Sometimes in technology, the design of a product can have an impact beyond just the tool itself, and that’s easily the case with the Akai MPC. Even if you aren’t part of the device’s cult-like following, you’ve likely worked with software influenced by its approach to musical interaction. While we await the coming of creator Roger Linn’s new collaboration with Dave Smith, the LinnDrum II, it’s great to look back at the MPC itself, and the artists who stretched it to its musical limits, from hip-hop to classical. Current TV has a short documentary they’ve just sent us.

Current’s Parisa Vahdatinia describes it thusly:

I’d like to share with you a short piece we recently produced here at Current TV all about the MPC–a brief history, how it was created by Roger Linn, and how it’s effected contemporary music, followed with some interviews with Damu The Fudgemunk, P-Fritz, K-Murdock who share their sentiments on how the MPC has shaped their music.

I’m just going to have to imagine how great this piece is as I’m stuck on a train with only phone-as-modem access, so you get to sort of scoop me. As I wait, there are some great comments up there already, haiku-like:

“I mistook them for drum machines….”

“mpc is the hip hop guitar!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. But it raises the question, given the endless variety of even pre-digital musical instruments, what’s next? That’s a question I know Roger cares about, which is why he helped us judge a design challenge last spring. I’m personally excited by the idea that some designs are already here, and more are likely to come out of someone’s studio, without the major product maker label on it.

Okay, now I’ve seen it. Good to be back off the train and able to download videos. It does come off strangely as an ad for Akai, but there’s another way to look at it — as an executive summary of how MPC users describe their axe. Talk to any MPC user, and you get a case study in why the design of integrated hardware matters to people. I believe those principles are absolutely applicable to the design of software, as well. And the immediacy of the monome is entirely related, as a computer-based instrument, to the MPC as a hardware instrument. It’s easy to get hung up on the philosophy of instruments, but what really matters to people is (surprise) sound and how they manipulate it.

  • http://tasherredenajetic.com d_enajetic

    Thank you. Its finally being stated that the MPC is a sampler. IT DOES NOT COME WITH SOUNDS! You have to sample what you want into it. I work at Guitar Center and it seems like every single day someone comes in or calls in and ask where's the sounds. IT DOESN'T HAVE ANY YOU IDIOT! Damn, I needed that.

  • Rex Rhino

    d_enajetic:

    The MPC *DOES* come with sounds. Some even have a built in ROM chip so that the demo sounds are always available (like on the MPC 1000).

    Even the MPC 60 came with a demo sample disk.

  • dangan

    i think this has the same narrator as the ableton tutorial videos.

  • endekks

    "I like phat beats".

    Awesome.

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  • http://ilteractive-music.blogspot.com/ ilteraktif

    MPC is fine, but I'm really fed up with YouTube producers who like to call released songs and mixes as "samples".

    I'm really happy that technology enables many amateurs to produce music, but on the other hand it became too easy to be "The Producer".

    I feel like throwing up sometimes.

  • Doepfer77

    Oh my god that was bad

    Shame on you CDM

  • sef

    somebody doesn't seem to like laptops…

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  • gbsr

    really.

    it makes him feel cool.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Doepfer77: Shame, really? Just to be clear, I didn't shoot the thing.

    It does remind me, I hope to go back and talk to Roger, particularly with the LinnDrum II coming out.

    And while I'm not anything approaching an MPC person, I do find it interesting talking to the people who are… Gregory Shiff here in NYC has worked out an insane workflow that's equal parts Ableton Live and MPC that I really appreciate it.

    So I guess the message is I'd better rig up my DIY steadicam and go shoot some things. ;)

  • bliss

    PK, that was pretty cool! Nothing that I didn't already know about the MPC — but it was refreshing to hear people referring to it as a musical instrument, rather than the usual, a studio production tool. It's both and that's what made its reputation among those who create sample based music. Cool clip!

  • http://xfader.com regend

    i think that there's some key things missing from this video.

    One being that there are HUGE differences between models (12 bit vs. 16 bit, sampling engines, memory capacity, stereo sampling, effects, SMPTE)of the MPC that those interviewed don't seem to understand. They are all things that Roger Linn introduced to the original design and creation of the original designs of the mpc60, mpc60 II, and MPC3000.

    The mpc 2000/1000 that are seen in the video, are not Roger Linn approved units.

    Peter is right though…this is more how one box(regardless of flavor)has changed the way musicians approach music.

    MPC's have always been out of reach for me because of price. What was more affordable before the current crop of gear was an S900 and a hardware sequencer…the S900 had a similar sampling engine to the original mpc60 and of course MSDOS sequencers later were fun to play with. Later it was an S3000 with Logic on a PC.

    Today however my choice is Ableton Live 7, a M-Audio Trigger Finger, a decent USB/Firewire audio box and a cheap laptop. IMHO this destroys an MPC. I just go tused to having all the components separate instead of an all in a box solution.

  • usedtobe

    I'm with you regend.I used an mpc for a long time, possibly for the wrong reasons, then realized that ableton live and a controller you're comfortable with make the mpc seem really impractical by comparison. what would take me hours to do on the mpc is done in minutes in live. people could argue with the sound quality, but only when you're talking about the 12 bit samplers(i use a mirage for that spice!)

    that said, there's nothing like holding a big metal box, gliding across all the loose buttons and funky wheels, and making music with it. makes sample playback more like an instrument, as opposed to drawing in sequences on a computer, which can sometimes leave me pretty detached.

    plus.. music production center? you mean they didn't read the front of the machine? silly

  • Adrian Anders

    It all depends on how you use an MPC folks! If you're making stock quantized beats with zero swing then yea, the MPC is pretty dated compared to Live.

    However, when it comes to the swing as well as the unquantized hardware-grade PPQ resolution, nothing can beat the classic sampling beatbox!

    Furthermore there's something to be said of the UI and workflow of the unit itself. Some folks just work better under a few limitations.

    ATA

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    And that last comment came from the Master of a Thousand Plug-ins, so you see, we can all give up some Respect, either dedicated hardware or computer. (They're all really computers, after all, taking different forms…)

  • http://myspace.com/ilovethebeep Beep

    i have an mpc2000 (no, not the XL) with an external dinosaur-scsi-HD. It kicks SO mcuh ass, because its a workflow that is kinda tricky but that way it leads to pretty astounding musical stuff.

    i use the 3/ quantize function a lot, it has a weird groove.

    on the other hand i DONT wanna miss and instrument, because if you make a bassline on an MPC its fine, but if you get to strings or multisamples, look elsewhere. so i plug my MPC into ableton, sync it and im SO happy with that solution. i can make a phat bassline with a softsynth and put some piano on it.

    an MPC2000 is really cheap, you get one for about 400€ on ebay. dont forget the effects board! a cheap laptop with ableton and some midi cables and you rock it. this guy in the video is using an mpc1000. it has timestreching. oh come on… fudgemunk rocks. :)

  • popo

    I like phat beats LMAO!!!

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  • Ri

    I have been using an MPC for about 2 years now and I must concur it is a musical instrument. I like to call it the percussion instrument of the future. The MPC can not be compared to DAW products, the workflow and the intimacy you obtain with your sounds are both amazing.

    That said it's not what you use, is how you use it. Regardless I will never let go off my MPC I just LOVE it for making music, it's my main tool and it sparks the creative juices in my brain even in the driest days.

  • http://www.twitter.com/theoligarchs Kolin

    To those laptop lovers.

    First of all, those VSTi synths never sound quite fat and dirty to me. It's always that plastic clean sound that annoys as hell. Yes, MPC workflow is different and it's slower than drawing something with your mouse. But that muscle feeling when you play and create something, it's pure inspiration. Every music hardly needs the energy of your hands. If you can feed your tunes with your energy, it comes out when someone is listening to it. And I hate those mathematics in music industry. Real music is kind of ritual, it's like voodoo, it's NOT the traces of your mouse in the sequenser. It's more easy to put your soul into your music when you play the realo instrument (and I would call MPC the instrument).

    Of course, I'm not against the digital recording, So the perfect set for me is Logic+Protools+mpc5000+synthesizers+guitars+amplifiers.

    Music is NOT cheap, my friends.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/tooltablist Mudo

    Check my Tooltablist "concept" (not dogma, not religion, nothing to defend…)

    http://www.myspace.com/tooltablist

    Mpcs not are the Hip Hop Guitar… are the whole orchestra but for the new times incoming we could see "true new Hip Hop Guitars" and new concepts without name today…

    Stay alive!

    ;)

  • robthom

    CurrentTV can even make the MPC look ghey.