How to Properly Use Samples within Your Songs and Avoid Cheating Music With Them

Some people avoid using samples and presets because they believe it is cheating and that everything should be made from scratch. At the same time, some artists simply drag and drop samples, and that’s about it. However, using them can be extremely helpful as well, so here are a couple of thoughts on that…


1. Use samples/presets as starting points and ALWAYS make sure to change them somehow. Many other producers will own samples that you bought or got for free online, so if you don’t tweak them, you’ll possibly fall into the problem of someone using the same sample as you to make their songs. Drum loops are less problematic as they are harder to spot, but melodic loops can be a real problem if you don’t do anything to tweak them. “Copy that Leo, but how?” (1) Consider pitching them up or down, so this way, it’s a bit different at least from how it is originally; (2) consider using the midi of that sample with another sound, so then you can call it your own sound; (3) merge various loops into one and make it your own. If you don’t want to change them, that’s also ok, but it could become a problem for you if someone else uses, or has used, that sample or a community comes on to you because you just dragged and dropped a sample. At the same time, remember that samples are EXTREMELY useful to speed up your workflow, give you ideas when you’re stuck, and inspire you to make your songs, so definitely use them freely, but make sure to add your touch to it to make it your own. What I recommend to you is try to tweak a sample enough so no one would know where you got the idea from, and you’ll be golden.

2. Be careful with the vocal samples that you get online. Again, vocal loops, especially the ones that you can find on Splice, are highly used by producers all over the world, and it’s not so simple to tweak these. However, again, you have to make sure to tweak them to make them your own. (1) Consider using something like SoundToys Little Alterboy (paid) or Melda’s MAutoPitch (free) to at least pitch it up or down, or mess around with the formant shifter. The idea here is again trying to tweak it to a way that you like it, but that is different enough from what everyone is doing. (2) Chop it up or just use some words from the vocal, or even make a vocal chop loop with it; (23 Use the vocals as a placeholder to test a vocal and then consider hiring a vocalist to replace that vocal. Ideally, you’d use a different melody and lyrics for your vocal, but you can also replace only the lyrics while keeping the melody, or possibly even building on top of the melody. “But Leo, vocalists are expensive”. Well, you can learn more about how to find amazing vocalists for ‘free’ in this big post and also in this short post.

3. Go nuts with One Shots samples, possibly even creating your own sample library to enhance your workflow. One-shot samples are MUCH harder to identify, and even if someone does identify that you used that one-shot, who cares? Isn’t what they are supposed to be used for? In addition to that, you can also use the one-shots to create your own loops, and then start creating your own personal library of loops and one-shots that you love. The best thing about having your own sample library is that these are samples you liked, and that will make your process faster in the future since you won’t have to go through a thousand samples that you don’t like. For example, let’s say that you just bought a sample pack, and from its 25 kicks, you liked 10. Ok, perfect, add these to a library so next time you don’t need to go through 25 samples again, which will save you time and make your workflow faster. For example, I have a list of 40 kicks that I’ve gathered over the years, and I haven’t used ANY other kick sample in the last two years other than the ones in my library. In addition to that, when you make your own loops, it will be your own designed loops that nobody will ever have, excluding any risk of possible plagiarism and making it 100% unique, plus you’ll learn a LOT on how to design good percussion loops, which will make your songs better.

4. If you spot a sample that you’ve heard in someone else’s track, avoid it at all costs. Why would you select something that you know has been used before? For example, the vocal from Get Out My Head by Shane Codd was taken from 91Vocals Pack’s Femme Fatale and that song has over 110 Million plays on Spotify and 9M on Youtube. If you use that same vocal, likely that some people will possibly say you’re doing a remix, or even Youtube will mistakenly copyright strike you, but why even go through the hassle? Shane Codd is the best example that there are no problems using vocals from sample packs, but at the same time, if that sample had been used before, it would probably make him go through some headaches. In this scenario, limit your use of that melody loop as a placeholder, or extremely tweak it to avoid any problems.


Should you make all of your samples, or even, should you make all your loops? In my opinion, Yes, and No, at the same time:
1. NO, because that will take you a lot of time and that won’t you make finish more songs, which is ultimately the goal. So, when producing, try to go fast and definitely use samples;
2. Yes, because the exercise of making your samples and making loops is extremely helpful to your learning. I’ve spent more than 150 hours making samples and loops, and every time I go to practice this skill, I learn a new pattern or, at least, makes me practice creating quick 4/8-bar loops without artistically caring about the result, which helps your mindset and agility when you then artistically care about what you create.

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Leo Lauretti

Born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Leo Lauretti has been producing since 2013. With releases on SONY Music, Armada, Enhanced Music, Leo Lauretti accumulates multiple supports from artists like Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Cosmic Gate, Nicky Romero, and many others all over the world.

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