Oliver on 3 qualities that make a great sample pack

Oliver is the definition of a producer’s producer.

While music listeners may be familiar with his work through his numerous songwriting and production credits (which feature artists including the likes of Kim Petras, Chromeo, and Kelly Clarkson), music producers in particular adore Oliver for his influential Power Tools sample packs. Sitting among the most downloaded samples on Splice, his sounds are known for their nostalgic blend of funk, disco, and soul. That said, they’re incredibly versatile as well, regularly used across genres by award-winning artists and budding bedroom producers alike.

In celebration of the release of the latest Power Tools installment, Oliver recently sat down with us to discuss his creative process and some of the chart-topping releases he’s heard his samples on:

Below, Oliver shares some additional thoughts around three qualities that go into making a standout sample pack.

1. Simplicity

Oliver goes into the sample creation process with the understanding that his sounds will be used in a wide array of musical contexts. “My approach has always been from a producer mindset,” he tells us. “Especially with loops, I’ll keep things pretty simple. I’m always thinking, ‘What would I want to use?’ If a kick and snare sound really good and ‘done,’ then I can chop them up and manipulate them in any way I want. I think my sounds have been as successful as they are because they’re pretty flexible and can be taken in any direction.”

2. Organization

It goes without saying that the quality of individual sounds is key, but it’s also important to take a step back and look at the pack as a whole. “For this new pack, I’m really excited because I went way more in depth with the categorization and organization,” Oliver says. “I made sure I covered a lot of ground—if you go into ‘fx’ for example, you’ll find tons of subcategories and they’ll all make sense. So, when you’re producing and need a down sweeper or something, it’s easy to immediately find it. I was definitely more thorough with variety and organization.”

While variety is a key focus area for Oliver, that’s not to say he isn’t selective. “There were about three thousand sounds, and I whittled that down to a thousand,” he recalls. “I have a certain standard, and if a sound’s not meeting that standard, I get rid of it. I’ll also leave a sample out if I already included a particular type of sound.”

3. Experimentation

Creating a sample pack is a unique experience from making a record, and Oliver encourages other creators to take advantage of the process as a way to have some fun with sound design. “The sound design process is really enjoyable for me at this point in my career,” he shares. “It’s a chance to experiment and just get better—to ask questions like, ‘What does this plugin do,’ ‘What if I run this through this,’ and ‘What if I record this way?’ The experimentation is the cool part about it.”

What qualities do you look for in a sample pack? Let us know in the comments below.

Incorporate Oliver’s signature sounds into your own productions:

August 3, 2021

Harrison Shimazu

Harrison Shimazu is a composer, content strategist, and writer who’s passionate about democratizing music creation and education. He leads the Splice blog and produces vocaloid music as Namaboku.