Shop Talk: AKAI MPK Mini MKii

As you probably know by know, I’m a big fan of working at coffeeshops. Whether I’m doing webdesign or writing lyrics, there’s no better place than a comfy booth amidst other community members working on their various projects.

I remember sitting at Artemis Cafe in Deerfield back in the early 90’s writing lyrics. I would get a cup of coffee, a pack of Camel Lights, and scribble for hours and hours. I used to fantasize that I could bring my whole studio there in that booth instead of having to go home to record.

Well, as of a few days ago, I’ve started to bridge the gap a bit:

On my left is my trusty MacBook. On the right is my new friend, the AKAI MKI Mini MKii. It’s a 25-key baby keyboard that I plug into my computer via USB.

I set this all up yesterday and was a bit discouraged to find that the software that came with the AKAI (MPC Essentials) only allows me to record one part at a time. Not very good for building songs. I can have one keyboard part, or one drum part, but not both. Ideally, I’d like 5-6 tracks for sketching.

My long term goal is to get ProTools on both my home PC and my Mac on the go. In the meantime, I can use Garageband that ships with the Mac. I can trigger its synths and drum machines, and have as many tracks as my RAM can handle. It’s good for sketching, but not much else. If I wanted, I could render out wav files, then import them into my workstation at home, but I’d have no control over the parts after they’re exported. If I wanted to change one note of a piano part, I’m screwed.

But still! No complaining from me. This little guy is a game changer. Also, the keyboard shipped with a software synth (a.k.a. ‘soft-synth’) called “Hyrbid” which is dance-music centric and very flexible as far as manipulating the sounds on the fly. You can hear it at work in my rough version of The Remedy from Day 18 of the RPM Challenge. I just loaded the synth up at into my workstation at home and went to town.

Going forward, I’ll probably be sharing some of my Garageband sketches thanks to the MKii.