Samples, loops, slices and mlrv

Here’s a little article about something Marty McFly might refer to as ‘an oldie’. Which it really isn’t to be honest, but it is most certainly a goodie.

If you’re into your music, take a little watch of this:

Sound like your sort of thing? Then read on…

Splice and play

You know all those samples you have kicking about that you never really use. Things that came on magazine cover discs, those pre-mixed ‘music loops’ you get on a sample library that are just too distinctive, all those ‘construction kits’ that are great for making that one demo song. Time to put them to use.

With mlrv.

A patch for the Max/MSP environment, but that can be used using the free runtime version, mlrv was developed by the /parallelogram/ guys from Michael Crabtree’s mlr for their own use but, because they’re so awesome, they made it freely available, so let’s take a look.

What is mlrv?

Basically, mlrv is an 8-slot sampler, but when you pair it with a grid controller and some happy fingers, magic happens; mlrv takes your samples, chops them up, and maps each slice to a pad on your grid controller, letting you either let the sample loop as normal, or lets you play each slice with the corresponding pad.

You can record sequences of pad presses, resample to other sample slots, record from your soundcard’s input, play with reverb and delay sends and parameters in real-time and really get up to all sorts of creative sampling fun, all from a grid controller and anything else you want to MIDI map!

mlrv software

How to install mlrv on Windows

First, head off to download the Max runtime environment. All the documentation for mlrv refers to version 5, so that’s the one I used.

Max 5.1.9 installed, download mlrv and put the folder somewhere you’ll remember. Your desktop is fine if you don’t mind it covering a bit of your wallpaper.

Navigate to the folder containing the Cycling ’74 folder. On my Windows 7 machine, this folder was in C: > Program Files (x86) > Cycling ’74

Open your mlrv folder and open the xsample folder.

Drag the file labelled xsample.mxe to the folder Cycling ’74/msp-externals/

Drag the file labelled xsample-objectmappings.txt to the folder Cycling ’74/init/

Drag the file labelled xsample.help to the folder Cycling ’74/msp-help/

Double click the _mlrV2.4V2.3.maxpat file and get ready for sample slicing fun!

How to install mlrv on Mac

Just the same as above really, but you’ll want to download the Mac version of the Max runtime. For the xsample files, the Mac version of the readme file tells you where to put those. You’ll find the appropriate locations in your Applications folder.

That done, open up the _mlrV2.4V2.3.maxpat file as above and – as above- get ready for sample slicing fun!

How do I get mlrv set up?

Once you’ve opened mlrv, click on the setup icon to the right of the top sample slot. There, you can select your controller from the list (it defaults to monome 64) and select it for device input and device output so you get both control and feedback.

If you’ve not already got audio or want to change your soundcard, click on the yellow text underneath and to the right of the DSP > Driver section and choose your interface. You can then choose the appropriate outputs above where it says DAC in the bottom right

What can I do with mlrv?

Well, that is entirely up to you… When I first played with it, maybe 4 years ago now, I started thinking of it as an Ableton Live session view-type thing. I put individual parts of tracks – drums, bass, keys, vocals etc – into the slots, and very quickly ran out.

However, render down some more complex stems and you’re good to go, with plenty of sampler slots to still get creative with the improvisation, while keeping things manageable.

So, take that collection of never-used samples – or grab something from some vinyl using your nifty USB turntable – and create some loops; I found two bars worked fairly well, then it’s off to mlrv.

Of course, if you just want to get started with the James Bond music:

And of course, mlrv doesn’t just have to stand-alone, get it rewired into something like Ableton Live and things can really start to get interesting…

But, before any of that, maybe the tutorial video is a good place to start:

What should I use to control mlrv?

The Monome is a wondrous, beautiful thing, and I say that even though it’s not something we stock, but if you’ve got the budget, it’s a fantastic controller. Well, if you’ve got a monome, then you’re covered, but what about that most ubiquitous – with good reason – of grid controllers, the Novation Launchpad?

The Launchpad is not only a great controller, it’s also one of the controllers available from the handy drop-down menu meaning it’s all certified, proved and ready to go hassle-free!

Just to check that I tried a Launchpad Mini – never before plugged into my machine – and was chopping beats like a time-dilated novice in no time! All the Launchpads also ship with Ableton Live Lite, perfect for creating and editing your samples ready for mlrv, or for using simultaneously!

If you wanted to add more control ready for your extra mlrv MIDI mapping, then the Launch Control and Launch Control XL are the obvious choices. If you’re starting from scratch and think you’ve just stumbled across the perfect solution to make the music you’ve always imagined yourself making, then why not do things in style and add a Novation Audiohub as well.

It’s not only a quality audio interface with a pair of inputs to get your sounds sampled, but you get a 3-port USB hub on there as well, letting you get those MIDI controllers plugged in with ease! If you’d rather sample from a microphone or your guitar or bass, then maybe swap that out for something like the Focusrite Scarlett Solo or 2i2.

So, what are you waiting for? Go forth, sample and enjoy!

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Fynn Callum

producer, guitarist, engineer & dj
From indie guitarist to deep house producer via Northern Soul dj; mix engineer, producer and gear enthusiast. Jaffa Cake aficionado.

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