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Sampling Non-Percussion in Mono or Stereo, What Should You Consider?

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It Usually Comes Down to the Source of the Sound

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

When deciding whether or not to sample any sound — in this case, a non-percussion sound — in mono or stereo, the decision should really come down to the “source” of the non-percussion sound that you want to sample. To keep it simple and straightforward, (and not getting too technical), consider these three factors:

(1) Has the Non-Percussion Sound Been Recorded Prior to the 1980s?
By and large, music recorded between the 1950s and mid-1970s used mix schemes that included hard pan assignments. (Note: some people still use hard pan assignments today; it depends on the mix engineer and their style). This means that most sounds were either panned hard left or hard right. That being said, sampling a non-percussion sound—from this era—in mono will not hurt. Conversely, sampling a non-percussion sound—from this era—will not improve the “quality” of the sound. Furthermore, I routinely sample certain non-percussion sounds in mono, then after I’ve recorded the whole beat in Pro Tools, I duplicate the track. Here, my aim is not to emulate a “true” stereo sound, but instead, to manipulate the texture and “character” of the sample, by enhancing, highlighting, and/or undercutting certain elements within the sample.

(2) Is the Non-Percussion Sound First Generational or Second Generational?
Sounds played by someone on a keyboard (synth)—directly from its L/R outputs are “first generational;” whereas a typical sample from a record played by someone through an MPC, etc. is “second generational”—a pre-recorded sound as opposed to a live recorded sound. For example, most of the time I play something from my Fantom (keyboard), I’ll sample it through my MPC 4000 in stereo. This allows me to capture to true stereo signal that’s being sent. HOWEVER, if I want the sound coming out of my Fantom to have an “old” sample feel to it, I’ll sample it in mono through my Akai S950.

(3) What Kind of Sound (Sonic Texture/Impression) Do You Want to End Up With?
Perhaps most important of all is the aim of the final sound. With the given beat that you’re working on, are you going for a brighter, fuller sound? Or are you going for a warmer, (fatter), perhaps older sound? In either case, this is why I’m a big fan of having a DJ mixer—preferably, one with L/R 6-channel band EQ.

Final comments. Although I do concede that in some cases the decision to sample a non-percussion sound in mono or stereo is a personal taste one, I also believe that the decision is more often predicated upon the “source” of the non-percussion sound that you want to sample.


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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 the albums 'Soul Review' and 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual