MPC 101 - The MPC Workflow
Every MPC workflow is composed of a few basic elements: songs, sequences, tracks, and programs. Before you can be an MPC master, you'll need to understand how they all work together. In this article, we'll go over the basics of each element and how they relate to each other.
The basic breakdown of the MPC workflow is that your Sequences are composed of Tracks and the different tracks in the sequence have Programs assigned to them. The same program can be used on multiple tracks in the same sequence. You can have a maximum of 128 sequences, 128 tracks, and 128 programs per project.
A Song is made up of Sequences. Each Sequence is made up of Tracks. Tracks have Programs assigned to them - it is the Program that determines how the Track will sound when the Track's MIDI sequence is played back. Multiple Programs can be assigned to different Tracks but I would advise keeping your track numbers and programs consistent - this will be important later when you use Song mode to construct a song out of your sequences.
We are working with a total of three programs in the diagram. To make sense of the different programs, let's assign them some names:
- Program 1 - Piano (Keygroup program)
- Program 2 - Drums (Drum program)
- Program 3 - Bass (Keygroup program)
For more information about program types, check out our MPC 101 article here.
You can see that Program 1 is assigned to all Track 1's in all Sequences (it is also assigned to two Track 4's but I will come back to that shortly). We know this is a piano track - For the sake of example, let's say that we have sequenced chords in Grid mode as the basis of our sequence.
Now that we have our piano chords looping in the sequencer, let's add some drums to the sequence! To do this, we will need to start a new Track (Track 2) in Sequence 1. We know that Program 2 is a Drum Program so we assign it to Track 2 and record some drums into the sequencer to play over the piano. Now our beat has some structure and movement to it.
To add another element to our beat, let's create a third track (Track 3) in Sequence 1 and assign the bass program (Program 3) to it. After we have recorded a groovy bassline, our beat is really starting to take shape but maybe there is something missing? A melody of some kind might be nice so let's use the upper register of our piano program for that!
So far, our Tracks to Programs ratio has been one to one - (Track 1 - Program 1 (piano), Track 2 - Program 2 (drums), Track 3 - Program 3 (bass)) but now we're going to break the pattern. This time, we will create a new track (Track 4) and assign Program 1 (piano). Since we are working on a new track (Track 4), we can use the same piano program to create a melody but our piano chords in Track 1 will not be affected as they are not on the same track.
With that in mind, it's important to point out that any changes made to Program 1 (piano) will affect the piano sound on both Track 1 and Track 4 since they are using the same program (i.e. instrument).
At this point, we have four tracks going in Sequence 1. To start building a Song, we need more sequences - refer to the diagram above for what we ended up with for each example sequence. In the example in the diagram, not every sequence has the same number of tracks so (assuming we are chaining the sequences together in order) our Song looks like this:
- Sequence 1 - Piano, Drums, Bass, Melody
- Sequence 2 - Piano, Drums
- Sequence 3 - Piano, Drums, Bass
- Sequence 4 - Piano, Drums, Bass, Melody
- Sequence 5 - Piano, Drums
I mentioned before that track order consistency is important - not only because it's a smarter way to work, but because the track order in Sequence 1 will determine the track order for ALL subsequent sequences when converting your song into a sequence. Converting your song to a sequence is not necessary to export the arranged sequences as a song, but you will need to do this to use the Explode Tracks feature. This is a popular way to work if you plan on exporting individual tracks to be mixed separately in your DAW.
You can see the Tracks all follow the same order in the list above - Piano, Drums, Bass, Melody. If these tracks were out of order, their MIDI sequences would also be out of order because Song mode expects the order of Sequence 1. For example, Sequence 2 and Sequence 5 both use two tracks - Piano (Track 1) and Drums (Track 2). If the Piano program was set to Track 2 and the Drum program was set to Track 1, their MIDI sequences would be crossed and would sound ...probably not great. As long as you keep your track order consistent, you'll have no problem building a song in Song mode.
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