The code of the beat.

Akai MPC Functions: Mono vs. Stereo Sampling

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*Initially published by BeatTips on 9/12/08*

By Cary Clark
MPC 2500

Being that the MPC is the beatmaking power house for Hip-Hop production I have decided that every week or so I’m going to try and post an MPC technique up here for tutorial use or open it up for discussion. For the purposes of this tutorial, the MPC model that I’m using is the MPC 2500. In some cases, the tips that are presented here will be based on function details within the Akai manual that comes with your MPC. However, rest assured all tips will be shaped to fit within the processes of beatmaking.

The sampling function is perhaps the most used function on an MPC. This week we’re going to take a closer look at the mono and stereo modes. When you get into the sampling menu and you’re looking at the “record” screen, there are a couple input options (depending on which MPC model you have). There’s “stereo”, “mono left”, “mono right”, “main out”, and “digital”. For the purpose of this tutorial we will disregard the digital and main out options.

O.K., now listen up: it is a common misconception that stereo sampling produces a higher quality sample and a fuller sound than mono. This is simply not true. Stereo refers to having two discrete channels of output that we know as our left and right speakers. If the sound you are trying to sample comes from a prerecorded source and is panned all the way to the left then it is a mono sound. This is why it can be beneficial to sample the sound in mono left and use the mixer function to pan the instrument to a different location in your song. If the instrument on the source is paned hard left and the reverb of the instrument is panned hard right then the sound has a stereo image because each channel has information that is unique to one another while they both contain content relevant to the instrument.

I used to sample everything in stereo, until I realized that doing this used a ton of memory and extra tracks. Because of this I was also making panning decisions before I even began making my beat, and I also found that I was limiting myself. I now sample a lot in mono so that I have greater control of the ultimate stereo image when I mix the beat. Sampling in mono opens a lot of doors for isolation. Sometimes the instrument you wish to sample is covered by other sources that you don’t wish to record. Depending on where information is panned it can be possible to further isolate the instrument for a clearer signal. If you sampled a bunch of stuff in stereo already don’t worry, depending on your MPC model it is possible to resample just one channel of the recording, (I will cover this in a later post).

As for recording in stereo, it is an incredible tool but requires some critical listening. When you’re sampling something, be sure to study the left and right channels. If you find that the source produces a more interesting image than the left or right channel alone, stereo sampling is the proper option. Just keep in mind that in a multilayer stereo sample your instruments are prearranged across the stereo field and you will most likely want to add your samples in the respective places. For example, if you sample a horn and drum duet Jazz record in stereo and the drums are paned more to the left channel it may sound strange to place another kick and snare in the center.

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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual

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