Finding samples is crucial to being a good producer. A sample doesn't have to be a 70's R&B song. When I refer to "samples", I mean any audio file that you can use in your beats. Disco songs, alarms, movie dialogue, movie scores, tire screeches, and gun shots are all ammo you can use to compose better instrumentals.
I've complied a short list of resources you can use to find quality audio to sample in your tracks. Enjoy and keep an open mind. This list is meant to inspire you more than anything else!
Vinyl Record Stores
Even though they aren't as common as they used to be, Vinyl Record Stores are a great place for discovering new tracks to sample. Crate digging is a lost art nowadays. Nothing says traditional hip-hop like picking out a stack of records to sample. It's not the most efficient method of sampling, but ripping songs from vinyl will give your beats a warm sound that's hard to imitate.
You will need a vinyl player, RCA to mini audio cable, and a computer with a DAW to sample from vinyl. Get your DAW to record the input from the vinyl player and transfer the data from the records to your computer. Save everything and label it. You don't want to forget where you get your samples from. You may have to come back to the original source!
Traditional hip-hop producers like RZA, J Dilla, Alchemist, Kanye West, and AraabMuzik pull their samples straight from vinyl records. Since vinyl records are more affordable today than they used to be, go to the hipster section of town and cop some soulful grooves!
Friends & Family
Believe it or not, friends and family are an excellent resource for finding songs to sample. They don't necessarily have to know about the process of digging for samples to be able to help you out. It's up to you to connect the dots, but your people definitely have some gems for you.
Since everyone's taste in music is unique, your friends and family are familiar with songs and artists you don't know. Older family members have extended knowledge of older music. Ask them about the music they listened to while growing up. See if they have any cassette tapes, records, or CD's for you to go through. When you're in a drought for songs to sample, ask your friends to make you a playlist. Even if the songs aren't good material for samples, they could inspire you to think in a different way which is invaluable.
You probably already know that YouTube is a goldmine for finding samples. I don't think there's a quicker method for finding new content to sample than YouTube. The Google owned social network is home to millions of unique videos including tutorials, songs, interviews, documentaries, cartoons, etc.
There are dozens of websites that allow you to download tracks straight from YouTube and convert them to MP3 files. I've gathered three here for your convenience:
You don't have to just look for songs on YouTube. You can also pull from viral videos, movies, television shows, speeches, and more. Use YouTube to beef up your arsenal of sound effects too. You can find high quality rain, thunder, and animal sounds using the search function. Whenever you find a channel that has good content, be sure to subscribe so you get all of their updates!
Check out some of these YouTube pages dedicated to finding good tracks to sample:
Artists Who Want Specific Tracks Sampled
If you're looking for songs to sample, there's a strong chance you are already working with artists who need beats. Ask artists what songs they want sampled. If they enjoy sampled beats, they're going to have some ideas for you to try.
The artist doesn't have to be involved with the actual production process. You can just take the idea and get to work. If you have artists who are really good at finding songs to sample, work out a deal so they get those collaboration beats at a lower price or something like that.
Music Streaming Services
Pandora, Spotify, Beats Music, iTunes Radio, Tidal, etc provide us with efficient resources for discovering new music. These streaming services are expanding rapidly with new artists and songs. You can explore unique playlists based on your preferences or what mood your in.
I struggle to search through genres of music I'm not familiar with. When I stream music, it's a lot easier for me because they break my habits of looking for songs in a particular way. If you can get out of your musical comfort zone, you'll find new songs to sample. When you're streaming songs, keep a list of songs that you want to try to sample for later. Keep an open mind and use online radio to stumble upon some new music.
WhoSampled is like the cheat code for finding new songs to sample. The website is extremely organized and very detail oriented. You can find what songs are being sampled, what samples other producers use, and which artists are being sampled.
I like using WhoSampled to get into the minds of other talented producers. I want to study what inspires other creative minds. It's also a helpful resource for learning how to sample. WhoSampled shows every sample used in a particular song, the section they sampled, and where it starts in the new song. That's basically like having the producer break the song down for you. Awesome!
Film is another ample resource for finding samples. Most producers look for albums to sample and overlook movies. The dialogue in movies can sometimes make an inspiring intro for your instrumentals. Don't just think about sampling music. Chop those screams, yells, laughs, gasps, sighs, interjections, and other dope movie vocals and use them to your advantage.
