Sampling is an incredibly common practice in modern music, and through excellent online platforms such as Splice, it is now easier than ever to access a huge range of excellent quality samples. However, when using samples from these kinds of libraries it can be important to consider that everyone else has access to the same sounds.
Therefore, when you are using melodic samples or drum loops, you might want to consider modifying or reimagining them in order to make your music as unique as possible. There is a huge amount of scope for doing this; consider a genre such as jungle. This is an entire style of music built around a single drum break – the Amen. This one loop was endlessly reimagined and augmented to ensure that it remained fresh, and we can draw some lessons from that history.
1. Chop & Change
Here`s a lesson straight from the jungle playbook; don`t just use your drum loops as you find them. Chop them up and rearrange them. This can range from subtle changes to wholesale rebuilding. A subtle change could be as simple as nudging kick drums around within the pattern so that they lock in better with your bass line.
To be more radical, you might chop up every single drum hit and then use the results as a tool kit from which you build your new pattern. There are plug ins such as the Accusonus Regroover that are designed specifically to allow you to do this, but if you take your time over it you can achieve a great deal with just the cut and paste tools available in any DAW. Remember that you can use this trick with melodic loops too – effectively changing the melody of the loop you are rearranging.
2. Pitch & Time
A quick and easy way to transform your samples is to change their pitch and tempo. Of course if you are just adjusting the tempo of a loop by a few BPM, you won`t be fundamentally changing its character, but more extreme changes can really alter the whole feel of a sample.
Just be careful when making extreme changes that you don`t sacrifice too much audio quality - unless of course, that is the effect that you are going for! Pitching vocals up and down is a very common trick, but consider how this process can alter the sound of other musical elements too. A pitched down snare can sound more powerful, a pitched up bass line might make a good lead.
3. Twist Things Up
You can render samples unrecognisable through processing. Some producers treat their samples as the starting point of a sonic journey; processing, re-sampling, and then processing again.
By placing your samples through distortions, delays, modulators and whatever other tools you have in your toolkit, you can create sounds that gradually bear less and less resemblance to the sample you started with. This is a fantastic way to come away with sounds that really will be unique to your production.