Funky Finger Drummer
September 11, 2011 7:19 AM   Subscribe

The Akai MPC family of instruments combine drum machine, sampler, and sequencer. They've dominated hip hop production for the past couple decades, inspired newer bigger grid based controllers (previously), and have also allowed the finger drummers of the world to take their craft to the next level.

MPC finger drummers need the rhythm and control of a normal drummer, but since they can also trigger loops and samples in addition to drum sounds, the result is like something between drumming and DJing.

A few of the top button mashing finger drummers: Jeremy Ellis, araabMUZIK, Jel of Anticon, Edison, Fresh Kils.

Jeremy Ellis also uploads video tutorials so you can go crazy on your own MPC.
posted by p3t3 (26 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I once bonded with a fellow musician when we were at a party and I noticed he was playing air MPC.

Though he corrected me and said it was air SP-1200.
posted by modernserf at 8:24 AM on September 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

It's like Phish for drums.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:40 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nothing made me want an MPC quite like the "Bombs Over Baghdad" Outkast video, which is the first time I've ever seen one being played.
posted by drezdn at 9:11 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

DJ Shadow's 'Endtroducing... is one of the most famous and perhaps most masterful uses of the MPC.
posted by blaisedell at 9:12 AM on September 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

This is great! Jel is one of my favorite producers of instrumental hip-hop music (his album 10 Seconds is a classic of the genre) and I had no idea that it could be performed live in this way. It's great to see the myriad, and wildly varied, ways that people create beats.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 9:14 AM on September 11, 2011

Daedalus is known for using this technique, although I suspect his are custom made due to the size of the grids. Here's a good example of him doing an in-studio on KEXP.

This inspired me to buy one. You can get the Novation Launchpad for about $125 and it comes with a version of Ableton Live, which is the software most frequently used to power these sorts of devices. If you have any interest in this sort of thing it's highly recommended. There's a huge learning curve with the software but once you get your bearings the whole experience is very tactile and rewarding, even if you never produce anything you would let another person hear.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:31 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

You'll also note in that Deadalus video that one of his smaller grids has motion and orientation triggers. This can be used to correspond to MIDI note velocity or basically any parameter you'd like to scale arbitrarily. I find this amazingly innovative.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:32 AM on September 11, 2011

The MPC was the first electronic instrument I felt like I could actually "play". When it came out, the pads were so much better than anything else available at the time. You could set them up so that they would play the samples differently, depending on how hard the pads are tapped. There was also a great feature to let you simply trim the beginning and end of samples to get the perfect length for making loops. Even now, though the MPC is basically completed dated, it still makes a brilliant controller if you plug it into your computer. I've had a chance to play some of the more advanced, newer MPC's, but none quite have the feel of the 2000. It is absolutely a classic, and the "sound" and rhythm of great 90's hip-hop comes from this box.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 9:50 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

In that video, Deadalus is using two of the awesome, brilliant Monomes (definitely worth an FPP by themselves) and the Akai MPD 32 midi controller.
posted by Magnakai at 9:54 AM on September 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Thanks, those Monome devices are incredible. I gave up on trying to trainspot gear long ago.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:57 AM on September 11, 2011

Daedalus is using a Monome 256 in that video. Edison is using a Monome 64 is the video above in a homemade housing. I'm not saying that the accelerometer use isn't innovative, but to be fair it's not his innovation (I'm not sure if you're implying that, but wanted to be clear).

If anyone is considering buying an instrument like these, I'd also like to point out some significant differences in the various controllers to be aware. The MPC samplers, as well as the Akai control pads, the Maschine controller/computer hybrid, and the Korg PadKontrol, all have a type of control pad that is more different than what videos of the Launchpad/Monome type stuff might suggest.

The big thing is that their pads are velocity sensitive, meaning they respond to how hard they're hit. This usually is mapped to volume, so that playing softer results in quieter notes. This is extremely useful for trying to simulate live drummer nuances. Obviously you can do all sorts of awesome stuff without velocity sensitivity, as the videos above show, but it's something to be aware of.

