Beatmaker Tools - A Quick Guide

Beatmaker Tools - A Quick Guide

Are you into beat making? Whether you’ve already started to create beats, or you’re just starting out, the Westend DJ Beatmaker Tools guide will help you choose the best gear.

When Akai created the original MPC series with Roger Linn in the late 80s, the 13 seconds of sampling time would allow users of the MIDI Production Centre (as they were then known) to capture recordings and play them back using the 4x4 grid of pressure sensitive pads. This intuitive layout, combined with the power of the sampler, would spark a creative explosion which led to the production of countless hip-hop, house, jungle and dnb tunes.

The original beatmakers used samples, and occasionally outboard studio gear including sound modules and synthesizers, to create entirely new compositions from other passages of music. As sampling memory became more affordable, the increase in sampling time allowed for even more unique productions.

The limitations of the samplers and grooveboxes in the late 80s and early 90s pushed artists to find different ways to extend the sampling time. Sampling from vinyl at a higher RPM and then pitching the sample down would introduce artifacts that defined the sound of entire genres. The use of pitch-shifting and time-stretching functionality would lead to unique timbres exciting dancefloors across the globe.

“We were at our most creative when we had such limited sample time” Micky Finn | DJ & Producer


In April 2009, Native Instruments released Maschine. This hardware controller was bundled with software that could be used either as a plugin or on its own. Maschine meshed the hardware sensibilities of a groovebox with the raw processing power that a Mac or PC provides. When run as an application, VST plugins could be hosted in the Maschine software – making the platform the most powerful tool for beatmakers at that time. Each subsequent version of the Maschine software, and hardware, added new features including music theory tools such as chord pads. The current MK3 version of Maschine is the most powerful yet, with crisp high-resolution screens and a built-in audio interface.

While Native Instruments has been pushing the envelope with the combination of hardware and software, Akai had been busy working on standalone hardware which offered beatmakers the workflow of the classic MPC combined with the power of ARM based architecture. When the MPC-X and Live launched in 2017, the true power of this new platform shocked many music producers. The ability to run plugins within the hardware, both instruments and effects, changed the production landscape for many. The MPC range has since expanded to include MPC One – a fully featured beatmaker machine in a compact footprint, MPC Live II – building on the success of the original MPC Live and the flagship MPC Key 61 – the beatmakers keys.

Native Instruments have also entered the standalone sampler/groovebox marketplace with Maschine+ - an Intel Atom based system which allows users to run some NI plugins within the unit. The SP404mk2 from Roland is another popular choice for beatmakers thanks to its distinctive sound and workflow. The SP404MK2 operating system has just been upgraded to version 3.0 – with significant improvements based on feedback from the user community. Roland also offer the MC-101 and MC-707 grooveboxes – these portable powerhouses offer a wealth of features including the powerful Zenology effects and sound sources.

Serato is also deeply embedded within the beatmaking landscape. Both Serato Studio and Serato Sample are powerful tools with finely tuned workflows. Sample, for example, is a great tool for slicing audio using intelligent algorithms that find unique sample points. You can load in acapellas, beats and entire tracks and slice, stretch and pitch shift to create unique hooks that were seemingly hidden.

Fast forward to the present day, and beatmakers are spoilt for choice – with the latest technology expanding the creative possibilities further than the original pioneers could have conceived. Whether you’re using a software sampler such as Serato Sample, an extensive plug-in collection such as Native-Instruments Komplete or one of the latest MPCs from Akai – the essence of beat-making remains the same, a creative approach to the sequencing of sounds to build beats with groove, soul and the power to move people!

With so many options available, we’ve created some simple comparison tables to help you compare the current AKAI MPC range, the Maschine range from Native Instruments and the latest Komplete software bundles. We’ve also rounded up a selection of our most popular beatmaker tools below. If you need some help choosing the right product, please contact us via live chat, email or phone on 020 8208 6988 for free impartial advice – alternatively you can drop into either of our London stores to demo the latest beatmaker tools.