To sum it up in one sentence, Sampling takes ‘slices’ of audio out of their original context (an audio recording of a song or any sound effect), and re-arranges that audio in such a way that it can be used creatively – as if the audio was an instrument itself.
Sampling originated long before digital audio technology came to be. It was born from the tape manipulation experiments of musicians from the 1960’s, and ultimately became mainstream. In 1967, The Beatles released a song entitled “All You Need Is Love“, which contained an interpolation of the French national anthem “La Marseillaise“(written in 1792). This is one of the earliest examples of sampling, but it was not achieved through tape manipulation – a section of the song was re-played by the band within the recording of their own song.
Twenty-five years later in 1992, Hip Hop producer & Rap pioneer Dr. Dre released “Nuthin’ But a G Thang“, which sampled the 1975 Soul release “I Want’a Do Something Freaky to You” by Leon Haywood. Sampling has since became a very core element of Hip Hop & Dance music. The sampling on this recording was achieved through the use of an electronic sampler – specifically the Akai MPC2000 XL.
The content that is sampled often contains the following:
- Loops, often one or two bar melodic or rhythmic phrases which are looped throughout a recording.
- Noises and sound effects.
- Instrument samples, such as piano, organ, guitar, drums, synth stabs, etc.
- Percussive sounds.
- Vocals, either sung or spoken words & phrases.
Sampling can be executed in a number of different ways. Artists may sample other work through performance, samplers (both digital and analogue), DJ turntables, DAW editing & granular synthesis. I’ve touched on granular synthesis in an older blog post of mine to demonstrate how that works.
Of course, there are copyright concerns when it comes to sampling. On Linkin Park’s 2010 release “A Thousand Suns”, many iconic political speeches are sampled in various different tracks across the span of the 15 tracks on the album. A specific interlude entitled “Wisdom, Justice & Love“, which sampled Martin Luther King Jnr’s “I Have a Dream” speech was added to their live set list during the 2010 A Thousand Suns world tour, but after a few performances, the piece was removed from their set list due to copyright restrictions, despite the samples being cleared to appear on the album.
Inspired by the art form of sampling, I took it upon myself to put it into practice using FL Studio 11, and a noise sample I managed to create using Audacity. Importing the bitmap image as raw data, I converted a piece of digital artwork I made into audio data, and then put a whole bunch of random effects on the audio before exporting the results.
In FL Studio, I cut up the resulting ‘noise’ audio file into samples. This following YouTube video will explain the rest of the process:
Concluding on sampling now, I think it’s a very prominent technique in the industry and almost essential to master if you want to make it in the Hip Hop or Dance/EDM scenes of today. I love experimenting with sampling. I’ve actually been making an ongoing sample library of loops, synths and stabs from a lot of my old ‘demos’ that never really went any further than an original idea. This way, I feel that no idea gets left behind, resulting in no creativity being wasted. So if you have nothing to sample, just sample yourself! You won’t even have to worry about copyright then.
FindLaw (2016, June, 2) Obtaining Permission before Sampling Music [Web Article] Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/intellectual-property/obtaining-permission-before-sampling-music.html
The Pro Audio Files (2016, November, 26) 5 Creative and Legal “Sampling” Techniques for Your Productions [Web Article] Retrieved from http://theproaudiofiles.com/creative-sampling-techinques/
iMusician Digital (2017, February, 27) Sampling – History and definition (part 1) [Web Article] Retrieved from http://www.imusiciandigital.com/en/sampling-technology-effects-part-1/
WhoSampled (2016, March, 13) Music Sampling – An Introduction [Web Article] Retrieved from http://www.whosampled.com/sampling/
WhoSampled (2016, March, 13) Dr Dre. ft. Snoop Dogg’s ‘Nuthin’ But a G Thang’ sample of Leon Haywood’s ‘I Want’a Do Somethin’ Freaky to You’ [Web Article] Retrieved from http://www.whosampled.com/sample/435/Dr.-Dre-Snoop-Dogg-Nuthin%27-but-a-%27G%27-Thang-Leon-Haywood-I-Want%27a-Do-Something-Freaky-to-You/
Wikipedia (2016, November, 16) All You Need Is Love [Wiki Article] Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_You_Need_Is_Love
Wikipedia (2017, February, 14) Sampling (Music) [Wiki Article] Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sampling_(music)