Samples in EDM Music: What, Why & How

Your favourite artists probably (very likely) use samples in their music. Should you?

The short answer: yes.

The longer answer: well it’s more complex than that.

This guy playing this fesitval probably uses music samples - should you?

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is a genre characterized by its pulsating beats, electrifying drops, and captivating melodies. Within the realm of EDM, genres like Future House, Techno, and Slap House have been making waves on dance floors worldwide. But behind these infectious tunes lies an essential element that contributes to their creation – samples.

However not all samples are made different. For instance there’s sampling and using a sample pack.

  1. Sampling is the art of finding a sound and tweaking it how YOU see fit. This takes time, sound engineering and a lot of trial and error.
  2. Sample packs are usually pre-made sounds in a specific genre. This allows you to buy a library of sounds and start producing.

Most “big name” artists create their own sounds. And spend a lot of time doing it. We’re talking about weeks, months even years developing their own sound libraries.

While sample packs help artists get creating music instead of sounds. In this article we’ll discuss more of the latter. To breakdown sample packs in more detail.

But wait, what exactly are samples?

Samples are small snippets of pre-recorded audio or music that can be used in the creation of new music. These snippets can be anything from a short drum beat to a vocal phrase, a guitar riff, or even a synthesizer melody. They serve as building blocks for musicians and producers to construct original tracks, adding depth, texture, and familiarity to their compositions.

In the realm of EDM, samples play a pivotal role in shaping the sound of the genre. Producers frequently rely on samples to create the distinctive beats, hooks, and atmospheric elements that define EDM subgenres like Future House, Techno, and Slap House.

Samples can really be anything. Some artists like Nicolas Jaar sample in an organic natural way. He literally creates his own instruments, records them and tweaks inside his DAW until getting the desired effect.

What this creates is something “truly” original. In EDM where so many things can sound the same, repetitive and boring… this kind of sampling can be a breathe of fresh air.

How are samples used in EDM?

Samples in EDM are used in various ways, allowing producers to craft intricate and engaging compositions. Some common uses of samples include:

a. Rhythmic Foundation: Drum samples are a cornerstone of EDM production, providing the rhythmic backbone of tracks. Producers can select and manipulate drum samples to create unique and driving beats that are essential for getting crowds moving.

b. Melodic Elements: Melodic samples, such as synth lines or vocal snippets, can be incorporated to create memorable hooks and melodies. These samples often form the heart of a track’s emotional impact.

c. Texture and Atmosphere: Ambient and atmospheric samples, like field recordings or sound effects, add depth and mood to EDM compositions. They help create immersive sonic landscapes that transport listeners to different emotional states.

d. Vocal Chops: One hallmark of many EDM subgenres, including Slap House, is the use of chopped and manipulated vocal samples. These snippets are often sliced, diced, and rearranged to create catchy vocal hooks that become instantly recognizable.

Really anything you hear and can isolate in a track can be sampled. And out of this the human voice is one of the most popular things to sample. And since each voice sounds unique – unlike any other – it makes for a perfect addition to your songs.

If you need to extract vocals using AI. I suggest these tools for sampling vocals or extracting.

But do big name DJs really use samples?

Without exception pretty much all do. It’s nearly impossible to be “completely original” when producing electronic music. This is what has led to the analog explosion with a lot of producers.

They are in the constant search of a sound that NOBODY else can use.

Many renowned EDM artists and DJs have mastered the art of incorporating samples into their productions. Let’s explore a few notable names:

a. Tchami (Future House Pioneer): Tchami is known for his signature Future House sound, which often incorporates vocal samples that are chopped and manipulated to perfection. His use of samples adds an infectious groove to his tracks.

b. Carl Cox (Techno Titan): Carl Cox, a legend in the world of Techno, has used samples to create some of the genre’s most iconic tracks. His ability to layer and manipulate samples seamlessly during live performances is a testament to his skill.

c. Meduza (Slap House Sensation): The rise of Slap House can be partially attributed to the work of artists like Meduza. Their tracks often feature catchy vocal chops and samples that have become synonymous with the subgenre.

Here’s a video of David Guetta and where he gets inspiration for some of his BIGGEST bangers. Yes. You guessed it, he’s sampling oldies 🙂

Samples Speed Up The Creative Process, Not Replace It

Samples alone won’t make you a better producer. It takes years, and you need to develop taste. It’s not as easy as just sampling something and putting it into a song.

That’s why some of the best producers went to music school, know multiple instruments and are truly masters of their craft. Sometimes spending YEARS being unknown before rising to the top.

a. Efficiency: Samples can significantly expedite the music production process. Producers can save time by incorporating pre-made elements, allowing them to focus on arrangement, mixing, and creativity.

b. Consistency: Samples ensure consistent sound quality, eliminating the need to source and record live instruments repeatedly. This consistency contributes to the polished and professional sound of many EDM tracks.

c. Inspiration: Samples can serve as creative sparks. A single sample can inspire an entire track, leading to unexpected and exciting musical directions.

d. Instant Recognition: Well-chosen and skillfully manipulated samples can make a track instantly recognizable and memorable, a crucial factor in the competitive EDM landscape.

What type of samples do people use in EDM?

Instead of talking about the building blocks of music. Lets talk about the specific instruments which producers will sample and how they do it.

a. Drum Samples: These include kicks, snares, hi-hats, and percussion sounds that form the rhythmic core of EDM tracks. Future House, for example, often features crisp and punchy drum samples.

b. Bass Samples: Bass samples provide the low-end foundation of EDM tracks. In genres like Techno, throbbing and pulsating bass samples are prevalent, driving the energy of the music.

c. Synth Samples: Synth samples, such as chord progressions or lead melodies, contribute to the melodic and harmonic elements of EDM tracks. They are vital in shaping the mood and vibe of the music.

d. Vocal Samples: Vocal samples, including vocal chops and phrases, are frequently used to add a human element and emotional depth to EDM compositions, particularly in Slap House.

e. Sound Effects: Sound effect samples, such as risers, impacts, and sweeps, are employed to create transitions and build tension in EDM tracks. They are crucial for maintaining the energy on the dance floor.

Final Thoughts on Sampling in EDM

Samples are the secret ingredients that add flavor, character, and individuality to EDM subgenres like Future House, Techno, and Slap House. These snippets of sound provide producers with the tools to craft tracks that move both the body and the soul.

As we’ve explored in this article, samples in EDM serve as the foundation for rhythmic grooves, the heart of memorable melodies, and the soul of atmospheric experiences. They are the building blocks that transform a blank canvas into a masterpiece of sound, making EDM a genre that continues to evolve and captivate audiences worldwide.

So on one side you should always develop your own sound. Make it better. Never stop producing.

But on the other, samples can help you create music faster. And music that other people will respond to. And everyone knows that making music is just a part of the game – you also need to promote.

So getting out tracks faster can help you do exactly that.