The other thing is that those controllers all use pads, as opposed to buttons, meaning they don't have vertical play. The Launchpad/Monome/APC40/20 school have buttons that have a raised off position and a depressed on position.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:58 AM on September 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

By the way, Entroducing (the first album to be made entirely from samples) was made entirely on the MPC60 II, which came with a stonking 750kB of memory, though it could be expanded to a mind-blowing 1.5MB. A pretty amazing feat, tbh. Nowadays, I doubt I've got more than a couple of samples that could comfortably be loaded into that much memory at all.
posted by Magnakai at 9:59 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, to clarify, I mean innovative in general, whoever came up with the idea originally.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:00 AM on September 11, 2011

I guess it's also worth mentioning that there's a great deal of variety in terms of: the MPCs we're seeing above are stand-alone boxes (the sound making stuff is inside the same box he's hitting). The Maschine controller is hooked up to a computer running a specific Maschine program. Some of the other boxes are simple MIDI controllers, meaning they don't work with a specific program and can be hooked up to a computer, or directly into anything else that talks MIDI, like a synthesizer. And the Monomes use the OSC communication protocol to talk to a computer, and the Monome community has come up with a sea of interesting applications to choose from that can do really diverse and varied things.
posted by neuromodulator at 10:06 AM on September 11, 2011
Hocus pocus from c2c (world champion team DJ's) making a beat with a mixtuer of sampling records and himself on a variety of instruments.

This is one of my favorite videos I have ever found on the internet
posted by Cogentesque at 11:51 AM on September 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Another video that I really love is this one (also a product promotional video but still dope).

And on another note: the first generation of MPCs were designed by a gentleman named Roger Linn. Linn and another electronic instruments pioneer, Dave Smith, have decided to do a collaborative project. After many concept iterations, they ultimately decided to split the project into two separate products. One will be more focused on sampling (I think), and has yet to be revealed.

The other, The Tempest is finally supposed to ship this month. It looks to be an intriguing mix of the MPC-style performance pads and built-in sequencer, but with an analog synthesis engine, allowing for a production of a wide range of sounds from both the neighbourhood of the classic analog drum machines (and their modern counterparts), but also from their synthesizer counterparts. It will be intriguing to see how the finger drumming masters react to The Tempest. I suspect many will be uninterested in the lack of sampling abilities (possible limited abilities to upload samples forthcoming in a future OS update), but I'd really like to hear these guys dig into the synth engine, too, and I trust we'll hear some good stuff.
posted by neuromodulator at 12:17 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

i used "counterparts" six words apart damn it
posted by neuromodulator at 12:18 PM on September 11, 2011

TEmpest or two mortgage payments? TEmpest or two mortgage payments?

Ah, to hell with BoA.
posted by Twang at 2:39 PM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks for filling my gaps with DJ Shadow, more gear, etc. I was thinking of buying an APC40 or Launchpad the other day, but then got sucked into Youtube just watching these MPC guys go nuts, and I thought they deserved a MeFi post of their own.
posted by p3t3 at 2:53 PM on September 11, 2011

God. Damn.
posted by googly at 5:40 PM on September 11, 2011

The MPC was the first electronic instrument I felt like I could actually "play". When it came out, the pads were so much better than anything else available at the time. You could set them up so that they would play the samples differently, depending on how hard the pads are tapped.

The velocity-sensitive keys were a HUGE breaktrhough at that time, to be sure. Finally, one could play a cymbal as either a ride, or a crash, simply by striking it softer or harder. It was great.

I recall Alesis was (I think) first to market with velocity sensitive keys, although the HR-16 was not capable of sampling. I did prefer the Alesis button layout, however, with its 2 long rows of buttons, as opposed to the grid.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:52 PM on September 11, 2011

Am I alone in thinking some of those grids are too big? I've always been a computer-based beatmaker, but the MPC grid is at least small enough I could remember where everything was. How can you keep track of what's what on the bigger ones? It's like that mushroom house matching game in Super Mario 2.
posted by Hoopo at 9:32 PM on September 11, 2011

Yeah, I'd get lost on the bigger monome type grids. Some of them aren't too bad though if the button rows are just mirroring the tracks on your software sequencer.

And speaking of bigger grids, this impressive Launchpad set was done by a 17 year old. It was making the internet rounds in July, but I left it out of the main post since his technique is more improvisational clip sequencing than MPC style "drumming."
posted by p3t3 at 10:20 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oops. Borked link - Launchpad set by Madeon.
posted by p3t3 at 10:53 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

No David "Fingers" Haynes yet?
posted by malocchio at 6:49 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

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