The Discussion About Sampling and the Opinions of it

I have noticed that most posts about sampling - here and on the internet in general - are about where to get free samples. That is a shame as there is so much to discuss about it. In fact, it would appear that sampling is a bit of a taboo topic as the responses are usually the same. The same old “Amen Break” this, “808 bombastic bass kick” that, “909 house hihats FTW” the other thing, and “You’re just ripping off famous producers you non-creative slob” troll bait quip.

I am mainly bringing this topic up here because of the recent mentions in favor of hybrid synthesis. Digital oscillators with analogue filters in particular. A big aspect of most hybrid synthesizers was the ability to sample. I own a fair number of hybrid sampling synthesizers, so I already know that I am in favor of sampling. I am genuinely curious as to why people have pigeon-holed sampling in social discourse.
Here is where I will point out that even synthesizers that are held in high regard use samples. The Ensoniq ESQ-1 and SQ-80 series use sampled waveforms. The K1 and TG33 also had PCM samples that could not be user defined along with their in-depth vector synthesis engines - additive and FM respectively. And even though the samples had to be in a very specific format - the PPG Wave and Prophet VS among several other great wavetable synthesizers could be considered samplers. Yes, I do consider wavetables a string of single-cycle samples sewn together - with great audible results. It would seem that a premium is assigned to hardware over the source of the hardware’s sound. This isn’t even bringing up the new breed of software samplers.

In short, this discussion should be about what you personally find to be the pros and cons of any synthesizer that uses samples and your experience using them. Or really, any opinions on sampling. I am genuinely curious.

It’s nice to see that there is support for samplers - both software and hardware - in such a hardware based community. I tend to use hardware samplers still as they seem to have more basic features that are not in even the most advanced software samplers. Take for example waveform sync from the Korg DSS-1 and Ensoniq ESQ-1/SQ-80. Why that isn’t in more samplers is a bit beyond me as it sounds great and very unique.
I never got the point of loop kits myself. Any time I’ve ever used one, I chop it up and rearrange it. I prefer one-shot samples for percussion, but that seems to go against the grain. While I’m still talking about this, I will mention my other pet-peeve with modern sample packs. They always tend to have hundreds of samples, and I have never used them all. Ever. I don’t understand this fascination with selling people 500+ samples when they will only used around 25 of them regularly. Or my favorite - the same sample 10 times over with different EQ/compression settings. I never got that. Basically what I am saying is that in most sample packs there seems to be only 20% efficiency with the actual use of the samples while the rest just sit around taking up GB of space.

Now I will respond to individuals here.

@fcd72: True. However, you could stack 2 voices of a PPG together giving you a similar 4 oscillator effect. This does half the polyphony though.
I am also a bit bored of the standard waveforms. I like them, but there are so many other great timbres.

@V`cent: Those are definitely fun ROMplers. They’re called that because the samples can not be user defined. Also, what is an “in the studio with video”? It sounds like I should avoid making one, haha.

@Percivale: I couldn’t agree more.

@bendy_john: The search for unique samples is definitely a bit like being an explorer at this point. As general music has homogenized, we have to go further back in our record collections to find that one dusty gem. :slight_smile:

@niklasni1: There are things called sampling synthesizers, and they are perfect for mixing synthesis with sampling. They are guaranteed years of fun! I would suggest a 90’s Akai or anything that doesn’t require a floppy disc to boot up as a first sampling synthesizer.

@RyanA4: Don’t forget about all of the BBC tape symphonies or Musique concrète.

@BennelongBicyclist: I believe that they did the right thing, personally.

@rumpelfilter: Yes the DSS-1 is a great synthesizer. The unison is very warm on it. Not to mention the modulated twin delays. It is one of my favorites, I wish Korg would get smart and release a poly hybrid sampler for all of their new monosynths. I would love to have an audiorange LFO on the DSS-1 among other things like easier sample transfer, haha.

@toneburst: Kontakt is pretty cool, but they seem very restrictive in how you can share/sell your sample instruments. That is the one reason why I never bothered getting into it. If they let people make full sample instruments that would work with the Player version and all others with a minimal license - I would be right on board.

@Pish: Everything is a Remix was a very enjoyable series to watch.

