Archive for July, 2010

Sampling and Chopping

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Before we get really into this blog, i got a confession. This is nowhere near as complete, i would like to make it, however i feel that i’m not able to make it more complete, due to the simple vastness of the subject.

What is chopping?

Chopping is taking a piece of music and taking out bits and pieces out, then laying them down in some way. The main difference is that unlike when you sample instruments, you down sample the notes of the instruments and spread them out on the keyboard. When you chop you take a part of music it may be a loop or you may take different parts and fit them into a pattern. Riffs and Breaks are common sources for chopping. Chopping out drums from break-beats are also common, but in this blog we are focusing on chopping out melodic parts, while essentially anything can be sampled, we will focus on this, else i would need a couple of years to write this, however some of this can be used to sample basslines and drums as well.

Sampling commercial material

This is where it started, this form of sampling started with hip hop and while other genre’s by now have adopt chopping in some degree, it is still essential a hip hop thing. The idea is great in it’s simplicity take a part of a track and chop it into smaller parts or just fit it into a perfect loop, simple as that now add drums and a bass, you just made a beat, just like they did back in the 80’s when it started, no more is needed.

But wait there is a problem “isn’t commercial sampling illegal if you don’t clear it?” Well yes essentially it is, unlike back in the 80’s, when everybody thought Rap wasn’t gonna last, they want you money now, they have seen people get rich this way and want a piece of the pie.

The best way to avoid anybody suing you are to clear your samples, this is however unreasonable expensive, to me the problem is that people don’t realize it is a two-way street, if they didn’t demanded as much as 90 % of your track for clearing it along with a lot of different fees and one-time payment, more people would be ready to clear samples. Unfortunately they have the power to do whatever they want, so i don’t think we are gonna see a change here anytime soon.

While there is protocols like Fair Use and Fair Dealings, none protected you from getting sued no matter how many of the points of these protocols you are following and even if you win, you still have to pay a lawyer, which isn’t cheap.

If you feel secure in calling upon these protocols, i have nothing against it and while many people use uncleared samples everyday and don’t get sue ever, you need to know that the risk is there, you need to make up your mind, do so at your own risk, while i feel that the record companies are the problem here, there is nothing to protect you.

I have made a choice, i don’t sample commercial music, again i have nothing against it, but i feel that there are many other ways to sample, with two big advantages to this type of sample: You can’t get sued and few realize them and it might give you a edge over the sea of beatmakers.

Here are a short list and comments on some of my methods:

  • Public Domain Sounds

Go to Wiki Commons and open the music catalog under audio, here you find a lot of different stuff, most of them are classical music, a sample source i often feel is overlook.

  • Loops

You can find many free loops, while using them in they’re full form might be static there is another way, chop up that two bar loop and start banging those chop out into a new one, two, four bar loop. This is extremely fun to do especially with good quality loops.

  • Prechopped samples

Some sample packs comes with pre-chopped samplers, these are usually the old and over used bread and butter samples, just make sure it’s royalty free for recording, some of these packs are made for DJs to use live at venues with a agreement, that allows use of commercial material (same as cover songs can be played live at these venues, but not be recorded with getting cleared). If it says you can use it in recordings you will have no problems.

  • Construction Kits

You knows those loops collected into “songs.” A “song” should at least be split into a drum loop, a bass loop and a melody, the more expensive the more isolated the loops may be, some are split into section like verse, chorus etc, some are not. While these are marketed as remixing tools for DJs, you can chop them up, like you would song, except here you never have to filter out something you want out like the drums or bass, you just don’t use those loops, the main difference between this and chopping up loops are that loops normally one instrument, while construction kits normally aren’t, even if they are you can combine the parts you want into one loop and sample that, this feels more like chopping up a song, then a loop those and will also sound more like it, since they are made to fit each other.

  • Making your own samples

A demonstration of making your own sample This is perhaps the most fun thing to do. While it may seem a bit backwards to sample this instead of just recording it, sampling makes it a lot easier to chop up and manipulated it as a whole.

My favorite way to chop

Lets be real, there a probably a million ways to chop up a sample, none more correct then the other, but we all got our favorite way to do things so here is mine:

I start by taking out the part i want. Then i adjust the tempo till it fits into one, two or four bars depending on the size of the sample. Then i hit play and think “hmm where to chop?” Once figured out i open Cubase’s sample editor and start moving around hitpoints, i allways make sure they are close to a 16th or 8th note, makes it easier to fit the sample, without tuning (unless i want to tune it) after i have it where i want it to be i hit create events and dump it into Groove Agent One, set it up (mute groups, filters and level) and lay down a new loop, for breaks and such i may add a shuttering effect or have the sample drop out or something.


You need a Sampler, a source and a Sample Editor. I use Audacity to chop out the part i want and use Cubase’s built in Sample Editor for the chopping (it was really overhaul in 5,5), i use Groove Agent ONE as the sampler, almost any sampler can be used, as long as you can set the samples to cut each other off (Mute groups or setting polyphony to 1 are common ways to do this). If you got a slow computer or are handling a lot of softsynths in a typical beat hardware might be better then software, however software samples usually gives you more ways to twist up your samples, in the end it’s often more a preference thing.

I feel that the “MPC style” samplers (BPM, Guru and Maschine are software equivalents) are better for chopping, but as i said any sampler can be used, i just feels it’s more logical to chop this way, again a preference thing.

That’s it for now, like the Groove blog, there may be a part 2 for this one as well. I feel i have covered enough to call this blog finished, but like i said it’s nowhere complete, the subject is just to big to complete. I hope i have given you some insight in source’s and ways to sample.

Little trivia

“Rappers Delight” are based on a sample from Chic

Peace out and good summer from Nitten