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How to sample in a music production

Tutorial

How to sample

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by Jam Blogger | Last update : May 08, 2019

Did you ever hear a record, either a melody, a drum break or a voice recording, and thought about turning it into an own beat? In this Tutorial we will give you a quick introduction into sampling, what it means, where you have to pay attention and the first steps in making your own sample based recording.

About Sampling

If we talk about sampling in the process of music making it means using a part of an existing sound recording in another project. Those samples can contain melodies, breaks,voice recordings and many more.

History of sampling

Sampling in music making has gone a long way. The history of music sampling goes back to the 1940s, when musique concrète, a type of music composition which uses recorded sounds as raw material, either musical sounds or everyday sounds, emerged. In the 60’sand 70’s, more musicians experimented with the technique of using existing recordings and implement them into a new project, until the introduction of the „Fairlight CMI“, the first digital synthesizer with included sampling technique. After this, the term „sampling“was born and with the release of the first „Akai MPC“ in the late 80’s, sampling was established into the process of music making. Sampling has influenced all genres ofmusic but is mostly used for Electronic Music and especially Hip Hop, which is founded on this technique. Hip Hop producers started sampling funk, soul and jazz records, either drum breaks, melodies or both, and created beats which could be rapped over.

How to sample

If you never sampled before, it will help you to go through the work of artists which used samples in their music. Listen to it and take a look at the samples used which will give you an idea and feeling about the whole process. You’ll see that the samples used are often pretty short. There are a lot of places where you can find the used samples to each song, one of them is whosampled.com.

Check the quality of the sample

If you found a record you want to sample, make sure that you find the best possible quality of the record. Even though samples can sound crunchy intentionally it’s better ifyou have a good version of the record as you’ll have more options while working on it. Asmsoon as you got the file of your to be sampled record on your computer, you can start working with it. You can either use digital hardware, so called „samplers“, such as the legendary „Akai MPC“ or software, respectively your digital audio workstations, for example „Logic Pro X“ or „Ableton Live“. Both ways work equally well for implementing samples into your project, though the process is a bit different.

Sampling in Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)

If you work with a digital audio workstation import the record into a new file and choose which part you want to use. Important while sampling is that you know the bpm and keyof the record you’ll sample. Actually the most difficult thing while sampling is to adjust the sample to the beat you want to have. There are two ways you can go with. Sometimesthe part you want to use fits already into your beat or just needs a bit a moving and cutting. Try different parts and lengths as sometimes something that sounds great can come accidentally. Make sure to cut it right so it doesn’t postpone when you loop it. It’s essential that you take your time and work on it as most samples won’t fit perfectly at first try.
But if the selected region still doesn’t apply to your beat, you’ll have to either stretch itor break it down into several pieces. Stretching it to the bpm of your project often helps as you convert it into the same tempo. All digital audio workstations offer this option.

Stretching a sample in Logic Pro X
Stretching a sample in Logic Pro X

Breaking samples up into pieces (cutting)

Another possibility is breaking your sample down into several pieces. This is possible on your digital audio workstation but mostly used on samplers like „Maschine“. Adjust the length of the several parts in the way you want them to be. After that you’ll have the possibility of using the sample like an instrument. Either on a extern midi controller, for the digital audio workstation, or on the sampler itself, which has several pads. Like this, youcan play with the record and even use several different parts. If you got your sample right you can modify it with effects, such as delay or distortion, an add drums to it. If you want to add other instruments, you’ll need to keep the key of the original record in mind.

Cutting a sample into several pieces on „Maschine“
Cutting a sample into several pieces on „Maschine“

Loops

Sampling is not always as easy as it looks like and can get exhausting with time. If you want to just skip through different samples whit out always adjusting them you can use existing loops, as they are nothing else than set up samples. Most of the digital audio workstations and samplers contain a wide numbers of loops which are free to use and already adjust to the bpm of your beat, so you can just skip through it. There are also a lot of online loop libraries like loopcloud.net or jamahook.com which offer you thousands of loops if you want to have more options.

Where you have to pay attention

Sampling is also known for copyright issues. A sample without permission can get you in legal trouble. Getting the permission to use the original record is called clearing, even though it can get very expensive. But there are records which are no longer patented as the copyright of musical records runs out with time. If you take the sample for private use,you’ll have no problems, the clearance is only important if your sample based beat gets into commercial use. The loops provided by the hardware, software and loop libraries are not copyrighted and so you’ll don’t have to pay attention to this.

Author: Lucas Braunhofer

Jam Blogger

by Jam Blogger

Founder of sofasession. Finance and business development background. IPO, corporate bond emissions in Germany. Former CFO of stock listed company.

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