@Admviolin: There are definitely people who are using sampled instruments that have no idea that they are. Very common with modern VSTs. Speaking of industrial samples, I will end this massive post with “People are People”.”:

In my opinion is the VS is not a Wavetable Synthesizer. While you might think you could achieve the same result as mixing 4 Waveform with interpolating between 2 Waves in a Wavetable you didnt pay attention to the most important trick and the heart of the VS Sound (besides the aliasing from the Phase Accumulator and lots of other digital Dirt…): all 4 Oscillators of the VS can run detuned, whereas the 2 Waveforms in a Wavetable are always the same Pitch. This results in lots of motion, beating and phasing, a thing you cant achieve with other Synths.

Otherwise i own a ESQ-1, Wavestation, MicroWave(s) … hell all of my favorite Synths use “prefabricated” Waveforms, even on MI gear i most often use the Wavetables.
Simply because the “classic” Waveforms Saw, Triangle, Pulse are boring after a while. Theres so much more than that and its called Synthesizer not “Machine that plays only Waveforms that are easy to produce with cheap full analog circuits”. And these more interesting Waveforms were better read from a table in Memory (as known as Sample) than calculated realtime and we are just at the dawn that computing power has grown enough that these can be synthesized in a quality that equals simple samples. Best example here is MI Braids.

I think samples are a decent tool, although 99% of all my samples are on the computer, used by my DAW.
In fact, I only own the E-MU Proteus/1 as a sampling synth (ROMpling?), and while it sounds quite dated(older than me), I like it - It was cheap, sounds delightfully shitty, and overall a good bit of fun.

I understand the argument for ripping off stuff by using samples, but then again, everything is a remix, as long as you don’t get sued, you will probably be fine.
Just don’t be one of the wankers that slaps a bunch of samples together and then does a 38 minute “in the studio with” video detailing it…

I’ve been having loads of fun with the Octatrack I saved up for & finally got about a year ago. I really love deep hypnotic music & am drawn to techno but I do love a good melodic moment or pitch change. I often find I love a particular bar or chord change, vocal hook or moment in a pop song I har in the radio (- maybe the germ of the singer’s original idea before she got processed by the industry - or maybe just some artefact of the process that catches my ear…) - so I’ve been ripping such moments off youtube and making whole songs with them… currently doing something with “no air” by jordan sparks that I heard on one night shift & a particular moment caught my ear - tracked it down and perverted it, now it is breakbeat techno ha ha
So yeah - sampling is cool. Take anything and make it into music. At certain moments in my youth me & my friends couldn’t decide if there were voices in the techno or not… natural reaction as ageing saddo - make techno with subtle voices in to exorcise your demons :slight_smile:
That said I do think something like Shruthi, Anushri, LXR or MD or (goodness knows, a 909 etc) is good companion to a sampler as I like synthesising percussion and basslines … it’s good to create too.
Anyone seen Upstream Colour by Shane Carruth?.. I looked forward to that . Shame what happened to the Sampler, eh? I liked him… plus I thought he saved her…
I think Carruth needs to team up with someone who specialises in logical and clever AND comprehensible plots… Although I enjoyed it immensely I only understood that film after Wikipedia’ing it & reading his comments about the plot - anyone else agree? Hallucinatory in a good way but plot needs more exposition? [ ahem or you could post on the original subject I suppose :slight_smile: ]

IMHO. Samples are fine. The sonic product is what that matters. If it suits your taste, why not?

Upstream Color went straight to the top of my list of favourite films. I liked not understanding what the fuck was going on. Really wish the Korg he was carrying actually did the sample manipulation shown in the film!

As for samplers, I love them. Maybe even more than I love synths. I find manipulating existing sounds conceptually more interesting, and also more rewarding as a workflow, espcially in a computer… I used to work just with a waveform editor (I am not Burial, alas) and then moved on to pre-MIDI Ableton Live, which was basically a big sampler and audio arranger.

I use sampled drum sounds and snippets of other people’s music, but I can’t see myself using e.g. a library of loops. It’s like synth presets. I enjoy creating sounds. Why let other people do it?


I’m one of the lucky few that just “got” upstream color to the point those fucking pigs had me on the verge of weeping like a 6 year old girl. Everyone else I know either hated it or loved it but didn’t understand it- except one buddy who called me a few weeks after I told him he had to see it to tell me I was an asshole for putting him through that).

Primer, on the other hand, I had to take a college course with diagrams and illustrations to figure out.

