MPC Madness

George A. 2023 — Music 220c

Project Overview

While continuous forward-looking innovation has marked the landscape of music technology, certain musical tools from past eras remain invaluable to artists and producers. Many coveted microphones, compressors, pre-amps, and instruments are not recent inventions, but relics of previous generations. The continued interest in older equipment signifies that the age of a musical tool doesn't necessarily dictate its current relevance or utility.

The goal of this project is to explore whether the MPC2000XL offers any special benefits to modern beatmakers and producers that could make it a “timeless” instrument. The device doesn't have built-in sounds or virtual instruments, only offers MBs of RAM, and uses a floppy disk drive for saving and loading. Compared to the vast capabilities of modern digital audio workstations, on the surface, the MPC2000XL looks like a terrible choice for the modern music producer. But this project aims to look past the surface and search whatever hidden value the device has to offer. My primary research question is: does the MPC2000XL have a place in beat-making in 2023 and beyond, or is it just an antiquated device of the past?

Domains of Research

To assess the modern value of the MPC2000XL, this project will test the device in three main capacities (and an additional bonus capacity):

  1. As a standalone unit (as intended): This is to investigate whether the MPC2000XL's limited functionality can enhance creativity and workflow. It will also explore whether any functions or features of the MPC are superior to modern DAWs.
  2. As an external instrument: This is to examine the effectiveness of the MPC2000XL in synchrony with a modern DAW. Can the MPC2000XL work effectively in coordination with a DAW for specific tasks? Might a producer turn to the MPC to process and play a sample or program a drum pattern the way they might turn to a Moog synthesizer for a synth bass line?
  3. As a sound-design tool: Does the MPC2000XL impart a discernable color to sounds that it processes making it viable as a saturator? Does it distort in a unique way that is usable as an effect? Do the few inbuilt sound processing features (pitch, attack, decay, LPF, etc.) have any advantage over the same features in a DAW? If drum sounds are processed in this machine, can they be used in-DAW for an MPC “feel”?
  4. BONUS: As musical resistance training: As I transition from exclusively producing on the MPC to producing on Logic, I hope to assess whether the process of adapting to the MPC2000XL's slower workflow has improved any aspects of my "normal" music-making approach. Will working with the MPC have reshaped my ear or creative process?


  1. A short beat tape (10-20 minutes) created using the MPC2000XL, inspired by prominent beat tapes like Pete Rock’s “Petestrumentals”, The Alchemist’s “Rappers’s Best Friend” series, and/or J Dilla’s beat tapes. Click here to listen! (~17 minutes)
  2. A sound pack comprising of sounds processed using the MPC2000XL. This will include sampled kicks, snares, hats, cymbals, percussion sounds, FX, and maybe a few programmed loops. Click here to view, listen, download, and use! (~100 sounds)
  3. A brief write-up summarizing key findings of the project, giving my some thoughts and answers to the research questions mentioned above based on my experience over the duration of the project. This can be viewed as the final post in the "Entries" tab.