Sample library elements – A creative approach in production

Greetings producers, sound designers, “beatmakers”, musicians. Hope your day is going well. Last night I took some time to again categorize samples from sample CDs I get from the magazines Future Music and Computer Music. Some of you have read my previous blogpost on how I organize my sample library by genre, loops (bpm), instrument, etc…on two external drives – one connected to my studio computer and the other 750GB portable drive I pack with my Macbook for mobile production.

During last night’s session, I was auditioning some soul and funk drum loops and hits. The loops folder included the full mix loop, the individual drum loop (with/without kick and snare) and a folder of individual hits. As I listened to each loop, I decided whether it would be something I’d be prone to want to use for a future track or just leave on the DVD. While all the loops were excellently recorded, I thought back my days of programming drum machines I owned for the drum and percussion tracks I needed. This was, of course, before the advent of samplers. Though I could take the individual hits and load them into my DAW’s (Logic Pro’s EXS24 or Ultrabeat) sampler and map them across the keyboard *OR* load them into my MPC, I wondered if using loops AS IS, was just the lazy man’s approach to music production. While I’m not here to debate whether it is or not (nor would I even spend the energy to do so), I thought that because of how I had to take a beat in my head and translate it to the drum machine of choice at the time. Of course, the drum machine was dependent upon the quality of the PCM samples (or whatever format it used), so drum hit flexibility was no where near along the lines of samplers – and – in the minimal sense, assigning individual drum samples across your keyboard is pretty much the same thing, there is something, to me, about taking a loop and using it as is. Easy, yes…I’ve done it a few times, but is it really lazy?

Over the weekend I spotted the latest Computer Music magazine. This one’s title is “The Ultimate Sample Collection”, complete with 7.3 GB of samples from the well respected vendor, Time and Space – 2109 samples in all. The mag is jam packed with articles, tutorials on sampling – especially using Logic Pro in the examples, which is pretty cool. Oddly enough, as I read an article on Jon Carter and Alex Blanco (Loopmasters Block Party Essentials sample DVD), an interesting sidebar captured my attention. Here’s the quote:

“Like a lot of producers in the business, we know that there are a lot of great collections out there nowadays, with some great sounds and vibes. We also know that theres a way to employ samples from these packs in your tracks and imbue them with youyr own unique groove. There’s no reason not to, as long as you’re creative with them as you would be with samples that you make by yourself. The other good thing about using somebody elses samples is that you can find inspiration and add variation to tyour tracks by going for a different style to usual. By picking a sample collection that isn’t necessarily designed for the genre you’re working in (tech-house for a hip-hoptrack or jazz breaks for a techno production, for example), you will find uyourself entering fresh territory, and with a sonic palette that you probably wouldn’t have found just by going through your all-too-familiar collection. The key is never to just drop a loop in (unelss it’s a remix, you’re in a hurry, you’re on a flat fee and it fits perfectly!) – always try to make it your own in some way.”
Interestingly enough I was thinking how I can employ samples from the really popular genre of dubstep into the house, soul/RnB, instrumental jazzy hip hop, and chillout/downtempo tracks I like to write and produce. I like the substance of the quote above – it always reminds me that in the plethora of samples and construction kits available (free and otherwise), use creativity and variation employing them. Not to say, you wont come up with a smash hit like Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (drum loop taken straight from Apple’s Garageband/Logic loops library and slowed down a little), if you use a straight loop, but …u follow me.

Thanks for the read…

::: oceans of rhythm :::


Chronicles of A Remix – Vol.2: Stop It Now/Karlina Veras – Pt.1

Greetings Crew…

Back with another edition in the series entitled “Chronicles of A Remix”. In this edition, I’ll bring you in on a song I’m producing for Santo Domingo born, London-based vocalist, Karlina Veras.

Karlina and I connected via Twitter as a result of her tweet requesting collaboration with a producer for some tracks she has. The track I’m engineering, mixing and producing is one she calls “Stop It Now”. This is strictly a barter situation where I get to hone my mix skills, get credit for and push the final tune, while she gets the tune.

