The code of the beat.

A Change in Sampling Philosophy


Why It’s Sometimes Necessary to Expand What You Consider to Be Useful Sample Source Material


Recently I’ve gone through a change in my sampling philosophy. I was always hard headed about sampling other beat makers drums or other elements. Even if it was just grabbing a kick or a snare and making my own pattern, I was head strong about finding my own sounds. I would never use break-beat records either (still don’t, more on that later). I felt like to get your own sound, you had to make your own sounds. I even felt squeamish about using an 808 that someone handed off to me.

But over time you start to realize that this is a form of paranoia. Many beats NEED an 808, and unless you want to go back and buy your own TR-808, you’d better be ready to sample one from wherever you can. 808s are often an essential building block of a lot of hip hop beats. That was something I learned pretty quickly, and became the first crack in my wall of hard headedness.

Over the years I’ve grabbed a kick or snare here or there, but besides my mighty 808, I stayed true to my purity of grabbing my own sounds. While this is a great foundation for a career in beatmaking, eventually you have to evolve a bit. I’ve also moved away from playing out drum patterns as the basis for my beat creation over the last 3 years. This has opened my mind to a lot of possibilities of how I can construct beats and has contributed to what I’m about to say.

Nowadays, hip hop records are open season just like any other piece of vinyl in my collection. In fact, the way I make beats today is more about sampling drum patterns from records, chopping them up and playing them in new ways. Sometimes I’ll add another drum pattern on top of that that fits, or just a roll (fill) or a piece of another looped sample phrase. From there I have my foundation (which used to start with me literally pounding out a kick and snare by hand almost every time). It took me years to get to this point where I could make this change, but now that I have I’m throwing old rap records into the mix of my ideal sample source material as well.

Rap music has been around for 30 plus years now. It deserves the same respect that we as beatmakers give rock and soul records. There’s just too much that can be gained from these records. Some brilliant original hi-hat patterns; cleaned up breaks that aren’t available; context sampling advantages. What I mean by “context sampling” is just like how you think of James Brown when you hear a JB Sample, having someone think about a legend in rap isn’t a bad thing either, if they can figure out what you are working with.

While I have been a fan of making whole beats off the same rock or soul record as well lately, there’s nothing iller to me than taking a chop of a rap record from 1988, mixing with a roll from a random album from 1978 and then adding synth sounds from some progressive rock from 1971. That collage of sounds is what this is all about right?

I still have an issue, personally, with break-beat records though. Mostly because they are usually copies of copies of breaks that were sampled from originals, so the sound quality is lacking. More importantly, I’m highly uncomfortable with ANYONE choosing what I sample and those collections are basically serving as a curator of my sound. I’ve walked out of record stores that have records labeled by break for you or that note who sampled it previously. That shit is whack to me.

Bottom line: Sometimes it’s necessary to adjust your sampling philosophy and reconsider your ideas about what makes for useful sample source material. Furthermore, if you really want to show the beatmaking pioneers some respect, show that respect for them by including them into what fuels you today just like you would any other record in any other genre. New year, new approach.

[Editor’s note: Although break-beat records often do contain copies of originals, some also contain re-issues. In both cases, the sound quality may vary, but typically not by that much. Therefore, break-beat records sometimes do have usable sounds with decent sound quality. In fact, I’d personally go with a sampled break-beat drum sound over a software synth drum sound, any day.]

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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual