Forget Music, You Should Sample From Movies

I’m a big movie fan. Scratch that – I’m a big fan of older movies. Not silent movies from way back in the early 1900’s, but movies from the 1970’s and 1980’s. There are plenty of awesome flicks that are so well done both in cinematography and the movie’s soundtrack score.

Most producers sample from various genres of music, digging through tons of vinyl, or searching online for a rare track that no one else has sampled before. However, there is a huge amount of movies that have some really dope sounds in them, and you should sample from there next.

Score, Not Soundtrack

Don’t be mistaken – when I say that you should sample from movies, I don’t mean from the movie soundtrack, instead, I’m talking about the score. The soundtrack is more or less the music that you hear in the movie, for example, from popular bands that made songs for that particular movie, or an existing song that was used.

The score, however, is where you will find lots of hidden gems. I’m a big fan of horror films, and since my style of beats are on the darker side, I’m right at home when sampling from scary scenes.

When sampling, you have a few options:
*Sample from the movie’s score.
*Sample the movie itself.
Some movies will release both the soundtrack and the score as an album that you can purchase. There have been plenty of times where I sampled the score album, but I find for the best results, it’s best to sample directly from the movie itself. Why?

Emotion

When I’m watching a movie and I hear some music that I really like, it’s not just because it sounds good, but it’s also because of when it was used in that particular movie.

Let’s say that I’m watching a Friday the 13th movie and there’s a scene where Jason is about to find his latest victim. Some innocent teen girl is hiding behind a tree, hoping Jason walks by. As she waits, the music builds, then as Jason gets closer, the music intensifies. SPLAT. Game over!

For me, that scene gives off a certain level of emotion, so it makes the music much more interesting. Most of the time this is why I sample certain parts of a movie, rather than just grabbing any music that is left “open” for me to sample.

What To Sample

One of the issues of sampling directly from a movie is that there’s a lot of other sounds to consider – and they may get in the way. For example, many times I’ve heard a piano part that was so sick, I had to sample it. Unfortunately, just as the piano segment is about to end, someone in the movie starts talking! It’s difficult to deal with, so often times you have to pull off some production trickery to get the desired result, but it’s not always that big of a deal.

There was a time when I sampled a movie from the early 90’s that had a really nice keyboard riff. The problem was that at the end, I could clearly hear the sound effects of water. The scene I was sampling from was of two guys talking at a pier, so once they walked away, the camera panned to the water and you could hear a swishing sound.

At first I was frustrated that it messed up the keyboard riff, but what did I do? I left the water sound in! Even though it was clear what the sound was, it actually sounded okay so I went ahead and left it as is, then as I looped the riff, the water swishing sound actually became somewhat hypnotic.

Not So Obvious

Maybe a big reason why producers don’t sample from movies is because of those reasons, however it could also be that they just can’t be bothered to pick apart a sound.

When I’m watching a movie and I hear something I want to sample, I hear things that most people don’t. I think as producers, we should all have that ability because that is what will set us apart from the rest. To be able to hear a sound within a sample, and already have an idea of how you’re going to use it – is precious.

So when sampling from a movie, that’s the best way to get the best results. You could just wait until you hear a wide open piece of music, then sample that and loop it up, but if you were to instead take a tiny part and use that, it will be much more satisfying.

Listen to the first 20 seconds of the intro of this 80’s slasher called “Spookies”.

At the beginning you hear the guitar that is wide open and can easily be jacked. I’ll bet that most of you will sample that, maybe chop it up, and call it a day, right?

Guess what part I heard and wanted to sample? Around 11 seconds in when you hear the keyboard.

When I heard the guitar, it sounded great, but when the keyboard came in, I immediately thought of taking that part and looping it.

It may not be a perfect example, but as long as you have an idea of how to sample directly from movies.

Duplicate What You Hear

As with the keyboard part in that movie’s intro, it’s not just that I wanted to sample it, but it also gave me an instant idea – why not play my own keyboard and get it to sound like that?

Sampling movies is a great option, but it’s also about coming up with ideas for your next production. For example, I could sample that keyboard part and loop it, or I could sample and loop it, and use it as a template. So while my keyboard sample is looping, I could play my own keyboard on top of it until I come up with my own variation of it.

Most of the time I aim to find some sort of piano sample to use, but just like regular music, it’s hard to find wide open music in a movie. However, if you do, I suggest you grab it and make use of it. If you can’t then it’s time to be creative. But who said sampling was going to be easy?

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