Sampling tips from the pros

Choose samples that haven't been used loads of times before, says Jon Carter.
Choose samples that haven't been used loads of times before, says Jon Carter.

Anyone can use a sample - the trick is to use it creatively and in a way that benefits your music. And if you want to learn how to do this, you need to take some advice from the professionals…


1. ReCycle! everything. Until you've ReCycled every element of your masterpiece, roughed it up and ReCycled it again, it's a given that something will be out of time and eating up precious headroom.

2. Ableton's Sampler is a gold mine for stutters and glitches. Its envelopes and LFOs are freely assignable to modulation destinations, so take a tiny loop and send an envelope to the Loop Start for wild effects.

3. Kontakt's DBD envelope is supposed to be for percussive sounds, but it does a great job of adding a layer of sickness to stabs. Assign it to pitch and automate the parameters for tortured breakdown madness.

4. Always use an amplitude envelope on your kick drums. This enables you to carve away at the initial sound, remove any excess 'whoomp' and bed it perfectly under your tune.

5. Back with Ableton, try sending an envelope to the sample length for a classic CDJ looping effect. Route that to pitch as well and you'll soon find yourself firmly in Pioneer EFX 1000 territory.

Oliver Lang

1. Don't be shy about sampling from an MP3. If it sounds OK to you, it will sound OK on the track and miles ahead of a sample taken off a beaten-up piece of vinyl.

2. Try to normalise all samples so you have less headroom work to do later.

3. Cut out individual drums and sounds from your favourite tracks. When reprogrammed in Logic, I get some really cool tonalities, as they often contain the pitch of the original track. It can sometimes even save you writing a bassline, as you create a new groove when you do this. ReCycle! is still the bomb for doing this, and you can load the samples straight into EXS24 or Stylus, play them back or whack in the MIDI part for the original groove.

4. Everyone shies away from using a cappellas, but when used as above, you can get more of an instrumental feel from one little snippet. Take an a cappella you like, chop it up, put something like Logic's Guitar Amp or Autofilter over it, and let the fun commence.


1. Look at different musical genres for quirky sounds.

2. Go through old tracks… dust off your precious vinyl!

3. Remember to normalise.

4. When using loops, use ReCycle! to put markers in absolutely every hit, so that each is treated as a separate sample.

5. Import ReCycled loops as MIDI files to see what makes the loops tick.

6. Create your own samples and use your imagination. A makeshift drum kit made out of kitchenware is a good place to start - or go al fresco and hit the streets.

7. Adverts and films supply great vocal samples and even eerie sounds.

8. When using an audio editor, make sure you get rid of the clicks and aim to get a perfect loop. This is tricky at first, but with practice, it becomes easier.

Jon Carter

1. Choose something that people haven't heard 44 million times before.

2. Don't just take the massive main hook of a cheesy 80s song and put a torpid house beat behind it… unless you want to be top of the charts for weeks.

3. Grinding a small sample into dust with filters and effects will not change the copyright status of the sample. You won't have to clear it anyway.

4. Don't get a 40-piece orchestra to replay that tiny Salsoul sample, for pretty much the same reason as mentioned previously. And it won't sound quite the same if you do, either.

5. Don't pull the SCSI lead out of the back of your Akai while it's switched on - it will die. I did once - now I have no Akai.

6. Never worry about a sample being 'clean' enough. Dirt is good.

7. Sometimes you can build the tune around the sample, then remove it - the inspiration of the sample has actually created a better song in its absence.

Computer Music

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