Getting Started Guide
July 29, 2003
What’s the Getting
Started Guide?
Roland’s MC-909 Sampling Groovebox is a hot new dance music workstation packed with exciting
features. If you’re new to grooveboxes, the MC-909’s many features may be a lot to take in at first,
what with all of the unfamiliar words and concepts you’ve got to learn.
Don’t worry—we’ve created this Getting Started Guide just for you. We’ll explain what you need to
know to start having fun with this monster box.
We’ll begin with some important words and concepts you may have heard about, but don’t yet
fully understand. Next, we’ll show you how to create your own music on the MC-909. We’ll teach
you how to sample. Finally, we’ll talk about how to move stuff back and forth from the MC-909 to
a computer, something that lots of people like to do.
That said, let’s get this party started.
©2003 Roland Corporation U.S.
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In this section, we’ll explain some terms and concepts you really need to understand to get the
most from your MC-909.
Audio vs.MIDI
One of the things that groovebox beginners often find confusing is the difference between audio
and MIDI. Let’s get this straight before we go on. They’re two completely different things, and you’ll
find them both in the MC-909.
Audio is sound.
When you hear something, you’re hearing audio. What comes out of
your mouth when you sing is audio. What comes out of a tambourine
is audio. What comes out of the jack labeled “OUTPUT” on the back of
a synthesizer or the MC-909, or out of a 1/4” jack on an electric bass, is
MIDI is a computer-to-computer music language.
MIDI—short for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface”—is a language that computers use to talk
to each other about music. Every MIDI device, whether it’s a synth, a drum machine or whatever, is
actually a computer designed to do something musical. MIDI is all about instructions sent from one
MIDI device to another that allows the first device to tell the second one how to do something.
Do this.
©2003 Roland Corporation U.S.
And this.
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Inside the Box
A good example of this kind of conversation takes place right within your MC-909. The
MC-909’s case actually holds several separate MIDI devices that are always yapping to each other.
D Beams
Let’s eavesdrop on one of these conversations, between the MC-909’s VELOCITY PADS and its
sound generator. Here’s what these two MIDI devices do:
The VELOCITY PADS are the things you bang on with your fingers at the bottom edge of the
MC-909. They don’t make any sounds all by themselves, they just produce MIDI messages.
The sound generator is the part of the MC-909 that actually produces the notes you hear—in
fact, it produces audio.
Each time you strike a pad on the MC-909, the pad sends a MIDI message to the sound generator. If
you hit a pad that plays Middle C, for example, the pad sends the sound generator a MIDI message
that means, “Hey you, play a Middle C!” The sound generator plays a Middle C. When you let go of
the pad, the pad says, in MIDI talk,“That’s enough. Stop playing Middle C,” and the sound generator
stops playing Middle C.
MIDI is actually a very detailed language that allows all sorts of performance information to be
passed from one MIDI device to another. To you, it just feels like a simple thing: you hit a pad, you
hear a sound. But under the hood, it’s really a team effort between multiple MIDI devices chatting
in MIDI talk, faithfully converting your playing into sound.
It’s possible to capture and record these MIDI messages, and to play them back. That’s what the
MC-909’s “sequencer” does. The sequencer records MIDI messages you play into it—remembering
the order you played them in, as well as your timing—and plays them back at your command,
causing the sound generator to recreate your original performance.
You play the pads.
The pads send
MIDI messages into
the sequencer.
Play this note.
Stop playing this note.
Play that note.
Stop playing that note.
©2003 Roland Corporation U.S.
The sequencer
the messages...
Play this note.
Stop playing this note.
Play that note.
Stop playing that note.
...and plays them
into the sound
Play this note.
Stop playing this note.
Play that note.
Stop playing that note.
MC-909 Getting Started Guide
The sound generator
produces the notes.
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This all feels a lot like recording audio, since you hit the REC
(for “RECORD”) button, play something, and when you hit PLAY,
the MC-909 plays back your performance. But what you’re
really recording is MIDI messages, not the notes themselves.
What you’re doing is called “sequencing,” and what you’re
recording is called a “sequence.” Each sequence lives inside
one of the MC-909’s “patterns,” as you’ll see in a few pages.
Sequencing lets you do some things that you can’t do so easily with audio recordings:
You can change the speed, or tempo, of a performance even after it’s been sequenced .
You can change the sound the performance plays. For example, you can easily change a piano
performance into a string performance without re-performing it.
You can do all sorts of stuff to sequenced MIDI data. You can change its pitch, change its timing,
add or remove notes and lots of other things.
Oh, and one more thing. On the MC-909, you can record separate performances for up to 16
different instruments in a single sequence. Each of these performances is called a “part.”
A Sequence
Synth 1
Main Keys
9. Lead Vocal Patch
10. Main Drum Kit
11. Background Vocal Patch 1
12. Background Vocal Patch 2
13. Lead Vocal Patch 2
14. Hits
15. Percussion
16. Bells
Since all of the parts play back together, they sound like they were all recorded at the same time,
even though you may have actually built your arrangement one instrument at a time.
Outside the Box
MIDI also allows completely separate MIDI instruments to communicate. You might, for example,
connect a MIDI keyboard to the MC-909 so you can play its sounds from the keyboard instead of
from the MC-909’s own pads. You can even sequence on the MC-909 by performing the desired
parts on an external MIDI device.
When you connect two MIDI instruments, you
do so using MIDI cables. You connect one end
of a MIDI cable to the MIDI OUT jack of the first
instrument and the other end to the MIDI IN jack
of the second instrument. For a two-way MIDI
conversation—something you need in certain
situations—another MIDI cable connects the
second instrument’s MIDI OUT to the first one’s
MIDI IN. These cables carry MIDI messages, not
audio, of course—all they care about is the
instructions from one box to another.
©2003 Roland Corporation U.S.
MIDI plug from the side and straight-on
The MC-909's rear-panel
MIDI jacks
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And so...?
The important thing to remember is that audio is something you can hear, while MIDI is merely
messages passed between two MIDI devices in a language only MIDI devices can understand.
While these messages result in sound, they’re not the sound itself.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s introduce some other important ideas.
Whatza Sample?
In many ways on the MC-909, it all starts with the sample. A sample is simply a digital recording of
a sound. It can be a mono recording, or a pair of recordings that make up the left and right sides
of a stereo audio image.
A sample may be a recording of:
something off of a CD.
something sung or played into a microphone.
an electric instrument such as an electric guitar or
the audio output of an electronic instrument such
as a synthesizer, a beat box or another sampler.
When you capture a sound as a sample, you’re sampling. A sampler—such as the
MC-909—is a device that can record and play these digital recordings.
On the
MC-909's screen,
here's what
a mono sample
looks like.
On the
MC-909's screen,
here's what
a stereo sample
looks like.
WAV and AIFF Samples
A sample can also be audio that someone else has recorded and stored as a file on a computer, or
on some other sampler. These files are stored in various audio file data formats. The most popular
are WAV-format and AIFF-format files. The MC-909 can load and play either type of sample file. It
can also create WAV and AIFF samples of its own.
The Bottom Line
In the MC-909, when we talk about a sample, we’re referring to audio you’ve recorded yourself, or
to a WAV or AIFF file you’ve imported into the MC-909.
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Whatza PCM Waveform?
There’s another type of audio that the MC-909 plays: PCM waveforms. A PCM waveform is a sample
that Roland has created for you, and that’s built into the MC-909’s ROM (“Read-Only Memory”). The
MC-909 contains 693 of these PCM waveforms. They’re recordings of all sorts of things, including
drum and percussion instruments, keyboards, guitars, basses, strings, oddball noises and on and
on. They form the basis of the MC-909’s factory sounds, or “patches.”
PCM waveforms, like samples, can be stereo or mono.
Whatza Patch?
When you play a sample or PCM waveform on the MC-909, you play it in something called a
“patch.” The MC-909 comes from the Roland factory with 800 ready-to-play patches, and you can
create your own, too.
A patch is a group of samples and/or PCM waveforms,
and a bunch of settings, or “parameters,” that determine
how each sample or PCM waveform plays. When you play
a note, all of the samples and/or PCM waveforms in the
patch play together, making one big, interesting sound.
Toning Up
A patch’s samples and/or PCM waveforms are organized
into four “tones.” Each tone plays a stereo sample or
PCM waveform, or it can play two mono samples or
PCM waveforms. Each tone has its own set of about
90 parameters that determine how its samples or PCM
waveforms play. Tones can be set to play together in a
different ways, resulting in a bunch of different sounds.
In this patch, Tones 1 and 4 each play a
single stereo sample or PCM waveform.
Tones 2 and 3 each play two mono
samples or PCM waveforms.
