In this guide we’re going to explore a few methods of sampling in FL Studio.
This tutorial will focus on the cheapest and easiest methods. So if you want to avoid buying extra plugins or reading through long support documents, keep reading…
The sampling process begins with “crate digging”.
While you may not want to go to record stores and browse for obscure gems, you can easily find samples online.
Find sounds to sample
Your first step is to find some music to sample. But before you dive in, you might want to take notes from other producers.
You can use WhoSampled to find the sources of previously sampled music.
All you need to do is search for your favourite producers and listen to their music and samples side by side.
Then you can go down the rabbit hole of artists you’d never heard of and interesting music they’ve made that you might want to sample as well.
I’d also recommend keeping a playlist of songs you want to revisit and possibly sample.
Be careful with how you distribute the music you sample, however, due to copyright.
Alternatively, you can get samples from sample libraries
Instead of dealing with copyright issues, you can buy music specifically for sampling.
The best part of using sample libraries is that they’re intended for sampling, which means you don’t have to worry about most of what we’ll be covering next…
Tempo & Key
The next step in the process is to find the tempo and key of your sample.
Find the tempo
In order to make smooth transitions with your samples, you’ll need to know the tempo of the song.
If you get your sample from a sample shop, as we mentioned earlier, you can skip this step since the tempo will be labeled.
If you don’t already know the tempo, here’s how to find the tempo in FL Studio:
First, open FL Studio and drag your sample to the playlist area.
Next, right click the top left corner of the track.
In the menu under the section “Sample”, click “Detect Tempo”.
In the new dialog window that pops up, click the option with the range that you think the sample is in.
Then, you’ll be provided with an estimated tempo for the sample.
In my testing, however, this method wasn’t always accurate. You can also manually count the bars of the track instead if you get incorrect information from FL Studio.
At this point, you can optionally change your project tempo to the tempo of the sample. You will also need the tempo information for the next step.
Find the key
The next step is to find the key of the song you’re sampling. This is an often overlooked step, but it’s important because it helps you determine what other elements to pair with the sample.
Just like finding the tempo, most modern DAWs are able to identify the key of the music you’ve imported. But if you’re unable to use your DAW to determine the key, the best way to find out the key of your sample is to use the piano roll.
Here’s how to detect the key of your sample using the piano roll:
First you’ll need to listen to the song and play the notes on your piano roll that make up the chords of the music. Then, if you’re unsure what key is made up of those notes, refer to a reference chart that shows the notes belonging to a particular key. Once you know the key of the song you are sampling, you can move on to the next step.
This is where things get interesting. Depending on what style of music you’re making, you can arrange your sample in a way that fits the goals of your project. Here are some ideas for how you can sequence your samples:
Using samples as one shot instruments
The easiest way to sample music is to use your chopped samples at specified intervals throughout your new track. This is commonly referred to as a one-shot sample.
Oftentimes this style of sampling is used to complement an arrangement rather than as the foundation of a new piece of music. One-shot sampling is often used with vocal samples, sound FX or percussive elements.
Looping samples throughout a track
Another way to use samples in your music is to loop a section throughout a track. Once you know the tempo of the song, you can find the break of a sample, or a particular section of one or more bars to loop continuously for your preferred duration.
For example, you could loop two bars from one section of the original song for 8 bars, then use another section of the song for the next two bars, and so on. Many Hip Hop samples are arranged this way.
For a completely unique take on a sample, you can try rearranging small slices of the sample in a new pattern. Instead of looping multiple bars of the sample, you can chop samples in small sections (sometimes as small as 1/2 beats) and rearrange them.
Producers who take this route usually use a sampling machine or drum pad to play each slice like an instrument. This creates an entirely new composition and often leads to a unique composition.
The simplest method to chop samples is to use FL Slicer. Here’s why:
First, Fruity Slicer comes with all versions of FL Studio, unlike Slicex or Edison.
While you can use other tools to sample in FL Studio, Fruity Slicer is the simplest method.
Slicex is better suited for sampling drum loops, and Edison is best for in-depth waveform editing.
Finally, using Fruity Slicer provides you with an all-in-one tool to customize your sample without added functionality you likely won’t need.
Here’s how to get started with Fruity Slicer:
First, open a new instance of Fruity Slicer in your sequencer.
Next, load the sample by clicking on the sample button, then choosing “load sample”, and navigate to the audio file you want to import.
Once the sample is loaded, change the tempo of the Fruity Slicer instrument to the tempo of the sample that you found from earlier.
Now you’re ready to start slicing the sample. Click the slicing button and choose from the incremental options.
I would recommend you choose “Beat” as your slicing option because it usually gives you the best result.
You can choose to slice by smaller portions if you prefer, but be aware that the smaller slices will make it tougher to puzzle together later.
At this point, you should have your samples loaded and key mapped to your midi keyboard (if you have one).
However, you might notice that the start of each sample might sound too choppy.
To fix this, use the attack slider to customize the transients for all of your newly sliced samples.
In my experience, when the start of each sample is too sudden or jarring, increasing the attack will help with the transitions between samples.
The other slider is for the decay of each slice, which you should feel free to play around with.
With the sliders on the left, you can also change the pitch and stretch the samples to your liking.
For more customization, click the miscellaneous functions button.
In this section, you can get even more advanced with your sample customization.
For example, let’s say you want to play your sample instrument like a traditional hip hop sample machine, you would use the Polyphony area.
By changing the max number of voices that play at a time, you can recreate the classic hip hop feel so that only one slice plays at a time.
You can also slide the samples so that each slice glides into another when the notes are legato for a different result.
Another way to really make the sample instrument your own is to change the root note of the sample instrument.
Be aware that this will also change the tempo of each slice, which means that each beat will no longer neatly align with your project.
This is your opportunity to make the sample your own.
So have fun with this process and play around until you find something you like.
Create a new pattern
Now that you’ve found a sample you like and customized it to your liking, it’s time to make some music with your new sample instrument.
You can use Fruity Slicer like any other virtual instrument to create your own patterns.
Play the samples on your midi keyboard while recording into FL Studio, or draw the notes into your piano roll.
Find a pattern that works for what you’re going for.
Again, just play around here and have fun with the process.
At this point you’ve probably got some interesting patterns and loops that you’re excited to build around.
Be sure to treat your newly created pattern just like any other instrument and tailor it to your track.
Oftentimes your samples will include unwanted elements that detract from the overall mix. This can lead to a final track that sounds busy or harsh. Your best bet in this scenario is to use EQ to remove the offending elements. Depending on the nature of the sample, you will need to use your judgment to reduce the sounds that affect the mix.
If you’re sampling music that includes percussion, you might also want to reduce its impact on the overall mix with reductive EQ techniques. The trick is to isolate the offending frequencies and lower its volume in the mix.
You may also want to add “wet” mixing effects to change the feel of the sample. For instance, you can try applying reverb, echo or time stretching effects to enhance the sample so it fits the mood of your song. There are plenty of plugins available to help you create unique versions of your samples.
Now you’re ready to add other elements to your song.
You can add your drums and any other instruments to complement the sample.
And once you’ve reached a more advanced level of sampling, you can even restart the process and layer more samples into your beat.
And that’s it! You now understand the basics to start sampling in FL Studio.
For more resources and access to fully cleared samples, check out the Sample Hunt Library.