So far, she’s sent me rough vocals, grand piano, vocal adlibs. and a disco-style backing drum track. This is a dance track at 126 BPM. She’s requesting “a sense of air and space and a bit of sensitivity and desperation with a search of something”. In a base collaboration like this, the more the artist can convey to the composer about the tune, the better. Already I have an idea of the arrangement and elements I plan to incorporate to achieve what she feels. The first thing I did was audition some 2-step drum loops for foundation, to give it the feel she’s looking for.

One of the first things I noticed is that the audio stems were a mix of 24-bit (which Logic Studio automatically imports) and 32-bit resolutions (which Logic doesn’t automatically import). Logic’s current max import bit rate is 24-bit. I used my “swiss army knife”, Audacity to the conversion, then import into Logic, all the time thinking “Logic Studio must have a way of doing this”. It does: Compressor. Good to go next time.

This is the kind of thing I dreamt of doing many years ago and I’m simply looking at it as creatively win-win situation: I get to hone my music production and recording engineering skills on a song within a genre I like, she gets the track…all good. I have the BPM and some other track notes on the song from her. Being that it will be a dance track, this should be fun project, since some of favorite sub-genres lie in the dance music genre.
Next steps are to augment the loop with some drum programming to thicken it up. After sending her a snippet the other day, she likes it so far. We’re both excited.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Karlina Veras Official Site

::: oceans of rhythm :::


Sample Library Organization – Making Workflow Efficient


Thanks for stopping by. Some of you may have read a three part series I did recently on Sampling and Music Compostion. Over the last two days (Thanksgiving morning and evening, and this evening), I decided to gather up all the downloaded sample libraries, construction kits and various samples spread out over two Macs to add and categorize them onto a 250 GB portable HD I use for music production. While there are many software apps (Redmatica, etc) out there to do just this, I needed a solution that would work best for the way I intend to work. One solution I thought (and still do think) will work great is using iTunes to categorize samples. It has smart folder capability and search and can be used across Windows and Mac. While multiple playlists can be set up, I’d have have the app installed on my computers (which it is) as well as the external drive. I decided I wanted to be app independent.

I read and viewed a very good video by my man St. Joe over at Sounds and Gear entitled Organizing your samples and sound libraries for better workflow. I like his thought process, but since I am not primarily a sample based musician, I really don’t care about the manufacturer connection to the samples I use (unless of course they really suck, which none I have come across do), instead, it’s more important to me that I choose my samples by sound category, genre and bpm (if they are loops). So I set out to categorize them in that fashion. While I prefer to program my drum tracks from scratch, I do find loops useful for quick and dirty tunes or for something fast I may need for a client. I most likely would use an audio drum loop for something backing, though there are a few songs I’ve used straight loops for. In any event, being able to choose loops of any sort by bpm first is easiest for me because the tempo of a song is one of my first considerations, along with genre. I keep my genre list basic because frankly, the industry is out of control with genres, sub-genres and the like…I just can’t keep up.

That being said, here is a screen shot of what my sample organization looks like. There are a number of sample loops aside from drum loops with bpms so having that as the primary search criteria makes composing, from a sample standpoint, very easy.

I still have a ton of sample CDs that I haven’t categorized yet, but at least I’ve got all the ones from the various hard drives done. Aside from adding the sample CDs over time, the next project is to burn all of these current ones….to CD, then incorporate the iTunes solution into the mix. Between the CDs, my portable drive and Logic Studio, I shouldnt ever want to see another sample or sample loop ever …lol. (I know that it itself, is unrealistic…ha!) I’ll continue to look out for the info I get from Primeloops, Loopmasters, Platinumloops, Siliconbeats, P5 Audio, and a host of other fantastic vendors that grace the music production community with free demos and samples…but at least now, I can categorize them in an order fashion.

Sample users (this means you especially Big La ha!), I’d be interested to read about how you categorize your samples, if at all.

Thanks for the read…

::: oceans of rhythm :::


Workin’ (well semi-workin’) in studio tonite

The CD project is moving forward, though Dan and I have two more songs to record, and a few to mix. I’ve laid out a schedule of things to be done, but right now, I’m playing around with these

In the meantime, I pulled out of the vault, a house music track that was originally written for a female vocalist. Think I’m gonna spruce it up some (I actually forgot I had it until tonite). Stay tuned for a post to my Soundcloud page.

