Sampling is one of the most creatively fruitful techniques in modern music production. This fantastic process gives you the ability to transform existing audio into something entirely new, applying your creativity through the choice of sample and the way it’s manipulated, processed and recontextualized in your own compositions.
However, if you’ve decided to start your creative journey into sampling, one question remains: what are you going to sample, and where will you find it? Of course, your first instinct might be to dive into your local record store, digging through the crates to find old-school inspiration.
If you’re an amateur producer, though, this can be problematic, as once you’ve integrated a chosen sample into your track, it’s likely you’ll have to clear any samples used before you can release your music. This can be a lengthy, costly process, and it’s not something undertaken lightly.
Faced with this obstacle, many producers choose to make use of conventional sample libraries, like Splice or Loopmasters. These can be useful, but they’re very popular, and as more and more begin to use them, the loops and samples they offer begin to appear in an increasing number of tracks, meaning that it’s becoming harder to create truly original music using these types of libraries.
With that in mind, it’s worth considering some more unexpected or unconventional places to find samples for your music that could bring a unique vibe to your productions.
Stock music libraries are an excellent place to find interesting samples that other musicians and producers may not yet have discovered. These types of libraries are often used by those working on television and film productions - rather than producers and musicians in their own right - so they’re packed with royalty-free music and sound effects that could provide brilliant jumping-off points for your next track.
Unlike music you’ll find in record shops or on Spotify, much of the music in stock music libraries like Videvo is completely royalty-free and can be used without securing any rights. This means you’re able to chop it up for use in your own music without the hassle of clearing any samples.
The same goes for their sound effects library, which contain tons of unique and unusual sounds. There’s field recordings of everywhere from the depths of the jungle to the inner-city streets, along with thousands of one-shot sound effects that could make a genius alternative to traditional drum samples, or bring a unique flavour to any beat.
YouTube is a great place to find unusual samples. Artists like The Range and Burial have made extensive use of samples discovered on YouTube in their music, sampling everything from synth demo videos to rap a capellas uploaded by amateurs. There’s a whole universe of sound on YouTube, making it perfect for seeking out strange and unfamiliar samples with which to create music that reflects your personality and tastes.
Audio can easily be downloaded from YouTube videos using YouTube to mp3 converters - the quality may leave something to be desired, but often this will contribute to the sonic aesthetic of the sample, as is the case with sampling from vinyl. When sampling from YouTube, it’s key to make sure that you message the owner of the video before using their music, and ensure you have permission.
Launched in 2005, Freesound is one of the internet’s longest-running free sample libraries. A veritable treasure trove of free audio samples, it’s packed with more than 500,000 sounds and used by more than 8 million people.
Sounds are uploaded to the website by users, and are Creative Commons licensed, meaning you’re able to use them in any production without clearing the sample or even notifying the creator. There’s samples on Freesound that cover almost anything you can think of - from music loops to sound effects to field recordings, they’ve got it all.
Tracklib describe themselves as “the record store for sampling”. They’re a music library that allows you to sample music from real artists, without going through the difficult process of clearing the samples by yourself. It’s a subscription service, so it’ll set you back $5.99 a month, and once you’ve discovered a sample you’d like to use, you will have to pay to clear the sample through Tracklib.
However, Tracklib makes the process quick and easy, and gives you the benefit of knowing for certain that you’ll be able to clear a sample before you even begin to work with it. They’ve got an impressive library of songs, filled with over 100,000 tracks from tons of genres, regions and eras, from Brazilian pop to classic soul music.