How to make your samples sound better?
Samples have become the backbone of the modern music. Samples inspire you. They save time. And they are everywhere now! So do you use samples in your music? Would you like to know, how to make your samples sound better?
The process of making your samples sound better can be divided into these tips –
- Get the samples in wav format.
- Is it complimenting the song?
- Prefer dry samples.
- Do pitch correction first.
- Use corrective EQ.
- Shape their dynamics.
- Use automation on your samples.
- Boost the required frequencies.
- Layer it.
- Use resampling.
- Use fades after trimming and slicing.
Below are the details of each of these steps. Remember these steps are not the only way to improve your samples, there can be many other ways. But for now lets jump into these.
1. Get the samples in wav format
The first and foremost thing to keep in mind is to get the highest quality sample in the first place.
That’s the key to getting the best sound out of any sample regardless of it being a sample or anything else.
Wave format or wav is the format that has been used since the audio production began digitally because this format involves no compression of the data at all.
The audio samples stay the same quality from the point of their origin till production.
Another important thing about a lossless format such as wave is when you process these sounds, the quality is retained and they don’t get distorted so there’s no artifact.
- The reason is, high quality audio files have enough digital information that can be tweaked within them as the analog audio when converted into digital audio, it gets converted into digital information called samples. The more the samples or information, the higher the quality.
Whereas when you use formats that are compressed, the processing done on them reduce their quality because they don’t have enough samples or information within them to perform much manipulation.
Always go for the samples that are in wav format.
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2. Is it complimenting the song?
After having found the lossless sample formats like our Apache Essential Drum Sample Pack, you also need to be aware of your production style and genre.
Getting the sound that does not belong to your music or song will not blend in and will sound awkward!
For instance if you want to produce an EDM track, if you use the samples of an RnB or rock then it’s going to sound horrible in your track.
Any amount of processing on that sample is not going to make it work in that track.
- Even if the sample you choose belong to the same style or genre still you need to check if it compliments with the rest of the instruments in the track. Does the kick compliments with the bass? Do the guitars compliment the vibe? Is the snare fitting well with everything else? Is the sample of right length? Is it matching with the vibe of the track? Does your track sound vintage and is the sample modern?
You see, using the sample with the elements it doesn’t belong with is a recipe for a weird vibe that’s only going to spoil your track.
3. Prefer dry samples
Dry samples will be best for obvious reasons. You will be able to process them the way you want. Sometimes when the samples have effects like reverb or delays on them, they take a lot of effort to fit into a track we’re making in a different vibe.
Also if you are manipulating them in some way like time stretching or reverb the effects start showing weird artifacts. So be aware of the samples having effects on them.
Or if you do have to use them for any reason, see if they belong to the key of the song atleast and loop them smartly so the effects blend in well with the rest of the track. There’s a solution for everything!
With that said we have samples that are great to fit your project even if they have effects on them as we took special attention to make it as applicable in any situation. So make sure to check – Apache Essentials Drum Sample Pack
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4. Do pitch correction first
If you find melodic samples, the first thing to do is pitch correction or changing the sample’s key. This can be done in any sampler by just adjusting it’s semitone values.
Correcting the pitch of your sample has the first priority in my list because when you change the pitch of any sample, the tonality of the sample changes. With that happening, you will be able to judge better for its further processing.
If you want to add something to it or cut something from it will be revealed to you after you have applied the pitch correction to the sample.
5. Use corrective EQ
After having the pitch correction applied to the sample, it’s time for using the corrective EQ on the sample. Since the tonal changes will occur as I said in the previous step, it can be corrected with the help of a corrective EQ.
- Most of you might be knowing how to do the corrective EQing. You simply search for the problematic frequencies in the sample by using the band pass filter and solo it, now sweep through the whole frequency spectrum and wherever you find any bad frequency, simply reduce it or cut it.
This will make the sample more clear. It’s not necessary to do corrective EQ only when you have done the pitch change of it but it can be done regardless of any processing simply to clear the sample.
6. Shape their dynamics
The next thing is to shape the dynamics of the sample. If the sample is already nice in terms of its shape, then you can skip this step.
And by the way by shaping the dynamics I mean compression.
I’d suggest you to have a little shaping going on with that sample because if you pitch correct it and EQ it, a little dynamic correction will also benefit you. I prefer it and I see better result.
Also read – Mixing with compression – In 13 Steps
7. Boost the required frequencies
After you have shaped the dynamics of your sample, now is a good time to enhance the good stuff in it. By the good stuff I mean the frequency that is giving the sample its character.
Those frequencies can simply be the ones which may be important to the vibe of the music you are making.
For example if you’re making a modern track, then boosting the sample’s high frequencies and the low frequencies will make it sound more polished and modern and it will blend more into the track.
This will make it sound more high resolution and intimate as well.
- Besides improving the sample in this way, you can also look for the frequency that may be good for adding a little spark to it. For this you will again have to use the band pass filter and sweep the whole frequency spectrum to find the frequency that sounds good in it and enhance it a couple of dB.
8. Use automation on your sample
Automation can also add another dimension to the sample. With automation you can add interesting movements to your sample which may not be there in it in the first place.
I sometimes do volume automation if I use samples of the live instruments like strings and even on the percussion loops.
Volume automation adds the quality of a real player playing those instruments.
For making the samples more interesting and funky, use the filter automation and automate the filter opening and closing to create an interesting effect.
9. Layer it
Sometimes the sample may not sound fuller or you may want to add something extra to it that the EQ cannot provide. Some samples sound better in pair with other sounds.
Like a guitar melody sample may sound better with a chord strum.
Perhaps a keyboard melody needs bass note or chords. May be a kick drum sample need a high click to cut through the mix or the snare needs some bottom end.
In such situations and even more, you are free to use other samples beneath them or on top of them to make the sample sound complete and make it sound full and interesting.
One trick to add weight or bottom end to a sample is to make a second copy of that sample and transpose this copy to a lower octave and layer it with the original sample.
The lower sample will now have the bass frequencies and so it will add bottom end to the original sample. You can blend those as you want.
10. Use resampling
Resampling means to make changes or tweaks to the sample and record it to turn it into a sample again. The tweaks can be like add effects for example reverb, compression, EQ, distortion etc.
Resampling is also – when the sample rate conversion is performed over any sample.
The techniques are Upsampling and Downsampling.
By Upsampling, it means that the sample rates of a sample are increased and Downsampling refers to lowering the sample rate of the original sample.
In everyday music production you will frequently need resampling. You may even want to tweak the sample you are using and then resample them to create a collection of those new resampled sounds.
11. Use fades after trimming and slicing
One of the main problems of using samples in the music is the problem of getting to hear the click sounds which may be annoying and distracts the listener.
This happens when the sample is cut or trimmed from any point. You need to apply fades on those points from where you have sliced them.
The fades will smooth out the samples and make them sound clean in the mix.
Check out if you haven’t already – Apache Essentials Drum Sample Pack
So these were the best tips to make your samples sound better.
In today’s time when music is heavily based on samples, getting your samples to sound better and fit in the music better has become highly important.
I use these tips when I am producing and they are pretty much all I need to make my samples work everytime!