Tag Archive for: samples

Working with Loopcloud

Making music in 1990 involved working with samplers, a very basic Atari computer running Cubase, and sampling sounds from tape cassettes here and there to make music. We’d also add synth lines over what we had, but we were really limited in what we could do. You have no idea how exhausting making a simple loop could be—it sometimes took a whole afternoon. Plus, we’d have to leave everything running to continue later without losing anything. If you fast forward 10 years, it was much easier, but to find samples you needed or that you couldn’t make yourself, you’d buy samples on CDs or sample music you liked—it still wasn’t super easy.

When I decided to start working with people on their music as a producer, there’s one thing that became essential, which was the organization of my files: samples with tags so I could find them easily. When I work on a full album while working on 2-3 other projects for clients, if I’m not organized when I have a flash of inspiration, my flow will be lost.

Enter Loopcloud into my life, and I haven’t been the same—no joke.

What’s Loopcloud and How Does it Work?

First and foremost, Loopcloud is a desktop app that syncs with your DAW. It’s also a sample organizer and online store for any samples you might be missing. So, the app contains your samples and the cloud’s library—it’s like a door to a library where you can find pretty much every single sound you need. The best way to use it is to open the Loopcloud VST in your DAW and then go on the app to browse for sounds you need. If you do that in a song you’re working on, it will sync your BPM and then you can also tell it what key your song is in (if that applies). If you find loops that aren’t in key, you can also force the app to tune it to the key of your song. Then you just simply drag the sample you found in Loopcloud and drop it directly in your DAW—it’s pretty magical.



The Different Ways I Use Loopcloud

  1. Finding a specific missing sound for a song. You can spend 30-40 minutes trying to do a drum roll properly, tweaking a synth to sound exactly like some deep house leads you like, etc. With Loopcloud, I sometimes find 2-3 samples that are similar to what I envision and layer them to create something new.
  2. Exploring genres you usually shy away from. If you’ve been collecting and buying samples based on one genre, sometimes it’s very interesting to venture off into other genres that you aren’t familiar with and find sounds that are different from what you’d usually use. It’s normal to be picky with sound-fetching, and you might not be interested in buying a full pack of a genre you might never use. Now you can get a single sample—a vocal or a weird world instrument—to create unusual soundscapes. Using organic sounding, acoustic percussion over your digital sounds can add a nice extra touch.
  3. Test a sound in context. Since the Loopcloud’s audio-out is rewired in your DAW, you can add effects on it to see, for instance, how a hook will sound once compressed or with a delay. Normally, it’s hard to know exactly how the samples you’re about to buy will fit in there, but with a Loopcloud channel, it opens up a lot of options. However, sounds are watermarked for piracy control so don’t expect to record them from there!
  4. Randomize ideas. With more randomized samples, you can try a lot of different things in your work that you’d normally not be looking for—with Loopcloud you can test them and see what happens. There’s a great discovery aspect here that often makes me smile.
  5. Testing multiple options in arrangements. Sometimes in a moment where you know something is missing, but you’re not sure if this or that would be the thing that makes the difference, you can check out loops that might provide you with a better perspective of what you can do.
  6. Use Loopcloud’s sample editor to fine tune a loop. While there are a lot of loops in Loopcloud, you can rearrange sounds in the editor and also add some integrated effects to tweak the perfect sample. The multi-layer function allows you to have up to 8 loops playing. This is really an added value to your library, giving yourself a lot of options to tweak original material from, perhaps even very simple content.
  7. Test one sample alone in a context. You can pick one sample and with Loopcloud’s inner sequencer and create a pattern to hear how it would sound. This is pretty killer, as sometimes you’re missing that one thing. This is, by far, way faster than Ableton’s browser, so with all your samples you have along with those you don’t have, there’s absolutely no way to fail in finding good sounds. Perhaps, having too many sounds might become an issue!

If haven’t read about it in this blog already, for 2020 I will be making one song per week as part of a personal challenge that I’m doing on WeeklyBeats, and it’s been a life changing experience. Music is one of the central parts of my life, both my lifestyle and working life, but putting my own music first was a bit of a challenge because I’ve been dedicating a lot of my time to clients—but this has also paid off in many ways. The first benefit of taking a break from my own music was to review in detail how I start a new song.

