4 creative ways to manipulate your samples

In today’s ever-flowing sea of samples, music creators are presented with an endless amount of sounds to sift through and use in their work.

Do you ever stop and think about how awesome it is to have access to so much sonic goodness, while also realizing you’re sharing the same access with millions of others as well? What about that really cool loop you found on Splice, but then later stumbled across in a different beat online? Heartbreaking, I know. Luckily, in today’s day and age, music creators and sound designers have access to some powerful tools and techniques to truly make any sound their own. For those of you who don’t regularly manipulate your samples, here are four creative techniques that will help make your sounds feel more original.

We’ll be using this melody to demonstrate each technique:


1. Effects processing

Adding effects to your samples can open up entirely new sonic dimensions. If you’re looking to add more ambience or space, a good reverb or delay could do wonders. Looking to add more of an “edge” or “grit?” Try a distortion or overdrive plugin. A potentially beneficial approach to getting a unique sound from your samples is to simply experiment with your plugin settings and / or the sequence of your effects chain. Feeling a little bold? Try throwing an instance of iZotope’s VocalSynth 2 on your sample and tweak away.

Here’s what this technique sounds like in action:


2. Resampling

Another useful technique that helps make samples your own is resampling. In a nutshell, this technique involves you taking your original sample and re-recording it into your desired source (such as your DAW), with an effect of your liking, at a different sample rate / bit depth, etc. For example, imagine if you wanted to get a more authentic and warm sound; you could achieve this by resampling your audio through a vintage tape machine (or an emulation plugin). As you could imagine, the creative possibilities are endless with this technique.

Here’s what this technique sounds like in action:


3. Pitching / time stretching

One of the quickest and easiest ways to alter your samples is to change their pitch by a number of semitones or octaves until you arrive to a sweet spot. Time stretching is an equally popular and useful method, allowing you to take the duration of your sample and either stretch it inwards to make it shorter, or stretch it outwards to make the duration longer. You’d be surprised at the kinds of textures you can create from basic sounds, just by trying these simple techniques.

Here’s what this technique sounds like in action:


4. Chopping and rearranging

One of the most entertaining ways to manipulate a sample is to chop the audio into different pieces and rearrange its original pattern. Most DAWs nowadays come with their own native sampler plugins that’ll allow for users to do this. Reverses, glitches, and pitch automation go very well with this technique — plugins such as Effectrix, Glitch, and Looperator are great for these kinds of tasks.

Here’s what this technique sounds like in action:


How do you manipulate your sounds? Let us know in the comments below.

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October 1, 2019

D Morrow D Morrow is a Los Angeles-based music producer, sound designer, and audio engineer who also goes by the alias Mitrxxx. He is currently working with the CX Team at Splice.