Anyway hit us up on Twitter and Facebook .

Have a good night.


Sampling and Music Composition- A “Fresh” Perspective. Pt. 3: Presently Speaking

Native Instruments’ Maschine

Hello. Here I am, back with the final installment of this blog post. Took the day off (Happy Birthday to me), sitting in Starbucks, finishing up this blog post. Listening to Foreign Exchange’s “Authenticity” (superb new release by Nic, Phonte, Zo, Yah, etc). Nice day so far.

I’ve had time to do some more reading, see some more tweets, have some more conversations, all related to this topic. That being said, I’ll be highlighting three of those diatribes later on this post.

On the information highway, Twitter is my primary stop for all things. Readers of this blog and followers of me on Twitter have heard me sing the praises of how I use Twitter to get all info I am interested pushed to me, based on the IDs that I follow. It keeps me abreast of, and learning about, the things that make me smarter, without having to hop on Google search (pull info) all the time (though that’s a regular activity too)

In any event, outside of the topic matter in the first two posts, Part 1, and Part 2, Twitter has brought directly to my attention how many sample construction kit/sample vendors there are out there. Yeah, I read a few music production magazines, but the info-push from Twitter places them in front of me on a daily basis. This, in itself, (for the most part) really shows the popularity in using samples in music composition today…anywhere from the computer novice and “beat maker” to the most accomplished trained musicians and writers of film scores. Speaking of which, here’s a good article on the use of such from another follower on Twitter, Soundsandgear. His article is here.

That being said, I decided to leverage the power of my Twitter connections and present a survey to two of my followers to get some feedback from them on the very topic of this series. Since sampling does have it’s roots in hip-hop, I’ll present first some footage of a video interview done by Propellerheads (Reason, Record, Recycle, etc) of the legendary Hank Shocklee, sonic architect, producer, artist, behind the hip-hop legends, Public Enemy. The first minute of his commentary confirms how sampling has continued to live:

Good video. Now, I’ll let one of my followers, MsTrisBeats, a producer and studio engineer out of Baltimore, answer a series of questions I presented to her, regarding the topic of this series;

Fresh: What got you interested in sampling?

MB: I was in a rap group and our producer DJ Profaze was, and is a sample king. He introduced me to it before I touched a sampler. Over the years as a rapper, producers came and went. I knew I had ideas. I purchased an Ensoniq Eps. I started going crazy with crate digging. Profaze taught me how to extend the time on the Eps. When I first started producing hip hop, I had no idea that 90% was sample based. I’d recognize some songs, but my favorite producer at the time, RZA, was great at chopping samples beyond obvious recognition. Later, I learned more about sampling from another producer Scottie B, Baltimore Club Music pioneer. He raved about the new Ensoniq sample workstation, the infamous Asr10. Once I found out RZA also used it, I purchased one and it was on..

Fresh: What got u interested in using sampling as a primary means of composing your music? (If you don’t consider it a primary means, explain to what extent you use it).

MB: It was primary in the beginning, because I could only play by ear. No real chord progressions or any thing. Just playing what sounded good, as far as composing was concerned. Hip Hop was all about sampling at the time. I remember artist saying ” I don’t like whack keyboard beats”. They were meaning beats without samples. Every producer I loved was sampling as well. It wasn’t that I was only interested in sampling, sampling was how hip hop I loved was made.

Fresh: What are your thoughts on the history of sampling. How has it’s evolution played a part in music composition to date?

MB: Sampling gave birth to rap music. Although it has evolved into using more composed tracks, the history is there from the Bronx. DJ’s played and looped a sample of old soul music, the emcee rhymed over it.

Before that, the first synthesizers were being created with samples. Music would not sound the way it does today without samplers. Samplers allowed musicians to extend the limits of sound, and sound manipulation.

On an extreme extent, samplers have cut the cost of music. If you’ve seen “Whats Love Got To Do With It”, there’s a scene with a huge orchestra. Talk about money to pay all the players and engineers for one song? Samples have allowed musicians with little budget, to create the feel of full orchestras with one module.

