Sample packs and artistic integrity

This may have been covered already, so feel free to direct me to the thread but…

I have been on the fence with this for years and wanted to get y’alls opinions.

What do you think of “sample packs” as fodder for making you music? Now this is obviously a very general question that could elicit several questions in response so i’ll try to preempt at least one of them by saying: I do not include Drum Samples in this query. I specifically mean sample packs made up of melodic lines or vocal lines or other very recognizable sonic signatures that are not so transient as drums. This could be skewing the question but, ya know, its my question.

The impetus for this question (other than my own personal struggles with it) was watching the recently uploaded “Red Means Recording” set utilizing loops from Intimate Noise. He did of course mention the necessity to make his set quickly and efficiently which is a very reasonable motivation for utilizing such samples. I also thoroughly enjoyed his set and many of his videos from the past. So that brought up in my mind a “why not” thought process that I can’t get over. So, without hope for resolving my struggle, I nevertheless am posing it to you for your opinions.

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I thought using loops was cheating, so I programmed my own using samples. I then thought using samples was cheating, so I recorded real drums. I then thought that programming it was cheating, so I learned to play drums for real. I then thought using bought drums was cheating, so I learned to make my own. I then thought using premade skins was cheating, so I killed a goat and skinned it. I then thought that that was cheating too, so I grew my own goat from a baby goat. I also think that is cheating, but I’m not sure where to go from here. I haven’t made any music lately, what with the goat farming and all.” -somebody


I’ll do whatever with one shots but I try real hard to avoid loops from sample packs and I never ever fuck with other people’s actual music. Sound design and composition are fun for me so why would I outsource that?


No one cares. People only care if the music is good. What would be the difference between using samples and using midi packs to play back preset sounds on your hardware synth?

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I really dislike using non-drum samples. As soon as I do, for some reason I lose inspiration and interest in making the music. It is not for me.

I really enjoy listening to boom bap music and sampled jazz and all those sample flipped re-imaginings. It is legitimate music creation and there’s nothing wrong with it artistically.

The whole point of creating art is the artistic choices and artistic taste. It is just the technique which is different in this case.

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Everything is context. How is it being used? How is it being presented?

I think a big part of it is the scale of the loop’s relation to the track. If you are running a loop that comprises 80% of a track’s sonic content, that’s probably problematic. But if you are using a 2-bar harmonic loop as a building block in a track that has separately programmed bass, drums, and lead, then your curation of that loop becomes part of your musical expression.

What makes the whole question difficult is that, like any worthwhile question, the answer is nuanced and dependent on so many other conditions that there is no definitive single response.

I personally hate using sample loops, but I am also a hobbyist who has the luxury of making shitty music that I tell myself is my own (notwithstanding the whole separate question of whether using other people’s synth patches constitutes a similar type of theft or misrepresentation)

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No rules. I can’t use them because I like to use pitch material based on the harmonic series and free pitch instead of standard scales, but every artist is different and I’m glad. Every attempt to fence off what’s art and what has integrity as art, is doomed IMO. Do you.


Who cares? The internet? People on a forum that you’ve never met?

If you’re not down with samples, you’re not down with samples. If you want to use samples, use samples.

No one is judging


Just lately i can see why it feels like cheating. The ability to occlude thoughts is difficult when writing music. Everything gets thrown in the pot. And thoughts will arise of this was not fundamentally my sound but someone elses enters the mind. Now to shut this thought out maybe the right thing to do. Who knows. But the thought will remain in the creative process. Whether you can feel good is another thing entirely and depends i think more on your personality than your ability as s producer. Just some recent thoughts on the matter.

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Technically copying someone’s style, sound is cheating. But that’s enabled genre’s that have turned into cultural movements. A slight tangent of course.

Sample whatever helps or moves you to make something you’re happy with and proud of.

Also, how is it being received? Is it recognised, etc.

These questions only seem to arise from musicians/producers themselves, in the context of other producers and their perceptions. Not that of the general listener.


musical art won’t have ultimately evolved to it’s highest order until everyone is forced to use the same loop and make something original out of it… on that day your true creative metal will be tested among tens of thousands… and whomever rises from those ashes will rise up to that heavenly beatmachine in the sky and slice samples for forever more…


none of that’ll happen because it just doesn’t matter, who knows


I’d just add that this isn’t even new - this is just for Pagianini: Variations on a Theme of Paganini (disambiguation) - Wikipedia

Maybe stretching the definition of “sampling” but taking an existing rhythm, melody and harmony and reinterpreting it has been around a while. A totally sampled loop with performance and instrumentation is different but like someone else said, if it’s placed an interesting context, or used in creative ways, why not … plus there are no rules really :sweat_smile:

I’d say, if you enjoy it and can stand for it. Imo there’s a lot of great songs that’ve taken longer motifs, or straight up sped up a song and released that.
Robot rock (I think, maybe some other) from Daft Punk as a longer motif sampled, and Txt(msgs) by Mndsgn for basically a whole song are two I can come up with quickly.

I wouldn’t have listened to the original songs, and I often don’t enjoy the original as much.
I like great music, and as long as the money is divided reasonably I don’t see any issues.

But when making music myself, it’s just not enjoyable for me to sample whole motifs, but instead going for the sound of a chord or other snippets is more enjoyable, as well as more open ended. Take a moment to feel your instinct and follow it.

“Do what you like”

  • Gary Barlow



Downloading a bunch of pre-rolled sampled phrases from Splice or Tracklib etc and using them pretty much as-is could be seen as being lazy - painting by numbers kind of thing, but for some people that is fun, and it could be argued that it isn’t much different from early hip hop/cut up/Kanye/daft punk etc. Not something I have interest in doing, but I can appreciate the results if they sound good.

Taking a sample and making it unrecognisable from the original, and making a new piece of music from it is a bit more interesting to me, again it isn’t something I tend to do, but it can be fun, and inspiring.

Sampling - the act of sampling, then processing, is where a lot of the fun lies for me, I rarely sample records and I have never used Splice or similar, but I will often sample my own stuff then re-synthesize it, or turn a sample into a synth or whatever.

When I was young I did not really use samplers for anything other than one shots or looping synth sounds or the occasional vocal or dialog snippet, because I did think that it seemed a bit like cheating/auto accompaniment. But when rack samplers became a lot more affordable and powerful in late 90’s early 2000’s I would occasionally sample records and see what I could do. It was interesting to take that different approach, but was not something I pursued.

So I say don’t knock it until you try it, if you find that using libraries works for you, great, if not at least you learned a bit about it.

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If you had a friend from around the globe record a synth part and email it to you, would you use it in a song?

What about a stranger?

What if you commissioned it?

Sometimes I‘m sitting on the couch super lazy and want to do some tracks without the effort of coming up with melodies, and even without the effort of searching some track to sample on youtube.
So I just play around with loops that are included in garageband. I pitch them around, or reverse them but basically keep them close to the original.
When using enough of them, it starts to feel like a collage to me. The single loops get into a new context, especially when you add some own chords or basslines later.
I‘ve made quite a few trip hop tracks that way, and although they felt very cheaty in the beginning, I really like them and they now feel like mine :upside_down_face: