According to Mark Ronson’s Ted Talk How Sampling Changed Music, “La Di Da Di” by Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh is the fifth most sampled record of all time – featured in a whopping 547 tracks (and counting). Using samples in your tracks can help you create a recognizable sound, but it’s also an excellent way to get your creative juices flowing and find your own style.
Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by the Wu-Tang Clan is a lesson on how to sample like a boss. Martial arts movie samples are front and centre in this album and it’s a sound the Wu-Tang became synonymous with. Sample the right way, and it could become something you’re known for too. Here’s a quick rundown of six simple and creative ways to use samples.
Beats and loops can be imported into your Studio session to provide a backbone for your track. Synchronizing samples to the same beat is the first step to executing this correctly. This can be achieved easily by following the metronome of the session.
Tip: If you’re new to production, stick to a 4/4 time signature and a consistent BPM (beats per minute). This will ensure nothing sounds wildly different or out of place.
Using the ‘chop and slice’ method is a great way to keep only the parts you want from other tracks. Trim any sound file in Studio and cut out anything you don’t want.
Pro tip: Slicing the sound as it touches the middle line (otherwise known as the grid) will prevent uneven pieces of audio from being left behind.
Repitch samples to construct melody lines or add harmonic elements to your song. You can do this with AudioStretch which ensures that the timing integrity of the audio file remains constant, even when you change its pitch. Test a few different pitch combinations and layer them up. It can be a lot of fun.
“Reverse” is a classic technique which changes the very nature of how the sound is heard. A beat played backwards can provide an alternate rhythm, similar to a DJ scratching vinyl. A cymbal, if slowed down and stretched in reverse, can be used to create simple build-ups and transitions in between a verse and chorus.
Resampling your own work after exporting a track or mixdown is quite common practice, be it creating versions more suitable for DJs in clubs, using an old track you have created as a starting point for a new one, or layering a drum track over your current project to add extra texture or atmosphere. Just play around with it and don’t be afraid to try new things, it’s okay if you don’t get it right the first time.
There are no limits to how many layers you can create with samples. Adding a sample which runs simultaneously to something you are jamming along to can change the creative process completely. You could actually arrange an entire song made out of samples without having to play an instrument. Above, you’ll notice that we’ve layered the same sound twice and then panned each track hard left and right to give the illusion of more space.
Have fun sampling, but please be careful – if you intend to release the track, there might be some legal stuff you ought to be aware of. Keep your eyes peeled for next week’s blog when we’ll be covering sampling and the law.
Start making music today.