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How To Use Samples In Ableton Live 11 (And Make Better Music)

 How To Use Samples In Ableton Live 10

Thanks to the internet, sampling is easy and can open new worlds of sound exploration while taking your tracks to the next level.

But what is sampling in music, and how to use samples in Ableton Live 11?

For many genres, sampling has been the bread and butter for over fifty years.

In the last decade, electronic music has also adopted sampling as one of its foundations.

Today’s technology allows producers to take sounds from anywhere and turn them into whatever they want.

And with vast libraries of samples out there, finding what you need can be done in a breeze.

But to start, what is sampling?

What Is Sampling In Music?

Sampling is taking a part of another audio recording and using it. It can be taking vocals from a song, kick drums from a drumbeat, or bird sounds from a YouTube video.

In music, sampling is a very popular practice which dates to reggae music in the 1960s. As technology became more advanced, so did different sampling techniques.

Hip-hop is another genre that depends on sampling. You might have heard the term "crate digging," – referring to the practice of going through old boxes of vinyl to find new music and possibly things to sample.

Sampling is also popular with DJs, who loop or play specific parts of other tracks over other music live.

Check out: 3 Things That Make A Sample Pack Great

How Do You Sample Music?

How To Use Samples In Ableton Live 10

There are many ways to sample music. The one you choose ultimately depends on convenience and what tools are available to you.

Sampling music is taking a part of an audio recording and using it.

The first way of sampling is using audio editing software to extract parts of a recording that you like.

A second way is taking advantage of your DAW. Today, all popular DAWs have sampling features, meaning you can drag-and-drop audio files into your DAW and use them.

How you sample ultimately depends on the source of what you want to sample.

Suppose you want to sample audio from old VHS tapes. In that case, you might need a VHS converter – get the video on your computer and then extract the audio from there.

Luckily, you can find or get any audio you want online. That means you can download finished audio files or use online converters to extract audio from other sources.

Where Can You Find Samples?

Samples are everywhere, literally.

Since the definition of a sample is an audio file, there are no limits to what you consider a sample for your music production.

However, looking for individual sounds in specific keys takes a long time. You might want clean brass or kick drum samples, which can be tedious to find in old recordings.

Sample packs are the solution to this problem.

With everything from kicks, snares, percussions, FX, and every instrument and vocal style you can think of, sample packs are collections of sounds that are ready to use.

Are you looking for professional sample packs? Look no further! Check out the latest Deep Premium pack here.

How To Use Samples In Ableton Live 11

How To Use Samples In Ableton Live 10 Cover Image

Ableton Live 11 loves samples. With fantastic morphing, slicing, and editing capabilities, Live can turn your samples into whatever you desire.

There are two main ways of using samples in Ableton, with audio and MIDI.

These techniques relate to the two different types of channels you can use: MIDI and audio.

They both achieve the same thing, meaning that they take your audio file and get them ready for processing and use in your creations.

But the two methods differ and are best used at different times. We will explain why.

Let’s go through them both in more detail.

Sampling With Audio

The first sampling technique we’re going to look at is bringing your sample into an audio channel.

Audio channel sampling turns your sample into an audio waveform, which you can edit and warp as you see fit.

An audio sample only starts playing if you have activated the clip in Ableton Live or placed it in your arrangement view.

You can’t play audio files on a MIDI keyboard.

The biggest benefit of using audio samples is that you can tempo match the sample to fit your track.

That’s why longer samples, like drum loops, are better sampled as audio.

How do you sample in audio?

Using a sample in audio is easy.

1) Create a new audio track.

2) Drag and drop your audio file in your audio channel, here:

How To Use Samples In Ableton Live 10 Audio

3) Press play in your clip and you can hear the sample playing.

How To Use Samples In Ableton Live 10 Audio Play

4) To bring the sample into your arrangement view, you can press record while your sample is playing.

How To Use Samples In Ableton Live 10 Record

Note: don't forget to click the orange "▶" symbol to finalize your recording.

Bonus Tip

By right-clicking on your audio clip, you can slice your entire audio sample into MIDI. This method spreads your sample across the piano roll, giving you all individual sample parts to use – and the power that MIDI can bring.

How To Use Samples In Ableton Live 10 Slice To New MIDI Track


Sampling With MIDI

The second sampling technique is putting your sample into a MIDI channel.

MIDI channel sampling makes your audio playable as MIDI, which means you can trigger your sample from your keyboard.

When you press a key on your regular or MIDI keyboard and have your sample in a MIDI channel, it will play your sample to the keys you hit.

If you play a low note, your sample will play in a low note. But if you play in a higher octave, it will play in a faster, higher octave.

The biggest benefit of using MIDI samples is that you can play notes on your keyboard or draw them out in your piano roll.

That makes MIDI better for one-hit sounds.

How do you sample in MIDI?

1) To make your audio sample playable in MIDI, create a MIDI channel and drop your audio file here (at the bottom of your screen when the channel is selected):

How To Use Samples In Ableton Live 10 MIDI Drop Your File Here

2) Your sample is now automatically loaded into Live's sampler called Simpler.

How To Use Samples In Ableton Live 10 MIDI Simpler sampler

3) You can now change the settings of your MIDI sample.

Note: With your Arm Recording button activated (red) at the bottom the channel's session view, you can also play it on your MIDI keyboard.


Sampling unleashes vast possibilities for your music creations. With the power to take any sound you wish and transform it into whatever you want, there are no limits to what music you can make.

Thankfully, sampling in Ableton Live 11 is very easy, as you have discovered today.

By simply dragging and dropping your audio file in either an audio or MIDI channel, you open different ways of using your production samples.

Combined with your audio effects library and third-party VST plugins, you can take your audio samples even further. 

Thanks for reading, and see you in the next article.

Pelle Sundin
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.



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