Akai MPC2500 - Tips and Tricks
The MPC2500 is a staple of music production, used by professional producers, beatmakers, and other musicians everywhere. MPCs make it quick and easy to make beats and shape them to perfection. In this column, we’ll give you some ideas on how to get even more out of your MPC2500. Nearly all MPC users can benefit from these tips, with the exception of the Auto Chromatic feature, which is just for the MPC2500.
When creativity strikes, it’s tempting to grab the MPC and start punching pads. But taking time to organize your samples is worth the investment. For example, the default name for a new sample is Sample01 and the default name for a new Program is Program01. While it’s easy to accept the default names and making your beat, it can turn into a major headache. If you have multiple Sample01 and Program01 files stored, you’ll have to load and listen to several of them to find the right one.
To prevent confusion, name every sample, every program, and every sequence with a different name. The time you put in before saving the file will save you time when you are browsing through your library looking for the right files.
Create Precision Loops
The MPC’s Detect Tempo function is useful for making loops. In order to use it, your sample needs to have a tempo to detect. That means that editing your loop points is crucial. For example, if you tell the MPC to make a four-bar phrase from a loop, and your loop is slightly longer than four bars, it’s like trying to pour 13 ounces of soda into a 12-ounce cup! You’re asking the MPC to do something impossible to do accurately, so the results will not be what you expected.
Listen to your loop and carefully count the number of beats before asking the MPC to detect beats. The closer to a perfect loop you make, the more accurately your MPC can detect the beats. Once that’s done, you will have a great deal of flexibility to use the sample at different pitches and tempos.
Fill it in with synth tricks
There’s nothing like the warm sound of analog synthesizers and organs sounds for adding texture and fullness to your beats. But vintage and modern analog synths fetch premium prices. Don’t worry. You don’t have to sell your car to add these sounds to your palette. You can add affordable sample libraries, like the Vintage Beat Machines Sample Pack, to your MPC.
Once you have a synth or organ sound you like, you might want to fatten it up. The MPC has some of the tools synthesizers employ to build their rich, lush sounds. Here are some ways to transform good sounds into great ones:
Layer and Detune – Layering makes a single sound appear that you recorded two or more performances for a bigger, fuller sound. The MPC can load up to four versions of a sample, but loading the same sound more than once just makes it louder, not different. So we will slightly detune the second, third, and fourth samples in Program Mode. Here’s how create this layered sound that you can trigger with one pad hit
- Load a sample
- Press Mode, then Program (Pad 7)
- Choose the same sound for spots 1 and 2
- Use the cursor to navigate to the second sample. Move the cursor right until the 00.00 section has all four digits black under the Tune menu.
- Turn the Data knob to detune the second sample and listen to what it sounds like as you move the knob. Try tunings of ±0.24 or less to fatten up the sound.
- Add third and fourth versions of the same sample and detune each one for extremely big synth sounds, all from one sample.
Filters – Filters turn are an essential part of any synthesizer because they focus the sound in a certain way. You can hear filtered synth sounds on music from the 80s, and lots of hip-hop tracks have filtered synth sounds.
- Low Pass Filters (LPF) create sounds with lots of low end because they cut, or filter out high frequencies.
- High Pass Filters (HPF) are just the opposite, allowing high frequencies such as cymbal crashes to cut through your mix, while filtering out lower frequencies.
- Band Pass Filters highlight a certain range, or band, of frequencies. They are good for creating something similar to the sound of a tiny radio. Band Pass filters are often used on small vocal accent parts to make them stand out, or as an effect to make them sound like someone speaking through a telephone.
Here’s how to customize your sounds with filters:
- Select the Filter tab on the bottom of the Program screen
- Press F2 to bring up the filter on the sample
- Use the Cursor to move down to the Type field
- Use the Data wheel to scroll through the different type of filters
- Tweak the Frequency and both sections of the Reso field and listen to your sample change.
Auto Chromatic – Finally, if you’re using a synth or organ sound, you will probably want to be able to play it chromatically on the pads. You can use the MPC2500’s Auto Chromatic function:
- On the Sample Assign tab of the Program screen, highlight Tune next to the sample and press Window
- From there, you’ll choose a root note for the original sample and create a new program that tunes them chromatically
These tips are just a starting point for you to get the most out of your MPC2500. If you enjoy editing the filters and detuning samples, be sure to also dig into the LFO (F5) section on the Program screen.