Sloppy Piano Chops – Akai MPC 1k Program

Well, I broke down and got a guitar pedal board today, so I could more easily work with multiple pedals. Before it was one at a time, but not any more. Now I can run them in series and mix and match for some more interesting effects. I’ll have to start posting about putting the pedal board together and powering it. Oh and hacking on the plastic to get everything to fit, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Today, I wanted to record some piano. Some jazzy chords, played a bit out of time, but routed through the Chase Bliss Mood with the slip filter running, which makes it pretty hard to make things sound like they are played in time. This formed the basis of why you’ll see some of the chords sound like they are the tail, and other parts come in much louder. I then routed this through the Chase Bliss Generation Loss, which you’d think was drizzling the noise into this sample, but no, I can thank my USB charger for my computer for this. I figured I was going to add noise anyways, so why not leave it in. I’m not sure I have a ground loop problem or something else, but it’s quite noisy, and I know it’s from my external USB C graphics, because when it is running off the battery it is fine. So all of that it is run through the Generation Loss high pass and low pass filter, then dumped into the Gen to bit crush quite a bit, and with some added flutter.

Anyways, Sloppy Piano is the result, if you want to take your hand at chopping it go nuts, it’s got some interesting sounds here, but as I said, due to poor playing, and the Mood slip, you’re not really going to get any straight chops. Given enough time you might be able to loop it and surprise me though.

From here, I just did the laziest chops you can imagine for the MPC 1k to create Sloppy Piano Chop. This is not something I’m terribly proud of from a chopping standpoint, but I found it quite fun to play and figured it’d be worth it to share. Good luck and have fun!

MPC 1k Q-Link Repair

Oh the joys of owning older gear.  Q2 on my MPC was super sketchy.  Loading up the JJOS v3 test menu showed Q2 was going from a range of about 300-500, and normal operation is 0-1000.  Another fun problem was that moving Q1 was also making a subtle change to Q2.  That’s definitely not supposed to happen!

I figured there were a few things to try in order to resolve this.

  1. It might just be that the Q-Link board was horribly damaged, and needed to be replaced. A quick look on showed that this was going to cost a bit in order to go this route.
  2. The fader could be gunked up with dust, and just need to be blown out.  The older gear gets, the more dust it picks up, and a lot of pots, faders, and tact switches might need to  be sprayed with DeOxit, blown out with air, or otherwise freed of gunk.
  3. The cable that connects to the Q-Link board might have gotten oxidized, and in desperate need of being reseated.

I figured I’d start with the low cost solutions. It’s honestly not that hard to pop the MPC 1k open, so I figured I’d just get a closer look. My strategy was to disconnect the cables to the board in case of a bad connection, and blow the fader out with some compressed air. While I can say that using your breath can help this suffers from two problems… first is that if you’re allergic to dust you may get a face full which isn’t so great, and second the moisture in your breath can do long term damage to electronics. The moisture might seem like a “so what”, but the older your gear is, the less time you want to spend repairing it.

Before putting the case back together, I figured I’d give it the good old JJOS test. Fortunately after reconnecting the cables and blowing out the fader I was back in business. Always a happy day for an easy fix!

I’ve got a few tact switches that feel a bit sticky from time to time. This probably indicates the possible need for a switch or button replacement. I’ll worry about that later though.

LoFi House – Akai MPC 1k Drum Program

Today I decided to play around with Reason again, and ended up recording the LoFi House MPC 1k Program. Really nothing too fancy, but other than routing drums through a 12-bit distortion Rack Extension, with a bunch of tweaking to filter it a bit. Honestly, each drum hit could be better tweaked for a tighter sound, but I ran out of sampling steam. Perhaps I’ll come back to a round two (or three) of these samples and trying and put something together a bit more consistent. So nothing too epic, but I figured it would be fun to play around with.

I almost posted the recorded audio that I chopped into the program, but honestly, the chops are more interesting. Instead I decided to throw together a demo loop of the Program. I put together this LoFi Loop which is just a 96bpm loop with 66% swing. Nothing that knocks, and could definitley use some eq, but hey, it’s free for you to do what you want with.