Patch Parameters
The number of patch parameters is huge—each patch has over 300 different parameters. Some
control the sounds of individual tones, and others set the sound of the entire patch. They can
control things like:
how bright or muffled each sample or PCM waveform will sound.
the tuning of the sample or PCM waveform.
how the volume of the sample or PCM waveform changes as a note sounds.
how the patch behaves as you play it.
much, much more.
When you twiddle many of the knobs and buttons on the MC-909—or use the D Beams—you’re
actually adjusting these parameters.
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Rhythm Sets
A normal patch plays its samples or PCM
waveforms over a range of pads, or keys on a
connected MIDI keyboard. There’s a special kind of
drum or percussion patch called a “rhythm set” in
which every pad or key plays a different drum or
percussion sound.
Whatzan Effect?
A big factor in making the MC-909’s patches sound as great as they do is the MC-909’s “effects.”
An effect—technically speaking—is an audio process that changes the sound of a sample, PCM
waveform or an entire patch in some way. Non-technically speaking, an effect adds interesting new
personality traits to the basic sound of a patch.
Some of the more popular effects include:
reverb—Reverb makes a patch sound like it exists in a real-world space, such as a concert hall,
or a room of some kind.
compression—Compression takes control of volume changes to make a sound more punchy
and tight.
step filter—A step filter makes the brightness of a sound change along with the beat as your
music plays.
Step Filter settings
The MC-909 contains a full-time reverb effect and a compressor, and also offers two all-purpose
“multi-effect”—or “MFX”—processors that can produce dozens and dozens of effects.
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Whatza Pattern?
One of the things you’ll do most often on the MC-909 is select and play patterns. You can play
one pattern over and over, play one after the other on-the-fly, or chain them together in songs.
Obviously, it’s a good idea to know just what a pattern is.
The Pattern Play Screen
To put it simply, in the MC-909, a pattern is a chunk of music. More specifically, a pattern contains:
a sequence—A pattern’s sequence can be anywhere from
one bar to 998 bars long.
an effect setup—Each pattern has its own settings for the
MC-909’s reverb, compressor and two MFX processors.
a part setup—A pattern contains settings for each of its
sequence’s 16 parts. Each part has a whole bunch of its own
settings, including the patch it plays, its volume, its stereo
positioning (called “panning”), its tuning, the effects it uses
and more.
Effects setup
Part setup
This is the patch setup for
the first factory pattern. The
screen is called the “Patch
Play” screen.
The result of all this is that each pattern contains not only its own sequenced performance, but also
its own overall sound, since it uses its own set of patches and its own effects setup.
To learn how to select patterns in Pattern mode, see Pages 24 and 25 in the MC-909 Owner’s
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Whatza Song?
A song is simply a group of patterns you’ve strung together, end-to -end. You may have a pattern
for an introduction followed by a pattern for a verse, a bridge and then a chorus, and so on. In the
MC-909, a song may be as big as 50 patterns long. When you play a song, the string of patterns
plays in the correct order.
In this song list,
the first five song
steps play Patterns
1-5, one after another.
...and so on...
A Note About Saving Your Work in the MC-909
When you’ve been creating samples, creating or tweaking patches, or recording pattern sequences,
you’ll want to be able to permanently store your stuff somewhere. You can store samples, patches
and patterns in the MC-909’s built-in user memory. You can also purchase and install SmartMedia
cards for lots of additional storage space.
Housekeeping Made EZ
It’s often the case that samples, patches and patterns rely on each other. A patch may require a
particular sample you’ve captured, a pattern may require that patch, and so on.
When you’ve got a bunch of stuff—samples, patches, patterns—that all belongs together, it’s a
good idea to store them all in the same place. Save them all in the onboard user memory, or save
them all on the same SmartMedia card. That way, you can be confident that you’ve got all the bits
and pieces you need at any given time, without having to keep detailed track of what’s where.
School’s Out!
Now that we’ve made our way through the MC-909’s basic concepts, we’re ready for some fun.
This guide is based on the MC-909’s Version 1.10 operating system software. If your MC-909
doesn’t behave as described in these pages, please visit or call Roland
Product Support at 323-890-3700 to learn about obtaining the latest MC-909 software.
©2003 Roland Corporation U.S.
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How to
Select an Unused Pattern
Since each sequence in the MC-909 lives within one of its patterns, the first step in recording a
sequence is to select an unused pattern. The MC-909 contains 200 patterns into which you can
record—these are called the “user” patterns.
We’ll record our sequence in User Pattern U:001 (the “U” stands for “User”).
1. Press PATTERN to display the Pattern Play screen.
2. Press F1 (List) beneath the display.
The F1-F6 buttons under the display are called “soft” buttons because their jobs change,
depending on what you’re currently doing. An F button’s current job is shown directly above
the button on the display. When we refer to an F button, we add its current job to its name.
In Step 2 above, we called F1 “F1 (List)” because “List” appears above it on the display at the
The pattern list appears. By default, the MC-909 shows you the factory patterns, the preset
patterns pre-programmed by Roland.
3. Press F2 (User)—the user patterns appear.
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4. Turn the VALUE dial to highlight User Pattern 1, or U:001 Empty. Each unused pattern is
named “Empty” by the MC-909’s software.
If you’ve already saved a pattern in the U:001 pattern memory location, you can select
another pattern labeled “Empty” instead for our example.
5. Press F6 (Select Pattern) to select the highlighted pattern—the MC-909 takes you back
to the Pattern Play screen.
Select a Part for Recording
The recording process always starts with the selection of the part you want to record.
1. If any of these buttons are lit, press them once to turn off their indicators:
2. Press PART Button 10 so it lights. You’ve now selected Part 10 for recording.
Part 10 is set up to use a rhythm set called “909 TR-909 1.” You can play the pads to check
it out. Since this is a rhythm set, each pad plays a different kit sound.
We’ll explain how to change a part’s sound later on.
Your First Recording
The MC-909 provides several different ways to record. You can record using any of these
methods, depending on how you like to work or the kind of part you want to record. You can
even switch between methods while working on a part.
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Exploring TR-Rec Mode
Turning On TR-Rec Mode
We’ll begin with TR-Rec mode, an easy, no-performance-pressure way to record. “TR-Rec”
is short for “TR Recording.” If you’ve ever used one of Roland’s legendary TR-Series drum
machines, you’ll recognize this approach. TR-Rec mode lets you turn the desired notes on
and off using the VELOCITY PADS. You can see the notes onscreen as you work.
1. Press REC (for “RECORD”) so it lights red—the Recording Menu screen appears.
2. Press F2 (TR-Rec) to display the TR-Rec Standby screen. It’s called a standby screen
because you’re not actually recording yet—you’re just getting set up to record.
On the TR-Rec Standby screen, the MC-909 offers you three options for how you’d like to set
up your sequence. To change a setting—no need to do this now—you’d press or to
highlight the parameter you wished to change, and then turn the VALUE dial to select the
desired value for that parameter. Here’s what the three parameters do:
Rec Beat—sets the time signature for the sequence. Most dance and pop music uses a
4/4 time signature. For our example, this should be set to 4/4.
Rec Measure Length—sets the length of the sequence in measures. For now, a 4-measure
length is fine.
Rec Velocity—sets the velocity value assigned to each note you turn on in TR-Rec mode.
You can set it to Real, so that the force with which you hit a pad determines its recorded
velocity, or you can set it to some fixed velocity value. The default setting of 100 means
that every note you record will be recorded with a velocity value of 100. That’s fine for
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What’s velocity? MIDI measures how hard you hit a VELOCITY PAD or key, and calls that
measurement “velocity.” Typically, the greater the velocity, the louder and brighter the
resulting note. Velocity can also cause other changes to a patch’s sound, depending on how
it’s programmed to respond to varying velocities as you play.
You don’t need to do anything about this now, but—just so you know—you can adjust the way
the sequence’s parts are mixed by pressing F3 (Mixer), and you can adjust the sequence’s speed,
or “tempo,” by pressing F6 (BPM/Click). We’ll discuss these options later. For now, if you can’t resist
pressing one of these buttons, go ahead. Just press F6 (Close) to return to the TR-Rec Standby
screen when you’re done snooping around.
Starting TR-Recording
Here we go.
1. Press PLAY—a few things happen:
• The MC-909’s metronome starts beeping as the empty sequence plays over and over.
• The TR-Rec screen appears and the first of the sequence’s four measures appears in a grid.
readout tells you the
measure you're
looking at.
Now line
If the box above Note
Number isn't selected,
press F3 (Note Number).
A vertical line called the “Now line” moves from left to right across the screen as Measure 1
plays, disappearing off to the right during the sequence’s other three measures. The Now
line shows you your current position in the sequence.
In TR-Rec mode, each VELOCITY PAD acts as an on/off switch for one of the sequence’s
beats. By default, each measure in the sequence is divided up into 16 steps, or 16th notes.
Each pad represents one of these 16th notes. The black bars above the pads show how
each set of four pads belongs to one of the measure’s four beats.
