pad, it’s not possible to add them selectively to individual layers.
The MPC has heaps of usable effect plugins built in and some of these are great for dirtying up our samples – one of my favourites is the ‘Resampler’ effect, so let’s insert this across our entire pad. Double tap effect INSERT 1:
With both the TYPE and MANUFACTURER buttons enabled, expand the Harmonic group, open the ‘Akai Professional’ category and select the ‘Resampler’ plugin.
Press SELECT and click on the pencil icon to bring up the settings for the Resampler:
As you can see the resampler is a very simple effect to edit. The Rate value changes the bit rate of your sample, giving it a more crunchy vibe. Try a setting of 19. The Decim is the ‘decimator’ setting – try sweeping through this while continually hitting pad A02 until you find a sweet spot. I settled on a value of 41. Press CLOSE to return to the main EFFECTS page.
Now let’s add a bit of vintage warmth from one of the included ‘Vintage Effects’. Double tap INSERT 2, expand the ‘Vintage Effects > Akai Professional’ folder and select ‘SP-1200’:
The SP-1200 plugin emulates the output of a classic EMU SP1200 sampler, adding both warmth and some subtle crunch. There’s no configurable settings for this effect.
Finally tap in INSERT 3 and add Harmonic > AIR Music > AIR Diode Clip with the following settings:
The is a really cool distortion plugin that can add some nice harmonics to a sound. Try hitting the ‘ON’ button in the top right of the screen to temporarily bypass the effect to hear the difference.
It definitely sounds like it’s spent some time hanging out in some old 12 bit samplers… but can we do even more?
LFO and Filters
I spend a lot of time in ‘The MPC Bible’ looking at filters and LFO, including detailed information on what they are and how they work, but to wrap up this excerpt from the book, I thought I’d very quickly show you what’s possible using a combination of low pass filter and a NOISE wave LFO.
In PROGRAM EDIT press the ENVELOPES button twice to enter the ENV:FILTER screen:
On this page we can apply one of the MPC’s many different types of filters. In the first column, set the filter TYPE to ‘MPC’ (it’s the last filter in the list). This is a type of low pass filter (based on the low pass filter found in vintage MPCs). A low pass filter will remove high frequency content from your pad, literally only allowing the lower frequencies to ‘pass’.
While continually playing pad A01, start reducing the CUTOFF value using either the data wheel or the second Q-LINK dial from the bottom of Q-LINK column 1. As you do, you’ll hear the clap become darker as the filter begins removing the higher frequencies from the sound. Set CUTOFF to 74.
Now the fun really starts. Head over to PROGRAM EDIT > LFO:
On this page we can control the Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO), which will ‘modulate’ certain parameters of our sound based on a specific waveform.
Change the WAVE type from Sine to Noise and set the RATE to the maximum value of 200.00Hz. Preview pad A01 – so far there’s no change to the sound. Now tap on the FILTER parameter in the DESTINATIONS row, and while you continue to tap pad A01, start gradually increasing the FILTER value. As you do you’ll hear your clap begin to almost break apart as the LFO gets to work on the filter.
Try to find the setting that gives our clap a real crunchy, gritty sound – I settled on FILTER: 11 – a true ‘clap from hell’:)
You might also hear that our clap sounds very slightly different each time you hit the pad. This is the random nature of the NOISE wave changing the way our LFO modulates the low pass filter that we applied to our sample.
Finally, head over to MENU > PAD MIXER and check the output level of pad A01:
As you can see it’s clipping (in the red), so reduce the LEVEL using the white slider in the channel strip until it’s comfortably in the green. I set mine to -6.00dB:
You could also use some compression to reduce this output level with the added benefit of increasing the perceived loudness – this is a subject we look at in more detail in the MPC Bible.
The Next Step
Head back to the BROWSER where you can load up my final version of this program – ‘Clap From Hell – Final.xpm’. This has the grimy layered clap on pad A01 and for comparison the original (single layer) clap on pad A05. Which one do you like the best?
I cover all these techniques and much more in great detail my book, ‘The MPC Bible’, jam packed with practical standalone MPC tutorials and workflows for the MPC X, MPC Live, MPC Live II & MPC One, covering sampling, sound design, chopping, sequencing, song arrangement, drum kit building and much, much more.