Fresh: What are your favorite tools and current methodologies for sampling in your composition?

MB: I’m sort of a gear I love learning all types of hardware and software. My favorites have been , the Asr10, Fl Studio’s slicer and slicex. I use the mpc2500 as well. Today I honestly found the best sampler for my set up in Native Instruments Maschine. It mixes both hardware and software for endless possibilities. It’s a concept which brings the ease of Fl studio to the hands on of the Mpc… brilliant!

There are many many styles of Sampling. Chopping a sample into many parts and replaying the chops is my favorite style. It gives a song a certain feel which no one can create playing straight melodies. This style has a swing most popular in boom bap hip hop.

When I use samples, I chop/slice samples with an editor into as small as 1bar loops. I assign each slice to a keys or pad. The sample is now like an instrument. I play it with keys or pads of the sampler.

Fresh: How do u see sampled based music (loops and samples only) as a means for composing music today with regards to the ease and popularity of such music in popular genres that use it.

MB: I’ve been learning more music theory, which allows me to compose my own samples. There are so many laws against sampling, that a lot of industry artist don’t want to deal with. It can be very expensive for sample clearance. The copyright owner may not even allow use.

It’s only right morally and legally to pay if using music that another artist made. The mainstream artist that still use beats with samples, can usually afford clearance. It’s gotten so expensive that many want to take it out of the producers budget.

I don’t think there is an ease of use anymore, unless you don’t plan to release the sample based song on a major level.

Fresh: Do you think a composer that has no formal knowledge of music, but learned knowledge of computers, digital audio workstation software and the use of samples and loops only, is considered a musician?

MB: A musician makes music, instrumentalist play instruments. Some people do both. Some are masters and some are not. I would not consider some one who arranges straight loops as a master of the craft, but the fact remains they are musicians if they make music.

It’s more about how they use the samples, computers, and software that would make the general public consider one a musician . Some people are born with musicianship as a natural gift.

It’s 2010, we have kicked off a new millennium. Music has taken a digital turn. Anyone who uses a sound module like the Motif, Triton, or Fantom are actually using “computer, software, samples, and loops”. When the composer sits down and plays a orchestra type chord on the motif, there is no chamber, no oboes, or trumpets. Yes that’s all samples played together to make a chord. Because he/she did not blow the reeds or horn, does not mean he or she isn’t a musician.

I know people with no formal training who sample a chord, place it across a software piano roll, and make entire songs drawing in each and every note or step. All samples, all digital, and they make the most amazing music.

You have composers/instrumentalist with formal knowledge of music theory, and those who sample with no formal knowledge both winning Grammys. I think the instrumentalist with formal knowledge are the only ones who wouldn’t classify computer musicians as musicians today in the 21st century.


That was an interesting take on the topic. Below is another set of viewpoints, this time by another follower, Lady The Producer, a producer, songwriter, arranger, trained pianist, and studio engineer.

Fresh: What got u interested in using sampling as a primary means of composing your music? (If you don’t consider it a primary means, explain to what extent you use it).

LP: It’s not so much my primary means of sampling because I do a lot of work without sampling, however, I enjoy sampling because I enjoy music. I am a trained pianist, and have dabbled with other instruments too. I’ve always collected old music and I love the idea of being creative in conjoining pieces of another creative piece into something extra special.

Fresh: What got you interested in sampling?

LP: Listening to music all my life, and the passion to play and program sound is a drug to me.

Fresh: What are your thoughts on the history of sampling. How has it’s evolution played a part in music composition to date?

LP: When I heard a sampled joint for the first time, it was an amazing discovery to my ears! To take a creative piece of music and recreate something even more special is a collaborative effort in my opinion. I call it recycled music. I call it appreciating the value of what the original artists and producers brought to the song. I also think at times, it’s a win-win for both parties involved. Often times old songs are forgotten and revamped into major hits because they were chopped into a new song. As long as the paperwork is right at the end of the day, and all parties are happy, what can be more beautiful?! I’m grateful for the history of sampling, and regarding the evolution…Kanye is one of the big names that made it a commercial art. Personally, as one of my goals, I’d love to get a production deal topped with a hefty sampling budget…talk about the ultimate exploration of music!