Loopcloud is a very useful tool to be able to start new songs from scratch. Basically, how I work is that I need first a core groove to be able to jam new potential ideas. The groove can be generic or simple, but I need something different each time. To make something new and refreshing is difficult if I’m stuck with a certain set of sounds, synths, and habits. Having access to random banks of new grooves is mind-blowing because it’s as easy as popping-open the app to see what today’s flavor will be. Perhaps ethnic, world beats, with a funk background and house bass? I’m the only one responsible to make it work, and if I let my brain tell myself “no”, then I know I’m missing out.

To start a track and to begin sketching, here’s how Loopcloud can help:

  • Try a base BPM and key to the song. This can of course be changed, but if you can start with that, you can then also find samples to work with.
  • Think of a genre you want to work with. This is just to remove a lot of potential distraction. If you think of techno, this will eliminate a huge number of decisions you have to take.
  • Pick a sub-genre or influence. If you’re a purist, this might be for you. I suggest picking a second genre to go fetch cross-genre sounds. Ex. Arabic melodies with house.
  • Decide on your rhythmic signature, such as 4/4 or breakbeats or anything else. Build a core loop to work with. Loopcloud also lets you pick one.
  • Collect a large group of sounds for your song. This should be, bass, main melody, supporting ideas, effects, stabs, transitional elements and background. I usually make sure I have 3-4 sounds for each of them, ideally in key to the song.

Is Working With Loopcloud Making Music Production “Easier” a Trap for Producers?

I don’t think it is. I find that the more people making music, the more refreshing ideas get invented. This starts with making music increasingly accessible, which Loopcloud does. In the hands of experienced producers, tools give us more time to focus on important details and things we like the most. In my case, I noticed I gained a lot of speed in starting new ideas or tweaking my client’s needs. I have more control and I also can share ideas with my clients before sending them a project so we’re on the same page.

Does Having Access to so Many Sounds Limit Creativity?

No, quite the opposite. If I have more material to work with, I find there are fewer obstacles to creating richer songs. One of the things I explain to many new music producers is that working with quality samples trains your ear on how to pick quality material, which gives you top results. For instance, once you realize that best hi-hats often have a certain air in the highs, you’ll combine the transients of certain hats you have with some others you found through your searches. You’ll soon be able to create your own percussive combination of layers 3-4 sounds to get another very odd sound design. Same for melodies. But it’s really hard to start learning sound design on your own if you’re not familiar with what really works. Once you learn, you can then work to reverse-engineer the sounds that work best. But to do that, there’s nothing like having access to a huge library, like what Loopcloud offers.

In the end, what music comes down to is only a few things: reproducing melodies/atmospheres/experiences you want, with the best flow possible. That requires experience, patience and the use of quality material.


Update: June 2021

Loopcloud recently released version 6 of the platform, which extends its sampling capabilities by incorporating artificial intelligence to match harmonic and rhythmic samples, similar sound matching, and enhanced search filters so that you can find a sample easier without having to do the dreaded “scroll and listen.” In addition to their enhanced algorithm, Loopcloud 6 comes loaded with tons more samples to increase artistic expression.

Sound Matching

Whenever you select a sound, a list of adjacent loops will appear that should work well with the one you selected. This algorithm will also look through your sample collection and find sounds that will compliment them too. So, if you have a sound that you have been using as a signature, Loopcloud’s updated algorithm will pump out a list of recommended sounds that may help expand that pallet, whether that is harmonically or rhythmically. This could be the spark that gets you to the next step in your game, while saving you a hell of a lot of time, all by working with Loopcloud.

More Advanced Search Filters

Perhaps you already have an idea of what you want in a sound, but are having a hard time building it from scratch. Loopcloud 6 has advanced their search filters in order to make working with Loopcloud and finding that particular sound more seamless. You can search for the tone, length, stereo, BPM, swing, rhythmic density, attack, and decay in order to track down that elusive tone in your head. You will probably not be able to find exactly what you need, but even if you find something adjacent, that can inspire a whole new universe of creative thought. 

Find Familiar Sounds

This feature does just as it says. If you have a sound that you like and click the “find similar sounds” button, Loopcloud 6 will populate a list of sounds that it thinks are similar to it. This makes working with Loopcloud a valuable tool for quickly cycling through sounds that may fit your timbral palette. 