String Loss Program for Akai MPC 1000

This came as an experiment playing with some string sounds from the OP-1 String engine and and using the Chase Bliss Mood for the effects. I recorded into the granular tape effect, and sent the output through the slip effect, giving the sound quite a level of character. The initial recording is String Loss, and to me it evokes a bit of a cutting and driving sound that exists somewhere between the string and organ family of sounds. It was pretty simple to chop up into a program, which resulted in String Loss MPC 1k. At the moment, I’ve really just been playing with the straight chops at different velocities, but I think for the song I’m building up I’m going to lean into some pitch shifting of the parts to see how I can really push the sounds.

Cheap Piano – Akai MPC 1000 Program

I’m pulling together on a track on my MPC 1k, and have been playing around with a few piano sounds. The initial sound comes from the OP-1, from the Fake Piano patch under the DR Wave engine. I liked this sound as a starting point, and it reminds me a bit of the old Casio keyboards from the 80’s. I changed the presets a bit, and in particular turned off the Spring reverb as this was giving it a bit too much presence.

Post OP-1 tweaking, I routed the sound through the Chase Bliss Generation Loss to really abuse the sound. In particular I added some Wow to give the sound a bit of somewhat repetitive but also unstable character, and added some mild noise in order to dirty up the noise a bit while also running it through the low pass just to clean it up a hair.

Once I was happy enough with the sound, I setup a basic eight note pattern on the OP-1 with Endless, matched the BPM to the MPC 1k, and recorded off the passage. The outcome was Cheap Piano Recording which I’m pretty happy with as a source to chop from. The trimmed and chopped MPC 1k program is the Cheap Piano Drum Program, and reading this is making me think I need to worry about my naming conventions or I’ll make myself crazy in the future.

While I am not totally sold on recording this level of unstable audio through the Generation Loss for chopping purposes, the duplicated notes in the phrase do show themselves to be unstable in varied and unique ways. I suppose if you’re constrained for memory, this is not a reasonable technique because you would want to leverage the effects post sampling not pre sampling. On the other hand, the MPC 1k does have 22+ minutes of mono sampling time, and for my new track so far I have used maybe 30 seconds max.

Moody Bass – Akai MPC 1000 Program

I have been getting back into using guitar pedals for external effects processing, and had some fun messing with the Chase Bliss Mood again. This started life as an Ableton Live clean Stratocaster patch that I put together, and played through the Mood. What I played initially sounded like an unaffected guitar, but with the Mood always listening, and using the old blood side’s always listening micro granular in tape mode, I came up with this bass sounding loop Moody Bass 01. This was recorded into my MPC 1000, and I sliced it into a drum kit Moody Bass for the MPC 1000 on JJOS. You can certainly take the initial loop and chop it in a different way, but I decided to just do a relatively clean chop and tightened up the start and end points in the drum kit.

If you’ve got the inclination, you don’t have an MPC 1000 with JJOS, you can certainly still use the .wav file chops… they are 44.1khz and 16-bit, so just about anything will load them these days. If you end up using anything from these sounds please link it, I’d be interested to hear what might be done with these samples!

Studio Downsizing

It’s so easy to see all kinds of cool gear out there, and wonder how it might impact your sound, followed by a purchase for something that you might not use. I can attest to this, because to even write this post I’ve clean off a lot of miscellaneous music gear from my desk just so I can have room to type. It has become a frequent habit of mine to pull out instruments and effects to start a project, only to then have too many options. This coming from somebody who’s been weaning off of software to get back into more of a hardware focus.

It’s not all crazy though, and I have started to sell off more gear over the last couple of years, so I can at least convert unused and unloved gear into reinvestment cash to help me get more out of the second hand gear market.

So what’s on the rundown of things to consider offloading?

Well I currently own 3 MPCs, and at least one needs to go, and I say this as I’ve been putting research into an MPC 4000. Forget that though, I’ve got an MPC 1000 which has been a staple for me, especially with JJOS. Then I’ve managed to pick up an Akai MPC Live and an Akai MPC X. I started with the Live and really liked the portability and power in it, but if I’m really being honest, it isn’t cutting it for me. It’s way too fiddly with buttons to switch q-link functions and it really demands a fair amount of touch screen work. While I liked it, the context switching in the interface was just a bit too much for me. Which is why I picked up the Akai MPC X. I do think the MPC X works well as a center to my studio, but I’m not in love with it. So I’m still digging the MPC 1000 with JJOS, I appreciate the MPC X, and yeah… I’m parting with the MPC Live.

