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Tweak's Pick

Review of Motu's BPM
Beat Production Machine

by TweakHeadz Lab
Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) BPM Beat Production Software
BPM unites drum machine-style operation with advanced virtual instrument technology to give you the ultimate rhythm programming experience. Combine drum kits, sequenced patterns, sliced loops and instrument sounds to realize your rhythmic vision, mixing and matching any playing style with any drum kit. Or plug in your pad controller or MIDI keyboard to capture your live, groove-quantized performance directly in BPM.

Akai MPD32 USB/MIDI Pad Controller
The MPD32 is Akai Professional's ultimate velocity-sensitive pad controller for musicians and DJs. Modeled after the industry-standard MPC series, the MPD32 delivers the most expressive software beat control available.

Akai MPD24 USB/MIDI Pad Controller
Akai Professional's MPD24 is the velocity sensitive pad controller for musicians and DJs working with sampled sounds. The MPD24 features 16 MPC-style velocity and pressure sensitive pads plus transport controls for interfacing with DAW/sequencing applications. With Akai's MPC 16 Levels and Full Level features for ultimate pad control, four selectable pad banks totaling 64 pads, six assignable faders and eight assignable, 360 degree knobs for transmitting MIDI Control Change data, the MPD24 provides unprecedented creative freedom for manipulating sampled material.

Korg nanoPAD USB MIDI Pad Controller
When Korg set out to make a drum pad controller, they did their homework - with unique features and exceptionally responsive pads, the resulting padKONTROL became and remains one of the most highly sought-after pad controllers on the market. Enter the nanoPAD, offering 12 excellent feeling and highly responsive pads in a new, smaller footprint. In addition, a new Chord Trigger function lets you enter chords onto a single pad, helping you to make the most of the work surface as you create. The pads are also able to transmit control change messages, making this a great interface for soloing or muting mixer tracks, turning objects on and off, or triggering clips during your live performances.

Korg padKontrol USB Drum Pad Controller
The all-new padKONTROL joins Korg's expanding line-up of MIDI studio controllers. Adding another dimension beyond traditional keyboard control, the padKONTROL is the most expressive and versatile pad controller ever!


Get a Price on MOTU's Beat Production Software (BPM)


Just got it. And I want to tell you, its great. You don't need an MPC to do all the cool stuff you can do with one--if you have this software and an MPD or suitable pad controller. (The controller is not supplied, don't be misled by the picture in the ad).  In fact, you can do a more with BPM than you can do with a hardware MPC

I used to think GURU had the market on the software MPC. And, well, it did. Until BPM came out. You don't even need the MPD controller to get everything out of this software. You can just use the mouse if you want, and tap the software pads while the clock is running. Or place hits on the grid. Even the software pads are velocity sensitive depending on where you hit the pad.


Pics of a real MPCs available today

In Use

Operating BPM is as simple as dragging kits, patterns, samples, and audio files from the right pane to the pads or editors.  People that have used FL studio in the past will be comfortable with this approach.  You can save your favorite directories to last tab on the right pane.  If your DAW is like mine, you have directories of samples all over several hard drives.  This feature lets you bring all of the together that you might want to use in BPM.  I just favorited my Logic UltraBeat and EXS sample directories which gives me an inexhaustible source of great samples I can drag into BPM.  The 15 GB of samples BPM comes with has a definite hip hop/vintage slant.

BPM is complete in and of itself. You don't have to run it in a sequencer as a plugin, though you can. Its almost more fun using it stand alone. Drag and drop is implemented really well. So line up all the directories on your drives that have samples on them, and drag them to the pads.

The sequencer grid you see in the pic works well.  Left click to insert a note, left click on top to erase it.  No changing mouse heads.  Right click context menus are well supported.  Its very easy to make new drum patterns or tweak those you load. Its easy to change the kick or snare (or any other pad) with your favorite samples.  You can put loops on the pads, or whole audio phrases.  Its easy to edit the audio assigned to a pad.  Unlike many software "samplers" you can record new samples directly to the pads.  You can also re-sample any material coming out the output.  Finally, and this is truly cool, though i have not tried it yet, you can sample directly off any track in your sequencer by inserting the supplied recording plugin on that channel/track.  This means no added noise going out the audio interface and back in.  If you have excellent mics and preamps and converters, this means you can capture premium sound right on the pads. Its features like this that puts BPM way over ever other drum sampler, and heck, maybe every software sampler period!