Three New Effects

Working with Loopcloud just got more diverse, with its additions of compressor, Tonebox, and EQ effects. You can tweak the parameters of these effects or select a preset on any of the sounds to tailor your sound in unique ways before exporting it to your DAW.

Easier Sorting

If you want, Loopcloud’s AI will combine your sounds into theme-friendly folders so they are easier to find.


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Tips for better clarity in your mixes

Clarity in mixes is not something people understand or perceive well when they first start mixing, but it’s a magical part of a song that often distinguishes professional mixes from amateur mixes. Clear-sounding mixes instantly grab your attention because they feel precise, open, airy and easy to understand. While clarity in a mix might seem easy to create, it’s actually very difficult to achieve.

I can say that I’m starting to better understand clarity myself. If you’re familiar with my music, you know I like busy music and my songs are generally quite full, with multiple layers of sounds. It’s a challenge for me to get a clear mix because of the number of sounds I use, but for me this is also the best way to practice mixing clearly, as it’s more difficult than if I were only using a minimal amount of sounds.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned when creating clarity in my own mixes.

Less is more, and less is clearer

The less you have going on, the clearer your song will be. Nothing clashes and there’s less to try to find an appropriate spot for. When mixing, you need to find a fitting place for every sound you use. If you have 5 hihats, 3 claps, and 5 melodies, this can become quite a challenge.

How can you clean up a mix and make it clearer?

I see a lot of clients struggle with cleaning up their mixes. Most artists suffer from a strange thought process that goes something like “I’m afraid the listener is going to get bored, therefore I will fill my mix with as much as possible so the listener never feels let down.” To this I would reply that there’s a remedy in your DAW…the mute button! Let me explain:

1 – Loop a section of your song, the part where it’s the busiest.

2 – Mute everything, then start by un-muting your essential sounds. What are the fewest number of sounds that can communicate your song’s idea clearly? Toggling mute on parts of a song sometimes create interesting perspectives and can reveal things you didn’t realize about your arrangements—it often takes fewer sounds to create a clear mix. This can mean no fills, no decorations, no backgrounds, just the essentials.

3 – Are your essential sounds sharing space in the frequency spectrum?

Technically, if you have less, sounds are most likely to occupy less space and clash with one another less frequently. Generally, there are a few areas where your sounds can clash:

  • Frequency: If you divide the spectrum into 4 or 5 bands, you want each band to have the same number of sounds. Low-end would be under 100hz, then 100 to 1k for mids, 1k to 3k for high mids and then 3k to 10k for highs, then 10k+ for the air/transients. If you have a hard time muting your sounds, you can also isolate a few different sounds in different bands.
  • Amplitude: Also known as volume, amplitude is often not understood properly. People want everything LOUD and are afraid that secondary sounds won’t be heard. Everything gets heard in a mix and sometimes, things that are less loud are way better. Some sounds should be the loudest, then the others should be mixed in relation to those. The greater the amplitude distance you have between your sounds, the more they’ll feel like they’re breathing instead of fighting. This is your dynamic range, a concept that’s often misunderstood. I would recommend playing with levels here and there as well. Having modulation on the amplitude of a sound is a good way to create a breath of fresh air in a mix. You can use a tool like MTremolo to give you a hand with that.
  • Sample length: This is something many overlook but is very important when it comes to samples. In many cases, samples people use are too long (too much decay) and that can cause a lot of noise, especially once compressed. Take kicks, for instance; people love big, badass kicks but don’t realize how problematic a long kick is in the low-end, especially in mastering. It bleeds in the bass and everything becomes mushy. I often use Transient Shaper (by Softubes) to shorten kicks or other percussive elements. You’d push the attack if you want and reduce the decay. You can also reduce the decay of a sample in Ableton if you go in the “Preserve” to be switched to “Trans” and then make sure it’s one-way, and play with the percentage to remove the decay.
  • Stereo space: I’ve explained this before and will refrain from repeating myself, but stereo clarity is crucial. If your sounds are spread wildly, you might get into phasing issues which means, you’ll end up with holes and sounds ghosting when they should be heard. I know that discovering phasing issues might be a bit of a mystery to many new producers, but with a good metering, you can see them. You can also listen to part of your song in mono to see if everything is coming out properly.