Then there is the drawer stuffed with gear. It’s got an Organelle I’d like to use more, but probably just a dream. A few Pocket Operators that I do like, but tend to be used more as one off effects and sounds right now that I sample from, so… really am I getting that much out of them? Then there is the OP-1 and OP-Z, staring at me, wanting to be useful and productive, but I haven’t really laid down any tracks with them lately. While I appreciate the constraints in those systems, I also am kind of ignoring them. It’s time to dust off some of that mess and pass it along to the next person who can appreciate them in a way that I have not been.

My closet is probably the biggest mess though. I have way too many boxed software releases, and while it is kind of cool and might look neat in a studio, is also… in my closet. Do I really need those boxes? A lot of that software is ancient and doesn’t even work anymore. Nobody is going to use it, and it has minimal value since who knows if I can even get updates for most of it. I’ll need to have a serious heart to heart with myself about this stuff to decide what I want to do with it.

Right now I’m just seeing what I can do with a smaller set of gear:

  • Akai MPC 1000
  • Chase Bliss Mood
  • Chase Bliss Generation Loss
  • Teenage Engineering OP-1

I’ll be posting up some programs, loops, and other samples in a bit. Stay tuned.

OS X Catalina – Music Automatically Opening Files Downloaded from Safari

TL;DR go to Safari -> Perferences -> General, and uncheck Open “safe” files after downloading to disable automatic opening of files downloaded by Safari.

A problem I’ve had with downloading content in OS X has been that a lot of files will automatically open once you’ve downloaded them. For compressed files, it will uncompress them, for PDFs it will automatically open them into Preview, and for audio files it will automatically start playing them in Music. For the compressed files, PDFs and others, I’m often not downloading enough of them to be too upset by this feature, but when I am downloading stems, one shots, or other audio content, I don’t always want it automatically imported into Music.

I spent some time digging through the Music app preferences to see if I can find a way to disable this behavior. I had wrongly assumed that it was the Music app that was automatically importing content. After some searches around the web I found this video that describes how to disable this behavior.

To properly resolve this issue go to Safari -> Perferences -> General, and uncheck Open “safe” files after downloading.

Unfortunately this feature does not have granular control over different file types. If you like this feature, but specifically don’t like it for audio files, I suspect you’ll have to disassociate the audio files from specific applications. Personally I’m okay with loosing the automatic opening of PDF files as that has been a hassle in the past, but uncompressing content has been a handy feature.

OP-Z oplab Installation

The oplab module for my OP-Z finally showed up today. I ordered it back in July, and it’s been backordered for quite some time. I read on the op-forums people having problems with the oplab latch, warped cases, etc… so I wasn’t totally sure how it was going to work out. I was certainly concerned that the oplab would not work.

Cut to the next fifteen minutes after installing the oplab module, and the best I could get out of it was a red flash, and then none of the blinking lights to show activity I expected. I tried hooking up the oplab outputs to various inputs on my eurorack, and wasn’t able to see any output triggering on my oscilloscope, gate triggers, or anything else. That was disappointing. I uninstalled and reinstalled a few times, tried squeezing the case in case there was a connection issue… none of this helped.

Queue to some frantic searching through op-forums and other web searches. No bananas. I watched the Cuckoo oplab Installation video and saw that it operated as I expected with blinking lights, and my oplab was not exhibiting the same behavior. I decided to go to the OP-Z oplab module manual, which is pretty short, but suggests looking for firmware for the oplab. For those of you have looked, this exists for the OP-1 oplab, but there is nothing for the OP-Z oplab module. #FoiledAgain and all that.

I decided to re-read through the manual, and came to a conclusion…

I was going to have to factory reset the OP-Z and see if that helped. I rarely have found this to be helpful, but hey, why not. After following the backup and then factory reset steps, I have to say success. Whatever was causing the issue, whether it was a config problem or something else, I want you to know that doing the factory reset actually worked for me!