The Importance of flipping samples
Music production is about making music, and to make music you need to either use or create sounds. If you’re used to working with samples and loops, you’ll have encountered the need of making them “yours”. There’s so much creative effort that can be put into someone else’s melodic idea other than simply laying drums on top of it.
Much successful music is based on sampling, and much of it is worked in a way that the original sample is barely or even not recognizable at all.
Using samples and loops is also a way of working that can spark ideas that otherwise you might not come up with on your own.
The biggest reason why you should consider playing with samples and loops is that you might not have the knowledge or the tools and resources to create an authentic loop with a specific instrument by yourself.
For example, one of the hardest instruments to perform in a realistic way via MIDI is the guitar. While there are ways to humanize it with strums, chords, etc, there are other nuances like picks and slaps that very few plugins offer the chance to employ, and it’s not that easy to program them in a way that they sound “real”.
Let’s see 5 ways you have at your disposal to take samples and loops and flip them into something brand new.
The simplest way is certainly pitching up or down a sample. While it can still significantly affect the mood of the original source, it doesn’t help with not making it too obvious most of the time.
The same goes with adapting the material to a new tempo.
All you need to know when going this route is how to handle the stretching algorithms of your DAW/sampling plugin.
Depending on the type of content (melodic, rhythmic, or both) and depending on the sound you’re after, there should be an algorithm for your needs.
Pursuing or not this way is all up to you and whether you want to make something new or simply pay tribute to the original source, which is also fine, but that might require some sample clearance procedures to make your beat legit.
The OG way of flipping samples is still going strong these days, and it does because it has a known sound and feel, and also because it allows to shake things up in interesting ways.
What’s cool about it is the “chopped” sound that’s given from reverbs and tails being truncated every time a new chop is played.
All you have to do is slice the audio into different parts, whether they’re single notes or passages, and rearrange them in a new way.
This can be done by slicing and rearranging the audio clip, or by loading it into a sampler and mapping each slice to a key on the piano roll, so you can jam with them via MIDI.
Reverse is one of the very first things most people try, and while it might sound amateurish most of the time, there are ways to use it efficiently. One of the most famous examples of a simple reverse being applied is Trippie Redd’s “Miss the Rage”, being a melodic loop simply reversed.
You can achieve it in any DAW as soon as you find out how to reverse audio clips.
However, Drill music, which has recently risen and it’s going strong, often requires taking single notes out of a loop and reversing them individually, so the original melodic idea is preserved, but the reversed envelopes make it sound like it’s somewhat reversed.
You can achieve it in any DAW by slicing audio clips and reversing each slice, otherwise, there are plugins that can reverse portions of audio regularly every 1/16, 1/8, etc. Relying on plugins might not be enough since there might be slices that still need to be tweaked individually.
A more finessed way of using reverse is to use it sporadically to make the loop sound more fluent when it doesn’t. A couple of the most famous pieces of music where this technique has been excellently employed are Britney Spear’s “Toxic” and Drake’s “0 to 100”.
You can achieve this effect within your DAW by slicing and reversing audio clips or you can help yourself with plugins like Grossbeat or MRhythmizer by programming a reverse only in specific spots.
This is where the sauce kicks in. FX toolboxes have been playing a huge role in the recent years of Trap music. Being able to apply several minor effects here and there within a single plugin interface is something that can turn your boring loops into captivating ones.
Most modern music is implementing these kinds of effects without you even noticing them all!
A reverse here, a tape-stop there, a tonal delay here, and a stutter there are all things that you can pour on loops and make them sound more interesting and well-produced. Some iconic plugins for this kind of treatment are Glitch2, Effectrix, Turnado, and Looperator.
The number and variety of effects you can apply are all up to the plugins you own. All these plugins even allow applying multiple effects at once.
808 Mafia is a producers’ collective that has mastered this kind of treatment over the years.
If the sample is sparse enough to allow it, don’t mind adding counterpoints. Counterpoints, simply put, are melodies that are complementary to the main one.
Sometimes, one or more counterpoints might be enough to make a loop have a different flavor.
While it’s not actually affecting the loop itself, it’s still affecting the listener’s perception of it.
Going this way requires a bit of knowledge about music theory and also some experience in sound selection since you both need to match the key and harmony and also find a sound that complements the sample nicely.
If you dig playing with samples and loops, do spend some time exploring these techniques and even try using more of them on a single loop. The more work you put into it if it’s well-thought and not just for the sake of it, the more interesting results you will come up with.
With these tricks in mind, now you can see samples as an opportunity to create more music in an engaging way and not only steal someone else’s intellectual property.