Chaos-inducing mixing errors

There are a number of tools and habits that can create chaos in a mix—I run into them often, and here are a few I see regularly that I can provide some advice for:

1- Using loop samples: There’s nothing wrong with using a pre-made loop or sampling something from source, but you won’t be able to access the loop’s sounds individually, and can get trapped dealing with issues that already exist within the loop or sample. If you’re using a loop, make it the centre of your song and make sure that you work the other samples around it. Tip: Using busy loops can be a bit of a problem, but you can use a multi-band compressor to control them, or put them in mono and use a multi-band stereo tool like the Shaperbox 2 to decide on the position of each sound.

2- Auto-panning nightmares: Making things move can feel exciting, but it doesn’t help mix clarity if you overdo it. Using multiple auto-pan effects on sounds can be cool, but the human ear can only handle a certain number of complex things going on. If on the first listen, one can’t understand the movement clearly, there are chances the modulation isn’t helping. TIP: Use just one auto-panning effect per song, max.

3- Delays and reverb: Reverb and delay multiply or make sounds longer, songs busier, and therefore, potentially more confusing. Reverb can be useful, but a type like Hall can make things sound a bit messy. I would recommend to have your reverb set to a short decay and low wet/dry. Darker reverb can also help preserve the highs in your song. Tip: Using reverb with a Chamber/Room at the beginning can help to know how much you should use. Also, if you can use a delay instead of reverb for creating wider sounds, use an EQ to tame the clashing frequencies.

4- Intense compression: Compression glues and adds body to sounds, but a compressor with a slow release and high ratio can also mess up the precision of a sound. Keeping some transients intact can really help a sound to pop out of a mix. If you compress, perhaps using the magic 1:1.5 ratio with slow attack to help the transient snap. TIP: Parallel compression is always useful for clarity.

My last general tip is to always check your mix in mono…it really helps!

I hope this was useful.

The acoustic-electronic combo

In the last 5 years, I’ve been seeing more and more projects that combine the use of acoustic sounds, samples, and recordings with synthetic, analog sounds. What’s interesting is that in the 90s, this combo wasn’t very popular, and in the eyes of many purists it was a huge no-no. The benefits of an acoustic-analog recording combination is what I’d like to discuss in this post.

There are a huge number of amazing musicians we could point to as being good references of this combination. For instance, in 2011, ECM asked Ricardo Villalobos to remix some songs from their catalog.

I remember that Ric had been playing many tracks from the jazz-influenced label mostly because he loves to create these epic moments of weirdness, where he’s play something totally unexpected in the middle of his sets. Sometimes even in a peak moment where most people would be expecting a bomb song, he’d drop some weird jazz music and layer it with some of his own techno songs he recorded in his studio, mostly from his modular. Seeing him play some of that during a few events circa 2005-2009, I saw how the acoustic-electronic combo always brought some magic into a very electronic set, but you’d have to be happy. I remember some people being weirded out by it but that, as he’d say, is not his problem.

In the 90s, this combination wasn’t always welcomed, mostly because people were really wanting to dive deep into pure electronic music, as in, if it was techno, it had to be techno and there was no room for anything that wasn’t on that agenda. I’m sorry to say that I was one of those guys as well! Especially when I entered my minimal techno era around 1996, I wanted the purest electronic aesthetic and anything acoustic would make me cringe, especially guitars.

I find that ever since Ric explored the ECM catalog, it really opened a lot of doors for people to combine the two worlds to unite them. One person that jumps to my mind as one of the artists that explored that the most is certainly Petre Inspirescu, who was really known for bringing classical vibes to techno—in his mix for Fabric or in his work with the Pi Ensemble. It’s important to note that it was an exploration, yes, but it also worked really, really well. Sometimes people explore something and it doesn’t really work, but Petre, in my humble opinion, brought it to a more refined result than what Villalobos did.

So, what should we take from this history exactly? How can one get into the acoustic-electronic aesthetic and make it work well?

Reverb and Room Acoustics

It’s crazy how a good reverb can bring life to anything, and since acoustic instruments are recorded in a room, organic reverb added to a sound brings a whole new world to it. The more realistic the reverb, the more warmth it can bring [to a mix]. This is what influenced me the most to start my own reverb collection, and my lust for finding the most realistic reverb. I did many tests with mastering, asking artists who have great reverb in their productions what can make a difference.

