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How to create your own sample packs

sample pack
(Image credit: Loopcloud)

There are some corners of the music production realm where the phrase ‘sample pack’ has picked up negative connotations. 

For some, it conjures images of a producer downloading the latest genre-specific, ready-to-go construction kits and buying their way to a production career by simply piecing together someone else’s work.

There’s a lot wrong with this image though. Obviously, sampling as a form of music making has a long and creative history, reaching back to the work of the early dance music pioneers, and relying on a specific sample pack is no more or less legitimate an approach than pulling samples from some dusty old vinyl record purchased from a charity shop. 

A good commercial sample pack should do a lot more than simply supply pre-made track elements – it should offer inspiring source material that can be edited, sampled or recontextualised to inspire new ideas.

There are, of course, an endless number of sample packs out there that you can lay your hands on, both as paid downloads or for free - this very website has about 80,000 free music samples for you to download, in fact. So why would you need to create your own?

For one thing, building your own library of bespoke loops and samples can be a great way to develop your own distinct sound as a producer. Sure, you can be highly creative with other people’s sounds, but there’s nothing more distinctive than drawing on sound sources that nobody else has access to. 

Creating bespoke packs of samples can be a creatively inspiring process

What’s more, creating bespoke packs of samples can be creatively inspiring. Generating loops and one shots is a fundamentally different process to writing parts of a track. 

Whereas your usual creative workflow might involve trying to create elements to perform specific functions within a work in progress, creating samples involves making interesting, unique or just high-quality sounds merely for the sake of it. 

Doing so can result in ideas you might never have come up with in the flow of a session. For these purposes, it can be great to focus your energies on a specific idea or theme – how many sounds can I create from a single synth? How can I create percussive sounds without using a drum machine? What unique sounds can I record in my kitchen, garden or on the daily commute?

Of course, you don’t have to keep your sounds to yourself either. Creating sample packs for others to use can be a secondary revenue stream alongside your music making, or alternatively, distributing your sounds for free (or in exchange for an email sign up), can be a great way to engage with your fanbase.

Over the next pages we’ll share advice to help you create better recorded, curated and processed packs. Plug in and get creative!

Future Music is the number one magazine for today's producers. Packed with technique and technology we'll help you make great new music. All-access artist interviews, in-depth gear reviews, essential production tutorials and much more. Every marvellous monthly edition features reliable reviews of the latest and greatest hardware and software technology and techniques, unparalleled advice, in-depth interviews, sensational free samples and so much more to improve the experience and outcome of your music-making.