How To Find High-Quality Samples for Music Production (and top 4 sites)
Why don’t my tracks sound the same as big-time producers? This is a question I found myself asking constantly during my growth as a producer.
I would constantly add different layers, effects, and presets. I would spend hours on my mixing and mastering to no avail. Unfortunately, my tracks still lacked a certain quality when A/B tested with experienced producers.
Luckily, I continued to produce and slowly things started coming together. One of the most crucial moments was when I discovered how to find professional samples.
Samples have the potential to make or break your track. A low-quality sample doesn’t have the resolution required to withstand any processing or added effects. The now familiar adage holds strong: “you can’t polish a turd.”
High-quality samples can be used as center stage sound and have the legs to be stretched, compressed, and heavily edited. They help create a clean, full, rich sound environment that provides the backbone for the other track elements.
A good track always starts with good quality samples. So never skimp on low-quality samples.
Before we jump in, I want to introduce you to a great resource: WhoSampled. WhoSampled is a website where you can enter your favorite songs and see who the artist sampled. You may be surprised at what you find!
Building a sample library takes a great deal of time and effort. They can either be very expensive, or completely free. Either way, it’s going to be a crucial tool when it comes to your production.
Eventually, you’ll start to amass a huge collection of your favorite samples. Sample collections are prized by seasoned producers – they are one of the main factors in determining someone’s unique sound.
As beneficial as they might sound, we’re still left with one problem: where do we find high-quality samples?
I’ve dug around and found a few of my favorites as well as the industry standards.
If you’re like me you’ll want to avoid paying for samples as much as possible. I’ve included a few resources where you can find professional samples for free. However, you must keep in mind that paying for samples is sometimes the best route. (and smarter as well)
How To Find Samples
So what are our options for finding samples?
Luckily, there are plenty.
Depending on your experience level, samples can be found from all around you. The original way of sampling involved heading out to your local record shop and searching for obscure vinyl recordings.
Artists would rip the audio from the vinyl, edit it, and splice it into their tracks.
While this isn’t a completely lost art, there are now far easier ways to do it.
1 – Sample sites
The first option is to head straight over to a sample site. These are sites specifically designed to provide you with quality samples. The variety here is endless.
Take note you will usually have to pay for the good samples. They will usually offer a few free token sample packs, but will usually keep the good stuff behind a pay gate.
A great example of this would be Cymatics – Arguably, the industry leader in samples.
Sample sites are usually your best option for finding samples. As such, I’ve completed a rundown of the best sample sites down below.
2 – YouTube
While YouTube isn’t the best place to hunt for your money samples, they will have an endless supply of opportunities you can use if you’re creative. I’ve used various types of foley as atmospheric additions that I took straight off of YouTube.
Obviously, all of the copyright issues must be taken into consideration. For those who aren’t aware, sampling from YouTube involves stripping the MP3 from the video. Note: try to use the highest quality file format you can.
I recommend checking out some of the popular channels (see video below) that post recordings of old vinyl records. Sampling a small section of piano from an album released in 1967 isn’t going to raise any flags (this is done in Hop-Hip production all the time).
The video below does a great job introducing a few of the popular channels you can sample from.
Keep in mind that the quality from YouTube is going to be limited. Therefore, while it could be a nice avenue to bootleg some nice sounding samples, it’s probably not the best place to find your main samples.
3 – Reddit
If you’re not yet aware, there is a great community of producers on Reddit. Specifically, there is a large drum sample library that a lot of producers swear by. While you can get a lot for free, a number of them require you to pay.
If you look around, you’ll also find a few additional subreddits for samples other then drum packs.
I also recommend following a few of the production subreddits if you aren’t already – lots of great information gets shared there.
4 – Remix Contests
Professional produces steal samples all the time. It’s not uncommon for a producer to hear a bass line they like, sample it, tweak it, and use it in their own mix.
However, this can be tricky to accomplish unless the element is solo’d at some point during the track.
A good workaround is to enter remix contests. Producers will often hold remix contests as a way of promoting a new track. This can be a great opportunity to get in, grab the stems, tweak them and make them your own.
