What makes a sample pack great? If you have been producing music for a while, the chances are that you have built up an extensive sample pack library. If you’re new to the scene, chances are you’ll end up there eventually.
It could be "royalty-free loops" that you got in exchange for signing up for a newsletter, other free samples, and professional packs that cost you a few dinero.
You have gigabytes of sample packs – and yet most of them are terrible. Why?
To learn what makes a sample pack great, we need to know what makes them bad. If you have worked with samples, you’re familiar with the feeling you get when a sound doesn’t fit. When the quality is poor, and it sounds so far away from what you have in mind.
In this article, we’ll go through the three things you must look for to find great sample packs. When it’s time to choose, determine these points from the sample pack descriptions and how they sound in previews.
The first thing that makes a good sample pack is its usability. But what makes it usable? Well. If you're the owner of a vast sample library (as described earlier), you've probably realized most of the files never get used. You own many of the samples as a "just in case" – but sadly, that day never comes.
Owning a broad set of samples is not bad, per se. There might come a day when a snare in your “sounds created by bananas” sample pack comes in handy. But if a significant part of your samples consists of samples you rarely use, you’re not going to feel inspired.
Get most samples relevant to the genre you’re producing in. If you’re a techno producer, your primary samples should be in the techno genre.
I know what you’re thinking…
"Music is about innovation – you should morph sounds and instruments from different genres and styles to capitalize on this creativity.”
If you fill your library with avant-garde sounds from weird genres, the creative possibilities will stop your creativity dead in its tracks.
Get solid balance – a ground of amazing, genre relevant samples, and some alternative flavors to spice things up, like salt and pepper on a solid steak.
There’s nothing worse than low-quality samples. Yes, grit and poor quality can give your track an exciting flavor, but most of the time, it just sounds terrible.
It’s a common phenomenon in free loops from suspect websites – they offer you 100 promising loops. You download the surprisingly small file considering the number of sounds. You click through the loops, hoping you’ve struck gold – only to find one or two that are barely usable. The rest is just a soup of a low-quality mess.
But you save them, just in case, until you need more hard drive space for Call of Duty and delete them without any second thought, without using even one sample.
Great sample packs should be high-quality – both in the way they were recorded but also in sound quality itself. You want the tiny amount of analog buzz in synth samples, the bright acoustic pop in a snare. You want audio files that sound like you're right next to the synth or drum set, playing it yourself.
High-quality samples do wonders for your overall productions. As I wrote earlier, lower-quality samples can give a refreshing flavor – especially in trip-hop or more nostalgic production. But overall, using samples of high-quality takes your track to the next level.
Uninspiring sample packs lack vibrancy – many sounding as if a tone-deaf historian with an $8 microphone setup crafted them. It's impossible to envision your next hit scrolling when encountering these kinds of evil, uninspiring samples.
But what makes an inspiring sample or pack? Well, samples are a great way to get inspired - if they're good. If you're staring at a blank slate in Ableton, not knowing where to start, a great way to get going is to scroll through a library of inspiring, usable, high-quality samples.
You scroll through for a while and boom – you find the perfect sample that grabs you. It could be a fantastic kick, a sick lead, or a fluffy pad, but the fact remains; you get filled with energy and instant inspiration to finish the rest of your track.
Inspiring samples are innovative, feature excellent sound, and is a solid structure to build from. Rather than being wholly drenched in undesirable effects, inspirational samples are generally on the dryer side – putting you in the driver’s seat for choosing effects and processing. You want to make the sample sound like yours, and that’s what inspiring samples provide.
You make better music when you’re inspired. It’s as simple as that. And great samples are one of the catalysts for grand inspiration.
Great Sample Packs Are Hard To Find
Once you discover a source for inspiring, usable, high-quality samples, you can count yourself lucky knowing your productions will take on a new level. Great sample packs are hard to find and extremely difficult to come by in the freebie section.
To get the top-tier samples that you're after, you often have to shell out a few bucks. And it’s literally a few bucks – usually just a cup or two of store-bought coffee's worth.
To get high-quality sounds that can revolutionize your career as a music producer, making a coffee at home instead, is a no-brainer.
Speaking of top tier…
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Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish producer and copywriter, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing music, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.