By | March 8th, 2013|tutorial|

This article is written by Junebug from Electronisounds
Don’t Be Afraid Of Using Samples and Loops!

Imagine having an unlimited wealth of professional studio musicians at your fingertips, each willing to perform at your command!  Just think for a moment about the beauty in being able to create music with other REAL musicians, without the frustrations and time-constraints of having to get them to your real-world studio!  Can you even FIT an entire orchestra into your studio?  Not to mention the amount of microphones and gear you’d need to record them all…  Simply said, samples give you access to sounds and musical material that you would otherwise not be able to create yourself.

Recently, I’m hearing more and more musicians saying, “I HATE using loops in my music!  I HATE using samples in my music!”  I just can’t see it.  Samples and loops can bring a much-welcomed new “edge” to your tracks!

Why would one not want to partake of this incredible bounty?  I remember programming my first electronic music tracks using an 8-bit MONO Roland S-50 sampler controlled by a Roland MC-505 drum machine used as a midi sequencer.  Back in those days, I would’ve KILLED for even just ONE solid, useable pad sample from a REAL analog synth to add to my mixes!  Now, any pad sound I could ever dream of is just a downloadable sample library or inexpensive VST synth away!  Talk about savings!!  I can find countless sample libraries filled to over-flowing with pad samples and so much more for a mere $30.00!!  Forget the days of having to spend $2,000.00 plus on a new hardware analog synthesizer!

There is a wealth of top-notch sample material available these days; from real, natural drumloop collections played by world-famous (and not-so-famous-but-equally-talented) drummers to down-right hard-core synth explosion loop & sounds compilations.  Not to mention countless instruments for virtual samplers like Kontakt that feature realistic and PLAYABLE sounds of all varieties!

We are living in a great time of samples, my friends!  Hard drive space is larger and less expensive than ever – have fun with your music – explore and experiment with sounds, loops and musical styles you aren’t familiar with — and you will see your music grow to heights you’ve only dreamed were possible.

There is no shame in using sampled material in your songs.  Just because you didn’t write or play/perform every single note or track in your music does not take away your own, personal creative vision.  Of course, if you simply loop together a string of sampled musical phrases at a matched BPM, you can’t expect to feel the same reward as if you wrote all the tracks yourself.  So, we are going to discuss creative use of samples and loops and different ways you can use them to create your own, unique music.

Feel Good About Your Chosen Sample Material

Nobody wants to get sued.  DON’T steal samples from your favorite records and CD’s, no matter how tempting the urge may be.  If you don’t steal samples, you won’t get into trouble, period.

We’re not talking about a simple DRUM HIT here, don’t steal any melodic content!  If you need the drum hit from that song you just LOVE, sample it, tweak it and USE IT, my friend!  Just don’t think you can sample that entire drumbeat and get away with it!

The internet will provide you with countless legal sample library manufacturers and sample download websites with enough sampled content to fill your hard-drive to over-flowing! These companies exist to bring you high-quality sounds and loops from professional musicians of hand-picked high caliber!  Just “google” the kind of samples/sounds/loops you are looking for and you’ll find exactly the legal websites that sell the samples you need.

Don’t be fooled by downloading “free” samples from mysterious websites, who KNOWS where they got that content from?  If you don’t steal samples, you won’t get into trouble, period.  Owning the sample CD you are using samples from (or the download rights to the samplepack you bought) is the only LEGAL and moral way to use samples.

Tips, Techniques And Inspiration For Using Samples and Loops

For best results, preview each sample by itself before trying to work it into your mixes, as it’s much easier to get the feel for how the sample should work in your song this way.  This is especially helpful when previewing synth or bass sounds because you will know how the Amplitude Envelope of your sampler should be set ahead of time.  Try experimenting with shorter or longer release times on your sampler’s Amplitude Envelope until the sound plays back to your liking.  Bass sounds typically get a very short release time (even zero sometimes!) while a pad sound may require a much longer envelope release time to sound correct.

Some samples are meant to be played in a certain keyboard range.  SO WHAT!
Don’t be afraid to play that bass sample 2 or 3 octaves higher and use it as a phat LEAD SYNTH!  Grab that pad sample, chop into it a bit with your sampler’s “start-time” control and use it as a MEAN and unique stab!  That low, low cello sample you love?  Play it way up on the octave range for some unique violin-type sounds… You get the picture – EXPERIMENT and HAVE FUN!!

For even more variety in playing back your sampled loops, try chopping-up and re-arranging them with a “groove-slicing” tool such as Recycle, Wave Surgeon, or the built-in groove-slicers inside ORION Virtual Studio, Fruity Loops or your favorite software.  This is an invaluable way to add variety and “real-played-musician-track-quality” to your tracks.  Use the chopped sounds to program variations, rolls, intros, etc. – or chop some beats up, and re-program them from scratch using the original sounds, built into your own unique rhythms.

