The Pros and Cons of Audio Sampling

In this article I am going to tell you what an audio sample is. I am also going to tell you some of the pro’s and con’s of using them.

Let me start by explaining what a sample is. Technically a sample is any piece of sound. A drum hit, a guitar strum, a bus going down the street and every other noise you can imagine, and some you can’t. These are all samples. You can use them to piece together music of your own.

However I; personally, separate sounds you have bought or recorded yourself, from what is typically thought of as sampling. Probably born from early hip-hop artists, the act of sampling is taking parts of other peoples songs and using them to construct your own. There are several reasons to do this, the most obvious is that if you have no way to make your own songs, sampling lets you get around it. Another reason is that all recordings have a unique character, depending on the instruments used, and where they were recorded. Sampling lets you get a piece of that character.

Near as I can tell, those are the pro’s of sampling other peoples work. The cons of sampling; in my opinion, far outweighs the pro’s. It’s copyright infringement. If you want an idea of how that can cause you trouble look up Vanilla Ice, and The Verve. In the case of The Verve they had permission to use the sample, but the owner decided they had used too much.

This is why I distinguish between anything you buy, or record yourself and sampling. I just call the first loops, and anything taken from someone else’s song is a sample. For obvious reasons I don’t ever use samples. Unless it’s something in the public domain, and even then I don’t make it available for sale.

So now you know more about sampling and why you might want to do it, but really shouldn’t. There is a whole world of sounds around you to explore, so why risk the potential trouble of a copyright lawsuit.