Beat 1
©2003 Roland Corporation U.S.
Beat 2
Beat 3
Beat 4
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2. Press and to see the note selection box move up and down the screen. This box selects
the note you’ll be turning on or off. As it moves to each note, you hear the note.
Note selection box
3. Press and to select the closed hi-hat at A#4.
The keys along the left
edge are numbered.
Each octave starts at C,
so you have C1-B1, C2-B2,
and so on.
You can see the currently selected
note number here.
4. Press all of the VELOCITY PADS, one-by-one, so they’re all lit. You don’t need to do this in rhythm,
since in TR-Rec mode, you’re just setting each note’s on/off switch. As you turn on each pad, its
note appears in the grid, until it looks like this.
When all of the pads are lit, you’ll hear the hi-hat on all 16 16th notes in Measure 1. The other
three measures remain silent, since you haven’t yet added hi-hat notes there.
Let’s replace one of these closed hi-hat sounds with an open hi-hat sound.
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5. Press VELOCITY PAD 15 to turn off its light. The next time Measure 1 plays, you can hear that
we’ve created a short space, or “rest” at this 16th note.
6. Press twice to select the open hi-hat sound.
7. Press VELOCITY PAD 15 to turn on its light. The next time Measure 1 plays, you can hear the
open hi-hat play at this 16th note.
Let’s add a bass drum, or “kick,” and snare.
8. Press 12 times to select the kick drum at C4.
9. Press VELOCITY PADS 1 and 9 to light them and place kick drum notes at the start of Beats 1
and 3 in Measure 1.
10. Press four times to select the splashy snare sound.
11. Press VELOCITY PADS 5 and 13 to light them and place snare drum notes at the start of Beats 2
and 4 in Measure 1.
You’ve just TR-recorded a rhythm in Measure 1. Let’s do Measure 2 now.
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12. Press once—the TOP POSITION readout shows that you’re now
looking at Measure 2.
13. Press to move the note selection box back up to A#’s closed hi-hat.
14. Light all of the VELOCITY PADS except 11 and 15.
15. Press twice to get to the open hi-hat.
16. Press VELOCITY PADS 11 and 15 to light them.
17. Repeat Steps 8-11 to add the kick and snare. You’ve not got two measures recorded.
18. Press STOP to stop recording, and press PLAY if you wish to hear your work without the
A Short Trip to the Editing Planet
Copying Recorded Measures
Let’s pause in our recording session to use the MC-909’s editing tools to fill up the remaining
two blank measures in our sequence.
1. Press F2 (Edit). The Pattern Edit screen appears.
2. On the Pattern Edit screen, the Source From and Source End parameters select the
portion of the sequence to be edited. Since we want to make a copy of Measures 1 and
2—the measures we just recorded—we’ll set Source From to 1 for Measure 1 and Source
End to 2, for Measure 2.
Source From is already set to 1,
so press and turn the VALUE
dial to set Source To to 2,
as shown here.
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3. Press F2 (Copy)—the first Copy window appears so you
can select the part from which data is to be copied.
All of the PART buttons at the bottom of the MC-909
light to show that all 16 sequence parts are currently
selected for editing.
When all 16 PART buttons are lit, any edit you perform applies to the entire sequence.
However, we only need to copy Part 10, so let’s select just that one part for editing.
Hold down SHIFT and press the Part 10 button so that it’s the only PART button lit.
Press F6 (Select)—the second Copy window opens. In
this window, you can set up how Measures 1 and 2
are to be copied. The default settings are fine for our
purposes except for one of them.
Press to select the Destination Meas (for
“Destination Measure”) parameter and set it to 3, for
Measure 3. We want to place a copy of Measures 1 and
2 at the beginning of Measure 3 so that the copy fills
up Measures 3 and 4.
Finally, let’s make sure we’ll be copying Measures
1 and 2 to the correct part. The PART 10 button is
flashing to show that it’s selected as the destination
for our copied data. This is just what we want, so we’re
good to go.
Don’t do this now, but if you’d wanted to copy Measures 1 and 2 to another part, you’d simply
press the desired part’s button.
8. Press F6 (Execute). The MC-909 displays, “Pattern Edit Completed!”
9. Press PLAY to hear the full four-measure sequence.
10. Press PATTERN to return to the Pattern Play screen.
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Changing the Sequence/Pattern Tempo
Let’s make our pattern a bit more funky by slowing it down. Right now, its tempo is set to 138.
1. Press PLAY to start playing the sequence.
2. Press F6 (BPM/Click)—the BPM window opens.
The speed, or “tempo,” of a sequence is measured in BPM, or “beats per minute.”
3. Hold down SHIFT and turn the VALUE dial to set the BPM to 100.
Holding down SHIFT lets you change the sequence/pattern’s tempo in whole BPM steps. You
can change it in tenths of a BPM by turning VALUE without holding down SHIFT.
You can send the metronome sound to one of the MC-909 outputs from this window by
setting the Output Asgn parameter to the desired output, but we don’t need to do this now.
4. Press F6 (Close) to close the BPM window.
5. Press STOP to stop playback.
Changing a Part’s Sound
One of the great things about MIDI sequencing is that you can change the instrument playing a
performance even after you’ve recorded it. Let’s check this out.
1. Press PLAY.
2. Press PATCH/SAMPLE. The Patch Play screen shows the setup of all of the sequence’s parts.
3. Part 10 should be selected. If it’s not, press the round PART 10 button so it’s lit.
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4. Press F1 (List) to show a list of available patches. Since Part 10 currently uses a rhythm set, the
MC-909 presents you a list of rhythm set patches.
5. Press to hear how your recording sounds with different rhythm sets.
6. When you’ve finished experimenting, return to PR-A:001 909 TR-909 1, and then exit the screen
by pressing F6 (Select).
7. Press PATTERN to return to the Pattern Play screen.
8. Press STOP to end playback.
Saving a Pattern
Until you actually save your work, the MC-909 holds it in RAM (“Random Access Memory”)—if you
select another pattern or power-down the MC-909, your work is lost. To keep it safe, you’ve got to
save, or “write,” the pattern into the MC-909’s memory. Here’s how:
1. Press the WRITE button to display the Write Menu screen.
Notice that “Pattern” is highlighted on the screen. Since we’re currently in Pattern mode, the
MC-909 assumes you want to save a pattern. Whenever you press WRITE, the MC-909 selects
whatever it is you’re working on for you in its Write menu. You can always select something else
to save by turning the VALUE dial or pressing the desired F button, but you don’t need to do
that now. We do want to save a pattern.
2. Press ENTER to confirm that you want to write a pattern.
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The MC-909 presents its Pattern Name screen.
Whenever you save something on the MC-909, you can name it on a screen that looks just
like this one.
Names in the MC-909 can have up to 16 characters in them. Each character has a position on the
display, which is shown by an underline. (Right now, the first character position is underlined.) You
create the name you want by selecting each of its character positions and dialing in the desired
letter, number or punctuation mark.
Let’s name this pattern “Get Started!”
1. Turn the VALUE dial to select a capital “G. “As you turn the dial, you can see the available
characters swing in and out of view.
2. Press once to select the second character position.
3. Dial in a lower-case “e.”
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To save time, you can repeatedly press F1 (Change Type) to jump between capital “A,” lowercase “a” and zero.
4. Continue to press and dial in the desired characters to name “Get Started!” Put a space
between the two words—the blank space character is just before “A.”
To erase a character, press or to move to its position and press F2 (Delete). To add a
character into the middle of the name, move to its position and press F3 (Insert)—all of the
rest of the characters shift one position to the right.
When you’ve finished naming the pattern, it should look like this:
5. Press F6 (Write)—the MC-909 presents you with a list of user pattern memory locations in
which you can store your pattern.
Locations that don’t yet contain one of your patterns are named “Empty.” The pattern location
in which you’re currently working has an asterisk in front of its name. You can select a different
location by turning the VALUE dial. However, for now, let’s save the pattern just where it is.
6. Press F6 (Write)—the MC-909 asks if you’re sure.
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The reason the MC-909 requests this confirmation is simple: When you select a memory
location that already contains a pattern, the new pattern you’re writing will replace the older
pattern permanently. There’s no way to get the older pattern back, so it’s always a good idea
to take a moment to make sure you want to proceed.
7. Press F6 (Execute) to finish storing your pattern.
The MC-909 writes the pattern into its memory and displays “Pattern Write Completed!” when
it’s done.
While we’ve just saved a pattern, the procedure for saving anything else in the MC-909 is
pretty much identical.
In this example, we’ve stored our pattern in the MC-909’s built-in user memory. If you’ve
installed a SmartMedia card, you can also save patterns on the SmartMedia card.
