The right sounds can make or break your beat, which is why you need the best samples.
Luckily for you, there are plenty of resources online so you don’t have to sample from vinyl and record players.
But it’s not as simple as you think…
The real challenge is knowing where to look.
In this article, I’ll share where to find samples for your beats.
I’ll also help you figure out which sample-hunting strategy to use based on your goals.
And I’ll even share a little-known tip for finding hidden music that most producers don’t know about.
But before we talk about where to find samples, you need to consider your goals as a producer…
The two types of sample hunters
There are two types of sample hunters:
- Commercial Producers
- Recreational Producers
Each type has different criteria for choosing sounds.
Commercial Producers make beats for commercial purposes (i.e. selling beats or getting placements with artists).
It makes sense for them to purchase the highest quality samples.
They also need to consider the usage terms of their samples, so they have the legal right to publish or sell their music.
If you’re a Commercial Producer, or plan to become one, then buying samples is a good investment in your business, and a single sale or placement will make up for each purchase you make.
The next type of producer strictly makes music for fun rather than to earn money.
Recreational Producers might publish or sell their music, but it’s not their main focus.
Some Recreational Producers are willing to spend money on samples, but they expect to get as much value as possible for every dollar they spend.
If you fit into this category, you should focus on low budget or free options.
Hunting samples based on your goals
Now that you know your sample hunting type, it’s time to start hunting.
The rest of this article will show you the best places to find samples based on your goals.
If you’re a Commercial Producer, I’ll show you the best places to find premium samples for any budget.
And if you’re a Recreational Producer, I’ll show you the most affordable sample vendors, and the best places to look for free samples.
Here we go…
Where to find premium samples
Of all the places to get samples, the best is from sample libraries.
What’s a sample library?
A sample library is a collection of music, loops and sound effects that are available to producers.
These libraries usually grant you legal permission to use their content, which means you can publish and sell your beats without worrying about breaking the law.
You also get access to a lot of benefits that you would otherwise miss out on.
For example, most sample libraries allow you to see the tempo and key of each sample, which makes it easier for you to compose your beat.
Sometimes the sample will include track stems or MIDI files for extra flexibility.
The different types of sample libraries
When it comes to the sound libraries designed for electronic music production, there are two main types:
Royalty sample libraries and royalty-free sample libraries.
Let’s take a look at both.
Royalty sample libraries
Publishing is one of the most important aspects of the music industry, and royalty sample libraries follow the traditional model.
When using royalty samples, your usage of the content is subject to publishing fees.
These fees usually apply when the sample is used in a song that gets published by a record label.
It’s important to review the terms of each vendor for their specific usage conditions.
You may be wondering, Why would I want to use a sample that has a publishing fee?
The biggest reason is that these samples tend to have the highest quality.
Check out the options below to see for yourself:
Tracklib is a subscription-based service for full-length music. These music samples are produced by real musicians, and offer a traditional sampling experience for producers.
The Drum Broker
The Drum Broker is an online store for professional samples. Many of their content has been used in industry-produced records, and they also offer track stems in some of their offerings.
Should you purchase royalty samples?
These samples are extremely high quality. They’re often created by a musician or band, and include live instruments and studio-grade production.
If you’re willing to pay publishing fees to get the very best samples, then this option is a solid choice. You’re even guaranteed sample clearance when you place your beat.
But as I mentioned above, it comes at a cost…
Unless you’re a Commercial Producer that’s willing to split your publishing, then royalty samples may not be worthwhile.
If you’d prefer not to pay royalties, then keep reading…
Royalty-free sample libraries
Before we take a look at some royalty-free sample sites, let’s talk about the benefits of a royalty-free license.
It’s essentially a contract that grants you the rights to use the sample in your music, and you don’t have to pay any royalties for it.
What’s so great about that?
Well, let’s say you buy a sample without a royalty-free license, and use it for your new beat. Your beat gets a placement with a popular artist, and you’re ready to collect 100% of your publishing credit.