Sampling has been deeply ingrained in modern music the past 25 years or so, and I happen to have always loved the genres of music where it is heavily featured and REALLY love when it finds its way into unusual places.

Being a absolute virtuoso with a guitar or even a synth doesn’t automatically make you “original” or artistic- it makes you “skilled” . Same with sampling- it is possible to to be original or artistic using nothing but recordings of other people’s music- but many musicians who play instruments don’t see it that way. They see computer nerds pretending to be musicians, and always have- Trent Reznor was essentially bullied during his rise to fame by big rock and metal acts for not being a “real musician”. Well most of those guys sold a few records and disappeared to their garages to keep playing the same instrument that tens of thousands of people are capable of playing with similar skill.

Sampling? I blame Furse, Ryrie and Vogel, who should have been drinking more beer while growing stuff and/or digging stuff up for a living, as denizens of Oz were and still are supposed to do.

I am proud owner of a Korg DSS-1, which was also my first proper synth, and that probably says it all. I love sampling and I love synthesis, it’s two different approaches, which can integrate wonderfully with each other.
Just because there is a lot of useless, pointless, tasteless, and witless sampling going on it doesn’t mean sampling itself is a bad thing. Check out Diego Stocco if you want to see what you can do with sampling (though there is lots of less famous names who probably are even cooler, but I’m really bad at remembering names)
Personally I like to sample objects and turn the sounds into percussive events (drums and percussions) and I love to use field recordings passed through the OTO Biscuit and other FX.
I like to sample and mangle with the sound in real time (samplr on the ipad is real fun for that) and I like to use mainly stuff I’ve recorded myself. I used to make tracks using bits and pieces taken from records (used to make hip hop) and I think there’s some people who created real masterpieces that way (DJ Shadow anyone?) but it stopped being interesting to me… but that’s really a personal thing I guess.
I find many sample libraries a bit pointless, at least for me they are the best way to kill creativity by giving me too many options. Also I think it’s better to have one lousy hardware synth and squeeze the shit out of it, than having all the famous vintage synths as libraries.
I’d like to buy a hardware sampler that is small, powerful does not need to store samples on floppies and gives you realtime control over the samples. Unfortunately the ipad is the closest I could get. that’s probably the only reason I haven’t sold it yet, because I find most of what you can do with it rather disappointing.

Amon Tobin is a good example of an artist who uses samples in a very creative way. His work has always been heavily sample-based, but he’s always blurred the lines between sampling synthesis and processing.

With software like Kontakt (my software sampler of choice), you have access to many traditional synthesis tools as well as many sample-mangling options, which can all be patched together in a modular way, so there’s no real dividing line between sampling and synthesis.


I don’t get what you mean. But in my heart its the same philosophy as punk.
I’m not good at drawing but I can knock together an ace collage.
In my mind stealing minor parts is fine. But if you take a phrase you should at least chop it up or embellish it to make it yours.

I almost never use samplers. I think there is alot of music out there that “cheats” by just layering loops off a sample CD. I think there is a place for sampling and sample manipulation but I like the limitations of the instruments at hand. I like all the old industrial music where every song has a sample from Full Metal Jacket or Altered States :slight_smile:

However, I am conflicted because some of the VST synths I use are proabably sample based or some hybrid, but I think mentally it just feels different.

It’s also worth noting the difference between using samplers as a means of taking sections of music previously-recorded music, and using sampling as a means to create or recreate instruments, to be played in the traditional sense. They’re very different approaches to using captured waveforms in your own music.

I’m not making any kind of value-judgement about the relative merits of either approach.


A in the studio with video is a Future Music mag series, where they interview artists on their workflow, plugins etc.

Wasn’t sure whether ROMpling was valid or not, although it is a ROMpler… Sounds funny if said out loud…
Currently watching upstream colour, quite bewildered at the moment.

Slightly less famous than Shadow’s Endtroducing but equally great : Since I left you by Aussie group The Avalances

I love sampling. I think half of the fun comes with crate-digging ! I believe that Hip-Hop (and other Sample-based genres) are great because they put some lights on often forgotten, obscure (and not so obscure) records.

One of my favorite websites : WhoSampled

+1 for Amon Tobin and totally +1 for Avalances!

I miss my SK-1 . . . . .

I still have an SK-1
it’s great to sample farts, blurps and any other type of body noise.

the funny thing is… it doesn’t sound much different from what some people make with their big modulars.