  • Convolution: If you can, always use the convolution reverb by max for live. One thing I noticed about stock plugins is the grain that comes out weird during mastering; this is never the case for convolution. If you’re not familiar with what convolution means, it’s basically taking the “image” of a place’s reverb and applying it as a preset for your plugin. You can then have special places such as a specific studio, concert room or even, a restaurant. It’s used in movies for creating proper atmospheres but it does such a great job on percussion. One of my favourite convolution reverb plugins is the one by Melda called mConvolutionMB—it’s multi-band, giving you a lot of options for creating really special spaces. You can also browse the internet in search of free impulse responses that you can load in your plugin. I also encourage you to randomly put sounds in it to get the reverb that is used in the sample to apply it to your song so you get a feeling that it’s all part of the same place.
  • Record your own: I know some people who buy pieces of drum kits separately to have the real thing then can play with. They’ll then record themselves playing percussion over their song. You’d be surprised about even with a cheap microphone, you can create something pretty interesting to layer your sounds with. It will catch the reverb of your place which is also unique. Snares, hats, cymbals are cheaper to buy than you think, and having them physically with you is pretty fun too.
  • Binaural recording: You can buy a binaural microphone that allows you to record sounds based upon your head, which is ideal to create stereo impression on the listener who uses headphones. If you record percussion at your ear level, it will give the listener the idea that the percussion is right in front of you. It really creates a special aesthetic for whatever you record and also some stereo placement that is unique. There are all kinds of tricks you can do with recording random things. Since it’s very precise for stereo, some people use frequency modulation using binaural technique to induce the brain in different states of mind like relaxation. I won’t get into that but there’s plenty to read on the topic if you’re curious.
  • Hardware reverb: This is hard to beat. If you can invest into a hardware reverb unit such as a pedal or a rackmount effect, you’ll get some really next level results. Something like an old DP4 by Ensoniq or Alesis, Lexicon ones can be a dramatic improvement. You can also look into a multi-effect pedal like the one by Big Sky.

Preamps and Other Tools

While the idea of acoustic layered over analog is magical, you’ll have to agree that the highest quality recordings will make a huge difference. This is why when you look for quality samples, you’ll look for the highest sample rate possible and something like 192khz will be the holy grail. This means you can re-pitch it with the least compromise, and you’ll get a lot of what we call the air-factor, where the complexity of the high end will be crystal clear.

Something else people overlook, especially when it comes to samples that were recorded, is the use of preamps. I’ve been shying away from this topic for years until I really saw how using them can completely change the quality of your sound, adding not only beefiness but also, a special texture, depending of the preamp you’re using. Ones by Neve will sound different than API, for instance, and using them on certain things will change the character of a sound. Plugins that emulate them are pretty solid at it. I tested all of the preamps this year, from Universal Audio, and found that the ones by Neve are the ones that feel the suitable for the music I want to do. I also saw a considerable amount of enthusiasm from clients when I used them on their projects. So, recording your own, even with a cheap microphone, if you use some nice preamp, you’ll get something pretty solid out of it. Cheap microphone can even be a source of coloration for your samples but nowadays you can find really nice, affordable microphones so it might be worth investing a bit more so you get something useful for years ahead.

Virtual drummers are also something you can look into. There are many out there but Slate Digital makes really high quality program that can help you have highly realistic percussion. Otherwise, you can look at Addictive Drummer that has a range of different drum kits to get sounds from. It’s very realistic as well and layering it over a rigid drum machine sequence can provide a lot of depth!

SEE ALSO : Integrating a modular setup with your DAW

More tips about working with samples in Ableton

Recently I was doing some mixing and I came across multiple projects in a row that had some major issues with regards to working with samples in Ableton. One of them is a personal issue: taking a loop from a sample bank and using it as is, but there’s no real rule about doing this; if you bought the samples you are entitled to use them in any way you want.

While I do use samples in my work sometimes, I do it with the perspective that they are a starting point, or to be able to quickly pinpoint the mood of the track that I’m aiming for. There’s nothing more vibe-killing than starting to work on a new song but losing 30 minutes trying to find a fitting sound, like hi-hats for instance. One of my personal rules is to spend less than 30 minutes tweaking my first round of song production. This means that the initial phase is really about focusing in on the main idea of the song. The rest is accessory and could be anything. If you mute any parts except the main idea(s), the song will still be what it is.

