Mythbusting: The ‘Special’ Groove Of The Akai MPC Series

akai mpc

Ah, ye old myth of the Akai MPC Groove. Will it ever be put down to rest?

The myth goes like this: The Akai MPC Drumcomputer, first introduced at the end of the 1980’s, has a Swing or Groove timing to it that “nothing else can replicate”. Fans of these machines even went as far as to make groove templates of those ‘grooves’ for Logic Pro (or straight MIDI files for any sequencer).

That must have been a time-consuming job. They’re all over the web for free. Some of those templates are just plain horrible, some are actually pretty good. But they’re all rather pointless – if you know your options in Logic Pro.

Groove Templates, Swing, Groove – Say What?

Let’s clear some fog first. What is ‘Swing”? Let’s get it straight from the Akai MPC 5000 manual:

“You can set the swing value in the ‘Swing%’ field. With the swing feature, the even numbered events set in the ‘Note value’ field will be off the rhythm according to the value in the ‘Swing%’ field. With this feature you can create the shuffle groove.”

In other words, with a Swing percentage above 50, every even numbered note in a 16th or 8th note pattern gets delayed a bit, like I explained in this article. In Logic Pro, the terminology is basically the same. Some call this ‘Groove’.

Next: what is a “Groove Template?”. It’s nothing but a list of inaccuracies, really. A list of quirks from a drummer you like, a keyboard player you look up to, or an old record you love, or from something you’ve played yourself. You apply that list, or template, to something else that’s quantized or unquantized, in order to bring some life back into your own work.

So, making a Groove Template of a drumcomputer’s timing? When all it is doing is shifting every other note a bit? That’s just asking for trouble. Especially when doing this over good old MIDI.

AKAI MPC Groove Templates: The Ugly

logic pro mpc grooveHere, on the left, is the event list for a 16th note 57% Groove Template I just downloaded (I won’t disclose where). Look at the timing of the odd-numbered notes. Yep, the notes that do not make stuff swing! Most are early by three ticks. Assuming this template is 100% accurate, who on this planet would want an MPC for drums? Conclusion: this is a bad, bad template (even though it’s just three ticks). Something got lost in translation somewhere… (bad MIDI interface, bad MIDI sync, who knows).

AKAI MPC Groove Templates: The Better

logic pro mpc grooveOn the left: Goldbaby’s take on the MPC Swing – 16th notes at 63%. There are still some quirks on the notes that don’t matter for swing (just one tick) but the timing of the swing notes is pretty consistent. It’s safe to say that at 63% Swing, the MPC shifts every other note to the right by 59 ticks. That number is all we need to know.

MPC 16th note Swing Values

16th note Swing at 53% shifts even numbered notes to the right by 9 ticks, 60% by 49 ticks, and 75% by 119 ticks. Download Goldbaby’s file for the other numbers. Remember to just pay attention to the values of the even numbered notes. You can approach these settings with the Q-Swing value in Logic Pro’s Parameter Box – the MPC’s Swing percentages and Logic Pro’s percentages have different outcomes – and adjust them by hand in the Even List if you really must live and work by the Groove – um, the Swing values – of that mighty AKAI MPC.

So…That old MPC myth?

Busted.

Feel different? Shoot me in the comments…

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  • hiphoppa

    I have mixed emotions about this very article. I get what it is trying to accomplish when it comes to getting the templet from someone that has an MPC, but even after you’ve made your beat from the MP and place it in logic, can’t you manipulate the swing again? I use an MPC1K because I’m old school Hip Hop (SP-1200 work great, but this is what I got…) and I get nothing but “Do you use the MPC groove templet?” I’m like, No. I don’t. I can change the groove in Logic. I really don’t see the big deal in it.

  • Featheon

    The evidence that this is not an aesthetically neutral argument, but ideological rhetoric, can be found in the following quote:

    “Look at the timing of the odd-numbered notes. Yep, the notes that do not make stuff swing! Most are early by three ticks.”

    The author is telling us that only offbeats are manipulate in rhythmic patterns that are regarded as swing. I guess the author is unfamiliar with the long history of Blues and Jazz techniques for “playing behind” or “in front of the beat,” or “dragging the beat.” The author assumes that swing takes place only between two accented notes in rhythm pattern, but of course there are much larger revolutions in rhythm that occur at the bar and even phrase level.

    • Feathon,

      Thanks for your comment. I am well aware of the techniques you mentioned in your comment, and I understand your point. However, this article focuses on how the Akai MPC Drumcomputer handles ‘swing’. Its manual clearly states – as I’ve pointed out in the article – that when swing is applied to a sequence, only the timing of the even-numbered events will be altered. The odd-numbered events remain untouched.

      Cheers

  • Ricky-tee20

    Hi, i downloaded the goldbaby mpc 60 template, and i noticed that you stated that the 1/16 note with 56% swing the odd numbered notes should be 9 ticks to the right, but for me it´s 11 ticks to the right.. and with the swing ay 56% the notes are about 30 ticks to the left.. and sounds horrible. are these numbers correct?

    • Hey Ricky,
      Could you post a screenshot of your Event List in a comment?
      Then I can have a closer look. Cheers.

      • Ricky-tee20

        can i send you the image in a another way?

        • Hey Ricky, sure, use my name (the one I use for this comment) at gmail dot com!

          • ricky-tee20

            got my mail?

          • Ricky, nope. I’ll send you an email from a different address.

  • Ricky-tee20

    i tried posting a link to the screenshot, but does´nt seem to work..

  • mythes and legs

    the myth is the uncoreckt microtiiming ,

    not the swing factor.
    the uncorect microtiming on all notes is the groove feeling
    the best mpc groove is comming on 60 and 3000 series

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