Saturday, June 5, 2010

To Sample or NOT to Sample

Sampling has its roots deep within the old HIP HOP days, and the very early days of house music. It even goes back to some of the funk days, and even further. Now-a-days, for sample collectors, you can easily fill up multiple hard drives full of samples from free websites, or premium sample packs. The only thing that seems to shine a bad a light on sampling are all the music purists who say "You must make all your own sounds". I want to discuss this idea, and my opinion on it.

First off, I would like to say, I LOVE SAMPLING. It is probably one of my favorite parts of music, and I love trying to have a big collection of samples. Many people will say "Well, if you didnt make the sound, then its not really your music". I totally disagree. Lets talk about why.

Lets also make a distinction between ONE SHOT sounds and LOOPS. Loops...I usually tend to dislike do to the fact that someone already sequenced them. The part of "art" in music which I love the most is the composition element. Making a song from start to finish. So, when I talk about samples, for now, I am not going to talk about loops. I want to talk about actual audio files, one shots, or unique sounds that are not sequenced.

Many experienced producers prefer to make all of their sounds themselves...which is very respectable, and a great way to go about making music. But, sometimes, samples can be extremely well made, and unique in a way that you are unable to reproduce within your means. Lets talk about a few examples -

Real instruments. Now it is totally legit to say "Well, you could go into a studio a record a certain instrument, then use it...therefor making it your own". This is not always totally feasible for many producers for a few reasons. 1st being the cost of studio time to get into the studio. 2nd would be knowing a musician who plays that instrument (good luck finding a professional KOTO player in AMERICA, or a bad ass ukulele player in China). 3rd is the certain tools that the sampling artist had at their disposal while making the sample (programs, synthesizers, re sampling gear, high end audio equipment, good mics, etc). 4th is the extreme knowledge that some sampling artists have about making samples in the first place...which can make their samples extremely high quality and original. 5th is the location at the disposal of the sampling artist in which to make those samples. 6th is the time that the sampling artist may have taken to make the sound due to the fact that their artistic love comes from "MAKING SAMPLES" rather than a producer who usually loves the composition aspect of music.

Taking into account all these factors, from a composers standpoint, it might be good then to use sample one shots of these instruments. This is especially nice when someone has multi-sampled an instrument and you can then plug it in like a real instrument. I tend to like these MORE than synthesizers a lot of the time due to the more "real life" sound. Also, with programs like simpler...its easy just to take one sample, and as long as you arent transposing it too far, playing that one sample like an instrument on your midi keyboard. This is especially good for classic instruments like pianos, rhodes chords, violins, etc.

Now lets talk about synth samples, which a lot of producers will say is cheating because you can design your OWN synth sounds. Ok, yea, I get it....get off your high horse producers. Yes, you can learn how to make your own sounds with you SHOULD know how to do it if you plan to be any what of a good producer...because sometimes you will need to CREATE the missing element of your track that a sample just wont provide. But, that being said....some sampling artists have spent HUNDREDS of hours just making nice one shot samples using multiple synth chains that a million years, could never re-create without those exact tools at your disposal. This is especially true for old analog gear that has a special sound, especially when put with other synths, re-sampled, etc etc. There is no reason why not to use those samples if they sound good in a track. Again, with programs like SIMPLER & can make the sound fit the song perfectly, or alter it completely from its original form if you like.

***I like to think of it like this, when some producers think that sampling is cheating., a guitar is an instrument right. It makes certain sounds ONLY. You cant make an acoustic guitar play a piano sound, or vice versa...the science is totally different. So, you will only ever get an acoustic guitar sound OUT OF an acoustic guitar. THAT IS THE INSTRUMENT. Well, each individual SYNTH SOUND ever created is like its own instrument in a way. (I know you can say that the SYNTHESIZER is the instrument, but, from the point of what sound is being made, you can think of EACH sound as its own instrument if that sound was being made by an instrument that ONLY played that sound). So, you have this really awesome UNIQUE synth sample....a one shot. It, in my mind, is NOW like its OWN INSTRUMENT...especially when put into simpler. Now, have you ever heard someone complain "Well...Bob Dylan already played a no one else should be able to play a guitar sound...or else that is copying and unoriginal". NO! Because it is an INSTRUMENT. It makes tons of different sounds depending on how you play it...and people LIKE the sound of many people play it. Well a synth sample is the same way. It can be a nice sound, so, there is nothing wrong with playing it again, and again, and different ways...especially if it is a really good sound.***

Now, this does not mean that you should just be tossing in tons of samples, un-altered, and making tracks 100% solely out of unoriginal samples (you could, any many people do...but that isnt a very good idea in my opinion). But, using super sweet samples made in ways that you could never create can make your tracks stand out and sound amazing.

Some dance producers might say "Well if you cant make it, then learn how to make it". Yea, easier said than done my friend. Like I said before, some of these samples come from sampling professionals...who dedicate their whole career to making high quality samples. Just like a guitar maker might spend his whole life making HIGH QUALITY guitars. That doesnt mean that a guitarist needs to go out and make his own guitar....he likes PLAYING the guitar....making it...may just not be his forte. Well, samples are the same way. No matter how good you are, some samples are just impossible to recreate. Sometimes, they are almost like magical gifts from a sense...because there are so many thousands of parameter possibilities, gear possibilities, recording situation possibilities, that go into making some samples. We all need to be a little more humble, and realize that no matter HOW good we are at something, these is always someone who is a little bit better because they specialize in a small detail of music more than you do.

I love to make large drum racks in ableton full of different samples too, because sometimes...using samples can trigger neural connections in your brain...which then will trigger or spawn new ideas when you are playing. Even if you dont USE a particular sample in a track...just hearing it over top of your track (being tapped in from a drum rack) can give you an idea. And thats the name of the game....ideas.

When music first started, and even more business, each person had a different role in the recording process. An artist was an artist, a mixing engineer was a mixing engineer, a producer was a producer, a composer was a composer....that was pretty much how it worked. Now-a-days, and especially with DANCE MUSIC...people are taking ALL OF THOSE ROLES, to the extreme, and doing it all! This is not an easy thing to do! Especially hard for those musicians with no music education, and for those who take up music as a hobby more so than a profession. Even if you are totally educated...there is another problem...time management. You need to be having 8 hour a day sessions everyday if you plan to do EVERYTHING yourself...from sampling, recording, composing, mixing, mastering, promotion, & on top of that DJing. Its a full time job...and unless you are rich or signed to a good record gotta put food on the table too. So, when a purist asshole starts telling you "You sampled that...cheater"...tell them to fuck off and stop judging art. Its all art....some people have made their livings off of being a COLLAGE artist...but its still ART. Another point about the part of being that you simply may not be able to afford that sweet synth that you really want....the one that makes those great sounds you want to use. A lot of passionate artists, ones who truly love music and do it all the time, come from a poor background. Its the struggles of life, and the dissatisfaction of a 9-5 job that brings you closer to music. These people are going to make music with whatever they can get their hands on....just like Jimmy Hendrix played a guitar he found in the garbage.

Remember, its ALL matter how you make it. Sampling can be an amazing way to get great sounds into your track....and...with the use of ableton live and in particular "simpler" & "sampler", you can turn high quality samples into your own sounds in no time.

Ok...bring on the "anti-sampling hate talk"! Haha!



1 comment:

Fabio "Faber" Sanna said...

Some of the best tracks was made by sample from other tracks that was not so great...

Post a Comment