Mythbusting: The ‘Special’ Groove Of The Akai MPC Series
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
Here, 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
On 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?
Feel different? Shoot me in the comments…