Use your FX wisely!  One thing many sample producers purposefully do when creating loops and samples is to give you dry un-processed versions of their riffs.  These are SOLID GOLD to a samplist — they open the door for you to change the tone and “vibe” of the part to suit your mix.  Phaser on a clean-recorded bassline is always phunky.  Tempo-synched gates on pads quenched in reverb can make for trip hop dubby-ness, all the way to trance heaven!  How about some flanger on that lead synth line?  Back in the day, you would have to own multiple (and EXPENSIVE) rack-mounted fx units to make this happen.  Today, almost every virtual music production software suite comes packed with these fx and many, many more.  All for the cost of around ONE of these hardware rack fx units!  These programs allow you to stack fx on top of fx, making possible so many unique combinations that you are unlikely to find another artist producing the loop you just used “the same way” as you did.

One of the best tips I can give you is, LAYER your drums!!  Grab more kicks, snares, claps & crashes and layer them on top of your main drumloops/drum tracks – use extra snares or percussions for rolls, etc.  Try layering one drumloop played through a hi-pass filter with another drumloop played clean for serious percussive rhythms.  Try adding your favorite delay (filter delay or x-delay work GREAT for this!!) on the hi-passed drum loop, or your favorite bass-expander on the clean drumloop for phat and phunky results!

Love your sampler!  Most all music production suites today are equipped with a virtual sampler of some sort.  Get to really KNOW your sampler!  Utilize it’s LFO’s, filters, envelopes and pitching abilities!
Don’t be afraid to play that loop a few notes (or even octaves) above or below where the original tempo lies! The more you experiment with the loop, the less you have to worry that someone else’s song will sound like yours because they used the same sample.  Besides, there are so many sample providers today and so much unique sample content, are you really that likely to hear your sample used in another song?

Automation can be your best friend!  Most all music production suites have automation abilities now.  Record sweeping changes in your filters, pitches, panning – you name it!  Really make your samples perform for you!

Layering synth samples can be a great way to get that “THICK” lead sound you’re after.  Don’t be afraid to layer multiple synth samples performing the exact same part on different tracks to get the sound you need.  For an extra bonus, layer a WILDLY lfo’d copy of your lead synth part to bring into your track for that special moment when you want to add some SPICE!

Sometimes, a loop will have some extra tail-end to allow for the proper FX decay. (i.e. the reverb decay of a pad loop, or delay on a synth riff.)  When you come across these type of samples and loops, simply trigger the loop as you would normally, and set the “release” of the amplitude envelope on your sampler to maximum to re-produce the loop as intended.  Now the fx decay will “bleed” over the start of the following measure and flow correctly.

Don’t forget the filters!!  Some loops will sound wildly different when ran through a filter with a good amount of resonance – EXPERIMENT!  Also, put your filter’s LFO to good work and move the cutoff to get more life from these samples (assuming your filter has an LFO).  Assigning an LFO to pan the sound(s) gently can also help add “dimension” to your tracks.

Make your mix phatter and more complete by adding in samples from different sample CD’s, LEGAL samplepack downloads or your personal sound arsenal.

Don’t feel that your first few attempts at using samples or making electronic, sample-based music MUST be solid-gold chart toppers.  I once heard an established artist say that you should write one hundred songs and throw them all away before you should seriously consider submitting your music for critque.  While a great idea, we don’t all have the time to write one hundred tracks and toss them in the trash!  Nevertheless, this is a rather good concept, and you may want to write many unique songs and see which one(s) “stick to you” after a few months of listening back. 

Don’t be afraid to completely drop a song idea if it is not working for you.  Sometimes if the tracks you’ve got going aren’t working for you anymore, the best idea is a fresh approach to the same samples.  Possibly a much faster or slower tempo will get you into a new groove you didn’t even know was there!  Go ahead — spin that BPM dial and see where your track really “FLOWS”.  This is especially easy if you’ve chopped all your drum beats up into hits that your sequencer plays back at tempo!  Just start moving the BPM around until you’re really feelin’ it!

Get involved with REMIX CONTESTS!  These are a terrific way to show your skills and creativity with samples!  They are also a great way to experiment with producing music in genres you might not otherwise delve into!

Use your virtual instruments to add your own original and unique parts over your sampled grooves!  Add a few of your OWN phrases and riffs to your tracks that feature sampled loops.  This will really help drive home YOUR unique sound.  Get some flava’ on – and jam along with your new groove via midi keyboard or even mouse!  A few extra tracks from you on top of some samples you’ve tweaked and arranged, and your next masterpiece is finished!

DA’ WRAP UP

Samples are your friend!  No sampled guitar riff ever hit on your girlfriend or your wife, know what I mean?
Do yourself and your music the favor they deserve, add some new flavors to your pallette and explore some new samples today!  Most of all — have fun with it!

You can contact Junebug on his website- click here