As much as I love producing music alone in a room in front of a computer, sometimes it can be a lonely experience. As long as I’m in a creative flow, everything is fine. I forget the world around me, time flies by, I’m happy. It’s when I run into creative blocks or stumble upon my own musical limits, when it starts to feel lonely.
In those cases a little inspiration from another musician would work wonders. Collaboration is the key. Like reaching out for some good samples. But samples and collaboration, aren’t that two different things? I don’t think so. And I’d like to convince you why producing music with samples is like collaborating. Ready?
Mixing Musical Ideas With Those Of Other People
Coming from a band background the process of creating a song as a group of people feels natural to me. I grew up creating songs that way. Someone had an idea, then we would work together on that idea. Every band member would contribute corresponding parts on their instruments and then the other band members would comment on these parts.
The song would take shape, while we would try different sounds, work on each instruments part and discuss the arrangement. The ideas would bounce back and forth until we had a finished version that the band liked.
Producing Alone With A Computer
When we create music on our own with a computer we have to fully rely on our own creativity and judgments. This isn’t just a negative thing. Compared with creating songs with other musicians, producing on your own contains a lot less friction through discussion and disagreement. There’s a lot less compromise. You create the music YOU like, the way YOU like it. You also create when you like. No need to arrange rehearsals with band mates.
The downside however is that sometimes it can feel very lonely. You are the only one in charge. There’s no one to bounce ideas back and forth. No one that comes up with that melody that makes all the difference. There’s no musical exchange. And we may find ourselves running in creative circles without the musical input of band mates.
Collaborating With Other Musicians Online
Now there are forums and reddit groups where like-minded producers can exchange ideas and give feedback to each band mates music. You may even find someone to collaborate with, sending productions back and forth, creating together ping-pong style. When you’re on the same vibe, this can lead to something really good. Good music, a shift of skills and creativity, but also (maybe even more important than the music itself) friendship.
With all the positives of musical collaboration through the internet, there’s one thing this can’t do for you.
It’s not immediate.
Other than a band working on a piece of music in the same room in real time, the need for sending files back and forth slows down the creative process. It takes some time to produce something together remotely, even more when you live in different time zones.
That’s where another type of musical collaboration comes in.
Collaborating With Other Musicians Through Samples
To me using samples is just another way of musical collaboration. And it is the fastest, easiest and most hassle free one. Please note that I’m talking about royalty free samples here (vs snippets of other songs). Royalty free means that the creator of the samples has produced them with the sole purpose of other people using them in their music.
But why is using samples like collaborating?
Basically what you do, when you incorporate samples in your own music, is tapping into the creative minds and musical skills of other people. The creators of the samples have spent years learning their instrument and growing their production skills. They have probably spent a small fortune on their instruments and gear. And they have sharpened their musical creativity and sense for good sound through years of training.
So when you’re using that dope guitar sample in your new song, you are benefiting from another person’s guitar playing skills, her musical creativity, her instruments and gear and her know how of to get a great tone from the guitar, amp and pedals.
A Whole Lot Of Skills At Your Fingertips
On top there are engineering skills involved. For us to be able to use the sample in our music, the guitar performance must be recorded. And finally the recording needs to get edited and processed with all kinds of EQs, compressors and effects, so the recording is transformed into a great sounding sample that we can use right away.
Now in the case of our guitar sample, there is only one instrument played by one person involved. When it comes to samples of horn sections or whole bands, there’s already a lot of group collaboration that has happened before we can put the samples into the context of our own music. Someone has put together a group of skilled musicians.
Some composer or the whole group has come up with musical ideas, which then needed to be shaped, rehearsed and finally performed and recorded. In such cases it is common that a dedicated engineer or engineering team is involved, so the group of creative minds participating in the emergence of band or “section” samples gets even bigger.
Getting Over Your Own Musical Limits
When you are incorporating such samples in your music, it will sound vastly different from if you were to rely solely on your own musical skills. How many instruments do you play. And how good do you play them? Do you have the gear and know how to record? How good are you at programming synths?
You may be good at one, or two or even five of the mentioned skills. But samples give you access to a whole world of great musicians, top producers, pro engineers, rare instruments, expensive mics and other recording and mixing gear. Musical collaboration with the world made easy.
Compared to other forms of collaboration, the use of samples is kind of one directional. There is no bouncing back and forth of ideas, no discussion and no feedback. And no social element, no friendships that can emerge from that kind of collaboration. The person whose samples you use, doesn’t know you. At least in most cases.
But samples give you the opportunity to expand your musical horizons by letting skilled musicians and producers enrich your music. And you don’t even have to ask if they like how you use their sample. You can chop it up, rearrange and reprocess it or just leave it as it is without having to justify your decisions. You don’t have to discuss about the arrangement, the sounds you chose or the song itself.
The sample creators have done their magic, so you can create from there. Without compromise. Exactly how you like it.
When we produce alone in front of a computer, we run into creative blocks sooner or later, which can be a frustrating experience. It’s important to get back in the creative flow as quickly as possible. The quickest way out of creative blocks is a little creativity from someone else. We need to collaborate with another creative mind.
Samples are by far the fastest and easiest way of musical collaboration. They are no substitute for getting feedback from or exchanging ideas with other musicians and producers, whether offline or online. But samples give you access to a whole world of musical ideas from skilled musicians and producers.
They can help you overcome creative blocks immediately, get over your own musical limits and lift your music to a whole new level.
Where to find good samples
You’ll find some dope sample packs here at SuperHeroSamples.com and I highly recommend you check them out. (Of course I do. I created them:-)You can find them here:
And here is a list of other sites that have dope sample packs. I’m sure you’ll find a lot of fresh inspiration there.
Enjoy and stay creative:-)