Beat/songmaking with new MPK Mini Mk3

As you know I’ve been DJing for the last 20-odd years and always like to push the envelope when it comes to my music. While I bought the Traktor S4 a few years back, towards the end of 2023 I had started becoming a little restless playing other people’s music. Yes STEMs are one proxy for realtime production/mixing but in the end it’s still not widespread. And didn’t feel aligned to what I was looking for.

At the end of last year, another thing happened – I gave away my old Epiphone guitar and amp that I’d bought in London back in the late 2000s. Why? Because I had it out for years and would never play it, or even attempt to play it. Would dust it off, play a few chords then put it back where it was. After a few years of pretending I would pick it up, I gave it away to force me to face my missing direction. No more excuses.

Both these things led to the end of 2023 asking me – what next? Another button pushing exercise after pulling down the latest tracks from Beatport. I wasn’t feeling it. What about my own music? If not guitar, then what? And I came across the MPK Mini Mk3.

I have never used a DAW before, never made the effort to learn piano. But this looked like a good way to try out different sounds, loop them easily in an incremental and layered fashion. So I bought it a few weeks ago and it plugs into the Mac and that’s it. No fancy setup apart from the usual sw download and out of the box setup. Did have an issue with assigning the physical buttons on the top right to the digital knobs (mainly to ensure easy scrolling across the page without need for a mouse) but that’s it.

First experimentation wasn’t great, I am not a beatmaker so haven’t much experience with it, but after a few YouTube videos it’s making more sense. On my second ever beat sequence now with a full 4 bars of looped samples. Interestingly, I thought I would gravitate towards techno considering the Richie Hawtins, Amelie Lens, Skrillex, and other sounds I’ve been listening to recently. Strangely enough, it has been kits and samples from the Trap Soul genre or regular Keyboard styles that have resonated with me. For example, discovering the very specific sound of the Electric Rhodes keyboard was something else.

Now I need to learn how to better layer sounds and my beats are not well in sync. Plus not too sure how to go beyond a fixed bar recording and use in a live setting. Also no idea how to edit songs or samples to the right length for layering. Much learning lies ahead – but what if with all this beatmaking I could create my own songs/tracks? Not sure how I’m going to get there… but it’s going to be fun and it’s fully mine (for good and bad)!