Loops and Sample Packs: What They Are and How to Use Them

Loops and Sample Packs: What They Are and How to Use Them

Loops and Sample Packs: What They Are and How to Use Them

By now, I’m sure you’ve come across these words in your adventures as a Hip-Hop producer and you’re no doubt curious as to how these magnificent little gems can help get you in the game with very little effort. Now, loops and samples may sound similar to you but these bad boys could not be more different, and that is for one reason in particular (or maybe two…or a few, you know, it really depends how you look at it…anyway). Here’s what you need to know about Loops and Sample Packs.

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By eternal jamzzzz – Flickr: patterns, CC BY 2.0


Stuck in a Loop…

The only daunting thing about a loop is how vague their definition actually is. Have you ever created a drum pattern that was 4 bars long and then heard it play repetitively over and over again as if it was all in one seamless line? Then congratulations! You’ve already made your first loop because you see, that’s all they really are. Continuos pieces of music that can run Loops - How To Make Hip-Hop.comrhythmically on repeat in a seamless fashion for an infinite amount of times. There’s that word again…”seamless”…and that’s probably not the last time you’ll hear me say it because that is what you’re aiming for when using or creating a loop. The rhythm should not get interrupted as it begins another repetition.

The most common loops are drum loops and can be made from electronic drum sounds or a live acoustic drum kit. The problem is that what you get is what you get. You can always add more drum sounds to it but you can’t take any away (without some highly skilful editing). Plus, the audio might warp and end up sounding horrible if you try to affect the tempo too much. Often you’ll find loops of one of a kind guitar riffs, professional piano pieces or even groovy bass lines that could all become the backbone of your beat. Loops that contain all of these elements are a little harder to handle. You won’t be able to affect the pitch properly without altering the original sound of the drums, so it’s best to avoid that headache when you’re just starting out.


Show Me An Ex-Sample…

Back in my post on Hip-Hop of the 80’s, we talked briefly about how some of the earliest producers helped develop this emerging urban sound through the art of sampling. By cutting up pieces of pre-recorded songs (often they were songs made famous by well known artists) to create musical collages. The good news is, we’ve come a long way since then. There are still many artists and producers out there cutting up old music to form the foundation of their tracks and it’s an art that won’t die anytime soon. There are many technical, and legal, challenges to doing that in this day and age but we’ll cover that in another post. Our main focus is on what you would typically find in, what are known as, Sample Packs.


Run with the Pack…s

Samples these days come in a style known as “one-shots”. Essentially, you have individual pieces of audio from pre-recorded instruments, sounds, synths and effects (or FX if you wanna be cool). Let’s look at an 808 drum pack. Typically, each piece of the kit would be broken down into it’s individual part. For example: an 808 snare sample would contain just a single hit of the snare drum and nothing more. The same would be for the kick, one hit of the drum and that’s it.

Most packs will contain variants of each piece but should have (at least) a collection of KicksSnaresHi-Hats (or Cymbals), Claps and maybe some cool…ahem…FX (ha!). They aren’t limited to  electronic drums either. Just like loops, you get packs that contain samples of live acoustic drums. And yeah, that means that some poor drummer sat there and tapped his snare in seven different ways so you’d have seven different samples to choose from (don’t worry, they probably paid him enough).How To Make Hip-Hop.com

It doesn’t stop at drums, one-shots come in instrument form as well. The most common are the quick bursts of orchestral strings, and even, trumpets that you’ve probably heard if you’ve ever spent, like, 5 minutes listening to Trap.


How To Use Them

Onions Have Layers

Remember when we mentioned the words “musical collage”, well the games pretty much the same. Whether you’re using loops or samples, the goal is to create unique patterns and layers from multiple pieces of audio. Using 1 sound isn’t gonna cut it, so don’t go slapping a piano loop on a drum loop and calling it a beat because really…that’s just lazy. Find the right drum loop and create your melody around it or find the perfect acoustic guitar loop and build your beat around that, it’s really up to you and your imagination.

  • Wanna try something a little more advanced? Try using more than one sound for your kick or snare. You can edit and manipulate each layer to create a unique sound all your own. Speaking of which…

Did he just say Edit & Manipulate?