Fresh: What are your favorite tools and current methodologies for sampling in your composition?

LP: I’m a sista from the hardware era, so I like to touch knobs, push buttons, and scroll through screens while programming my music. I like being made to hear the music and not just see it in a wave form. It’s a certain discipline for me. My preferred tools for sampling is the Roland Fantom X6, Ensoniq ASR 10 and the Beat Kangz Beat Thang Virtual. I’ve also used software titles Ableton Live, and Reason. As for my methods of sampling, I’m different from a lot of cats in the process. It’s not just about snatching a bit of a song and dropping a drum loop over it, and done in 5 minutes. I process every detail of the chop, and I’m very particular about my chops and placement. I don’t use drum based loops to build upon the track. I actually process and play my drums around my chops. I also may play over my chops… the list goes on (can’t give away all my lil’ secrets!)

Fresh: How do u see sampled based music (loops and samples only) as a means for composing music today with regards to the ease and popularity of such music in popular genres that use it.

LP: There are some really great companies out there with tons of sounds, plus as we all know, any piece of hardware or software production tool you buy comes loaded with sound samples. I like manipulating those sounds. I don’t use drum-based loops, I create my own. I think with composing music today or anytime, the art of it lies within the creator or producer. I find that many aspiring producers today are seeking the easiest way to produce a track, and it shows in the end result.

Fresh: Do you think a composer that has no formal knowledge of music, but learned knowledge of computers, digital audio workstation software and the use of samples and loops only, is considered a musician?

LP: Formal knowledge alone doesn’t make you a musician… you must have a talent first. Also, understanding the depth of the creation process, obtaining your own tricks of the trade, studying and perfecting your craft and being able to ‘play’ and understand music is what makes you a musician in my opinion. You can know your software in and out, even your DAW, but you have to know your music and be able to communicate it. You know immediately when you’ve come across a musician by their sound, and it’s definitely not through a couple loops. To be a musician is an acquired behavior!


Very good insight by Lady Producher. It was my intent, in 2010, as a musician who has been writing and composing music from my teenage years, to look at the evolution of sampling in how music is composed today, especially in the urban contemporary and dance music scenes.

Lastly, for your listening pleasure, is a podcast I did with Todd Kelley, aka The Big La, for a series I wanted to start back in 2007 called Fusion. This podcast, done back in 2007, is an interview I did featuring the history of Todd Kelley, the producer/writer/arranger/podcaster/hip-hop and soul lover, who has leveraged technology in producing his music as well. This is 50 minute interview so be ready for a long one.

With that, I’ll conclude this series. I hope you’ve found it interesting. It’s given me food for thought…not anything new, but just a wider outlook from other creators words, not just actual articles. I’m much like Lady Producher, still love my hardware (buttons, knobs, LCDs and LEDs – the whole tactile thing in creating and producing music), which (to me) goes hand-in-hand (no pun intended) with my 30+ years as a guitarist, bassist and *somewhat* keyboardist – haha! I love the ability to be able to use samples at the level I choose in my compositions, but find it more difficulty to solely rely on loops and construction kits for a finished product. Be it personal or not, these days, in any way you tend to look at it, it’s the final product that speaks.

For more on my followers, check out their sites:
Lady Producher – StudioNoize
MsTris Beats – MsTris Music
Todd Kelley
Sounds and Gear

Thanks for the read…


Sampling and Music Composition – A “Fresh” Perspective. Pt 2 – Sampling/Interpolation/Legalities