You can’t. Why? Because you used a sample that isn’t royalty free, and you have to pay a royalty every time you sell that song.
That’s not so great, is it?
This can get expensive really fast.
But that’s where royalty-free samples come in.
You get to use them in your music, with no additional cost to you.
As a matter of fact, you can use the sample in as many songs as you want, and sell your beats to as many people as you want. You just can’t sell the sample as-is, or give it away.
So what types of royalty-free samples should you look for?
You have two options.
You can use a subscription service, or you can use sample packs.
The benefit of a subscription service is that you get credits to download individual samples.
And the benefit of sample packs is that you get a bundle of curated samples for a single, non-recurring fee.
Let’s take a look at each.
Top royalty-free sample subscription services
Sample subscription services are new, but they’re extremely useful if you want a variety of loops and drum samples for a single low fee.
Here are the top picks:
Loopcloud is the largest sound library available, and features harmonic and rhythmic sound matching to help you pair samples.
Splice is a popular sample subscription service that integrates with your DAW. You can find artist packs created by some of the top producers in the industry.
Should you use a sample subscription service?
If you want the widest selection of samples for the least amount of money, then you should subscribe to a sample subscription service.
Even if you’re a Recreational Producer who doesn’t plan on selling your music, you can still subscribe to any of the services for less than $20/month.
A single subscription will give you access to more than enough samples to keep you busy.
The only downside is that these services only include short audio loops and one-shot samples. So if you prefer to sample longer audio files, then keep reading.
Top royalty-free sample sites
There are plenty of sample sites out there, but not all of them offer high-quality samples for a reasonable price.
Here are some of the top sample sites around today:
Loopmasters is the largest sample pack vendor in the industry. They provide samples that fit most styles of production, and their support is excellent.
Modern Producers is a good low-budget option. Their site allows you to filter samples based on the production style that you’re looking for, so you can find the best sounds quickly.
Angelic Vibes is an independent vendor with amazing samples. Their collection is perfect for modern Hip Hop production, and they have bundles available to help you save money.
Should you use premium sample sites?
The beauty of purchasing from any of the sample sites above is that you only pay once to use the samples.
They’re also very affordable, which means you can build a profitable business as a producer without going broke.
And not only will you save money using these vendors, you’ll also avoid some of the problems you’ll encounter with the free options below…
Where to find free samples
As you can see, there’s tons of premium sound libraries out there.
But what if you’re on a tight budget or you just want to flip regular music?
The answer is to hunt for free samples.
But before we go any further, I need to tell you something important…
Free samples ain’t always free.
Here’s what I mean:
When hunting for free samples, you’ll realize that you end up paying in the long run.
Either you’ll pay in time, quality or usage restrictions.
For instance, it could take you hours digging through free samples to find the gems. There are tons of terrible or overused sounds on the Internet, and you’ll need to sort through them all.
If you want to sample something unique, then you’re going to have to spend some time digging…
Most importantly, the biggest price you pay for hunting free samples is the risk of copyright infringement.
This could be disastrous if you plan to release your music.
So from here on out, I’d advise you to use caution when looking for free samples.
I’ll show you some places to search for hidden gems. But you’ll need to do your own due diligence before you use them.
You’re liable for anything you sample, whether you publish it or not. So use your best judgment…
Now let’s talk about where to find the best free samples.
Looperman is a community-based website with a huge library of audio loops.
It’s like an all-you-can eat buffet for samples…
Here’s how it works:
Members submit their original content to Looperman, allowing others to share and download them for free.
Dozens of loops are uploaded to Looperman every day, and it has enough content in its library to last a lifetime.
What’s nice about Looperman is that its content is royalty-free, and the terms are clearly detailed on the site.
That means that you can use the loops in any of your beats, even the ones you sell, and all you have to do is credit the author.
The site makes it very easy to search the catalog, allowing you to sort loops by styles, categories, instruments, key and BPM.