Recording More Parts
Exploring Realtime Recording Mode
When we recorded using TR-Rec mode, we entered notes on a grid. Of course, it can be a lot more
fun to simply play a part to record it—that’s what Realtime recording is. Let’s add a bass part to Get
Started! using the Realtime recording method.
Getting Bass-ic
We’ll begin by setting up a bass part and configuring the VELOCITY PADS for bass recording.
1. Press PATCH/SAMPLE to display the Patch Play screen.
2. Press the round PART 2 button beneath the faders so the button lights—this selects Part 2 on
the Patch Play screen.
3. Press F1 (List). The MC-909 presents a list of patches.
4. Turn the VALUE dial to select PR-C:66 PeakofTEBE. This is a buzzy bass sound that’ll go well with
the drums.
5. Press F6 (Select) to confirm your choice and return to the Patch Play screen.
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Drop It
If you play PeakofTEBE on the VELOCITY PADS, you’ll notice it doesn’t sound much like a bass
patch. That’s because we’re playing it too high in pitch. By default, the VELOCITY PADS act like
a keyboard playing in the middle of its range. In fact, VELOCITY PAD 2 plays Middle C.
The pads play the
notes shown in blue.
Middle C, or MIDI Note C4
For a rhythm set patch, that’s fine because that’s where you’ll find the rhythm sets’ sounds.
For a bass patch, though, this is too high up the keyboard—bass notes are down low.
Not to worry. When you’re playing a pitched patch—which is any
patch other than drums, percussion or sound effects—you can
lower or raise the pitch of the notes you play on the pads using
the OCT buttons to the left of the pads.
Let’s lower the VELOCITY PADS down to a more sensible bass range.
1. Play any pad to hear how it sounds, and then press -OCT once. A window pops open on
the display briefly to show you that the pads are now shifted downward by one octave.
Middle C, or MIDI Note C4
2. Play the pad again to hear how its pitch has dropped.
3. Press -OCT twice more to lower the pitch of the pads to -3 octaves.
Middle C, or MIDI Note C4
4. Play the pads again—now we’re in bass territory.
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Setting Up Realtime Recording
The process starts with setting up the way in which you’re going to record in realtime.
1. Press REC to display the Recording Menu.
2. Press F1 (Realtime) to display the Realtime Standby screen, and to start the metronome.
As with TR-Rec mode, you’ve got a variety of options that determine what happens when you start
to record. Here’s what each Realtime mode parameters does.
Rec Beat—sets the pattern’s time signature. You can change this setting only when you’re
recording a pattern’s first part. Once you’ve recorded in a pattern, this parameter can’t be
changed. Since this is our second part, 4/4 is what it is.
Rec Measure Length—sets the length of the pattern. Since our pattern already contains a fourmeasure drum part, this can’t be set to less than four measures. If you wanted to, you could
make this part longer, thus lengthening the whole pattern. For now, leave it set to 4, for 4
Rec Mode—sets your recording mode. In Mix mode, each time you begin recording, or the
pattern returns to the beginning, what you play is combined with what’s already been recorded.
In Replace mode, your new performance replaces anything already recorded in the part. For
now, leave this set to Mix.
Rec Count In—determines how long a warning you’ll have before recording actually starts. Set
this parameter to 1MEAS, for 1 measure: the good old “1-2-3-4, go.”
Rec Loop Rest—turns a silent measure at the end of the pattern on or off. This is actually quite
handy. The MC-909 plays each pattern over and over again during recording, allowing you to
add more notes each time. This is especially cool for quickly layering percussion parts. Rec Loop
Rest gives you a short break after each playing of the pattern so you can get your bearings
before it comes around again. Set this parameter to On.
Quantize Resolution—turns quantizing on or off. Quantizing corrects any timing mistakes
you make as your record so that each note is automatically planted exactly where it belongs
rhythmically. Set this parameter to 1/16 to move everything you play to the nearest 16th
Quantize Timing—makes quantizing more (at 100%) or less (at 0%) perfect and machine-like.
For now, leave it at 100%
Rec Velocity—sets the velocity value assigned to each note you play during recording. We’ll
leave it set to Real to capture your performance most faithfully.
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Turning On Realtime Recording
Breathe Deeply
Unlike TR-Rec mode, Realtime mode can be a little scary until you get used to it—after all, the
pressure’s on to play well, just like in a real studio or onstage. Fortunately, the MC-909 offers some
tools to make things easier. For now, trust us. We’ll keep things pressure-free here.
Round and Round
Once we start recording, the MC-909 plays the sequence over and over so you can add or remove
notes without stopping.
Here We Go
1. Press PLAY—the one-measure countoff starts and the Realtime Recording screen appears.
Don’t worry. You don’t have to play anything yet. We’re just going to let the MC-909 run for a
bit to get our bearings.
Each time the pattern reaches its end, you hear an extra, empty measure—four beats of the
metronome. This is the result of our turning on the Rec Loop Rest parameter. It’s like getting
a fresh countoff each time the pattern plays through.
On the Realtime Recording screen, there’s a keyboard. When you start recording, you’ll see
that when you strike a pad, its corresponding key lights onscreen. You can also adjust your
quantizing and velocity settings as you record, though we won’t need to do that.
Press F4 (Rehearsal) so that it becomes checkmarked. This turns on the
MC-909’s Rehearsal mode, where you can work out a part without actually
recording it.
Now that you’re in Rehearsal mode, play the pads to work out a bass part for the pattern. Play
whatever you like, and take as long as you like—we’re not recording yet.
Once you’re ready to record, press F4 (Rehearsal) again to un-check it and leave Rehearsal
Wait until the top of the pattern comes around again and play your bass part.
Let the MC-909 keep going—you can hear your bass part play back as the sequence plays.
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Erasing Notes and Adding Notes in Realtime
You can easily fix any wrong notes you’ve recorded without stopping the MC-909. Simply
erase the notes you don’t want, and then add in the ones you do want.
1. Press F2 (Erase)—the Realtime Erase window opens.
2. Turn VALUE to set Erase Type to NOTE.
3. Just before an unwanted note plays, hold down its pad for a
moment and then let go. The note doesn’t play, and it’s erased
from the sequence.
4. Repeat these steps for any notes you want to remove.
If you’d like to remove a group of notes—such as those in a chord—at once, hold down the
pads for the lowest and highest notes you want to get rid of wherever they were recorded.
5. Press F5 (Close) to close the Realtime Erase window.
6. To add a new note—or to replace one you’ve just erased—just play it where you want it
to be. Remember, you’re still recording.
You can open and close the Realtime Erase window at any time as you record whenever you
want to quickly get rid of unwanted notes.
There’s all sorts of stuff you can get rid of using Realtime Erase, as described on Page 39 in the
MC-909 Owner’s Manual.
Recording Performance Controllers
Realtime recording also captures every knob-twist and
slider slide in the MC-909’s sound generator area, as well as
any D Beam moves. Let’s record some knob-twists:
1. Locate the FILTER CUTOFF and RESONANCE knobs on
the MC-909’s panel.
2. The next time the sequence gets back to the top,
experiment with the two knobs together and listen to
how they change the sound of the bass. The MC-909
records your moves and plays them back the next time
the sequence comes around.
3. Keep playing with the knobs until you’ve got something
you like.
4. Press STOP to finish recording.
If you’d like to keep your recording work, save the pattern again—see Page 19 to refresh your
memory if necessary.
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In our example, we recorded the bass part and then stopped. In real-world applications, you
can keep recording other parts without stopping simply by pressing the PART button of any
part you wish to record.
Before We Continue...
Let’s return the pads to their normal octave for the things we’ll be doing later in the Getting
Started Guide.
1. Press OCT + three times—the display shows “Octave Shift 0.”
Other Ways to Record
The MC-909 offers two other recording modes:
Step mode
Tempo/Mute mode
Step Recording
Step mode allows you to record by entering notes and chords beat-by-beat. This is the
slowest way to record for most people, but does allow you to create parts that are just too
complicated to play by hand. It’s described on Page 41 of the MC-909 Owner’s Manual.
Tempo/Mute Recording
Tempo/Mute recording is actually two types of recording rolled into one:
Tempo recording—allows you to record changes in a sequence’s tempo, locking in the
ways in which you want it to speed up or slow down as it plays. Tempo changes can make
a song more exciting, taking the listener through different grooves and moods.
Mute recording—allows you to record parts being turned on and/or off. (Each time you
turn off a part, you’re “muting” it.) This is a great way to build up and tear down dance
tracks and remixes.
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How to
First, Some Things to Know About Sampling
Before we actually start sampling, here are a few things you’ll need to know in order to master the
MC-909’s sampling power.
Measuring Sample Memory
Samples come in all sorts of sizes, depending on their length and whether they’re stereo or
Samples are measured in bytes, the way things are usually measured in computer-based devices.
