5 Things To Watch Out For When Sampling

I have always been a big fan of sampling when I’m producing music, and I’m sure a lot of you are too, but it’s not as easy as just jacking a loop, throwing drums on top and calling it your own. There are many things to consider when you’re digging, sampling, and chopping.
Some of you may chop a sample into little pieces to the point where it’s very hard to tell where it comes from (count me in), but there are times when you find a sample that is so dope, you don’t even want to touch it!
Here are 5 things to watch out for when sampling.

1. The Legal Side Of Sampling
This is a tough one. For me, I don’t worry about any legal issues right now because I’m making beats for fun or for small independent runs that are not on any label’s radar. For you, however, it might be a problem.
If you’re selling beats in the Marketplace (as you should be), http://www.myflashstore.net/marketplace then you might have to be careful as to what you have in your beat. This is why a lot of producers today will stay away from sampling obvious stuff, or sampling altogether, and instead use synthesizers to compose their own music.
There are plenty of ways that you can get a handle on what samples you’re using.
  • You could not sample at all.
  • You could sample obscure music from 5,000 years ago.
  • You could chop the sample into little bitty pieces so no one will recognize it.
But it doesn’t end there. Let’s say you want to be like Puffy and sample “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. First of all, besides the fact that it will cost a fortune to be able to sample that song, you will need to get clearance. To do that, there are a few steps to take:
  1. Gather all the information about your beat that the record label will need (who you are, what song you sampled, what part you sampled, what your intentions are, how many units you expect to sell, etc).
  2. Specify what length the sample is.
  3. Provide your beat with the sample (the complete beat) to send to them.
  4. Find the address and phone number of the record label or publisher of the song you sampled. You can check out ASAP, BMI, and SESAC  to find the information.
  5. Ask the label/publisher who you need to contact for sample clearance and send your package to them.
There is a lot more to it than that, but these are the steps you will need to get the legal stuff out of the way.
2. The Quality Of The Sample
There are times when you will find a sample that would be great to chop up and use in one of your productions, but sadly, the quality of the sample itself is terrible.
When this happens, you could try and find that song but in a better quality (which would solve your problem), or if that’s not possible, you could try to clean it up. There are plenty of programs that will help you clean it up, such as:
  • Adobe Audition
  • iZotope RX
  • Standard EQ
  • and many more
The best way is to start with a regular EQ and see what you can do with that. If the sample is really bad, then it would be time to take it even further by using programs like Audition or RX to get the job done. Be careful though, some programs might make your audio sound worse (over processed).
3. Chop Your Samples Properly
One of the biggest things I always notice when I review beats is that quite often the samples that have been chopped have little “clicks”. You know what I mean. This is because when you chop a sample, you want to chop it at the zero point crossing, but even then, that’s not perfect. When that happens, it’s always best to edit the start and end points of your chop by doing a very slight fade in/out.
Be careful though, as you do not want your fades to be too much, then the samples will sound like they have been faded.
4. Choose The Right Genre To Sample
Every music genre that has sampling, samples from certain other genres. For example, Hip Hop usually is done with lots of Jazz and Funk samples, but you could use whatever you like – that’s the beauty of sampling. But it could also backfire as well.
If you’re a Hip Hop producer and you sample a country song from Dolly Parton, your beat will probably suck. Yes, it all comes down to how you use that sample, but there are just certain songs and genres that you just can’t work with.
I have sampled Classical music many times and most of the time my beats turn out great. But there have also been times where my classical samples made my beats sound like beats with classical music on top. You don’t want that.
To avoid that scenario, if you’re sampling a non-traditional genre (Pseudo Chinese Lantern Country), make sure you do it right.
5. Make Sure Your Sample Syncs Up
Some samples when you first hear them, sound great. You immediately know that you want to take that sample and make magic with it, but sometimes it may not work out the way you want it to.
I have heard many beats that had dope samples and sounded great, but there would be one small problem – it wouldn’t sync properly with the drums.
You know what I mean – there are certain points of a sample that need to land on either the kick or snare, and in some cases there might be a few points that are slightly off. You could leave the sample as is and say your beat has a “more natural feel”, or you could fix the problem by chopping the sample and lining it up right.
Do that. Your beat will sound much better.

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