Incorporating Electronic Samples

Native Instruments: Battery 4

“What is an electronic sample?”

In music, sampling is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a sound recording in a different song or piece.  In short, it can be any sound, pitched or non-pitched, taken from an existing recording and used in a new recording or live performance.

For example, the most common use of sampling occurs in electronic or hip-hop music where an artist may use a specific bass drum sound from one record in their own song, therefore negating the need to rerecord their own bass drum. Sampling can also be as simple as Vanilla Ice using the bass line from “Under Pressure,” in his version of “Ice Ice, Baby.” Sampling can be as complex as the Beatles using a rearranged Sousa March in the brass band portion of their recording of “Yellow Submarine.”


Sampling in Show Choir or Marching Band

Now, let’s get to the use of samples in live performance. Since we aren’t creating recorded music in the marching band or show choir world, all samples must be performed by a live person. How do we accomplish this and why would I want to use a sample?

Why would I want to use a sample? 
  1. You need a sound effect at some point in the song. Maybe it’s an intro to the song with birds tweeting and the wind blowing. Perhaps a loud impact at the end of the song to emphasize the last pose or hit. Sound effects are a great way to enhance the acoustic performance and add sonic dimension to your piece.
  2. Maybe you are performing a certain style of music that calls for a specific sound. Ex. a techno dance style piece with electronic bass drum and snare combined with a clap sound. It is very difficult to mimic this sound with acoustic instruments, so you incorporate an electronic sample to help sound more authentic.
Where do I get a sample?
  1. Depending upon what type of sound effect you need there are many free resources online such as FreeSound, ZapSplat, or AudioBlocks.
  2. If you want some truly realistic Hollywood style sound effects, I recommend Sony Pictures Sound Effects Series
  3. Have someone build them for you OR make them yourself!!

Disclaimer: Make sure that any sample you are using is royalty free or in the public domain. You cannot use a sample from an existing recording without permission from the sound recording copyright holder! 

How do I perform my samples live?

There are many ways to perform electronic samples these days depending on your resources and tech “savvy-ness.” After you have the sound effect or sample that you want to play, make sure it is in the proper audio format. Not all players will accept all formats.

  • For beginners I recommend using an iPad or iPhone loaded with Soundboard Studio or LaunchPad  One is more complex than the other, so gauge your level of comfort after playing around. They can accept multiple file formats, such as .mp3, .wav, .or .aiff. Load the samples into the program via DropBox or your iOS music library, trigger the pad and boom, sound effects!!
  • For more tech savvy users, I recommend incorporating a hardware sampler, such as the Roland SPD-SX or the OctaPad, both have built-in, high quality, sound samples as well as the capability to load external sounds via USB flash drive. I stopped buying triangles, shakers, tambourines, congas, etc. because the sounds are that good!! These samplers also have the capability to add external triggers that can be added to your existing drums.
  • For computer users who don’t need a hardware sampler, the best bang for your buck (in my opinion), is Battery 4, made by Native Instruments. Combine this software with a small midi controller like the MAudio Keystation Mini and you’ve got a very powerful sound effects library with complete editing and effects capability. You can access as many samples as you want!!

Still confused? Want someone to help design your samples? Need more information? 

Contact me and I’ll be glad to clear things up!