Since most samples you record are thousands of bytes in size, the MC-909 counts them in
thousands, to make life easier. Each thousand bytes is called a “kilobyte,” and is abbreviated on the
MC-909’s display as simply “KB,” as in “100 KB,” “32752 KB,” and so on.
Here are a couple of examples that show how a sample’s length—and whether it’s stereo or
mono—affect its size. The roughly five-second “There’s no other love” sample that ships in the
MC-909 is a stereo sample whose left side and right side are both 257 KB in size. “257 KB” means
257,000 bytes, so the sample’s size is 514,000 bytes in total. On the other hand, the short, mono R&B
Guitar sample is only 76 KB. Most samples you’re likely to create will be in the hundreds of KBs.
This is a list of the
factory preset samples.
Really, though, you don’t have to think about all this too much. It is worth noting, however, that the
amount of memory you have for sampling and sample storage is counted in “megabytes,” or “MB,”
so you’ll need to do a little math to make sure you’ve got enough memory for what you want to
sample. Each MB is a thousand KBs, or one million bytes. That means that even an unexpanded
MC-909 straight from the factory has 11,000,000—yup, that’s 11 million—bytes available for
sampling. Yipes.
Forget to Remember to Forget—Types of Sample Memory
The MC-909 holds and stores samples using as many as three different types of sample memory.
This may sound scary, but each one has its own job to perform, and they all come in handy. Let’s
talk a bit about what they are and how they get used. This’ll help you get the most from the
MC-909’s sampling power. It’ll also help you avoid becoming confused as you start sampling on
the MC-909.
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Sample Storage Memory
As you start digging into the MC-909, it’s likely that you’ll be building a library of your own samples
to use whenever you want. The MC-909 allows you to permanently store samples in two different
places. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and you can store samples in both places if you
want. It all depends on how you like to work.
You can permanently store samples:
in the MC-909’s user memory—Technically speaking, user memory is
a form of computer memory called “flash memory.” Flash memory is
very reliable, so it’s a great place to stash your samples for safekeeping.
The advantage of user memory is that it’s built-in, so it’s always there
when you turn on your MC-909. On the other hand, the MC-909’s user
memory is 16 MB in size, which may not be large enough for your
entire sample library.
on 3.3V SmartMedia cards—SmartMedia cards come in a variety of
sizes from 4 MB all the way up to 128 MB. There are two big advantages
to SmartMedia cards. First of all, they can offer a lot of reliable storage
space. Second, if you fill one up, you can just pop another one into the
MC-909, providing you an infinite amount of sample storage space.
On the other side of the coin, you have to purchase SmartMedia
cards separately, although they are fairly inexpensive. You also have
to remember to take them along whenever you take your MC-909
somewhere. (The drawing on the face of the MC-909 below the
SmartMedia slot shows how to install a card.)
Speed Counts
Although both user memory and SmartMedia memory provide secure places in which to store your
stuff, neither is especially fast. It takes a few moments to write a sample to flash or SmartMedia,
and it takes a few moments to retrieve one, too. While this is fine for storage purposes, the MC-909
needs a faster place to hold samples when it’s time to actually work with them.
Live Sample Memory
The MC-909’s live sample memory is just that place. It uses a form of computer memory called
“SDRAM memory” (“SDRAM” stands for “Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory,” if you’re
curious). SDRAM is lightning-fast, so it’s the perfect type of memory for capturing new samples,
editing samples, and playing them. The MC-909 comes with 16 MB of live sample memory, and you
can expand it to a honking 256 MB by installing additional DIMM (for “Dynamic In-Line Memory
Module”) chips that you’ve purchased separately. For more on expanding the MC-909’s live sample
memory, see Page 146 of the MC-909 Owner’s Manual.
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Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
The MC-909’s live sample memory holds onto its contents only until you turn off the MC-909. At
that point, the live sample memory is cleared out, giving you a fresh start each time you power up.
This means that you’ve got to save any samples you want to keep before you power down—that’s
what user memory and SmartMedia cards are for. Once your work is safely stashed in one of these
two places, you can reload it into live sample memory as you need it. In fact, the MC-909 offers
some options for automatically re-loading your samples the next time you turn it on. We’ll explain
how to do this at the end of our sampling examples.
Capturing a Sample
Getting Ready to Sample
There are a few items you’ll need for our example:
The SAMPLE SHOW CD that came with your MC-909.
A CD player.
Cables required for connecting your CD player’s output to the
MC-909’s inputs. If you’re connecting the CD player to:
• the MC-909’s stereo pair of analog INPUT jacks—use two 1/4”
cables. (We recommend sampling in stereo in the following
• the MC-909’s stereo coaxial or optical S/P DIF digital IN jack—use a high-quality RCA-style
coaxial cable or an optical cable, respectively.
Connect your CD player to the MC-909.
Before we begin, press the round PART 16 button—we’ll put our sample on Part 16 in Get
The Sampling Standby Setup Screen
1. Press SAMPLING/RESAMPLING on the MC-909. The Sampling Menu
screen appears.
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2. Press F1 (Sampling) to display the Sampling Standby screen.
The Sampling Standby screen offers a selection of options that allow you to set up your sampling
session. Here’s what the parameters do:
Input Select—The setting for this parameter instructs the MC-909 to sample from a specific
input. You can choose:
• LINE IN L/R—When you’ve connected your CD player or other line-level device in stereo to
the MC-909’s L(MONO) and R INPUT jacks, choose this setting.
• LINE IN L—With this setting, the MC-909 samples a line-level device in mono from the
• DIGITAL (OPT)—To sample from the stereo COAXIAL DIGITAL jack, select this value.
• DIGITAL (CO-AX)—To sample from the stereo OPTICAL DIGITAL jack, select this value.
• MICROPHONE—Use this when you want to sample from a mic or mic-level device connected
to the L(MONO) INPUT jack.
For our purposes, select LINE IN L/R, DIGITAL (OPT) or DIGITAL (CO-AX), depending on the type
of connection you’ve made between your CD player and the MC-909.
Stereo Switch—This switch determines whether the MC-909 samples in stereo or mono. We
want to set the parameter to STEREO now.
Pre Sample Time—The MC-909 can add a little bit of time to the front of a sample to help ensure
that the very beginning of your audio doesn’t get chopped off. For now, leave this set to 0ms
(“0 milliseconds”).
Stop Trigger—The MC-909 can stop sampling automatically after a specified number of beats
or length of time. In our example, we’ll stop sampling manually, so set this to MANUAL.
Sampling Length—When Stop Trigger is set to BEAT or TIME, Sampling Length allows you
to specify the number of beats or duration after which sampling automatically stops. This
parameter can’t be adjusted right now since we’ve set Stop Trigger to MANUAL.
Auto Trigger Level—When the MC-909’s Auto Trigger feature is turned on, it automatically starts
sampling when the input signal reaches the level specified by this parameter. We’ll be using
Auto Trigger in our example, and the default setting of 5 will be fine for us.
Gap Time—Though we won’t be exploring this feature in this guide, the MC-909’s Auto Divide
Sampling feature automatically splits up a longer sample into smaller parts at silent spaces, or
“gaps,” in the sample. This parameter determines how long such a gap must be.
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Setting the Sampling Level
We’ll set the sampling level using the MC-909’s INPUT VOLUME knob.
1. On the SAMPLE SHOW CD, locate Track 27 and play it. As you set the sampling level,
you can replay this selection or let the CD run—most of its tracks are roughly the same
2. Adjust the INPUT VOLUME knob until the signal is as loud as possible without triggering
the CLIP indicators in the onscreen meters. If “CLIP” appears, lower the input level until it
no longer does.
Clip indicators
It’s okay if the loud click at the end of the groove clips—we’ll be cutting that click off of our
sample anyway.
Capturing the Sample
Now we’re ready to go.
1. Cue up your CD player to Track 27 and hit its Pause button so Track 27 is ready to start
when you press Play.
2. Press F3 (Trim Sw) to checkmark it. The Trim Switch helpfully sets some
important sample parameters for us, as we’ll see a bit later.
3. On the MC-909, press F2 (Auto Trig) to turn on Auto Triggering by
checkmarking it. This sets the MC-909 to start sampling automatically
when it hears the CD selection begin. At the top of the screen, the MC-909
announces, “Now, Waiting for The Input Signal.”
Before we capture the sample, here’s what’s about to happen, just so you’re ready when it
When the CD player plays Track 27, the MC-909 will automatically begin sampling it. You’ll
see the sampling time count away on the MC-909 as the sample is captured.
When you hear the loud click at the end of Track 27, you’ll stop sampling by pressing F5
(Stop) on the MC-909. Locate the F5 button now so you’re ready to move quickly. (F5 is
currently the Cancel button, but that’ll change once sampling begins.)
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1. Press Play on your CD player and look at the MC-909’s screen to see what’s going on.
2. When you hear the loud click at the end of the drum groove, press F5 (Stop).
That’s it. You’ve just sampled the Track 27 drum groove . The MC-909 takes a moment to draw its
waveform on the Sample Edit screen, allowing you to see what you’ve just captured.
Playing Back a Sample
Before playing the sample, make sure that the TURNTABLE EMULATION slide is in its center
position—you can feel a click in the slider when it moves to this position. The slider can
adjust a sample’s pitch, something we don’t need to do now.
1. Press and hold VELOCITY PAD 2 to hear the sample play through. By default, samples are
assigned to C4—Middle C—the note that VELOCITY PAD 2 plays when the OCT buttons are
turned off.
Editing a Sample
Now that we’ve captured this drum groove, we’ll edit the sample to prepare it for use by:
setting its tempo by adjusting its BPM value.
trimming, or “truncating,” it to get rid of that loud click and silence at the end of the sample.
setting its optimum volume by “normalizing” the sample.
We recommend performing all three operations on every sample you capture.
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Setting a Sample’s BPM
The MC-909 can do some pretty amazing things to a sample to make it fit into any musical context.
In order to do this, the MC-909 needs to know the sample’s original tempo. Let’s tell it now:
1. Press F2 (Sample Param) to display the Sample Prm (for “Sample Parameter”) screen.
On this screen, you can see a variety of parameters that determine how the sample behaves.
The one we’re concerned with now is BPM.
2. Press three times to select the BPM parameter.
Inside the SAMPLE SHOW CD, we can learn that Track 27’s original tempo is 90 BPM.
3. Hold down SHIFT and turn the VALUE dial to set BPM to 90.
4. Press F5 (Close) to return to the Sample Edit screen.
To learn about the other sample parameters, see Page 116 in the MC-909 Owner’s Manual.
Truncating a Sample
Here’s what the parameters on the Sample Edit screen mean:
Start Point—The Start Point is the position within the sample from which the sample starts to
play when you strike its pad. The Trim Switch we turned on earlier automatically set this to the
beginning of the sample.
Loop Start—When a sample loops, so it plays over and over, this parameter sets the location
within the sample at which it repeats. We won’t be looping our sample here.
End Point—The End Point is the position within the sample at which the sample stops playing
when you hold down its pad. The Trim Switch automatically set this to the end of the sample.
Zoom Horz—On this screen, you can zoom in or out on the displayed waveform to show bigger
or smaller chunks of time. The smaller the view, the greater, the detail. This readout shows the
current time, or “horizontal,” magnification. To learn about zooming in or out, see Page 114 in
the MC-909 Owner’s Manual.
Zoom Vert—This readout shows the amount of level, or “vertical,” magnification. See Page 114
in the MC-909 Owner’s Manual for details.
BPM—This readout shows the sample’s original tempo, which we set in the last section.
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Let’s trim the loud click off the back of the sample.
1. Highlight the End Point parameter—the display jumps to the back end of the sample. The
dotted line with the E flag at the top shows us the current End Point setting.
2. Start turning the VALUE dial counter-clockwise. As you turn the dial, the End Point line moves
to the left.
3. Keep turning the VALUE dial until the End Point line sits just to the left of the big jump in the
sample’s level at the end of the waveform—that’s the loud click.
The loud click
4. Press and hold down VELOCITY PAD 2 to hear your trimmed sample.
5. Adjust the End Point line’s position until the click is cleanly lopped off, losing as little of the
groove as possible. You can audition it as many times as you need to by pressing and holding
6. When you’re satisfied, press F4 (Truncate)—the Truncate screen appears.
7. Press F4 (Overwrite) to checkmark it so that the trimmed version of the sample replaces the
original version in the MC-909’s live sample memory.
If Overwrite is turned off, the MC-909 creates an edited copy of the sample, taking up
additional live sample memory space. The benefit of this is that you have a separate copy of
the sample at every stage of its editing in case you wish to go back a few steps in time. On
the other hand, your live sample memory fills up more quickly.
8. Press F6 (Execute). The MC-909 asks if you’re sure you want to proceed.
9. Press F6 (Execute) to finish truncating the sample.
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Normalizing a Sample
Normalizing is a process that guarantees that a sample is at its absolute optimum volume by
boosting the sample’s level if necessary. Let’s normalize our groove.
1. Press the NORMALIZE button to display the Normalize screen.
2. Press F4 (Overwrite) to checkmark it so that the normalized version of
the sample replaces the original version in the live sample memory.
3. Press F6 (Execute). The MC-909 asks if you’re sure you want to proceed.
4. Press F6 (Execute) to finish normalizing the sample.
Saving a Sample
As we discussed earlier, the MC-909’s live sample memory is cleared when you turn off the MC-909.
To preserve a sample, you must save it in the MC-909’s user memory or an a SmartMedia card. Let’s
save the sample we’ve captured to user memory.
1. Press WRITE. The Write Menu screen appears with Sample already selected.
2. Press ENTER to display the sample naming screen.
3. Name the sample “TR 27 Sample” for our purposes.
4. Press F6 (Write). The MC-909 presents sample-writing locations in its user memory.
5. Select an unused user memory location in which to store the sample. For now, you can select
User Location 001.
The MC-909 protects your work by not allowing you to store a new sample in a location that
already contains an older one. To replace a stored sample, you must manually delete it first.
See Page 123 in the MC-909 Owner’s Manual for further information.
6. Press F6 (Write.) The MC-909 asks if you’re sure you want to proceed.
7. Press F6 (Execute) to finish storing the sample in user memory.
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Creating a Sample-Playing Patch
In order to use a sample you’ve captured and saved, you’ve got to set up a patch that plays the
sample. As we mentioned earlier, any MC-909 patch can play your samples, all by themselves or
along with PCM waveforms.
The quickest way to create a sample-playing patch is to use the MC-909’s Create Patch feature—
this feature instantly sets up a patch that plays the currently selected sample. Our sample, TR 27
Sample is still selected, so let’s fire up the Create Patch feature.
1. Press the SAMPLING EDIT button to return to the main sampleediting page.
2. Press F5 (Create Patch). The patch-naming screen appears.
3. Name the new patch “TR 27 Patch.”
4. Press F6 (Write)—the Patch Write window opens, showing you a list of user and card patch
memory locations.
5. Select the USER:001 memory location.
6. Press F6 (Write). The MC-909 asks if you’re sure you want to finish saving the patch.
7. Press F6 (Execute) to proceed.
The MC-909 now thoughtfully offers to assign the new patch to the currently selected part,
Part 16.
8. Let’s take advantage of this time-saving suggestion. Press F6 (Execute). We’ve now saved a
patch that plays our sample and have assigned the patch to Part 16.
In order to keep your sample and patch housekeeping as simple as possible, we recommend
that you save samples and the patches that play them in the same memory area, as we have
here. In other words, if you’ve saved your sample in user memory, save your patch there, too.
This becomes especially useful when you’re saving stuff to a SmartMedia card. By saving
the samples and patches to the same card, you can be sure that any time you grab the card
holding your patches, you’ll have also grabbed the card containing the samples they play.
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Auto Sync
The MC-909’s powerful Auto Sync feature allows you to change a sample’s timing so it fits perfectly
into a pattern that uses a different tempo. Auto Sync is super-simple to use, as we’ll see. Let’s use
Auto Sync to make our 90 BPM sample work with our 100 BPM pattern.
1. Make sure that Part 16—the part that plays the patch we just
created—is selected.
2. Press the AUTO SYNC button so it lights. That’s all there is to it.
Remember how we set the sample’s tempo during editing? This gave
the MC-909 all it needed to know in order to do the necessary Auto
Sync math.
Let’s listen to what just happened.
3. Press PLAY so Get Started! plays.
4. Press VELOCITY PAD 2 on the first beat of the pattern, and listen to how our originally-90-BPM
sample now plays in time with the 100 BPM pattern.
Whenever you want to re-time a sample to fit a pattern, select its part and turn on Auto
5. To really lock our sample in, let’s record a part using it.
6. Press REC, and then F1 (Realtime).
7. Set Quantize Resolution to 1/4 notes this time to make sure we plant our groove right on the
Here’s what’s going to happen.
You’ll play the loop twice: once at the top of the pattern, and again at Measure 3—if you’re
unsure of where Measure 3 starts, you can watch the onscreen counter.
Each time you press VELOCITY PAD 2, you’ll hold it down for two measures so the groove keeps
playing. Here we go.
8. Press PLAY, and after the countoff, press VELOCITY PAD 2 at the very first beat and hold it
9. At Measure 3, press and hold VELOCITY PAD 2 again.
If you need to, you can erase notes and then re-record them as we described earlier.
10. At the end of the pattern, press STOP, TOP, and then PLAY to hear how the drum groove totally
locks in.
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To hear the sampled groove, you’ve got to play the pattern from the top. If you start playback
in the middle of the pattern, you won’t hear the sampled groove until the next time it starts
playing, at Beat 1 or 3.
Tweaking the Mix
Let’s adjust the volume balance between our parts to make the mix a bit better-sounding.
1. Press MIXER ASSIGN—the MC-909 presents its built-in mixer.
Faders control
the boxed parts
Though we’ll only be adjusting volume here, you can see that you can also set each part’s
stereo panning, pitch and reverb from the Part Mixer screen.
The part mixer’s eight physical faders can control the settings for eight of the current pattern’s
parts at a time. To select the set of eight parts that the faders control, you press the PART
ASSIGN button so it’s unlit or lit. When it’s:
• unlit—the physical faders control Parts 1-8.
• lit—the physical faders control Parts 9-16.
Onscreen, a box encloses the currently selected parts, as shown in the illustration above.
We want to adjust the level of Part 10, our drum part, so press PART ASSIGN so it’s lit.
You can see that the onscreen box now surrounds Parts 9-16.
Using the second fader—the one above Parts 2 and 10—set Part 10’s level to 55.
Ah, that’s better! Press STOP when you’ve had enough.
Before moving on, let’s re-save our pattern. We’ll need it in the next section.
Press WRITE, then ENTER. Press F6 (Write) twice and then F6 (Execute).
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Once you’ve created some big, monstrous sound—by recording a pattern or by playing, or by
adding some of the MC-909’s amazing effects—you can “resample” the whole thing. When you
resample, the MC-909 makes a new sample from the audio coming out of its own outputs. Since
this is all done digitally, you can sample and resample over and over, and it can sound better and
better and better. This is a great way to build up insanely rich, complex sounds.
You can also stretch a pattern way beyond its 16 parts by filling up all of the parts, resampling and
then creating a new pattern with the sample played by a single part—this’ll leave you 15 free parts
for additional performances, or even more resampled stuff.
Let’s learn how to resample using Get Started!
1. Press the round PART 8 button to select the unused Part 8.
2. Press SAMPLING/RESAMPLING to go back to the Sampling Menu.
3. Press F2 (Resampling). The Sampling Standby screen appears.
The parameters on this screen are pretty much the same ones we saw when we first sampled.
One difference, though, is that we can no longer change the Input Select parameter—with
resampling, the MC-909 always listens to its own outputs. There’s also no level to be set—
turning the OUTPUT and INPUT knobs does nothing here—the MC-909 automatically takes
control of levels in resampling.
Let’s set the other resampling parameters as follows:
• Stereo Switch—We’ll leave this one alone since we want to resample Get Started! in stereo.
• Pre Sample Time—is fine at 0ms.
• Stop Trigger—Since we know the length of our pattern—16 beats—we can take advantage
of the MC-909’s Stop Trigger feature. Set Stop Trigger to BEAT.
• Sampling Length—The MC-909 automatically sets this to 16. (You’re not the only one who
knows how long the selected pattern is!)
• Auto Trigger Length and Gap Time—These parameters have no bearing on what we’re
Press F2 (Auto Trig) and F3 (Trim Sw) to checkmark them.
Press TOP to make sure we’ve returned to the beginning of the pattern.
Press PLAY—Get Started! is resampled. The MC-909 stops resampling when it reaches the end
of the pattern. The pattern also automatically stops playing after 16 beats.
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8. Press VELOCITY PAD 2 to hear The Pattern Formerly Known as Get Started!, which is now The
Sample Known As Whatever You Name It. In fact, you can play any pad to hear the resampled
pattern at different pitches and speeds.
When you’ve resampled as we just have—using the Stop Trigger feature—there’s no sample
trimming required; it’s already perfectly 16 beats long. Also, the MC-909 steals the pattern’s
BPM setting and applies it to the sample, so it’s already set correctly to 100 BPM without our
having to manually set it.
Chopping a Sample
One of the handiest of the MC-909’s talents is its “chopping” ability. Chopping allows you to “slice”
up a groove or a sampled series of sounds into individual samples. Once chopped up, these
individual samples can easily be assigned to their own pads for playing. In the MC-909, you can
chop up a sample manually wherever you like, or you can let the MC-909 do it for you using its
AutoChop feature.
Let’s see how Auto Chop works using the resampled pattern we just made.
1. Press CHOP—the Chop screen appears.
2. Press F4 (Auto Chop)—the Auto Chop window opens.
You can set Auto Chop to divide up a sample by:
• Level—so Auto Chop divides sample the each time its volume reaches a specified level.
• Beat—so Auto Chop divides the sample at each beat. It knows where the beats are since it
knows the sample’s BPM setting.
• Divide X—sets Auto Chop to divide the sample into a specified number of equal chunks.
3. For our example, set Auto Chop to Beat.
4. Press and turn VALUE to set Beat to 1/2 notes.
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5. Press F6 (Auto Chop). The MC-909 takes a moment to divide up the sample into two-beat
chunks. When it’s done, it assigns each chunk to a pad. VELOCITY PADS 1-8 light up, with each
one playing two beats from the sampled pattern.
6. Try twisting the resampled pattern around by playing the pads in any order that amuses you.
7. Since this works fine for our example, press F6 (Execute).
When you’re setting up an Auto Chop on your own, you can try different Auto Chop settings.
Press F6 (Execute) when you’re satisfied with what you’ve got, or F5 (Cancel) and then F4
(Auto Chop) to try out other settings.
8. When the MC-909 asks if you’re sure you want to proceed, press F6 (Execute) again. The
MC-909 chops the sample—saving each chunk into user memory—and lays them out across
the first eight VELOCITY PADS.
9. When the MC-909 asks if you’d like to create a rhythm set that plays your chopped-up,
resampled pattern, press F6 (Execute), name the rhythm set anything you like, and finish saving
it. You can save it to the first rhythm set memory location, USER:001.
10. Finally, when the MC-909 asks if you’d like to assign the new rhythm set to the current part,
press F6 (Execute). The chopped pattern is now a rhythm set assigned to Part 8.
11. Re-save the pattern by pressing WRITE, F1 (Ptn), and then ENTER. Press F6 (Write) twice and
then F6 (Execute).
Automatically Loading Stored Samples into the Live Sample Memory
You may prefer to leave the live sample memory empty on power-up, ready to capture a new bunch
of samples. Otherwise, though, you can set the MC-909 to automatically load your samples—such
as the ones we just captured—when it powers up. It can automatically load:
samples stored in user memory and on any currently installed SmartMedia card.
the factory preset samples that the MC-909 demos and preset patches use.
Here’s how to set up your MC-909 to automatically load samples at power-up.
1. Press EXIT repeatedly if necessary to display the Pattern Play screen.
2. Press MENU—the main menu appears in the display with System selected.
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3. Press ENTER to display the System Menu screen.
4. Press F4 (Sampling) to display the System/Sampling screen.
5. Select the samples you’d like the MC-909 to load at startup. To load:
• the factory preset samples—set Preset Default Load to On.
• all of the samples in user memory and on the currently installed SmartMedia card—set Sample
Default Load to On.
Note that when you turn on Sample Default Load, all of the samples from both user memory
and your SmartMedia card are loaded. There’s no way to automatically load user memory or
the contents of a card separately.
It only makes sense that you shouldn’t try and load more stuff into the live sample
memory than you’ve got room for. If your live sample memory is only 16 MB, and you try
to automatically load all of the contents of user memory and a 128 MB SmartMedia card—
duh—it’s not going to work. Take care to automatically load only what will actually fit into
your live sample memory. Of course, the larger your live sample memory—which you can
expand by adding DIMM chips—the less of a problem this’ll be.
6. When you’ve finished setting the desired parameters, press F6 (System Write) to confirm your
7. Press EXIT to return to the Pattern Play screen.
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Swapping Files
with a Computer
About the MC-909’s USB Connection
The MC-909’s USB connector makes it easy to swap files with your
personal computer. In order to exchange data with the MC-909, your
computer must have a USB jack. In addition:
Windows users—must be running Windows ME/2000.XP or later.
Mac users—must be running Mac OS 9.04 or higher.
Every USB plug and jack
is labeled with this symbol
By connecting the MC-909 to your computer, you can move samples and sequences back
and forth between the two machines. The computer sees the MC-909 as just another
removable drive—like a CD or a Zip disk.
Movable Sample Files
As we mentioned earlier, the MC-909’s samples are stored in its memory as industry-standard
WAV- or AIFF-format sound files. Most audio programs can open and play these files, so:
you can move samples from the MC-909 to a computer for more detailed editing, or to
process them with software plug-ins before returning them to the MC-909.
you can load samples into the MC-909 that you’ve collected on your computer from any
one of a variety or sources, including sample CDs, friends and so on.
