How to Find the Right Songs To Sample

Sampling is one of the greatest innovations in modern music. While many could argue that it is stealing someone else's creativity, I disagree. Sampling opens up a whole new horizon of creativity, you are taking a persons work and re-imagining it. Sometime the sample could still be recognisable, sometimes it has changed so much that nobody would know it's the same sound, it's all part of the creativity. The question is, how do you find the right samples?
On a previous post, I named some of the sources where I get samples, all of which are free and legal to use and download. But these are sample packs. While useful, they may not be what you are looking for.

Let's take a look at this video below and hopefully it will ring a bell:


Yes, hopefully you will recognise it from The Next Episode by Dr Dre. Whole genres have arisen from sampling old funk songs, genres most famously G-Funk and other rap genres. However house music often takes many samples, especially the more classic genres. 

So what's the trick to finding good songs to sample? There are no rules but a few things you should look for. 

  • A good drum beat: This is essential for the groove of the song. Look out for a song with a drum break where other instruments are sparse so you can extract the drums. Often the bassline will come with it but you can use that to your advantage.
  • Often all you want are vocal or instrument shots, look out for a strong voice or instrument. You can actually extract the vocals of a track by mixing in an instrumental version of the track with an inverted phase (it's technically polarity but people seem to prefer the word phase which is technically incorrect). This cancels out all the instruments leaving only what wasn't present in the instrumental.
  • Look for songs your favourite artists sample, then try them or similar songs.
  • Sometimes you want to take a whole hook or chorus and just use it in your song (Eminem has this a lot in his music). Look for a song with a similar key and BPM to your song that you are working on. 
Sometimes you don't even have to sample a song, Simon Posford of Shpongle went around India with a hand-held recorder recording everything from people singing and playing in the streets to toys and worship all for the sake of including them in his songs.

In the end, you can make a song out of anything, limit yourself to a few sounds and make a whole song out of it. Making drums is easy with most samples but actual melodic instruments can be a lot harder. 

Also credit the makers of the sample and check copyright laws if you plan on making any money.