Production Make Better Beats by Listening Carefully When Sampling


Beat Scientist
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Talk to any Hip Hop producer that uses samples and they will tell you that they're always on the lookout for "that" loop. The one that will make their beat blow up and be one of the best beats anyone has ever heard. It's been done many times before, from the Sugar Hill Gang all the way to current producers like Kanye West.

However, what most producers and beatmakers fail to realize is that it's not all about the loops. Allow me to explain...

It's All About the Little Sounds

The other day I was piecing together a beat and I found a piano part that I wanted to sample. So I listened. There wasn't much to sample in the form of loops, but what I heard was still really good. There were piano hits all over that I thought would sound great together, and in the end they did.

In the past I would hear certain beats from well known producers and think to myself, "wow, that music sounds amazing", only to find out years later that they didn't play or piece together any of that. They just sampled a loop.

So with that in mind, when I first started messing with samples ages ago, I was never a big fan of grabbing a loop and slapping a drum track on top (which could also be a sample). Instead, I always preferred to sample something and tear it apart then piece it back together.

Or I would listen for the little sounds that most probably don't notice.

Let's imagine a piano loop that sounds really good, but instead of taking the whole thing as is, listen to the individual piano hits. For me, I would chop up the whole loop and use just certain hits that sound good. By doing this, I can go anywhere with my beat.

Your Beat Can Be Whatever You Want

Making beats allows you to be in complete control, where you are the one that decides how you want the beat to be. If you have individual piano hits as opposed to a complete loop, you can do so much with it.

For example, you don't have to use those piano hits and call it a day, instead they could be an extra instrument that you use in your beat, and some other sample ends up being the foundation of your beat.

I once worked on a beat with someone and he was good at playing the piano so he came up with a melody for the beat we were doing, but I ended up not even using his composition. I didn't like what he had done but I liked the sound of the piano so I chopped it up and only used one or two hits. Those hits ended up being an extra part of my beat and it was a Rhodes keyboard loop I did that was the guts of the beat.

It's Not All About the Loops

What some beatmakers and producers will have you believe is that you must go digging for vinyl (and only sample from vinyl), find a dope loop and do your thing. That's a great way to make beats but in today's world there's so many more options.

I love vinyl but there's nothing wrong with sampling something from YouTube. I mean really, who cares? If it sounds good, go for it.

But when it comes to loops, it can't possibly be the end all of beatmaking. The reason why I say this is because first of all, sampling loops is hard. Yes, hard. Sure, there are some loops that are easy to grab but the key is to first FIND those loops. Just picture yourself going to a record store (try to find one first!) and dig through all that vinyl and hopefully, just hopefully you find an amazing loop. That's hard work.

Second, a lot of the great loops out there have already been found and/or been used. So where's the fun in that?

This Is How You Should Use a Sample for Your Beat

As I mentioned earlier, I was working on a beat and found a nice piano part. As I chopped up my sample, I noticed a few parts where it was just two piano notes but the way it sounded when I kept hitting the pad on my Maschine, I immediately knew I was onto something.

Now if you have a sample you want to use and you chop it up, don't always chop it at the loud notes or at the beginning of every single note. Look at your screen and you will see small and quiet notes between the loud ones. These are the notes that you want to use because you can literally find some amazing stuff there.

It's like when you listen to a song that you want to sample and you only check the beginning of a song. I do that a lot but I also check the very end and even in the middle. If you're sampling from vinyl, just look for the darker lines on the record because those are most likely the ones where it's just music without the drums.

Even back in 1997 when I was making beats with an Akai S20 and floppy disks, I would try to find the subtle notes. And whenever I did, I always found something that I could use.

Trust me.

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