Both WAV and AIFF files are high-quality formats. If a particular computer software program
prefers one over the other, you can set the MC-909 to store samples in the desired format.
See the description of the Default File Type parameter on Page 129 in the MC-909 Owner’s
Manual for details.
Movable Sequences
The MC-909 can export its sequences as Standard MIDI Files. “Standard MIDI Files,” or “SMFs,”
are sequences that are stored in the Standard MIDI File data format. Whazzis mean? It means
this: Most modern software sequencers can load and play SMFs, and can export their own
16-track sequences as SMFs that the MC-909 can load. Therefore:
you can move sequences (as SMFs) you’ve recorded on the MC-909 to a software
sequencing program for further work or to add additional tracks.
you can export 16-track (or less) sequences you’ve created on a software sequencing
program to the MC-909 for more work, or to use in performance.
When you’ve moved an MC-909-recorded sequence to a computer sequencer, you can still
use the MC-909’s sounds by connecting the MC-909 to the computer via MIDI and using it as
a sound module.
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Preparing to Move Data from the MC-909 to a Computer
Getting Samples Ready
Before you begin moving samples, you’ll need to be able to identify them. WAV/AIFF sample
files are named on disk according to the user or card memory location they occupy—though a
sample uses the name you created when it’s in the MC-909, its disk file is named after its memory
To learn a sample’s WAV/AIFF file name:
Press the SAMPLING EDIT button.
Press F1 (Sample List)—the Sample List screen appears.
Select the area of memory where the sample is stored. Press F2 (User) or F3 (Card) as desired.
Turn the VALUE dial—if necessary—to display the sample you’ll be moving.
Look to the left of the sample’s MC-909 name to learn the number of its memory location. This
number will identify the sample when you see it on your computer.
6. Make note of the sample’s number.
7. Repeat Steps 3-5 for any other samples you want to move.
Getting a Sequence Ready by Exporting It as an SMF
To move a sequence from the MC-909 to a software sequencer, you have to convert the sequence
into an SMF. Here’s how.
1. Press PATTERN and turn the VALUE dial to select the pattern containing the sequence you want
to move.
2. Press MENU.
3. Select Utility and press ENTER to display the UTILITY menu.
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4. Press F2 (Save as SMF)—the Save as SMF screen appears.
5. Press F1 (User) or F2 (Card) to select the area of memory in which you want to temporarily hold
the SMF for transfer.
When the MC-909 is hooked up to a computer, it connects either its user memory or its card
memory to the computer. You can hold your SMF in either area. After you’ve copied the
SMF to the desktop or a folder on your computer, you can delete the SMF from user or card
memory to free up space.
6. Press F6 (Save as SMF).
7. When the MC-909 asks if you’re sure, press F6 (Execute) to finish exporting the sequence as an
Wiring and Activating the USB Connection
Before you can turn on USB communication, you’ve got to physically connect the MC-909 to your
computer using an A/B-style USB cable.
An A/B-style USB cable has a squarish USB plug at one end and a flatter USB plug at the
1. With the MC-909 powered off, connect the squarer end of your USB cable to the MC-909’s USB
jack, and the other end to a USB jack on your computer.
2. Power up the MC-909.
Activating the Connection
Here’s how to establish USB communication between the MC-909 and your
1. Press PATTERN to make sure you’re on the Pattern Play screen.
2. Press MENU.
3. Select USB and press ENTER.
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The USB screen appears.
4. Select the area of memory you want to connect to the computer. To connect:
• your user memory to the computer—press F3 (Internal).
• your SmartMedia card to the computer—press F4 (Card).
In a few moments, the MC-909 shows “Connected” to tell you that USB communication’s been
established with the computer. Then:
• on a Windows XP computer—a window pops open showing you the contents of the area of
memory your selected in Step 4.
on a computer running a different version of Windows—an MC-909 USER or MC-909 CARD
volume, depending on the area of memory you selected in Step 4, appears when you
double-click My Computer.
on a Mac—an MC-909 USER or MC-909 CARD volume appears on the desktop, depending
on the area of memory you selected in Step 4.
5. On a Mac and any PC computer other than one that’s running Windows XP, double-click the
volume to view its contents.
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While USB communication is turned on, the MC-909 displays its USB screen. To do other
things on the MC-909, you must first turn off USB communication and exit this screen.
When USB communication is turned on, be careful not to unplug the USB cables connecting
the MC-909 and the computer. Just as important, both PCs and Macs must “eject” the MC-909
before USB communication is stopped—otherwise your data may become damaged. See
your computer’s documentation to learn how to eject removable media before turning off
USB communication on the MC-909 itself.
Moving Files From the MC-909 to the Computer
Since the computer sees the MC-909 as just another disk drive, all you need to do to move files is
to drag them to the desired location on your computer, such as its desktop or into a folder of your
choosing. To locate and move:
a sample file—double-click the ROLAND folder, double-click the SMPL folder, locate the desired
WAV or AIFF file and drag it to the desired location.
an SMF—look for the .MID file that has the same name as the pattern from which the sequence
was exported, and drag it from the USER or CARD volume to the desired location on your
Moving Files from the Computer to the MC-909
Once again, the computer sees the MC-909’s USER or CARD volume as just another drive. As a
result, all you have to do to move a sample or SMF from the computer to the currently connected
area of the MC-909’s memory is to drag it there.
We strongly recommend that you drag files to the root level of the USER or CARD volume, and not
into the ROLAND or TMP folder. After you’ve dragged the file to its destination, you should see it in
the same folder/view as the ROLAND and TMP folders, as shown here.
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Disconnecting the MC-909 from the Computer
This is a two-step process. First, you’ve got to turn off USB communication. Next, you’ll disconnect
the two devices physically if desired.
You don’t have to physically disconnect the MC-909 and your computer. If you prefer, you can
leave them connected and simply turn USB communication on or off as needed.
Turning Off USB Communication
We said this already, but it bears repeating: To avoid damage to your data, don’t turn off USB
communication on the MC-909 until your computer has first ejected the MC-909 volume.
1. On the MC-909, press F6 (Exit).
USB communication is stopped and you’re returned to the first USB screen.
2. Press PATTERN to return to Pattern Play mode.
Disconnecting the MC-909 From the Computer
1. Power down the MC-909.
2. Unplug the USB devices connecting the MC-909 to the computer.
Importing Samples and SMFs
Once you’ve moved files from a computer into the MC-909’s user or card memory, you’ll need to
import them for use.
Importing a Sample
In you’re not on the Pattern Play screen, press PATTERN.
Press MENU, and select UTILITY.
Press ENTER to display the UTILITY menu.
Press F3 (Import Wav/AIF)—the Import WAV/AIFF screen appears.
Select the sample—the .wav or .aif file—you want to import.
Press F6 (Import Wav/AIF)—the MC-909 asks if you’re sure.
The sample is loaded into live sample memory and selected. The MC-909 displays the Sample
edit screen.
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7. Save the sample into user or card memory by:
• pressing WRITE
• pressing ENTER
• naming the sample
• pressing F6 (Write)
• selecting the desired memory location
• pressing F6 (Write)
• pressing F6 (Execute)
8. Create a patch that plays the sample by pressing F5 (Create Patch).
7. Save the new sample-playing patch to the same memory area into which you saved the
Importing an SMF
In you’re not on the Pattern Play screen, press PATTERN.
Press MENU, and select UTILITY.
Press ENTER to display the UTILITY menu.
Press F1 (Import SMF)—the Import SMF screen appears.
Select the SMF you want to import.
Press F6 (Import SMF)—the MC-909 presents a destination pattern list.
Select the pattern into which you’d like to import the SMF. You can select a used pattern—to
replace its sequence—or an empty pattern.
8. When the MC-909 asks if you’re sure, press F6 (Execute).
If you’re re-importing a sequence that started on the MC-909 back into an empty pattern, the
pattern is assigned the same name as the pattern from which the sequence originally came.
Well, that’s it. We’ve explored some of the MC-909’s major features, and covered quite a bit of
ground. Of course, the MC-909 is a feature-packed box and we’ve only scratched the surface.
Now that you know your way around, go have some fun with the MC-909. As you work on your
own music, don’t be afraid to dive into the MC-909 Owner’s Manual. You’ll find procedures, tips and
at least a handful of eye-popping things you didn’t know the MC-909 could do.
For more MC-909 materials—including demo videos and software updates—visit us at the Roland
US Web site, If you need help with your MC-909, give Roland’s Product Support
specialists a call at 323-890-3700.
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For the latest info on new products, support documents, upcoming
Roland events and more, visit our Website,
24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you can receive a library of support
materials and product information on your fax machine—and it’s
all FREE! Just call (323) 890-3780.
If it’s a real-live person you want, we’ve got a team of Product
Specialists that can’t be beat. They’re on call from 8:30am to
5:00pm PST Monday through Friday at (323) 890-3740.
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