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.
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 rhythmically 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 Kicks, Snares, Hi-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).
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?
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.
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.