4 Creative Sampling Techniques That Stand Out

MP blog.png

The art of sampling has changed a lot since the early days of vinyl. Fewer producers sample from physical recordings and instead use online services to find inspiration.

The secretive nature of 'digging' has given way to a hyperconnected world that shares seemingly everything online. Just take a look at WhoSampled— an open database of nearly 500,000 uses of sampling in music. 

Given that so many people have access to the same sound sources, you need to sample creatively if you want to stand out from the crowd. Whether you're new to sampling or a seasoned pro, we're sure you'll find some inspiration in these creative sampling techniques. 

Note: Using a sample without permission is risky—you can get sued by the original artist or label if it's noticed. Sample safely using royalty-free services like Outro

 

Go Off Grid

Load up a rhythmic loop in your DAW sampler and draw out a couple MIDI notes. The playback speed of each loop will depend on where they are drawn on the keyboard.

High pitch notes will play faster, and low pitch notes will play slower. The differences in speed between each note will create some weird and whacky out-of-time rhythms. 

Move the start/end on the sampler to find a spot where the clashing loops lock into a groove. From one loop, you'll open up an endless amount of rhythmic possibilities. Listen to the loop transformation below. 


Original sample from Ponsolo's creator pack. Download free here

Now, with a few notes mapped out in Ableton's simpler plus a little reverb to help add a sense of space. A completely new sound emerges not so different from a Jamie XX or Four Tet intro. 

 

Get Dirty

There is a trend in a lot of modern music production for sound design to be super crisp. Go against the grain and experiment with saturation, bit-crushing and distortion. These effects will bring out new textures in your samples and make them more interesting to the ear. 

Take caution—things can quickly get messy when working with noisy samples. Start by adding a small amount of dirt, then reference the original sample to see if you like what you did. I tried this technique using a funky breakbeat sample. 
 

Original sample from Outro creator Ale Castellano: 

With significant saturation using free VST Saturation Knob by Softube: 

Transposed -12 semitones (1 octave) for a chopped-and-screwed sound: 

 

Re-Write Melodic Samples

If you want to add your own twist to a melodic sample, single out one or two notes, then re-arrange them into something different. Re-pitch, time-stretch or reverse the individual notes—you can often get some happy musical accidents that will make your sample truly unique. 

For this example, I loaded up a piano loop into a sampler, and singled out one chord. This allows me to play the sampler chromatically like a synthesizer.
 

Original sample from Outro creator Alexander Daniel. Download free here.

Re-arranged melody A, sounding ready for a classic Boom-Bap beat over top:

Re-arranged melody B, in a similar vein, perfect for old school Hip-Hop or House:


Use Vocals in Unlikely Ways

Vocal are versatile samples. You can chop them up for a stutter effect, reverse them for buildups, or add swaths of reverb to them for a ghostly sound. One overlooked sample technique for vocals is to use them as percussive hits or drums. Producers like Todd Edwards and MK have built their careers using vocals this way. 

Get started by cutting up the parts of the vocal sample that sound the most like a traditional drum kits. Consonants ('ch' 'th' 'sh') work best as percussion like hi-hats and snares, while vowels are best used for melodies. Use your vocal samples resourcefully! 

Original sample from Outro creator ESA. Download free here

A basic percussive loop and vocal effects using just the same sample: 

 

Show Us Your Samples

Now that you have some new sampling techniques, make your own samples and upload them to Outro. It's free to sign up, and you can sell them to other music creators looking for inspiration. 

What are your favourite sampling techniques? Let us know in the comments section. 

Daniel Dixon

Daniel is a music producer with a love for breakbeats and basslines. Content writer at Outro.
Daniel Dixon2 Comments