Creative Sampling screen shows the fairlight hardware sampler

Most sampling enthusiasts usually sample a beat, audio piece or riff when they sample. Your sampler is so much more than that, and offers a wealth of tools that you rarely even knew existed, as they are kept so quiet, away from the ‘in your face’ tools.

This tutorial aims to open your eyes to what you can actually achieve with a sampler, and how to utilise what you sample.

This final tutorial is the real fun finale. I will be nudging you to sample everything you can and try to show you what you can then do to the sample to make it usable in your music.

First off, let us look at the method.

Most people have a nightmare when it comes to multi-sampling. The one obstacle everyone seems to be faced with is how to attain the exact volume, length of note (duration) and how many notes to sample.

The easy method to solve these questions in one hit is to create a sequence template in your sequencer. This entails having a series of notes drawn into the piano roll or grid edit of your sequencer. You can actually assign each and every note to be played at a velocity of 127 (maximum volume), have each note the exact same length (duration) and you can have the sequencer play each and every note or any number of notes you want. The beauty of this method is that you will always be triggering samples that are at the same level and duration. This makes the task of looping and sample placing much easier. You can save this sequence and call it up every time you want to sample.

Of course, this only works if you have a sequencer and if you are multi-sampling. For sampling the source directly, as in the case of a synth keyboard, it is extremely useful.

Creative Sampling

The first weapon in creative sampling is the ‘change pitch’ tool. Changing the pitch of a sample is not just about slowing down a Drum and Bass loop until it becomes a Hip Hop loop, a little tip there that some people are unaware of. It is about taking a normal sound, sampling it then pitching it right down, or up, to achieve a specific effect.

Let us take a little trip down the ‘pitch lane’.

You can achieve the pitch down effect by using the change pitch tool in your sampler, assigning the sample to C4 then using the C1 note as the pitched-down note, or time stretch/compress to maintain the pitch but slow or speed the sample. There is a crucial distinction here. Slowing down a sample has a dramatic effect on the pitch and works great for slowing fast tempo beats down to achieve a slower beat, but there comes a point where the audio quality starts to suffer and you have to be aware of this when slowing a sample down. The same is true for speeding a sample up. Speed up a vocal sample and you end up with squeaky vocals.

Time stretching/compressing is a function that allows the length of a sample to be changed without affecting the original pitch. This is great for vocals. Vocals sung for a track at 90 BPM can then be used in a track at 120 BPM without having to change the pitch. Of course, this function is as good as the software or hardware driving it. The better the stretching/compressing software/hardware is, the better the result. Too much of stretching/compressing can lead to side effects, and in some cases, that is exactly what is required. A flanging type of robotic effect can be achieved with extreme stretching/compressing, very funky.

A crucial function to bear in mind, and always perform, is that when you pitch a sample down, you then need to adjust the sample start time. Actually, this is a secret weapon that programmers and sound designers use to find the exact start point of a sample. They pitch the sample right down and this makes it much easier to locate the start point. You will often find that a sample pitched down a lot will need to have the start time cropped, as there will be dead air present. This is normal, so don’t let it worry. Simply check your sample start times every time you perform a pitch down.

Here are a few funky things to sample.

Crunching, flicking, hitting paper

Slowly crunch a piece of paper, preferably a thicker crispier type of paper, and then sample it. Once you have sampled it, slow it right down and listen to the sample. It will sound like thunderclaps. If you are really clever you can listen to the sample as you slow it down, in stages, until you hear what sounds like a scratch effect, before it starts to sound like thunderclaps. SCSI dump the samples into your computer, use Recycle or similar, and dump the end result back into your sampler as chopped segments of the original sample (please read ‘chopping samples’ and ‘Recycle tutorial’).

Big sheets of paper being shaken or flicked from behind can be turned into thunderous noises by pitching down, turning up and routing through big reverbs.

Spoon on glass

There are two funky ways to do this. The first is with the glass empty. Use an empty glass, preferably a wine glass, and gently hit it with a spoon. Hit different areas of the glass as this generates different tones. You can then slow these samples down till you have bell sounds, or keep them as they are and add reverb and eq to give tine type of sounds.

The second way of doing this is to add water to the glass. This will deaden the sound and the sample will sound a lot more percussive. These samples make for great effects.

Lighting a match

Very cool. Light a match, sample it and slow it down. You will get a burst effect or, being clever, use the attack of the match being lit sample and you will get a great snare sound, dirty and snappy.

Tennis ball against wood

Man, this is a very cool one. Pitch these samples down for kick and tom effects. You can get some really heavy kicks out of this sample. Actually, the ball hitting woody type of surfaces make for great percussive sounds.

Finger clicking

Trim the tail off the sample and use the attack and body of the sample. You now have a stick or snare sound. Pitch it down and you will have a deep tom burst type of effect. Or, use the sample of the finger click, cut it into two segments, the first being the attack and the body, the second being the tail end. Layer them together and you have a snare with a reverse type of effect.

Hitting a radiator with a knife

Great for percussive sounds. Pitched down, you get percussive bells, as opposed to bells with long sustain and releases. Also, if you only take the attack of this sample, you will have a great snare sound.

Kitchen utensil

These are the foundation for your industrial sounds. Use everything. First, drop them all on a hard surface, together. Sample that and slow it down a bit and you will have factory types of sounds. Second, drop each utensil on a hard surface and sample them individually. They make for great bell and percussive sounds. Scrape them together and sample them. Slowed down, they will give you great eerie industrial sounds and film sound effects. Metallic sounds, once pitched down, give more interesting undertones, so experiment.

Hitting a mattress with a piece of wood

This will give a deep muffled sound that has a strong attack. This makes for a great kick or snare. Slowed right down, you will achieve the Trancey type of deep kick.

Blowing into bottles

This gives a nice flute type of sound. Pitched down, you will get a type of foghorn sound. Blow into it short and hard and use the attack and body, you will achieve a crazy deep effect when pitched down.

Slamming doors

Slam away and sample. Thunderous sounds when pitched down. The attacks of the samples make for some great kicks and snares.

Aerosol cans

Great for wind and hi-hats. Slowed down, you will achieve wind type sounds. Used as pitched up, you get cabasa type of sounds. Run through an effect and pitched higher, you will achieve a hi-hat type of sound.

Golf ball being thrown at a wall

A snare sample that is great in every respect. Kept as is, you get a cool snare. Pitched up and you get a snappier snare. Pitched down, you get a deep tom, kick or ethnic drum sound.


Sample toys, preferably the mechanical and robotic ones. The number of sample variations you will get will be staggering. These mechanical samples once pitched down, make for great industrial sounds. Pitched up, they can make some great Star Wars type of sounds. Simply chopped up as they are, make for great hits, slams and so on.

Factories and railway stations

Take your recorder and sample these types of locations. It is quite amazing what you will find and once manipulated, the samples can be so inspiring.

Toilets, sinks, and bathtubs.

Such fun. Water coming out of a tap pitched down can be white water. Water dripping can be used in so many ways. Splashing sounds can be amazing when pitched up or down. Dropping the soap in a full bath and hitting the sidewalls of the bathtub when empty or even full, can create some of the best percussive sounds imaginable.


Sample your radio, assuming it has a dial. The sounds of searching for stations can give you an arsenal of crazy sounds. Pitched down you will get factory drones, swirling electric effects and weird electro tom sounds. The sound palette is endless.

I think you get the picture by now. Sample everything and store it away. Create a library of your samples. Categorise them, so that they are easy to locate in the future.

Now let us look at what you can do to samples to make them interesting.

Reverse is the most obvious and potent tool. Take a piece of conversation between a man and a woman, sample it and reverse it and, hey presto, you have the Exorcist.

Layer a drum loop with the reversed version of the loop and check it out. Cool.

Pitch the reversed segment down a semitone or two to create a pseudo doppler effect.

With stereo samples of ambient or melodic sounds, try reversing one channel for a more unusual stereo image. You can also play around with panning here, alternating and cross-fading one for the other.

Try sampling at the lowest bandwidth your sampler offers for that crunchy, filthy loop. This is lo-fi land. Saves you buying an SP1200..he..he.

Try deliberately sampling at too low a level, then using the normalising function repeatedly to pump the volume back up again. This will add so much noise and rubbish to your sample that it will become dirty in a funky way.

You can take a drum loop and normalise it continually till it clips heavily. Now Recycle the segments, dump them back into your sampler, and you have dirty, filthy, crispy Hip Hop cuts.

A sample doubles its speed when it’s transposed up an octave. So try triggering two versions of a sampled loop an octave apart, at the same time. With a percussive loop, you’ll get a percussion loop running over the top of the original.

Use effects on a loop, record it to cassette for that hissy flavour, then, resample it. Recycle the whole lot and drop the segments back into your sampler and you have instant effects that you can play in any order.

Layer and cross-fade pad samples so that one evolves/morphs into another.

Take a loop and reverse it. Add the reversed loop at the end of the original loop for some weirdness.

Multi triggering a loop at close intervals will give you a chorus or flange type of effect. Try it. Have the same loop on 3 notes of your keyboard and hit each note a split second after the other. There you go.

I could go on for pages but will leave you to explore and enjoy the endless possibilities of sampling and sound design.

Additional content:

Preparing and Optimising Audio for Mixing

Normalisation – What it is and how to use it

Topping and Tailing Ripped Beats – Truncating and Normalising