Curating and Organising personal sample collection

I’m on the verge of buying my first sample playback machine or sampler, and I’m already collecting samples.

I can anticipate the answer to the question I’m about to ask is going to be “whatever suits you best”, but I’m going to ask it anyway …

What is the the optimal way to curate and organise your sample collection ?

By curate I mean: how much do you add to your personal collection when you acquire a new collection of samples ? Do you just keep all of it ? Keep only what you definitely need ? Reject only what you definitely don’t need and keep the rest ? Something in between ?

By organise I mean folder structure and file names. Do you preserve the entire folder structure of the original source ? Maintain a reference to the original source in the filename ? Organise samples into ‘kit’ folders that work well together (thinking primarily one-shots here) or have folders of similar things, like kicks, snares, pads (which I hear is particularly useful in the model:samples workflow for instance).

Welcome any ideas about best practices or what has worked for you.

Particularly interested in oneshots, SCWFs and multi-sampled instruments. Less interested in loops (other than as a source of one-shots by chopping) so BPM in filename of no interest to me.

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99% of my samples are drums/percussions, so:

  1. i keep it all somewhere on NAS – just in case, but have only the selected stuff i like/use on my gear / laptops.

  2. i never preserve original structure, but always rename and reorganize stuff to my own conventions. (that’s where command line tools shine, because doing it one-by-one via GUI would be super tedious & time-consuming.)

  3. using both approaches in parallel— organizing them either by kit and by instrument (hard links rock).


Ah you think like me … yes, I certainly anticipate scripting file movement (or copying) and conversion (sample rate, stereo to mono, etc)

EDIT: In fact … I do already, because I told a little fib … I have been using an SP505 a bit but it falls way short of what I want.

Early on when drum samples were needed for the Digitakt, all of it was just “Hey guys, I sampled my [synth] doing drum sounds” on Reddit or “I sampled this vintage drum machine on/in [x]” from YouTube. The emphasis was on preserving the logic of whatever the uploader’s original folder structure contained. File names were kept the same unless they were something obnoxious like JimJohnJones_SP808_May2021_hh.WAV or something. Once it was in the Digitakt, I could always decide what to add to a project.

As time went on, thanks to resampling and other methods, I ended up getting more and more user samples. The goal then became managing my own tones. About once a year, I would take out all the user sounds from the Digitakt and would proceed to vet the contents. I’d keep about 75% of the material, and I made sure to give a file a name that sort of told me what it was. Then it would be saved with a folder name like Digitakt Drums Early 2019 or Digitakt Drum Loops 2020 Pre-Pandemic.

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I religiously curate and organize my samples; it’s a bit of an obsession of mine. Essentially I try to start with great source material (usually avoiding junky free sample packs from unknown sources, as they rarely have anything new to offer).

From there, I’ll create a simple MIDI loop with a drum groove and a couple basic chords. I use that to audition samples in a real-world scenario, to get a sense of what works. You’d be surprised how often a cool drum or melodic sample is uninspired in a musical context.

Once I’ve narrowed the samples to the best of the best, I’ll re-format / edit start and end points / adjust volume / rename as necessary, and sort them into useful folders. Sometimes this is organised by kit, but I generally find it more useful to audition all my kicks (for example) in one folder when I sit down to make music.


If I’m downloading or sampling individual files for a project (song), the samples go in that project folder.

If I’m downloading single samples for inspiration later they get put in a folder titled by month and year.

If I’m downloading whole sample packs put together by someone else I just unzip the pack and put the folder in my master “Samples” file in my My Documents. It all gets backed up to a WD Passport (which thank you, I need to do a back again here!).

So…chaos basically? It doesn’t bother me. I like crate digging through my own mess.

My main sampler has a mass storage mode, so its all just drag and drop. I can back up the whole machine on a USB stick and start from scratch whenever I want as well. So, being super organized isn’t worth the time to me. I’d rather dig through my chaos, more inspiring.

Tempo and Key. I find the less timestretching the better. And same with Pitch change.

I’m going to say just sample what you need in the moment and forget about scrolling through lists of stuff that you’ll grow bored of and that everyone else has access to. Sample the gear around you, dip into YT, create your own samples from more unexpected sources and bend them to your needs. Works for me, and it’s way more creative/unique imo.


I actually find this faster, easier and more inspiring than the sample download services by far. I still have a $5 a month Noiiz account, but only when I really need something specific I can’t find or make myself.

I am a sample junkie and have a huge collection, but 99% of it goes un-used. Even with drum packs as many as I buy I come back to the same few over and over.


Endlessly hoard then use XLN XO for me, discussed on here in the past if you wanna search. If you use iOS there’s a new files app just released called sample crate for £2ish made just for this. Good if you want to tag and organise files to keep on iCloud for mobile accessibility


i MOSTLY use loops/samples of things that i can’t play, like rhodes or sax, etc…

my TR8S and MC707 have TONS of infinitely usable sounds, so i rarely load anything that I could produce on either of those devices…

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I have made a basic drum kit that’s loaded into an Octatrack template. It’s in Part 4, on Pattern 16 of the first bank. It has a few kicks, snares, and hats in static slots 40-50. Tracks 1-3 are pointed at these slots.

I love being able to just start playing the Digitakt, so this is my version of a default kit. I have a flex on T5 that resamples the drum pattern, for use in any other part.

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I cosume a hella lot of samples, so I basically sort them by the month I got them. Then, for the sake of my hard drive, I delete everything that sounds “meh” or worst.
I only organize them when I transfer them on my sampler.

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