Sampling

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In music, sampling is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a different sound recording of a song.

Producers on sampling[edit]

  • "[Samples have] a certain reality. It doesn't just take the sound, it takes the whole way it was recorded. The ambient sounds, the little bits of reverb left off crashes that happened a couple of bars ago. There's a lot of things in the sample, just like when you take a picture—it's got a lot more levels than say, the kick-drum or the drum machine, I think. [...] Looking at a sampler the way it was used first—to try and simulate real instruments—you didn't have to get a session guitarist and you could just be like, 'Hey, I can have an orchestra in my track, and I can have a guitar, and it sounds real!' And I think that's the wrong way to use sampling. The right way is to get the guitar, and go, 'Right, that's a guitar. Let's make it into something that a guitar could never possibly be.' You know, take it away from the source and try to make it something else. Might as well just get a bloody guitarist if you want a guitarist. There's plenty of them." —Amon Tobin dead link, view archive here
  • "Producers like Organized Noize mix samples and live instruments really well. Lots of times, I have trouble finding bass lines, because it's not very often on a record that there are good open bass lines. Sometimes I wish I could just have somebody come in and do what I want him to do on a bass line. It would be so easy. But what I do just keeps things much more challenging, I guess." —DJ Shadow [1]
  • "Cutting and pasting is the essence of what hip-hop culture is all about for me. It's about drawing from what's around you, and subverting it and de-contextualizing it." —DJ Shadow [2]
  • "When I sample something, it's because there's something ingenious about it. And if it isn't the group as a whole, it's that song. Or, even if it isn't the song as a whole, it's a genius moment, or an accident or something that makes it just utterly unique to the other trillions of hours of records that I've plowed through" —DJ Shadow, 33⅓ Volume 24: DJ Shadow's Endtroducing..., 2005
  • "A lot of people still don't recognize the sampler as a musical instrument. I can see why. A lot of rap hits over the years used the sampler more like a Xerox machine. If you take four whole bars that are identifiable, you're just biting that shit. But I've always been into using the sampler more like a painter's palette than a Xerox. Then again, I might use it as a Xerox if I find rare beats that nobody had in their crates yet. If I find a certain sample that's just incredible—like the one on 'Liquid Swords'—I have to zap that! That was from an old Willie Mitchell song that I was pretty sure most people didn't have. But on every album I try to make sure that I only have 20 to 25 percent [of that kind of] sampling. Everything else is going to be me putting together a synthesis of sounds. You listen to a song like "Knowledge God" by Raekwon: it took at least five to seven different records chopped up to make one two-bar phrase. That's how I usually work." —RZA, The Wu-Tang Manual, 2004
  • "For hip hop, the main thing is to have a good trained ear, to hear the most obscure loop or sound or rhythm inside of a song. If you can hear the obscureness of it, and capture that and loop it at the right tempo, you're going to have some nice music man, you're going to have a nice hip hop track." —RZA[citation needed]
  • "Modern recorded music has evolved from focusing principally on musicianship and performance into an auditory collage where no sound is off limits. Sampling is simply another color on our palettes. Whether we're sampling old records, using advanced multi-sampling, or recording sounds ourselves, the final artistic product is paramount and should not be compromised in the face of any corporate legalities." —Sono[citation needed]
  • "Let's say I find a loop or something that I want to use—you attach yourself to a particular aspect or emotion that you find in it—part of it is looking for like-minded sounds and part of it is just laying things out in a way that kind of helps accomplish what you want. It's what you can hear in a particular sound." —RJD2 [3]
  • "I look at all the different parts and see how I can organize them in a way. It's like mathematics. Very mathematic. It's like graphs! You're always searching for the combination that sounds best. It's kind you set back, and feel the thing. If you want something to come in, you have to search for it, listen to it." —Blockhead [4]
  • "Sampling artistry is a very misunderstood form of music. A lot of people think sampling is thievery but it can take more time to find the right sample than to make up a riff." —Prince Be Softly of PM Dawn[citation needed]
  • "Sampling's not a lazy man's way. We learn a lot from sampling, it's like school for us. When we sample a portion of a song and repeat it over and over we can better understand the matrix of the song." —Daddy-O of Stetsasonic, cited in Black Noise by Tricia Rose, Wesleyan Press 1994, p. 79
  • "You got stuff darting in and out absolutely everywhere. It's like someone throwing rice at you. You have to grab every little piece and put it in the right place like a puzzle. Very complicated. All those little snippets and pieces that go in, along with the regular drums that you gotta drop out in order to make room for it." —Eric Sadler of Public Enemy's Bomb Squad, Black Noise by Tricia Rose, Wesleyan Press 1994, p. 80
  • "It's a context issue, because not every sample is a huge chunk of a song. We might take a tiny little insignificant sound from a record and then slow it way down and put it deep in the mix with, like, 30 other sounds on top of it. It's not even a recognizable sample at that point. Which is a lot different from taking a huge, obvious piece from some hit song that everyone knows and saying whatever you want to on top of that loop. An example that's often brought up in court when we get sued over sampling is a Biz Markie track where he more or less used a whole Gilbert O'Sullivan song. Because it was such an obvious sample, it's the example lawyers use when trying to prove that sampling is stealing. And that's really frustrating to us as artists who sample, because sampling can be a totally different thing than that." —Beastie Boys[5]
  • "It's pretty much impossible to clear samples now [in 2005]. We had to stay away from samples as much as possible. The ones that we did use were just absolutely integral to the feeling or rhythm of the song. But, back [on Odelay] it was basically me writing chord changes and melodies and stuff, and then endless records being scratched and little sounds coming off the turntable. Now it's prohibitively difficult and expensive to justify your one weird little horn blare that happens for half of a second one time in a song and makes you give away 70 percent of the song and $50,000. That's where sampling has gone, and that's why hip-hop sounds the way it does now." —Beck [6]
  • "I think it's wonderful, and it's a kind of poetic justice. When I was a teenager, I used to go down to Birdland and hear Miles Davis and Kenny Clarke. Later on, when I was at Juilliard, I heard John Coltrane. This had an enormous impression on me. In 1974, after a concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall, this guy with long hair and lipstick comes up to me and says, "Hi, I'm Brian Eno." Then in Berlin in 1976, after a performance of "Music for 18 Musicians," I met David Bowie. Now cut to the Orb and their generation. That's the way life ought to be. That's the way Bach and Bartok and Stravinsky worked, and it's how Kurt Weill worked. There should be a back-and-forth between what goes on in the street and the clubs and what goes on in the concert halls." —Steve Reich [7]
  • "Basically, you go to the root of memory, and it's all about interaction with found documents - look at how you acquire language. You mirror the environment around you. That's what sampling does - it's a process of recall that changes memory as you recall it. Think of James Joyce or William S. Burroughs as turntablists and you get the same result - the turntable is a permutation machine. Look at the root word of "phono-graph" and it's basically "writing with sound - phono (sound) - graph (writing), the rest is just pushing many elements together in unexpected ways. It's the basic vocabulary of the 20th and 21st centuries."—DJ Spooky[citation needed]