So why is it important to shape the samples?

Well basically, the real answer is about tying it all together to give personality to the project you’re working on. You want it to work as a whole, which means you might want to start by tuning the sample to the idea.

Before I go on, let me give you a couple of suggestions regarding how to edit the samples in ways to make them unique.

I always find that pitch and length are the quickest ways to alter something and easily trick the brain into thinking the sounds are completely new. Even pitching down by 1 or 2 steps or shortening a sample to half its original size will already give you something different. Another trick is to change where the sample starts. For instance, with kicks, I sometimes like to start playing the sample later in the sound to have access to a different attack or custom make my own using the sampler.

TIP: I love to have the sounds change length as the song progresses, either by using an LFO or by manually tweaking the sounds. ex. Snares that gets longer create tensions in a breakdown.

In a past post, I covered the use of samples more in-depth, and I thought I could provide a bit more in detail about how you can spice things up with samples, but this time, using effects or Ableton’s internal tools.

Reverb: Reverb is a classic, where simply dropping it on a sound will alter it, but the down side is that it muffles the transients which can make things muddy. Solution: Use a Send/AUX channel where you’ll use a transient designer to (drastically) remove the attack of the incoming signal and then add a reverb. In doing this, you’ll be only adding reverb to the decay of the sound while the transient stays untouched.

Freeze-verb: One option you’ll find in the reverb from Ableton is the freeze function. Passing a sound through it and freezing it is like having a snapshot of the sound that is on hold. Resample that. I like to pitch it up or down and layering it with the original sound which allows you to add richness and harmonics to the original.

Gate: So few people use Ableton’s Gate! It’s one of my favorite. The best way to use it is by side-chaining it with a signal. Think of this as the opposite of a compressor in side-chaining; the gate will let the gated sound play only when the other is also playing, and you also have an envelope on it that lets you shape the sound. This is practical for many uses such as layering percussive loops, where the one that is side-chained will play only when it detects sound, which makes a mix way clearer. In sound design, this is pretty fun for creating multiple layers to a dull sound, by using various different incoming signals.

Granular Synthesis: This is by far my favorite tool to rearrange and morph sounds. It will stretch sounds, which gives them this grainy texture and something slightly scattered sounding too. Melda Production has a great granular synth that is multi-band, which provides lots of room to treat the layers of a sound in many ways. If you find it fun, Melda also has two other plugins that are great for messing up sound with mTransformer and mMorph.

Grain Delay, looped: A classic and sometimes overused effect, this one is great as you can automate pitch over delay. But it is still a great tool to use along with the Looper. They do really nice things when combined. I like to make really shorts loops of sounds going through the Grain Delay. This is also fun if you take the sound and double its length, as it will be stretched up, granular style, creating interesting texture along the way.

Resampling: This is the base of all sound design in Ableton, but to resample yourself tweaking a sound is by far the most organic way to treat sound. If you have PUSH, it’s even more fun as you can create a macro, assign certain parameters to the knobs and then record yourself just playing with the knobs. You can then chop the session to the parts you prefer.

I hope this was useful!

SEE ALSO : Learning how to make melodies

Is sampling wrong?

Sampling in electronic music involves two main types: using another person’s idea (e.g. using a harpist’s melody for your deep techno song, or sampling electronic music that isn’t yours) and using prefabricated samples for making your song.

As time goes on, I read and hear about more and more debates regarding sampling in electronic music. I refer to electronic music because in other spheres, such as trap or hip hop, the debate is non-existent. We all know it’s a matter of culture derived from how producers have approached their art.

You might ask yourself, “are there more benefits from making all my sounds by myself? Will I get more recognition that way?”

It’s hard to answer this question, but I’ll try to debunk the source of that question to help clarify a few things.

