How to Build Unique Instruments From Vocal Samples

Vocal Synth

One thing many producers struggle with is creating their own unique sound. Given the number of sonic possibilities offered by VSTs, it can be hard to hone in on just one and stick with it. 

So next time you find yourself stuck trying to pick a synth patch for a new track, try a vocal sample instead. 

Vocal samples, especially female vocals, cut through the mix. They don’t get caught in the midrange mess of guitars, keys and drums, and instead float up top. They are also really easy to set up as a synth. 

To start, find a vocal sample or record your own, then locate the part that really stands out. There are no set rules here, but ideally you want something tonally or melodically interesting to the ear. Sustained notes work very well because they loop smoothly, but shorter vocal samples can deliver some unexpected (in a good way!) results too.

For this tutorial, I will be using a sample from Esa's vocal pack

The chopped sample isn't too exciting on it's own. But with a few sampling tricks and effects, it will sound like an airy pad in no time! 

Load up the sample into your sampler (I'm using Ableton's Simpler), turn off warping, turn on loop, and fade the start and end of the sample to avoid any clicks. Turn up the attack and release—these settings will replicate the swelling of a synth pad. 

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The key of your sample may not match the notes on your MIDI keyboard, so you will have to tune it to match. In Ableton, this is very simple to do. 

Drag Tuner onto the same track as your sampler and play the C3 key of your MIDI keyboard, which should trigger the vocal sample. If the Tuner doesn't display a 'C' you will have to adjust the sample pitch using Transposition and Detune until it does. Doing this ensures the vocal sample is mapped to your keyboard in the right key. 


Once that's done, you're all set the build out chords and melodies. Draw out or play in notes as you would with a synth. I added a bit of reverb, stereo imaging and chorus, which gives the vocal a more metallic, electronic sound. 

And now, in a more contemporary EDM/Deep house style, using the OneKnob Pumper plugin to add movement: 

In just a few steps, you can build an airy pad that rivals most vocal synth presets. This same technique can be applied to just about any sample. It's an easy way to make your own instruments and develop a sound that is truly yours (especially if you use your own vocals!). 

Let us know what you think of this method in the comments. Do you use vocals instead of, or to complement synths? 

Download the processed vocal samples for free on Outro


Daniel DixonComment