Sound Selection: Curate Samples and Make Better Beats

sound selection

Beat making and samples go hand in hand. However, curating samples and mastering the art of sound selection are so essential to creating good music.

Whether you’re writing looping ambient beats or making drill trap—chances are you’re going to use samples at some point in your workflow.

There are millions of samples on todays’ royalty-free sample marketplaces. And whereas that’s both exciting and inspiring, the truth is that sifting through sample pack after sample pack can be a serious creativity killer.

There’s nothing more soul-crushing than sifting through 200 kick samples in the middle of a beat-making session.

That’s why honing your sound selection skills is turning into an important facet of overcoming beat blocks.

There’s just so much selection on the market that you should be tremendously specific and know what you want, or else you’ll waste your time looking for that “one inspiring sample”.

That will help you stop menu diving and start creating, here’s our best recommendation on curating your samples, sound selection, and discover your sound. Let’s explore!

Make sound selection easier with a folder system

Many people are guilty of getting a disorganized sample folder in our DAWs or gloveboxes—myself included.

One lapse in an organization and all of a sudden you’re sifting via a folder of random sounds to try and discover that shaker you liked a couple of months ago.

That’s why having a system for your sample folders will allow you to discover the sounds you need to make your next beat faster.

Naming conventions and classes are helpful. But so is dating your folders based on when you started using them and in which projects they are discovered.

Having a hierarchy that splits into more specific classes is also helpful. For instance, start with something like “drum one-shots” and then break down into kicks, snares, claps, shakers, etc.

Or date your uploads and name them by project or samples. So you realize when and where a certain sample comes from.

It’s up to you how you arrange your samples. However, having a system that you understand is better than having a folder known as “Upload 6” with 300 random samples.

Curate before you start creating

It’s helpful to have a system that allows you to organize folders. However, it’s never a bad idea to have a favorites folder with a bucket of signature samples you are likely to gravitate towards—at least when you are at the very first stages.

The goal of curating before you sit down with the intent of writing a beat is that you won’t have to start searching for samples in the middle of your session.

Nothing kills creativity more than interrupting your beat-making flow state with a menu-diving sound selection mission.

Instead, dedicate time to searching your samples or visiting a pattern market.

Then, undergo your pattern folders and select the samples you suppose will likely be helpful when making your subsequent beat.

Upon getting your drums, synths, and other samples you want, you’ll be outfitted to start out writing your beat.

Get particular along with your searches

There are tens of hundreds of 808 kicks on the market, it’s really easy to get misplaced in pattern purgatory on the lookout for the right 808 in your observation.

So earlier than you waste hours going via 100 808 samples, attempt to give you a plan for the precise sound you’re on the lookout for.

Within the case of 808s, ask yourself: are you on the lookout for a loop or one-shot, ought it be an extended hit and pitched down, or a brief higher-pitched thump, would you like distortion or a clear 808?

Answering these questions and figuring out some key phrases to seek in a big pattern market will show you how to get there sooner.

And naturally, this doesn’t simply apply to 808s, it is best to attempt to be particular for something you’re on the lookout for—whether or not that’s ambient synths, jazzy Rhodes chords, home organs or entice hats.

Actively hearken to music and develop your style

Understanding your style is vital to curating your sound. And the one solution to knowing what music you like is by actively listening to different artists.

Take time to sit down and listen to what the artists in your area of interest are doing. It is best to listen to your favorites, but also pay attention when you don’t like a track too.

What are these producers doing that makes their sound so good, or not so good. Listen to the layers in a beat, what different elements are happening within the track?

Or pay attention to how the track is structured—when does the producer bring in the full kit, where is a riser coming in or out, and when does the filter sweep drop back into the full mix?

Paying attention to the producers in your musical niche will hone your ears to hear new ideas and inspire you to duplicate certain kinds in your music.

Take a look at a blog from LANDR about how young people make beats.

How Young Chop Makes a Young Chop Beat | LANDR Sessions

Don’t be afraid of getting inspiration from other curators

They don’t create all sample packs equally, that’s the reason why sample pack curation has become a full-time job.

There’s no better feeling than sifting through a sample made by someone who knows what they’re doing and who inspires you.

As soon as you realize which sample curator or labels are making the kinds of samples you want, choosing great new samples gets easier.

Refresh by starting with a blank slate

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed with the sound selection, starting with a blank slate is never a bad idea.

Especially if you make beats with a sampler or groove box with limited memory, purging bad samples and clearing up space can be super refreshing and even inspiring.

Think about working with a machine or in a DAW where every sample in your folder was inspiring and excellent for your sound at the moment.

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