Sampling is awesome. Of all the beats that I’ve heard over the years, it’s the sampled ones that grab my attention the most, and rightfully so. I also love beats that don’t use samples, because it shows off other creative ways that producers can put together a beat. But sampling is truly special because it’s what Hip Hop is founded on, and even if you make other genres of beats, sampling can prove very useful.
I know there are many reasons why a lot of you don’t sample, and that’s fine. Legally, you must clear anything that you want to sample, but at the same time it’s a gray area because record labels are not going to go after a bedroom beat maker that sampled one of their songs for an online mixtape. This isn’t a question about whether you should sample or not, instead it’s how you can become better at sampling, like these 6 ways:
1. Sample a Different Genre
True samplers already know this. For a while, I was heavy into sampling Classical music, and my beats reflected that. Classical is great, but it got to the point where I wanted my beats to sound a bit different, so I put Classical on the back burner and started sampling other genres. What happened was that not only did my beats sound a bit different, (going from Classic to 80’s Pop will do that!), but it also got me excited about making beats again.
On the sampling front, I quickly felt creative once again. No longer was I stagnant, sampling the same genre with the same sounds, and ending up with the same results. My sampling source was different now, but at the same time, I was now using different techniques when sampling 80’s Pop. I wasn’t just sampling loops or looking for a certain sound, instead I was just sampling whatever sounded catchy or useful at the time.
2. Listen To All Types Of Music
This goes hand in hand with sampling a different genre. For me, I usually listen to many different genres of music when I’m chilling out, from 70’s Rock to the latest Rap singles of today. It’s not that I do this because I want to find various types of stuff to sample, but instead I just listen to those genres because I just like the music.
It’s important to listen to everything. You don’t have to listen to what you don’t want to, but what I’m saying is, just keep your ears open. If you happen to hear the latest Lady Gaga single, it might sound like hot garbage to you, (and it probably is!), but at least try to hear what’s going on in the song. There might be a small part that you think is catchy, or you might like the way a certain part of the song is broken down. You can then use those ideas for the next time you go to sample something.
3. Sample Yourself
This one can be difficult. I think a lot of the reason why is because we’re too lazy to go through the process of sampling ourselves, so instead we just do our normal sampling routine. If you’re energetic enough to do it, then why not? Who says you have to always sample from vinyl? Who says you have to sample breaks? Why not sample yourself?
There are various ways that you could sample yourself:
Play an instrument and sample that.
Sample a beat that you did in the past.
Make a beat now and then sample it.
All of the above will work beautifully. When it comes to playing an instrument, you don’t have to be a musician, but instead just play it! My uncle had an acoustic guitar and even though I can’t play to save my life, I picked it up one day and start messing with it and I came up with a short little loop, which I then sampled. I didn’t actually play the part, (I got my uncle to play it), but the point is that I used an actual instrument to come up with something that I later used in a beat that I made.
Sampling an old beat that you did is another great option because it can either spark ideas for a remix, or you could just straight up sample it. Maybe there’s a part of the beat that you think would sound good for your current beat, so use it!
Finally, you could also make sort of a “dummy beat”. I’ve only done this a few times but basically you just make a quick beat, whether it’s sample-based or not, and then you sample it for your new beat. Again, it might end up as some sort of remix, but maybe not. It could easily be where you sample a part that you twist, turn, morph, destroy, and make it fit into your new beat really well.
4. Don’t Just Look For Loops
Ever since Puff Daddy aka P. Diddy, or whatever else he calls himself today, sampled famous songs, looped them, and then called them his own, sampling has been out of control. I’m not saying that you have to always chop what you sample, but instead don’t always look for loops when you’re sampling. There are plenty of other sounds in a song that you can grab, it’s not always about loops.
Even when I’ve sampled from breakbeats, which have tons of loops on them, I hardly ever used the samples just as a loop. The way I do my beats, I almost always chop the hell out of them and because of that, it’s a great technique that’s kept me on my toes. I think a big part of chopping samples is that it’s a way for me to sort of “show off”, to prove that I didn’t just sample a loop, throw drums on top and call it a day.
When you’re listening to something you want to sample, don’t just listen for actual loops. Often times there’s little parts in the background that sound so dope! I once sampled a record, (I’m not telling you which one), and the song was nice but there was a part in the back that was SO sweet. It was so nice that I had to sample it. So I did. What happened by me doing that was actually pretty cool:
The part that I sampled was very nice Strings that were really subtle in the background of the music. I was so focused on that part, that the music that was at the forefront had Piano in it, so when I made my pattern with the sample, the Piano was in there of course, so it turned out awesome. I now had a pattern that featured smooth Strings and a part of a Piano that I would never have even thought to play like that. It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.
5. Study Other People’s Beats
Listening to other people’s beats is probably the easiest thing on this list. Just listen. I’m not saying that you need to copy these other people, but instead use it as inspiration and as a way to get ideas popping in your head. Whether you realize it or not, even just listening to regular music, you’re analyzing other people’s music. In this case though, focus on the beat itself and try to hear how certain pieces of music fit together.
By doing this, the next time you want to sample something, you will be listening to certain parts, trying to pick them apart. What this will do is make you better at finding the best parts of a song to grab.
I don’t know what #6 is, I’ll leave that up to you. Let me know in the comments below.
If you want to get better at sampling, these are great ways for you to do so. Sampling can be hard for those that aren’t used to it, but whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned vet, sampling can be fun and challenging, but it will also help you bring your beats to that next level. Good luck!