Photo Credit: Akai MPC 2500 w/black pads by: ficusrock

Greetings crew…

Hope all is well with you. I’ve finally gotten around to Pt 2 of this series. In Part 1, I gave a brief history of sampling and, specifically, the tools used in the early days; and the explosion of sampling in the 80’s and 90’s that was fueled by the music of James Brown. Since then, not only has sampling evolved greatly with the advent of sampling technology, both in hardware and software tools, but it’s also taken on the form of a different kind of sampling – taking a song’s basic arrangement and feel (usually the hook) and creating a new song from it. One example that immediately come to mind in the last decade is Kirk Franklin’ s radio version (remix) of “Stomp”. When this release first hit the airwaves, it was quite noticeable to the listening public that the song’s groove was reminiscent of a very popular song by Funkadelic, namely “One Nation Under A Groove”. The interpolation comes into play as the tempo of “One Nation Under A Groove” (the verse section) was slowed down and the bass track was extracted for the main groove for “Stomp”. shows a side by side comparison of the two. In this particular case, Kirk took the obtained permission and provided reference and credit to Funkadelic in the liner notes of his release. Before, during, and since then, there have been many instances were permission was not granted, resulting in copyright infringement lawsuits. While I’d venture to guess hip-hop holds the record for the highest count of sampling lawsuits, especially with the landmark case involving Biz Markie’s “I Need A Haircut” sampling of Gilbert Sullivan’s “Alone Again Naturally”, Kid AdRock of The Beastie Boys claims they hold the first sample lawsuit.

The laws of copyright infringement in cases like those above span far and wide and, to many, are still open to interpretation. I came across an interesting article (I’m sure there are many more out there) written by an artist on Twitter named Sean Grey. His article Thinking Out Loud: How to Legally Sample Songs For Free, provides some interesting questions for consideration, as well as feedback from other readers. While it’s not my intention to delve into the legalities of sampling in this post, it’s an area with depth that continues to be revisited time and time again. One of many good resources on this subject is here. Disc Makers also recently posted a good article entitled Sampling Safely – A Primer to Avoiding Lawsuits.

As the late 80’s progressed into the 90’s, Sean “Puff Daddy (bka Diddy)” Combs took arranging and composing based on sampling a step further and actually obtained permission to use the actual masters (not samples or interpolations) of songs to compose songs for releases under his artists Junior Mafia, Biggee Smalls, Little, Kim, Lil Cease, Faith Evans, etc. Popular hip hop songs were produced that used actual hooks from Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out”, Herb Alpert’s “Rise”, The Police’s “Every Step You Take”, even Jeff Lorber’s classic fusion track “Rain Song”. You may be able to associated each song above with the hit Diddy produced.

This type of new song arranging and composing hit it very big, and still continues to do so, with the likes of Kirk Franklin using the hook to Patrice Rushen’s “Haven’t You Heard” for his 2005 hit “Looking For You”.

The topic matter in this particular post is nothing new. The question I have is, as of late, is there any merit to what I call “gross sampling” (using the actual song itself, (in the case of what Diddy and Kirk have done)? I would submit that there is some skill level, maybe some would say an art, to composing new (and I use the term loosely) songs. What, if any, are your thoughts? As an artist, songwriter, composer, and producer, I have my own but will reserve them until I finish this series.

In Part 3, I’ll give my perspective on sampling, sample packs, the tons of vendors that make them, the use of them in music composition, and related issues.

::: oceans of rhythm :::


Sampling and Music Composition- A “Fresh” Perspective. Pt. 1: In The Beginning

Akai MPC 2000 Photo Credit: Dan Medhurst

Welcome readers.

I hope this post finds you well. The topic of this post is something I’ve been meaning to write about for quite some time. Sampling has been a long time tool and methodology of music composition. I’m almost certain everyone reading this post is familiar, in some form or fashion, how sampling has found it’s way into modern day music creation.

While there are MANY articles and multimedia on this subject I’ll give a little background as a foundation to the reason why I’m writing this post – my own perspective on sampling: where it came from and and where it is today and some of my own opinion as a musician, songwriter, and producer. It’s not my intent to write about the chronological history of sampling (though I begin by citing its early days), but to talk about how I use and the reasons why, as I compose my own music. To give added perspective from others, I’ve also got a short interview with an artist on Twitter that uses sampling in her compositions, as well as an excerpt from an podcast I recorded, interviewing another artist on Twitter who is a sampled-based composer. You can check these out in future parts to this blog post.

Without going too far back to the first non-commercially available samplers, such as the Computer Music Melodian or EMS MUSYS, the first commercially available samplers actually came on the scene as the second wave of samplers. These are the more recognizable machines such as New England Digital’s Synclavier (’75), the Fairlight CMI (’79), and the Synclavier II (’80), While these samplers were to be found on many album liner credits, they cost in excess of $25,000 and obviously were only in reach of the top music superstars.

By the mid-80’s, the advent of sampling technology allowed for less expensive machines which were also smaller. Popular models of this era included the keyboard based Ensoniq Mirage and it’s rack version, the Mirage Rack, the Akai S612 (which used the least popular 2.8″ QuickDisks (same as some typewriters used), the Sequential Prophet 2000, the Akai S950, the Yamaha TX16W, and Roland S-550. These units boasted 12-bit sample resolution. You can hear the Mirage sampler usage all over Janet Jackson’s “Control” album, for example, the digital horn blasts on the hit “When I Think Of You”. I owned both the Yamaha TX16W and Roland S-550 samplers and participated in the Roland S-Group Sampler forum. Though the forum is pretty much non-existent these days, I still have a set of samples I uploaded to their archives in the late 90’s (ahh the good old days!). My primary use of the S-550 was to use snippets of samples I’ve created (mainly in the hip hop and dance genres) for use in my own compositions. Strangely enough, I never did any live sampling via a unit’s mic input, but instead used various Mac audio editing apps to convert audio to S-550 format.

It’s a well known fact that by the late 80’s, the E-mu SP1200 became the premier choice of samplers for commercial and indie hip-hop producers worldwide. Introduced in 1987, The grimy 12-bit sampling resolution and 10 second maximum sample time proved to have it’s limitations but despite that, it became the hallmark, signature sound of old-school hip-hop and house music. The SP-1200 was SO popular that it got reissued and manufactured through 1997. All the major hip-hop producers out of NYC, from Lord Finesse to Marley Marl to Pete Rock used the SP-1200 has their weapon of choice. Below is indie beat maker Surock showcasing a track done on the SP-1200.

In 1988, Roger Linn (known for the famous Linn Drum (think Prince tracks from Purple Rain), created partnership with Japanese corporation Akai and created what is probably singlehandedly known as the greatest machine made for creating hip-hop music: The Akai MPC Music Production center. Scores of hip-hop legends from DJ Premier to Pete Rock dominated this machine and made it the center of hip hop production. The MPC-60 began a long heritage of MPCs such as 2000, 2000xl, 3000, 2500, 1000, 4000, 5000, 1000 and 500. The MPC is known for its TIGHT timing and swing that is a staple of 90’s hip hop, still incorporating, as a 12-bit sampler, that grimy sound both associated with and loved in, hip hop. Here is a history of the MPC in video format:

Here is indie producer Disko Dave of The Better Beat Bureau on the MPC 2000 showing any of its capabilities in making a track (“beat”).

As a songwriter, musician, and composer, I grew up playing in R&B bands as a teenager. The drum machine found it’s way into my composition tool box way before an actual computer did. By this time, the same vendors that manufactured hardware samplers, also manufactured drum machines that had internal sounds based on PCM samples of various drum kits. I became, like many, accustomed to programming drum tracks on these machines which have pads just like the MPC. As my studio grew, it wasn’t until about two years ago that I finally got around to incorporating a MPC 1000 into my setup. What I enjoy about using the MPC is not only the availability to load and edit samples for tracks, but I much more enjoy programming drum tracks with pads via using a keyboard.

With the availability of the sampler in mainstream music production, it exploded in the area of hip-hop, with artists “crate diggin” for the most obscure tracks on vinyl to create the next banger. It turns out that the most sought after, used (and frankly exploited) tracks came from one artist, the hardest working man in show business: James Brown. To get an idea of just how much of his music was sampled in hip-hop (and beyond) check this link out. While the use of JB’s music greater exposed him to even music fans (young and old), there’s always been the issue of legality in sampling his tracks and tracks of the artists he produced. I’ll touch on legality issues in a subsequent part of this post. Suffice it say, I’ve heard some of the most ingenious and creative results of sampling Mr. Brown over time, some being the hottest tracks ever created. There is no question that James Brown and his music provided the fuel to propel hip-hop forward in many ways. Once again, barring the legal issues, the skill and creativity of hip-hop producers in the sampling of JB’s tracks, paid him great homage (and still do).

That’s it for now. In Part 2, I’ll give my thoughts on sampling vs interpolation and touch briefly (as if it hasn’t been touched on enough), the legalities of sampling.

Til then, peace…


Call me a neo-Luddite (old tech wins this round….)

In my recording studio, I have a very old sampler, a Yamaha TX16W. This sampler has a 3.5″ disk drive that reads Yamaha’s proprietary format sample lilbrary. I have at least three cases of sample disks that I’d like to convert before possibly selling them with the sampler. I really didn’t want to fire up the sampler, connect a MIDI keyboard, play the sample, record the audio into my computer, and save it…but…that would seem the only way to do it….UNTIL…I remembered that I could use an old app called Sound Converter to read the sample disk and do the conversion for me. The problem was these disks are ALL 3.5″ DSDD floppy disks. A-ha…no problem – I can buy USB drive 3.5″ floppy disk reader. Drive purchased, disk inserted…no cigar…the drive only reads HD 3.5″ floppies….bummer. Light bulb goes off…pull out ye olde Power Mac 7100, and hook it up….it has an internal CD-ROM drive *and* internal floppy drive that reads 3.5″ DSDD and HD floppy disks….voila! Fortunately, since I started music production on this computer like 10+ years ago, it’s still running Mac OS 9.1, and has Sound Converter installed as well. Cool!

I set it up, hooked up a spare flatscreen monitor, an iOmega Zip drive and again was in business, like the old days! Fortunately, I was able to find the app PC Exchange on an older Mac OS system update disks that had the DOS Compatibility app software on it which allows me to read DOS formatted floppy disks. I popped the first sample disk in, opened the file with Sound Converter, and did the conversion…good to go. Now to do the other gazillion disks!

Definitely paid to keep the old hardware around. Yeah, for those who know, the samples are 12-bit (as opposed to 24-bit today), but I love samples….the bigger my library, the better…they sound pretty decent for a sampler from the 80’s 😉 It’s 3:13am Saturday morning….thankful I can sleep in and late for once! Good night!



Fusion: Where Music, Technology, and Artist Creativity Intersect

Coming soon.....

Hello readers and listeners.

I trust all is well today. This post is a follow-up to the previous post about the subject of an upcoming podcast I hope to resurrect entitled Fusion. The concept of this podcast came to me via an off the cuff discussion I had a few years ago with a fellow podcaster/recording artist/graphic designer. Both of us, being musicians in our own right, began discussing our backgrounds and influences in making music, which invariably talking about how technology (past and present) played a role taking the music from inner to outer.

I began to see the different paths he had taken and compared them to mine. I also began to see, along our separate journeys, how there were things we couldn;t *readily accomplish* (but did) that we could easily accomplish now. The conclusion of the discussion led me to develop the concept for this podcast – one that would share the insights of an (generally musical, but not limited to) artist by which they leverage technology to get their art out there – including their journey along the way, their influences etc.

The format of the podcast is to use an audio interview, very casual but basically formatted, and to just have some fun with it (which is the most important part). Being a techy, I have to include the usual aspects of what kind of hardware/software was/is being used, suggestions/recommendations, tips, etc…but fuse the overall flow with some laid back fun.

As said, although the general focus is about music (recording, arranging, creating, production, podcasting), every once and awhile, I’d like to include the same concept with regards to web design, photography, etc. All aspects of using social media, Web 2.0 and the like are definitely topics of discussion as well.

That being said, I’d like to invite all interested in leaving me your Skype ID, Yahoo IM, iChat ID, Grand Central number or even cell or landline number so the audio interview can be recorded to my laptop. Primarily, I’d prefer to do it via net chat, but will consider landline/cell phone interviews down the line (gotta keep it as inexpensive as I can – heh!). If you are interested, feel free to leave your info in the comments section or e-mail me

Thanks (for your time and interest) in advance…