Wednesday 18 February 2009

Student Diary - The Art of Sampling

Whether you are someone who is morally opposed to using snippets of other people's tracks in your own music or not, the art of sampling is a crucial skill to master in order to be a complete producer and enhance your overall understanding of the history of production.

We started by learning the basics of Recycle, a sample editing package that owes its popularity to its simplicity, intuitiveness and ease of use. Usefully, Recycle is integrated with Logic's own sampler the EXS24, so they can be used in conjunction to chop up the audio samples, adjust them in tempo and convert them into midi. Then the clever bit; using Logic's piano roll to splice and edit the sample in order to remove any sounds that you may want to get rid of and create your own interpretation to be part of your new track.

Ian (my tutor) talked about how the Hip Hop and Jungle movements were almost entirely based upon a few sampled James Brown drum loops, and even a quarter of a century later they are still in prominent use. My immediate thoughts were why rehash the same old loops when there is an infinite amount of new rhythms to explore? This surely only serves to drive a genre to stagnation, which some might say has been becoming true of Hip Hop for a long time. I guess the reason could be that groundbreaking, genre-defining songs can be so powerful that people are turned off when they don't recognise certain elements of them in new music they hear. Or, that producers know what works and are unwilling to risk losing money and credibility by experimenting with fresh sounds.

Personally, I do like the idea of old songs being dug up and given a new lease of life with a contemporary slant. I think that samples can add soul and depth to tracks when used well, but if not carefully chosen and subtly integrated can give the impression that the producer is too lazy to think of his own ideas.

A couple of favourite albums of mine that I think use the art of sampling to perfection are Merka's 'Make and Do' which infuses the breaks sound he built his name on seamlessly with elements of soul, jazz, funk, deep house, techno, jungle and cinematic score. It sounds like a mish-mash but trust me, it is brilliant! And Akufen's 'My Way' which uses chopped up samples from a cross section of Montreal's FM airwaves to create a funky tech-house masterpiece.

Go check 'em out!

No comments: