The Art of Sampling: 3 Everyday Techniques

Plenty of musicians re-sample their own works whilst others dedicate time to creating sound libraries to sample from. So whether you’re an old school beat maker on the MPC, or operating in the realms of the Avant-garde, these three basic sampling techniques could be the key to your success.

Looping

Perhaps the simplest and most obvious of techniques, looping has its place amongst many great records. The act of looping is to take a specific piece of audio and have it loop continuously in a rhythmic pattern. This could be as simple as a hi-hat pattern backing up a drum kit. This technique makes its place largely within the Hip-Hop community, know for using short 2/4 bar loops of melodies and drum breaks. However, this technique can even be seen within the high-end recording studios of today’s big hits. Many modern pop songs utilize the looping of certain repeated phrases in order to create more continuity. Although it isn’t sampling, the act of creating a riff is essentially the same as creating a loop track. Whilst it may often feel like an uninspired way to sample, looping can play a vital role.

Chopping

Chopping requires a certain level of artist flair to come across convincingly. The act of chopping is to take a section of audio and slice it into smaller chunks that can then be played in a sequence. The classic example of this would be cutting up a drum break into its components. Again, largely popular in mid 90’s Hip-Hop, chopping is often used to create new melodies from old vinyl samples. However, modern electronic music uses this technique heavily in the sampling of vocals and speeches to create melodies.

Chopping is a generally straight forward process but some considerations must be made.

An MPC 2000 XL used for sampling.
An MPC 2000 XL

The first is zero crossing points. Without checking the zero crossing of each slice, you risk loud pops and clicks coming through when you replay said samples. The easiest thing to do it to apply a very short fade to the beginning and end of each sample.

If your sample happens to have rhythmic elements within it, make sure that you make your chops on the beat to ensure that they line up properly with your drum patterns. By this, I mean slice directly on the kick or snare and then use these kick/snare chops on the kick/snare of your drums. Read this for more on mixing with samples.

Try to remember, you’re creating a new melody. Randomly triggering sound after sound generally tends to fail so try to be aware of the audio you’re sampling from and hunt for that hidden melody.

Interpolation

Interpolation is the act of taking someone else’s audio and replaying it for use in your music. This is still considered sampling even though we aren’t using the original audio in our new composition. This can be done in a number of ways. One example of this is to take a guitar riff from a rock song, play it on the piano and mold it into the hook for a dance track. Interpolation is most commonly seen with singers and rappers borrowing lyrics from each other as references in their music. A less common but often performed version of interpolation would be to replay entire sections of songs in order to sample from your own version. This practice often occurs when artists are unable to clear samples they have used.

TL;DR

Looping, Chopping, & Interpolation can be very useful tools for any musician. They open up new sonic opportunities and create bridges to new music. Now just get out there and get digging through those crates. Once you’ve found what you need, don’t forget to set yourself up with a high-quality preamp to record it. Make the most of your found sounds. Check out this guide on how to choose your preamp.


Post Images under Creative Commons Attribution License by Scott Schiller & eny-one.

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