Should you use Looperman?
Overall, Looperman is a great option for Recreational Producers because it gives you an easy way to hunt for free samples without worrying about the copyright.
However, because of its popularity, you won’t find anything unique on the site. Many of the samples have already been used by plenty of other producers.
Also, when you download samples from Looperman, the sample creators will usually ask to be credited for their work, so you’ll need to link to their profiles whenever you release your music.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the world’s largest video hosting site.
What you might not know is that YouTube is filled with tons of great music that’s perfect for Recreational Producers to sample.
But unlike Looperman, sampling from YouTube poses several problems for Commercial Producers.
The problem with sampling from YouTube
Many of the channels that publish samples are easy targets for copyright strikes, so you can’t rely on them to stick around.
It’s also against YouTube’s terms of service to download videos from their platform, so you should only use it to discover samples, and get the source material from the proper place.
But even if you decide to break the rules and download samples from YouTube, you’re usually getting a low-quality version of the audio.
While it’s a great place to discover new music and sounds, it has plenty of drawbacks for producers who want to profit from their work.
With that disclaimer out of the way – let’s discuss some ways to discover the hidden gems on YouTube.
Finding samples on YouTube
The easiest method for finding samples on YouTube is to search for keywords of your preferred style or genre, and the word “playlist.”
Then you can browse through the results until you find something interesting.
Sometimes you’ll stumble across channels devoted to collecting samples.
This makes it easy for you because somebody else has already gone through the trouble of finding and digitizing the music.
Need some ideas for what to search?
Here are a few search terms that you can start with:
- Soul samples
- Lo-fi samples
- Guitar samples
- Blues samples
This alone will supply you with hundreds of tracks to choose from.
But there’s just one tiny problem… Since anybody can upload music, sometimes you’ll encounter random samples.
Which leads us to the next method for finding samples…
Discover artists to sample on WhoSampled
If you’re out of ideas for what to search for, look no further than WhoSampled.
WhoSampled is a website that reveals the samples used in popular songs.
You can search for artists or producers, and you’ll be able to see all the original samples that a song uses.
It’s sort of like a family tree for sample-based music.
Since WhoSampled only reveals samples that have already been used, this method isn’t ideal for finding unique samples.
However, you can still use the samples you find to create your own beats, and challenge yourself to sample the music in a new way.
(This is especially helpful if you’re still learning.)
Once you find a sample you like, you can dig deeper into that artist’s catalog using Discogs.
Discovering artists to sample on Discogs
Discogs is an online database for music releases.
You can use Discogs to find similar artists in the same sub-genre, or find related musicians and sound engineers that worked on the projects you like.
This will help you find new music, and could even lead to some great obscure artists.
Sometimes you’ll find music with video previews from YouTube, so you can avoid searching for the samples later.
Otherwise, you can search for the music online, or offline at record shops and thrift stores.
Another online community to crowd-source your sample-hunting efforts is Reddit.
You can find subreddits with a community of producers who share rare music and samples.
Here’s the best way to get started…
Search Google using the following query:
“keyword + samples + reddit”
You’ll find threads of people sharing sample packs and playlists.
Then you can sort through the results to find the hidden gems.
There are even a few subreddits devoted to hunting samples!
Be sure to upvote the members who help you find what you’re looking for.
The downside to hunting samples on Reddit
Even though Reddit can be a helpful place to find samples, it also has its drawbacks.
Some of the Redditors sharing samples aren’t authorized to post the content, which puts you at risk if you download it for yourself.
It’s important to do your own due diligence before attempting to download anything from Reddit.
Start hunting samples…
You now have all the information you need to start hunting samples.
Whether you produce beats for artists, or you produce beats for fun – you’ll never be at a loss for samples.
With great samples comes great responsibility. Be sure you understand the usage terms for any content you use.
If you have any questions about content usage for any of the resources I mentioned in this article, feel free to reach out to me.