Johnny Juliano
By Ksdksd412 – Johnny Juliano working on a track, CC BY 2.0

Yes, I did say ‘edit and manipulate’. That’s the key to creating your patterns and layers. You may find yourself using samples from various different packs and they weren’t all made or recorded by the same guy (or people…depends), so you’re going to need to get familiar with altering the pitch of your loops and samples as well as editing with the 4 basic plugins that you will always need. Why the pitch you ask? Well, every song is written and played according to a particular “key”. That is the scale that every instrument will play to so everyone can harmonise and stay in tune. There a bit of learning curve involved but soon your ears will be able to pinpoint what is in the right key and what is not.

  • Wanna try something a little more advanced? Don’t settle for your loops and samples as is. Cut up the audio and stick it all back together to create a completely new sound too.

Rack City

Drum Racks are sometimes seen as the reason that drum samples exist in the first place and the fit together like fingers in a glove. In most DAWs you can create your own racks with your own collection of samples and assign a unique sound to each pad in each drum rack. From this you can create various MIDI patterns in the same way you would use a vst instrument. Many professional producers create their own sounds to sell and sometimes give away so keep your library updated with the hottest collection of sounds out there.

  • Wanna try something a little more advanced? Place your samples directly onto the audio track in your DAW, as if it were a live recording, and add your effects easily to each individual drum sound.


Go For It

It’s up to you now to get that imagination going and start mashing your own sounds together. Get your 1st free Gigabyte of loops and samples from LoopMasters and start pumping out your own hits today.

Register for Free Samples and Loops at Loopmasters.com


10 thoughts on “Loops and Sample Packs: What They Are and How to Use Them

  1. Farhan

    This is a very good breakdown of loops and samples. They are really fun to play around with, and I can spend literally hours just mixing them around.

    High quality samples can get really costly though. I’m always on the lookout for professional quality samples for orchestral instruments, and some can cost hundreds of dollars.

    Great article!

    1. Ryan

      It can get expensive but you don’t need much to get yourself going. It’s something I think a lot of aspiring producers might be turned off by but a lot can be accomplished with low starting costs.

      Thanks for leaving your comment.

  2. Carlton

    Awesome run down on how loops and samples work. As a kid I always thought when I heard the same repetitive beat, it was the musician playing it over and over manually. What do you suggest a starter kit should have when first getting into producing and making beats I am a drummer and I always wanted to get more into the producing side, I just didn’t know where to start.

  3. Shawn G

    Hey Ryan, I just happened by your sight. I really like our explanation of loops and samples. I dabble a little (more of a hobby). I’ve been doing it a while but just mostly creating my own loops or using the ones provided in garageband. Is it really worth the switch to Ableton? Is ProTools no longer the standard in the industry? Also could you suggest a good drum rack that’s not to expensive?

    1. Ryan

      Pro Tools is just in a league all on it’s own. I’m focused on helping the beginner get into the game and for that reason I’d recommend that they all stay away from that behemoth. They have schools for teaching protools and you have to get certified as a user too! Sooo, for the bedroom producer I’d say it’s a definite no-no!

      If you’re looking for a great drum machine, try Plugin Boutique. They have a great selection of racks and other vst instruments too.

      Hope this helps and thanks for leaving your comment.

  4. Bob

    i recently got into producing but many of my friends have been doing this for years and there seems to be a slight disagreement amongst them. i’m still relatively new but one of my friends recommended that i learn to sample first then get into creating my own loops as i progress and another has told me the exact opposite. which way do you think makes a little more sense for generally improving and developing your own sound?

    1. Ryan

      Using a sample of a piano piece and looping it over a drum beat that you created for 16 bars (for example) is the kind of thing you should be doing. Create your own melodies and MIDI patterns if you have the musical ability but putting together different samples to create beats is not a bad place to start.

      How this helps and thanks again for leaving your comment.

  5. Michael F

    Really useful website to create connection between a new producer and software.. I just to rap when I was Really young haha good old times, did some bits in fruity loops but wouldn’t call it that way! Imagine 14 years old chap doing bits haha. Anyways your page is really clear, got loads of information on it and free beats is just a cherry on top! Keep up with good work!

    1. Ryan

      Thanks Michael.

      I can definitely imagine what you’re saying because that was me at one stage. I’m glad you feel my site is of use to the community

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