Sampling & Digging Vol 1

Sampling & Digging Vol 1

May 31, 2009
in Category: production
4 13638 0

Since the site started we have been offering advice to hundreds of people via email, and a majority of those questions involve sampling and digging. We figured that a tutorial on digging and sampling would be of use to lots of heads out there. If you are just starting, it could give you enough information to get on your feet, and if you are already doing things it could show you another point of view, which is always valuable. Any non-technical statements in our articles are strictly our way of doing things. We are not here to claim the right way to do anything, in fact some of our processes could be better, but if it aint broke dont fix it… sometimes.

Well, to create a sample based beat, you need samples, and most of our sample-based beats come from vinyl so I will try to describe the different factors that go into selecting a record. Digging requires getting into crates and getting a little dusty.

imgLos Naufragos – Otra Vez En La Via – Columbia: Since this is an educational article, and access to it is open to the public for free, I shouldnt have to clear any samples I post here, but the funny thing about laws, is that they can be interpreted differently, especially when any kind of money is involved. If I wanted to put it out on an album that sells less than 8-10,000 units, I probably wouldnt NEED to clear it, but if the owner of the rights to the recordings would have legal right to sue me, so it would be a gamble. The whole reason behind this logic is the fact that selling under 10,000 of an album probably wont make you enough money to clear a sample. The actual burden falls on the label that publishes the music for sale, not the producer of the track. Again, I really try to stay away from bigger artists and labels owned by larger corporations, because they have ears all over the place. Even if you chop a sample into something different, all it takes is for someone to prove exactly where you got it from, and you can lose out. About the record at hand: this is from a pretty big label, but I have never heard of the artist. I live in the South Side of Texas so a majority of the pawn shops, used book stores and garage sales have mostly rare Latin music and then the popular records you find everywhere else. At first I thought it was a bad thing, but believe it or not there are some very small labels that started in Mexico and Southern Texas that has some good recordings. Not every Latin record is a mono mariachi band screaming a foreign language over accordions and maracas. Anyways, this record is on Columbia, so obviously this guy impressed someone down the line, so I chose it. It didnt have a cover, it was just sitting in the middle of the records naked, so if this is a good record I will donate an extra case to keep it protected, otherwise it will go right back into the mix like I found it.

Verdict: garbage. Let us never speak of it again.
imgBarrabas – Heart of the City – ATCO (Atlantic) – 1975: 1975 and before is always a great choice. This was another naked record so all I knew about it was what I saw. The reasons I chose it was the ATCO label, the year 1975 and the fact I did not remember coming across this record before, nor did I recognize the group, so Ill take a chance. If I came across this at the store, it would probably be under a dollar, but since I already own it for one reason or another, no loss if it sucks.

Verdict: Very disappointing. I didnt find a single sample off this record I wanted to keep. This had some nice elements, but every track was so busy, it would be a task to even chop it into pieces I could use. Oh well, theres one that will get thrown back into the mix. I bet the next time I dig this out I will find something to sample on it.
imgBlue Aquarius – The Truth Records (Stax) – 1973 DJ copy, not for sale: I remember buying this record down the street at a huge thrift store with a little spot in the back that serves fresh burritos, enchiladas, flan… I dont trust most of the local food here, especially one run out of the back of a thrift store, but I swear the little things like that keep me digging in certain spots, because I know the records are circulated regularly, since it had some pretty constant business. Anyways, this label is a little lesser known than most. Based out of Memphis, just about all of their artists are Christian, and sing nothing but Christian music. Unlike other Christian labels that featured lots of horrible recordings, predictable instrumentation and of course the off-key choirs that make everything sound like a Christmas song, this label has a little funk to it. I have lots of love for this label, and whenever I see a record with the green stamp I grab it. There is no cover for this one Either, and there are some huge gashes in the vinyl itself. Unfortunate, but that doesnt put it out of the game. I believe I paid .75 for this one.

Verdict: Well, I was expecting a decent amount of samples, and thats what I got. However, I bought this at the thrift store without a cover, so this record looks like its been to hell and back, and the samples I got will need to be fixed up before they are used. Lots of ill samples though.

imgClick here to listen to the samples
imgGodspell: A Musical Based On The Gospel According to St. Matthew – Bell Recordings ( Columbia): I will rarely dig up a record like this, but it was naked with some huge gashes in the side, so if its completely worthless I will set it aside and probably put it in a box to sell back to the store or something. The real reason I grabbed it was to get some good vocal samples of talking or anything else that may be good to use as far as effects go. I am not planning on getting any melodies or musical elements from this one, but who knows whats on it…

Verdict: I have to say this record provided me with more samples than I would have guessed. Only found 1 vocal sample to use, and lots of musical elements… of course there werent any loops or anything, but I found a good clap from the choir, and lots of stabs here and there.

imgClick here to listen to the samples
imgFreddie Martinez – Munequita De Canela – Freddie (Corpus Christi): This is a local record with no cover and no year. There is a 99% chance that it will be complete garbage, but I give everything a chance, you never know what you could find. Plus, if this was pressed before 1985 chances are the shit fell off, and even if I used a sample off of it, the only person that would recognize it would be the actual artist, so Im probably safe. The record simply has a Freddie logo, so I assume thats the name of the label. Instead of an address it actually has a phone number.

Verdict: First off all I need to say I have no expectations for this record at all. In fact, I was surprised to get the 2 samples off it that I did. The rest of the stuff on here all pretty much sounded the same… not really feeling any of it. In fact the 2 samples I got were off an intro, and the actual song sucked as well.

imgClick here for SOUND15.WAV
imgClick here for SOUND17.WAV
imgAlbert King – Truckload of Lovin – Utopia (RCA): First off, the cover really caught my attention. Cant describe why, but heres a picture of it. Very 70ish, so I gave it chance. Albert King is one of my favorite musicians, and there were a couple other musicians I recognized such as Joe Sample and James Gadson. As far as instrumentation goes, it looks like this record is strictly keys, guitar, bass, drums and congas. Sounds like a good mix.

imgVerdict: Well, not all I was expecting. Got 2 samples off this record, but I was hoping for around 10. Lots of the stereotypical blues riffs on here, but what got it was ol man King was singing all over the tracks. I could hear some dope ass grooves with strings in the background, but they were never left open for me to sample. Im sure I can come back to this record one day and find more on it though. There were also a lot of disco sounding tracks that caught me off guard.

imgClick here for SOUND13.WAV
imgClick here for SOUND14.WAV

imgDave Valentin – Land of the Third Eye – Artista GRP – 1980: When digging, I usually stay away from the 80s because of the excessive synth sounds that I find incredibly cheesy. This record almost got skipped because of the cover. It looked like a single almost, a couple 80s imgcheese chicks in spandex and jacked up hair… but on the back is some guy playing a flute in front of a crazy landscape, so I thought maybe hes not just some keyboard player with a record deal, so he gets a chance. There are no actual instruments listed so I will have to listen to the album to see if it has anything worth using.

Verdict: This turned out to be an instrumental record, but very heavy on the 80s cheese. Iinstead of dope flute sounds, its flooded with synths and other crap that turned me off of it. There was one track with a decent bassline, but I wasnt feeling it enough to grab it. This one was wack.

imgClick here to listen to samples

imgSonny Stitt – “Mr. Bojangles” – Cadet – 1973: Yet another record without a cover. 1973 and the Cadet label both grabbed my attention. Because this record was out of its case for so long it has some battle scars, so hopefully something on here will stand out, but I can probably count loops out of the equation unless I really want to put into some work removing crackles.

Verdict: This record ended up being an instrumental. Lots of dope keys, basslines, strings and even some good drums, but I didnt sample any of those. Listen to what I did sample:

imgClick here to listen to samples

imgimgLatimore 3 – Glades – 1975: This is a prime example of a record I would dig out. Pimp on the front, horrible cover art, the printing looks like it was a little off too. Very worn, in fact the record had a crack down one side. I just sort of snapped it into place, and it played fine. It didnt skip or anything, in fact you can barely hear it in this sample:

imgClick here to listen to cracked sample

Its also from a small label based out of Hialech, Florida. I have 2 other Latimore albums, and all I can say is dont sleep on this artist. I only sampled a few sounds off this album, but there are so many, I couldnt bring myself to post them all online. You will need to dig this album yourself to get them all.

imgClick here to listen to samples

So there we are, 8 albums selected. This should be enough to fill up the full 32 megs of sample time in my MPC2000XL. The best way to sample these would be directly into my computer, edited, and then loaded back into my MPC afterwords, but like I said before, my method is not flawless, and I prefer to sample right into my MPC. If I really need to add an effect to a sample before I load it into the MPC, I might take the time to do that, but thats a different process for sure.

update – here is a quick beat I made after chopping up that freddie sample:
imgclick here for the freddie beat


  1. Billy Biff

    Very helpful to me, I’ve been getting into sampling more and more but I never really knew where to look when I entered the record store besides looking around the 70′s/ 80′s sections. This article has helped me a lot so thanks very much. The track you made at the end was crisp too! Cheers.

    1. admin

      glad you liked, and keep an eye out for the follow-up article, which will cover online digging among other methods.

  2. face5[][][]

    I really want to know what any fellow hip hop producers think about a certain issue of sampling, If i use very abstract records, from lesser know/smaller labels will i get caught? I feel like the amount of effects and up/down of tones and pitches makes it almost impossible for anyone to know where it came from. It seems even less likely someone that is legally responsible would hear any beat ive made.

    1. t (author)

      General rule of thumb is that if you are successful enough that someone could make money off suing you, then it’s probably worth the time to clear all your samples, or not use samples at all. On the other hand though, if you are selling 10,000 units or less, chances are you won’t even be on the radar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>