One of the hardest parts of recording music on my computer is keeping my sample collection nice and neat. I’m sort of a neat freak, but when it comes to files on my PC, I tend to get lazy and just let everything sit in different places, creating a really big mess. I’m not alone though, as I’m sure most people are the same way. Hey, it’s our computers and it’s not like everything HAS to be tidy! When it comes to sound file organization, it’s best to keep things as organized as possible because then you will spend more time making music, rather than moving things around.
1. Make Folders By Genre Or Date
Sometimes when my folders get so full of samples, it can be very overwhelming. Often I will just organize everything by type, but before I do that, I like to put them all in a folder by date. For example, I tend to do it like this:
YEAR > MONTH or YEAR-MONTH-DAY (as one folder)
I also throw everything in separate folders by genre, such as: Hip Hop, R&B, Soul, 80’s, etc. I used to go just by the date but then I would end up with lots of files in there anyway, plus they were scattered from all different genres. Now your folder tree should look like this:
GENRE > YEAR > MONTH
I don’t do YEAR-MONTH-DAY much unless I just want to throw a bunch of samples in there that I just happened to download on that particular day. For example, there were times when I came across a website that had tons of samples, so I would download them and put them in a folder by date. This way I know that the samples in that folder are recent.
2. Make Folders By Type
So what do you do once you have your folders set up by genre and date? Go by type. I’m not big on percussion samples for my drums, and I like to keep things really simple so what I tend to do is create three folders for my drums and another for everything else.
The “Other” folder contains mainly samples that I chopped up or an entire song that I want to jack, or even percussion. Since I have drum sounds but I also have drum breakbeats, I like the keep the two of them separate. Now your folder tree should look like this (the final look):
GENRE > YEAR > MONTH > DRUMS (or BREAKBEATS) > KICKS (or SNARES, HATS, OTHER)
3. Delete Samples You Don’t Need
I once had probably a few thousands samples in various folders and I let them sit there for an eternity. One day I decided that I really need to fix this mess so what I did was I painstakingly went through each one and deleted whatever I didn’t like. I know some people might think that it’s a travesty to delete samples, but let’s face it – sometimes you have just too much. Some may argue that you can never have enough sounds, but I think there’s a limit. Ask yourself honestly if you really want to go through ALL those samples in order to find something? Probably not.
4. Convert MP3’s To WAV (if needed)
One of the drawbacks to certain recording software is that they don’t render MP3 files, so you’re forced to use WAV instead. When I use Maschine, I have to convert all my samples to WAV and that really sucks. It’s much easier to just grab an MP3 instead of having to convert it first to a WAV file, but it is what it is. Years ago too when I was using an older version of Cakewalk and Cubase, I had to convert my samples and it was just an extra step that I felt was not needed.
If you are using software that doesn’t like MP3’s, then do yourself a favor and convert whatever you need to into the appropriate format. There are plenty of programs that do this, I use one called Xilisoft Audio Converter which converts them in a batch. There’s also Adobe Audition that has a batch file converter and it’s really powerful.
5. Rename Your Files
I don’t often do this, but it comes in really handy when you want to keep track of what you’re sampling. Try to rename all your files in this format:
ARTIST NAME – SONG NAME
You can either do this each time you sample something and save it, or if you need to do a batch rename, there’s programs that do this for you. I’ve been using one for years called The Godfather and it always renames everything the way I want it to, it too is very powerful.
6. Save New Samples Properly So You Don’t Have To Do This Again
The last tip is that you should save all of your samples properly to begin with, that way you don’t have to go through all of this mess to begin with! I know it’s a pain and when you’re making beats sometimes you’re in a zone, grabbing samples left and right, chopping, slicing, rearranging, and just being creative, but it’s the best way. Try to integrate this step into your regular music-making routine and after a while you will be so used to saving your samples properly right from the start, that you will be wondering why you never did it like this before. Good luck!