Sampling is a tricky area when producing music because it’s either hit or miss. But when you do find that certain sample, it can literally change your day.
The biggest issue with sampling, however, is that it’s hard to mask the samples so that no one knows where it came from. The last thing you want is to get into any sort of legal trouble regarding sampling, so here are some tips to help you cover up what you have done.
*Note: This is in no way legal advice. These are simply tips that can help you manipulate your samples so that they sound different.
1. Chop It To Oblivion
It surprised me years ago when I was first starting out making beats, that a lot of top name producers didn’t actually create much or any of the music I heard in their beats. I knew that they sampled stuff, but I thought that maybe they had a hand in doing some sort of live instrumentation.
Unfortunately, many of them would simply sample a loop and that would be their beat! When I first realized this, I was blown away because to me it was almost like as if they weren’t actually producing anything, rather they were just copying and pasting clips. It’s a good way to make beats, but it’s far from simple, and it by no means doesn’t make them producers.
However, if you’re looking to mask your samples, your best bet is to chop them up rather than just loop whatever you find. I like to loop samples, but my preference is to chop them. Sometimes it’s because I don’t want the samples to be recognizable, other times it’s because it’s just fun to do.
For example, if you have a Jazz sample that is 1 bar long, don’t just use that. Chop it many times, preferably having each musical note sliced up. This way you can rearrange the notes and come up with an entirely new composition. Yes, I know that in some cases it can still be recognized, but it depends on what it is you’re sampling.
2. Use Crazy Effects
Just like a guitarist using a wah pedal to go nuts with his guitar solo, that’s an option you can choose to do as well. I understand that when you sample something, you’re sampling it because you actually like that piece of music and want to use it as is, but adding some weird effects will further mask the samples.
As you can see in the video, the guitar box can output some pretty weird sounds. You don’t have to use that, as there are many plugins for your DAW that are available, but let’s say you choose to use a guitar box. Just pass whatever samples you have through that box and back into your mix and you will have a whole new different sound to play with.
My suggestion is that you still chop your samples up, then create some sort of loop, then run the entire loop through an effects box. The good thing about this is even if you used a straight up loop from a sample, depending on what sort of effects you use, it would be hard for anyone to figure out what the original sample is. Once you have a layer of effects on your audio, it’s not like someone can strip the effects off to reveal the original.
3. Find The Right Sample To Chop
If you’re still having trouble sampling, chopping, and using effects, then just remember that it all comes down to what it is you actually sample. I have heard many producers use samples that have already been sampled before, so basically everyone knows that sample instantly.
They key to masking your samples is simple: find the right sample!
This is why some producers like to sample very obscure records, especially stuff from foreign countries. I remember a story of a Hip Hop producer (I can’t remember who), that sampled an artist from somewhere like Turkey. I guess he never thought he’d be caught, but he was. The thing is, sampling is a very delicate area because you want to sample a straight loop, but you’ll be found out. If you chop and rearrange it, that’s not foolproof either. Adding effects is a nice touch, but it’s still not 100%. There’s always someone that could possibly figure out what you sampled.
However, the good news is that if you sample certain instruments, you shouldn’t have to worry at all.
Let’s look at piano, for example. I have sampled piano so many times, and the reason why is because it’s such a common instrument, that how can anyone get caught jacking a piano sample? The only way would be if you’re sampling a piano loop, especially one that is well known, like from a classical composer such as Bach.
But if you sample someone like Bach, yet you chop up the sample into little bits, all anyone is going to hear is piano. They could still argue that you sampled Bach, but their case would be weak. Basically, as long as you have each individual note sliced up, you’re good to go.
Another great instrument to sample are horns. They’re so easy to sample, and you can do a lot with them.
The bottom line is that to mask your samples, your best option is to sample certain instruments, and zero in on each note. Whenever you sample a composition (some sort of loop), your chances of masking your samples diminish greatly.