Why You Should Use Other People’s Samples

Sampling is controversial, even thirty years after it became commercially ubiquitous.  Some people fervently believe you should not use other people’s sounds because it is a failure of originality and some sort of theft of the other person’s great sound ideas.  I don’t agree.  I think that if you are a musician, it’s very easy to run out of ideas of your own, at critical junctures.  One of the best things you can do to keep your music sounding fresh and relevant is to use the occasional sample from a sample library, because that will inject something new into your composition or production that you would never have thought of.

Borrowing sound ideas from royalty free sources can add impetus and inspiration to your tracks.  Magazines are on sale these days that contain a gigabyte per month of royalty free loops and sounds.  Take advantage of those.  You can get a new beat, a new sound, a surprising sound effect or just an idea for a new song, simply by judicious re-use of somebody else’s musical output.

I do not advocate taking uncleared, copyrighted sound sources and using vast tracts of them to make your music.  If you can recognise the hook and the source, it’s probably not fair use.  I do, however, advocate using sounds out of context.  If you can get a short granule of sound from an uncleared source and there is no way that you can link your treatment of that short sound with the sound source (i.e. it’s so radically modified that it is unidentifiable), or if you can re-contextualize it in such a unique way that it sounds completely different to the sound source, then I think you are on better ground.  Either way, the law says you need to clear it anyway.  Royalty free sample sources are just easier.

So, while it is best to create your own beats and sounds, there are sometimes very good reasons to inject something new into your bag of usual tricks.  The best way to stop an album of your music sounding “samey” is to throw in a bit of spice and sonic condiment.  Add the odd sample from somewhere else.  It will take your sound and your music in new directions.

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: https://michaeltopic.wordpress.com/. There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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