 BPM Rack view

BPM's rack is for editing sampled loops, phrases, software instruments, and sliced audio.  It has its own piano roll editor, its own effects engine and mixer that is independent of the 4 pattern banks

Its very hard to find something I don't like.  You can put multiple samples on each pad and have a different effect on each sample if you like.  Just as you can save kits, you can save individual pads, with their full FX routing.  This is fantastic for creating several template pads of 2,3 4 layers--a great time saver for sample programmers.  You can also cut and paste bits of sample material from one pad to another if you like to do crazy stuff like I do.  I though for sure it could not do looping, but yes, it can do that too.  Grab a section of the sample material you want loop with the mouse and select loop.  Done! The days of dialing in tiny little numbers are over.

It will slice files. recycle style, if you like to work that way. I found it can load my MOTU Ethno loops and instruments. If you have Mach 5, it will do those too.  It can also load UVI sounds from the UVI soundcard series.  The manual, which was quite well-written, mentions BPM Expander Packs. 

Who is it for?

Obviously, the hip hop folks are going to LOVE this software. But it goes way beyond that. BPM will do any kind of sample based sequenced music. Or just use it as a vintage drum machine in your sequencer. I found everything I needed to make house. techno, trance, gabber, big beat, electro, and also for traditional rock, pop, country and jazz.

What's in the box

Tons of kits, tons of samples and if that is not enough, drag stuff from your other libraries. It has grooves from the MPCs and classic drum machines. Nice emulations of the 808, 909, drumtrax, HR16 and QY10.  15 GB of material; 10,000 samples, 1,000 loops, over 200 drum kits, over 100 software instruments (piano, bass, strings, etc.) and hundreds of midi patterns.  Its all freely assignable.  You can play any pattern on any kit.  You can save your custom kits, patterns, banks, pads, performances, scenes. 

But don't think this is just a preset drum machine that lets you make custom kits and patterns.  You can take it farther.  There is a synth oscillator designed to synthesize drum hits.  You can make every drum totally from scratch without any samples if you want.  To get you going they provided a bunch of preset drum sounds from the synthesizer.  This is one capable synth.  It's sort of like Logic's Ultrabeat, but its much more fun to use.

Naturally, I could not resist making new kits from my Ice Kold Tekno, Post Industrial set and World Cafe sample sets.  I was thrilled with the way I got them to sound and how fast I was able to work.  I found i could tighten envelopes, add compression, effects, mix the kit all with exacting control. 


BPM Click here to order from zZounds

Which Controller?

I am using a stock Akai MPD16 with BPM and it works perfectly. The connection is easy.  Just connect a USB cable from  the MPD to the computer and set it as a MIDI source in BPM's audio/MIDI preferences.  That's it!  I imagine the MPD 24 and 32  will be even better, assuming the knobs can be mapped to the controls on the software interface.  I did not try that though.  I would not use a controller with less than 16 pads.  You really need 16 for the real feel.  Version 1.01 and 1.02 of BPM came with setup files for all the Akai MPD units. Those free updates can be downloaded at after you register your software.  My version of BPM came with an ILok USB protection dongle.  The dongle was already authorized, though this was not clear in the documentation.  So, I spent a few head-shrinking moments wondering why I could not authorize the ILok that was already authorized.

Comparing Drum Programs

Lets see,  I have Battery 3, Storm Drum, Storm Drum 2, Guru, Stylus RMX, Superior Drummer, Kontakt, UltraBeat, and countless other samplers. hard and soft, that allow me to create custom kits.  Up until now, Kontakt was the winner for creating kits.  It has been de-throned.  BPM is the new king for creating custom drum kits.  I hereby bestow on it the coveted Tweak's Pick award for best creative virtual drum tool.

Summing Up

There is very little not to like about BPM.  Its like having the ultimate drum machine of all time at your finger tips.  You might be wondering if BPM is superior to a hardware MPC, including the new MPC5000.  The main advantage hardware has is reliability for live gigs.   Other than that, and the obvious excellent feel of the Akai MPC hardware, its hard to see where software does not totally win out.  Your DAW is going to have more available memory, more drive space, a bigger display and much faster access to samples using the mouse.  In fact if you do have an MPC hardware unit, you might want to use BPM to prepare your kits, samples and and patterns, then import all the data over s/pdif.  


Best of luck with your Music!

May 2009


Motu's page on BPM

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