The joys (and perils!) of sampled chords

Just wondering about how others work with sampled chords. I’ve been layering up individual notes on individual tracks, and then resampling the chords, which is a slightly laborious but fun way to build them.

The obvious caveat is that once you have a resampled chord, any repitching of it will obviously shift the intervals and pitch of the whole chord.

Now, this itself actually sounds pretty cool (as long as you don’t go too far from the original pitch) and can gives a classic deep house/early rave pitch shifted chord vibe.

The thing is, well, doing so means that the track is drifting into blurry territory re. the project being in a specific key. :thinking:

Is just being ‘okay’ with a bit of dissonance just part of using this method, - (just embrace the imperfection) - or are there some techniques that might assist in maintaining some degree of harmonic cohesion when writing, say, a monophonic bassline to acccompany the chords?

At the moment I’m just ‘using my ears’, anif it sounds good, I keep it - one of the main reasons for stepping away from a DAW.

But I’m keen to hear people’s tips on this! Thank you in advance.


I don’t make chord because I really don’t understand how to make music with theory.
I like to sample some records with chords progression so I’m sure it’s in the scale and then I can change the order. If I need repitchig, I repitch the full sample so I keep the same scale to all the chords.

I have an Eventide H9, and its Quadrovox harmonizer can harmonize notes, in key. So, you can quickly resample any single note into a chord.

An example in the key of Am. Play an A into it, and the third will be minor. Play a C, and it will be major. You can also add delay to any of the voices.

And because it’s live, you can just use single notes on the Digitakt sequencer , and play them through it to “audition” the chords live before sampling them.


In the most common scales, there are only three types of chords (if you use triads), or four types (if you add the 7th).

So, you can make one of each kind and then combine them as necessary.

For example, in the key of C Major (white keys in a piano) you would have the following triads:

  • 1st grade: C (C+E+G)
  • 2nd grade: D- (D+F+A)
  • 3rd grade: E- (E+G+B)
  • 4th grade: F (F+A+C)
  • 5th grade: G (G+B+D)
  • 6th grade: A- (A+C+E)
  • 7th grade: Bdim (B+D+F)

So, you only need:

  • One major chord for 1st, 4th and 5th grades.
  • One minor chord for 2nd, 3rd and 6th grades.
  • One diminished chord for 7th grade.

The same works with many other scales and keys.


I thought, maybe i’m wrong, that lot of house chord in 90’s were sampled and one of their specificity is related to the transposition of chord without necessarly following the music theory.
So I don’t have tips for that but would just follow my ears to know if it’s acceptable or not.


You can do I IV V progressions with only major chords. That works for 90% of blues and rock. In fact, if it’s rock, you don’t even need the third. Power chords do the job!

Same for minor, if you use chords 1,4,5 you will still be diatonic
the second 2nd chord is diminished the others 3,6,7 are major.
You could sample a minor and a major chord or just use one or the other.
Some of the best progressions don’t stay diatonic and break the rules

That was my understanding, too - and that is what gives a lot of those records their flavour.

Here is an excellent article which discusses the history of the technique in some depth, and with examples:


Thanks for breaking that down. That makes total sense.

Just so I’m clear, using your example of C Major scale - are you suggesting that if you make one major chord (C+E+G - 1st Grade), that resampled chord can then be repitched - by playing on the chromatic keyboard on the DT - to create the 4th and 5th grade chords? (F+A+C) and (G+B+D)

So if I played that same resampled CEG chord 5 semitones up, on the F key, it would be effectively playing the 4th grade chord - the FAC? :thinking:

Is that right?

Does that fact that you are repitching - and therefore speeding, or slowing the resampled chord - mean that the further away you get from the original pitch, the more that the intervals in the chord are increasing or decreasing? Or is this ‘drift’ only marginal when playing within the same octave, thus retaining a reasonable amount of harmony?

EDIT: I think the 2nd page of the article I posted answers this question:

The root note of a resampled chord will still be in scale when played back, however the ‘…often out of scale 3rds and 5ths of each triad will give the progression an unusual sound…’

Is that the general idea when repitching resampled chords? That there will be some dissonance, but there will be a harmonic link because the root note of the triad will always be in scale. (assuming that you play the repitched chord on keys that are within the original scale)

Ho yes, perfect. Nice review. Now I clearly understand what I did’nt known but had a feeling of.
I think I will give it a try with my sampler and test with an hold school chord progression.
Thanks for transmiting knowledge.

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If I wasn’t sampling directly from a song, I would often. Just create quick chord sample chains in my daw then use them later to slice up. So have all the chords of a specific scale in one sample chain and p lock start points as needed. Not always the most fun way but definitely got some good results this way.


No problems @elenacortes!

I knew it jogged my memory about something I had read, I was just luck to be able to find the article again - it’s exactly what we are discussing.

Happy sampling. :blush:

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I’ve yet to experiment with sample chains - but I can see how having a bunch of chords easily accessible this way could create some cool stuff.

I can see how manually adjusting p-locks on all those start points might get old, though!

Hey, you might want to check out these tracks, which utilise the technique, and are typical of a classic 90s deep house vibe:


(They use this last track as an example in that article)


I sample chords from nanoloop 2 from the GBA into the OT then create slice chains, this gives me plenty of more sequencing options with the original chords Than if I were to just use the GBA.

i’ve done some theory research and at the end i’ve collected something like this. could be useful for someone


Thanks, that’s pretty handy. :ok_hand:

I’m experimenting with different ways to sample chords from my Prologue on the OT. Yesterday I made some chains of 16 slices all with root C (C3 or C4 mostly): unison (the single note), then a 5th interval, then 9 triads (major and the 2 inversions, minor and the 2 inversions, diminished and the 2 inversions), and then Cmaj7, C7, Cmin7, Cmin7b5, Cdim7.

I set up the amp envelope with no attack and no release, since I can do that in the OT later. I made a MIDI sequence on the OT with 16 trigs as described above, set scale to 1/8 and note length to 47 (if set to 48=1/2 there’s no space between sounds), and set BPM to 32 so that the whole sequence takes exactly 60 seconds.

With this approach you have to repitch each cord as needed, but it is very generic and reusable, and you can use 2 tracks and resample to build more complex chords. Another approach could be to sample a chain of the triads in a scale, say in C major scale you would have C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim. And another even more specific approach would be to just sample chord progressions (say minor 251s Dmin7b5 G7 Cmin7 with some particular voicings, addng a 9th in the G7, etc, not very generic at all).

I’m very interested in how other people do this, please share your methods.

You can do first & fifth. That gives you flexibility to combine with a different bass fundamental for a major 7th or a 9th chord, or combine two samples to form either a major with major 7th or minor 7th.

For example:

Bass: C
Sample chords:

I. 1. C & G 2. E & B = Major 7th

II. 1. C & G 2. Eb & Bb = Minor 7th

III. 1. C & G 2. Bb & F = Sus4 7th

IV. 1. E & B 2. G & D = Major 9th

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That. Is. Fine.