Samples and Sampling

As music producers we have been sampling since the beginning of electronic music production but as time has progressed and DAW software has developed sample libraries have become the go to for sounds.


Lets go back to the hay day of sampling with machines like the Fairlight CMI used by artists such as Herbie Hancock, Prince and Vince Clarke. A breakthrough technology for musicians who wanted to craft compositions without the need of session musicians.


This breakthrough technology came with a heavy price tag so it wasn’t commonly available for musicians but you can hear it in the works of artists such as Peter Gabriel.

In the mid to late 80’s Akai developed a commercial sampler more affordable for studios and musicians who wanted to work using this technology. Sampling became more popular and the music industry started to take notice of the tracks used in productions by electronic musicians thus becoming a grey area. Artists started being accused of copyright theft and still to this day it has caused problems for those who dare to steal.

Various artists became aware of the possibility sampling could get them in trouble with the big labels, their lawyers and the industrial music complex as it’s now know, so creatively musicians carefully manipulated the sounds making them unrecognisable and this created new sub genres in hip hop, electro and IDM introducing sounds we have never heard before.

The Amen Brother break has been used for over two decades in pretty much every electronic music genre, sampled and resampled, pitched and sliced to create different grooves and is still used in productions today. The unique story of this break and it’s copyright free story is a must watch for any electronic music producer.

 The birth of the sample library

With sound designers and musicians with a good understanding of synthesis and drum creation started companies like Zero G and Supreme samples distributing CDs for hardware samplers royalty free but at a price for the privilege of using these sounds.


Controversy broke out with Zero G as many of the samples were recorded from vinyl and included the Amen Break we know was royalty free. These CDs were very popular and used in many dance music productions in the early 90’s.


The wonderful EMU e6400 ultra was a flagship sampler with a large LCD display and plenty of options when it came to sample manipulation. I used this sampler with Spectrasonic Distorted Reality and achieved some amazing results and I still used those sounds in productions today. The sound quality of this sampler was next level and Paul Woolford has used EMU samplers his whole music career.


One of the biggest and most popular sample libraries to date is the infamous Loopmasters who work with many sound designers such as Industrial Strength and Rankin Audio. Their catalogue covers pretty much every genre and you are more than likely to find a pack thats suits your needs or may spark an idea for production.


With the introduction of Ableton Live now on the market for 20 years the developers in Berlin created a DAW that was essentially a sampler you could warp audio, sample and use effects to manipulate sound. I have been a live user since version 1 and have found the sound design aspects of the software the best in any DAW, but this is not necessarily true for others. Sample packs are a great way to start a track and get an idea but to solely use these packs without manipulating the audio is somewhat controversial and is open to discussion. The team at Ableton have made the process of creating music productions easier for musicians with instruments like simpler and warping audio but to use samples straight from packs has taken the magic away from the the production process and made beginners lazy not delving deeper into what can be done with the software and effects.


In recent years Hannah Wants was accused of plagiarising a track written by Joy O and Bodikka both almost sounded identical to the human ear and created a rift on social media with a very negative response. We are all drawn certain genres of music and want to release tracks like our peers but our peers should be our inspiration to create unique music productions in the world of music production. You don’t want to be accused of coping other artists and you certainly don’t want to use the same samples already released on labels you love. I have met a lot of young and excited DJ’s who want to play at clubs they admire but think social media followers and good photography will catapult them to the top of their game without taking time to learn how to make music as efficient electronic musicians fundamentally, using synthesis and mixing techniques.

Samples are not the answer for longevity in music production but they are essential for ideas and sound design possibilities. We are dedicated to the offering unique ways of learning at Audio Mogul and our courses are designed by leading professionals in music production with over 20 years experience. Our Ableton certified trainers have created a scheme of work tried and tested to help induce creativity and make original music productions.


Audio Mogul

Blogger, Ableton Coach, Coffee Connoisseur and DJ.

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