I don’t recommend blatantly using the stems in your own production, but you can usually pick up a few elements here and there you can sample for later tracks.
You can find remix contests on label websites or head over to Indaba music.
5 – Create your own
While more advanced, many producers create their own samples. This gives them complete creative control. It also happens to be really fun once you get the hang of it.
You’ll start to view the world around you as a giant bank of samples just waiting to be tweaked and molded into something creative. You can record your own foley, use a coin drop as a progressive element, or pick out some phrases on your acoustic guitar.
This will require some basic equipment, such as a condenser mic and an audio interface. They don’t cost too much these days. With an initial investment, you’ll be well on your way to making some really creative and most importantly ‘original’ samples.
The Best Sample Site Rundown
There are tons of different sample sites. They all claim to provide you with amazing samples at reasonable prices. Which one should we use? I’ve done a bit a research and have come up with the industry leaders.
I’ve ranked them in order in the table below.
|1||Splice||x||5.1 Million||Best Paid|
|3||Cymatics||x||x||2 Million||Runner-Up Paid|
|4||Looperman||x||3.4 Million||Runner-Up Free|
*Monthly traffic amounts should only be used as an order of magnitude comparison. These numbers can be wildly inaccurate but act as a good comparison between sites. Source: Similarweb.
In my opinion, you’ll only really need one or two of the top four to get started. You can start to branch out to the others if you feel you need a change.
I’ve included the estimated traffic volume so you can get a sense of what’s popular and what’s still undiscovered.
Splice is my personal favorite sample resource. I use it extensively. While there is a monthly fee, it’s incredibly convenient to have when you’re producing.
It’s an all-in-one resource. You can find every type of sample you’ll need: vocals, drums, plucks, bass, leads etc.
You’ll also be able to pick from a huge database of presets and loops. Additionally, they offer a few rent-to-own programs for popular synths and plugins (Serum and Ozone 8 to be specific).
The best part about Splice is you get to pick and choose individual samples. This solves the problem of buying a sample pack and only using 25% of the samples.
With this viewpoint, the price you pay for each sample you use is much smaller with Splice.
Splice also organizes all your samples in a custom sample library where you can drag and drop files into your project. Sample libraries get disorganized very quickly so if you’re not great at staying on top of your sample collection this is a great option.
Splice also has the resources to convince some big players to release sample packs (think KSHMR big). You get access to the sounds professional produces use in their projects. What more can you ask for?
2. Converse Rubber Tracks Sample Library
The converse library is one of the undiscovered resources that you can tap into. You’ll find some of the best quality samples on the market and the best part is – it’s free!
These are professional musicians producing professional recordings of their instruments. It’s akin to having your own studio musician at your fingertips. The video below gives a great endorsement and rundown on how things work. Check it out!
Cymatics is the new kid on the block who has kind of taken over. While not strictly a sample site, they do produce some of the best sample packs on the market. Unfortunately, the downside is they can be quite expensive.
If you have the means and want the best be sure to check them out. Otherwise, I suggest signing up to their mailing list and keeping an eye out for deals.
The often list their sample packs for $3-4 with a regular price of $40. Keep an eye out!
Another one of my personal favorites! If you’re on a budget you need to check out Looperman. They have a huge library of loops and samples. They’re all free to use and completely royalty free.
Lots of professional producers have used samples taken directly from Looperman. You may have to dig for them, but the quality is there. Something you need to bookmark on your browser!
Honestly, you will be able to have all the samples you could ever ask for if you use a combination of the above resources.
Remember, finding unique samples can take time and practice. You need to wade through a lot of audio files to find that special something you’re looking for.
If you’re willing to put in the time, you’ll be able to find samples no one else is using and mold your own personal style.
I hope this has been helpful. I know this would have made a huge difference for me if I had something like this when I started out. If you’ve found it useful please give it a share on social media! The more people that have access to quality samples the better!
Until next time!
About the Author: Glen Parry has been involved in the world of audio for over 15 years. Starting in the world of analog, he has since moved into digital and has been obsessed with creating music on his DAW. You can find more of his writing over at Audio Mastered.