Helmet Man Clinic: MachineDrum sampling – MPC style

In the last installment, my faithful assistant Helmet Man and I tried to explain sampling on the Elektron MachineDrum in a more accessible way than described in the UW User’s Guide. By connecting gear to the audio inputs, we can sample up to one bar of audio (or shorter snippets) into each of the two sample instruments called R machines and play it back with the P machines.  We’re still backing off the bizarre and dwindling depths of the MLEV control, still restraining ourselves to the main inputs, and from sonic mayhem. P-machinery Understanding how the R and P machines work holds the key to MPC style beat reconstruction. Two measures of a loop in the current tempo can be sampled into the R machine memory by setting the END parameter to 127. To cut up the sample, just create multiple P machines on several tracks. Now, you can quickly setup different parts of the loop at your fingertips, by adjusting the STRT and END parameters of each P machine. Since two measures equals 127, this means that setting STRT=0 and END=63 on the first P machine will make it play back the first measure of the loop when activated. You may need to tweak the start and endpoints depending on how close to the downbeat you managed to trig the R machine, but these are useful starting points. By setting the second instance of the same P machine STRT=64 and END=127, it will now play the second part of the loop. Similarly, you can now set up four P machines that could play back two bars each of the beat, and so on, without taking up additional memory, as they play back different portions of the audio recorded by the R machine.

Example of values and loop positions
Example of values and loop positions

Stutter and Hold You should notice by now that triggering the P-machines does not mute each other, ensuing chaos. At times, this is desirable, to overlay synced loops, but for our purposes, we want to make sure that triggering another part of the loop mutes the other parts. This is what the RELATE MUTE-POS parameter under KIT>EDIT stands for. Select the MUTE-POS parameter for the first P1 machine. Set the value to 14-M2. Then select the other P1 machine (M2, track 14) and set the MUTE-POS to 13-M1. Voilá – you have now made sure that the sample bits will cut off each other when triggered! Press ENTER and then EXIT out of the menu to try this out. (Note that you can also use the TRIG-POS parameter to make several audio bits play back in sync when one is triggered) Playing for keeps A downside to the RAM R and P machines are that their contents are lost on power down. And, even more dangerous to our Grammy-winning beat, if you should happen to re-trigger the R machine accidentally, by brushing against the wrong button, all will be lost (or replaced by something unpredictable). A good measure is therefore to store the loop in a ROM machine when you’re satisfied with it. To do this, go to the KIT>FX screen and select the Sample Manager. Select the corresponding RAM machine, and press COPY (FUNCTION+RECORD). This has the effect of putting a copy of the selected machine on the clipboard. Now select one of the ROM machines and press PASTE (FUNCTION+STOP). If you had enough memory available, the sample captured in the RAM machine will now be safely stored in one of the ROM machines, and you can now program instances of the ROM playback machine with various playback parameters just as the RAM P machine before, with the difference that the sample will be retained on power-down, keeping it stored for next time.

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