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The 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.