Firstly, the world of electronic music really started in the late 80’s with a DIY mentality. Back then, electronic music was not really well-known, and producers had a hard time getting support from traditional media and distributors; they had to do everything themselves. The same thing goes for their equipment. Equipment was extremely expensive and not easy to find, so many artists would work with whatever they could get their hands on. Then came a huge rise in popularity in the electronic music world, and by the 90s, it had its own culture. DIY was the established way to do things; everyone was contributing in one way or another. Making everything yourself – a form of being independent – had been rooted in the culture of electronic music. One of the big differences between that era and now is that back then, many producers were obsessed with making the most original music possible. Going out to an event was all about hearing new songs you’d never heard before that would make you dance; you were also aware you might never hear those songs again.

Secondly, with growing access to technology, it became essential to showcase your skills as a one-man-band. I’m not sure if if this was an ego thing, or more of a way of overcoming this tour-de-force, but while it can be impressive, it can also be counter-productive. There was no electronic music school out there until around 2005, where some appeared online. Prior to that, people that wanted to make electronic music had to be learning everything themselves.

Thirdly, as access to technology increased, as did the possibility to get pretty much anything you want via the internet, a certain snobbery amongst producers developed. Some people are able to do certain things a certain way, and will pass on a very clear message that if you don’t do things in their way, you’re doing it wrong. I think this approach – which I see a lot – has put many people in a defensive mode as well as made them less likely to share their work.

That said, sampling has always created polemics. You often hear a pop artist sampling others then getting into lawsuits as a result. In the underground scene, there are similar stories (such as Raresh sampling Thomas Brinkmann without understanding what consequences would ensue). There were multiple occasions where people would sample a part of a record that was released 10-15 years ago and make a song out of it. It would piss people off, mostly because it goes against two concepts:

  1. The person who sampled failed to be original and took the work of someone’s hard work to pass it off as their own.
  2. It’s a “violation” of the culture norms of music making, which have been in place for decades.

Is there a way to use sampling “correctly”?

Well, yes, there is a way. Sampling is not frowned upon in hip hop and, it’s also okay elsewhere too. However, there are rules to respect. When I launched my sub-label Climat in 2012, I wanted to use it to find artists that were talented, had beautiful content, and that once put into a groovy context, would make something new and refreshing. I was looking for music on obscure sites then tried to make music with it. Whatever samples I would keep, I would take the time to contact the artist, explain the concept and ask for their permission. Honestly, this is the least you can do and you should absolutely do it. Imagine if someone were to sample your work; I think you’d want to know. Plus, who knows, it can be the beginning of future collaborations.

How can I make use of samples from someone else’s work?

Contact the original artist, ask them if there are conditions associated with using their work, and then promote them too when you release something.

Is using samples a bad thing?

Many people feel ashamed to use samples. They think if they’re going to have an 808 kick, they need to buy a drum machine to make it. There is also a shame one feels when using presets which don’t feel original. Indeed, they aren’t, but you’re missing the point if that’s the only thing you consider.

When I make music and hit the studio, I want to be productive. I use samples to make a structure, a groove, to complement my idea, so that things come together faster. I’m not using samples as my final form. If I need a breakbeat, I don’t want to lose time trying to program the best beat possible. I’ll take a pre-made loop so I have a target of what I imagine it to be in my mind. As I work on the track, I’ll chop the loop, rearrange it, and swap the sounds out with something I’ll design myself.

Your main enemy in music making is your own mind getting distracted with things it thinks are important.

When you make a new song, you need to have a core idea. However, you can take inspiration from many things including samples. Gather them all in your project, analyze them, sample, process, and create. Don’t leave things so unchanged that could easily recognize a sample as being unoriginal. See your project as if you were a painter gathering images from magazines to use as guidelines.

Honestly, samples are the best way to get out of your routine. I’ve never understood people who were super stubborn about making everything themselves, just to end up sounding like every other song out there anyways. if you venture in genres that aren’t yours, you’ll get new ideas for sure.

Tip: I find that using layering multiple samples is a great way to make new sounds. For example, you can make your tiny clap sound fat if you combine it with a tom.

Your best companions in processing samples are just a few plugins away. With all the technology available, it’s silly not to use them:

Fabfilter Pro-Q3: Amazing GUI and pristine sound. This is a must to fix your samples into another, original way.

Mangledverb : This is a reverb for intense sound design. It can really bring alive some parts of your samples.

Discord 4 by Audio Damage: For subtle to extreme changes.

Shaperbox: The ultimate tool to recycle any sound into altered material.

Crystalizer: Great for granular synthesis and shaping sound.

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