MPC One and Done.

So, folks. The last time I wrote about my music gear situation, I had just bought a Music Production Center (the Akai MPC One) to use as the centerpiece of a laptop-less live performance rig. My thought was that building songs from sequences, then triggering them in real-time to create the backdrop I’d perform over, would be way cooler (read: less passive and therefore more visually interesting) than just playing to backing tracks queued up on one Apple product or another. I learned how to sequence a main beat and a couple variations on it, loop them for several measures, and use the resulting segments to construct different parts of a song (intro, verse, chorus, etc.) in song mode. After that I started exploring instrument plugins to layer on, which was the piece that gave me a clear idea of what composing full songs would be like on this unit.

As established, the thing is damn attractive, a (lightweight) workhorse, produces full, muscular beats, AND I both enjoy and am better at finger drumming on pads than I expected.

BUT. The menu-diving. The rigid, sequence-based workflow that seems destined to be an impediment to the kind of organically unfolding, highly lyrical, sometimes even through-composed kind of music I make. The tiny display. The cumbersome file management. The less-than-responsive touchscreen. The seemingly bottomless library of sounds, many of which I found more than a little cheesy. The bundle of glitches expected to accompany each new rollout, because Akai’s virtual monopoly means they can deploy the minimum viable product and the junkies who may bitch ‘n’ moan on Reddit will still stay along for the ride. It added up to a picture that (for my purposes) was certainly not the most efficient path from Point A to Point B, especially given that my initial goal had been to get my music in front of an audience fairly quickly.

So, I decided to resell it.

I thought this would be easy since I know the machines are in high demand, and the price has risen dramatically over the past several years.

What I didn’t count on was how eBay had changed since I’d last been a seller. Apparently, in certain categories (high-priced electronics being a case in point), deadbeat auction winners have become extremely common, so while a robust bidding war may ensue for your item, with a sizeable crowd of watchers looking on to boot, it is highly likely you’ll “sell” an item for hundreds of dollars but never see that money. Which makes for a cancelled sale, a relist, and a decent likelihood you’ll have to wash, rinse, repeat.

After two rides on the delinquent buyer merry-go-round, I finally listed it with buy now, pay immediately as the only option.

That time, it sold with successful payment in just a couple days. The tracking number tells me it is with its new owner now. I recouped a decent amount from my initial purchase of the unit used from Guitar Center, despite selling at a loss; I only wish I’d known in advance about the additional “non-standard box” shipping fee and that, in this selling category, eBay takes a full 13% cut (and then some). Had I fully realized what a dent those things would make, I would have priced slightly higher to compensate.

And guess what the live rig has become, at least for now? A feather-light 61-key Casiotone that I scored a little amp for in an estate auction, and – what else – BACKING TRACKS played on the Apple product of the moment (my phone works fine for this, as does a vintage 2014 iPad that I won in the very same estate auction). I’ve since realized it was my own irrational snobbery about backing tracks – or at least fear of receiving such snobbery from others – that led me down such an unnecessarily complicated path from the get-go.

At least I can say I used the MPC One to build the beats for one song. This Cat Stevens cover, to be exact.

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