I know you've been inspired by a movie before. If you can harness that inspiration, you can channel that into some new beat concepts. After you watch a good movie, open up your DAW and try to match the tone or feeling the movie gave you. If you watch a scary movie, try to make a scary instrumental. You'd be surprised what can happen when you start thinking in a different mode.
808 Mafia is known for sampling sound effects from popular movies. They chopped one of their siren sound effects straight from the movie Kill Bill.
Using StumbleUpon is like putting the internet on shuffle. Its a powerful web discovery engine that allows you to find all of the randomness the internet has to offer. If you make a profile and change your settings to discover music links only, it'll take you to places you wouldn't think to check on your own.
It's difficult to summarize everything you will find using StumbleUpon. You just gotta try it out and see where it takes you.
Songs That You Created Yourself
Yes, you can sample your own music. It's not as hard as people make it seem. Open up a few instruments or synths in your DAW, compose some chord progressions and melodies, and bounce it as a WAV file. Take that WAV file and treat it like you would any other song you would sample. Throw it in Kontakt or Maschine and go crazy with it. Time stretch, pitch shift, reverb, delay, reverse audio, filters, phasers, EQ, etc are all going to be helpful to get the most out of your creation.
Don't be afraid to use real instruments either. Find a singer in your area and have them record some riffs and runs for you. You can even collaborate with a local band to make the kind of music you would want to sample. Don't give me any sass about trying to find people to record either. There are amateurs EVERYWHERE! This may be a surprise to some, but you can create music without using your DAW too.
Even though this takes a lot of work, it may be one of the best methods for sampling because you won't have to clear any samples and no one else will be able to sample the original song!
Skrillex sampled his song Equinox for his other song First Of The Year, which ended up being a huge hit! (His real name is Sonny Moore btw)
Blogs dedicated to sampling are a new and useful resource for discovering new tracks. Some sample blogs even provide vinyl quality audio. That's the definition of clutch in the MP3 era! These blogs literally gather tracks that are good for sampling. You can't ask for much more.
Visit a few of these sample blogs:
I feel like all producers are nerds who play videogames. Don't sleep on the potential of videogame soundtracks. Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Sonic The Hedgehog, and Tetris have compositions that have been sampled for hip-hop songs.
Rap music has drawn on videogames for sound effects and vocal chants too. Jahlil Beats made his beat tag with a videogame sound effect. Blips, punches, lasers, drops, impacts, gun shots, and explosions can be sampled from videogames.
Sledgren and Johnny Juliano have made an impact by sampling videogame songs for Wiz Khalifa. Take a listen to Johnny Juliano's sample of the "Green Hill Zone" for Wiz's "Ms RightFerNow".
Check out Mike Will's sample of the Original Tetris Theme in "Get It Back" by Gucci Mane & 2Chainz.
A lot of producers are too lazy to explore all of the sounds that come with their DAW. The DAW creators bundle hundreds and hundreds of high quality royalty free music loops for you to use. You can use prerecorded percussion loops, synth layers, basslines, or naturally recorded audio to start your instrumental. You've already paid for them so why would you not use them?
Polow The Don produced Usher & Young Jeezy's "Love In This Club" with a loop from Logic Pro. That song ended up going number 1 on the Billboard charts!
Traveling The World
Get out of your comfort zone and leave the studio for once in your life. Bring a field microphone with you and capture the sounds of the world. Record street performers, nature sounds, open mics, or whatever else you can come up with. If you can go to another country, that's your best bet for finding some trippy samples.
You're not limited to recording your own tracks to sample. Pay attention to what locals are listening to in the new area. Keep a list of artists and songs to check out on your own. Every country has its own sound. I find that the rhythms vary the most. Draw inspiration from new sounds!
Timbaland is one of the best producers when it comes to drawing inspiration from all around the world. Check out this crazy Arabic song he sampled for Aaliyah's "More Than A Woman."
I hope this guide gave you some new places to find songs to sample. Be sure to remember that sampling doesn't necessarily give you the right to use the sounds. You will need to clear the samples if they are protected by copyright. Do your research on this topic and protect your hard work!
Use these resources to find samples that haven't been run into the ground already. Yeah, it's going to take more effort, but you'll sell more beats because of it. At this point, you probably aren't going to do anything too groundbreaking by sampling James Brown or Marvin Gaye.
If you know of any other good places to find songs to sample, let me know in the comments section so I can add them to the list! What did you think about this article? How do you find samples for your tracks? Leave some feedback! Let's get a discussion started!
Share this post