Shaking off the Dust – Sampling Vinyl

Following up on monday’s popular “Why New DJs Should Start on Vinyl“, we thought it’d be good to look at the importance of sampling records for producers and DJs. When digging for samples, it’s easy to fall into the trap of working with the same re-cycled digital libraries floating around the internet, yet there are thousands of records that have been long forgotten and can not be found digitally.  Today Tiann discusses why producers and DJs should start sampling vinyl and tips for guiding their search.

What Is Sampling?

The MPC2000XL was popular with hip hop producers for chopping and time stretching samples.

Sampling is when producers or DJs take a portion, or “sample”, of one sound recording (or several) and reuse it as an instrument or a loop in a different song. Producers may capture a loop and alter the pitch (Wu Tang and early Kanye West productions were famous for this) or they may chop up the loop and record a new arrangement.

There are nearly endless ways that samples can be manipulated, to the point where the original source becomes unrecognizable. Samples can be used as supporting elements of a song or they can be the foundation for the entire track. The easiest way to understand how sampling can be used is by listening to examples. Watch the video below for a side by side comparison of samples that were used in numerous tracks on Daft Punk’s Discovery album:

Now that you’ve seen how samples can be used it’s time to begin your search.

Where To Start?

For producers that are new to sampling it can be difficult to know where to start digging so it helps to have some guidance to narrow the search. A great way to begin the search is by looking at samples that are used in some of your favorite tracks. is perfect for this. It will let you search and listen to your favorite tracks then show you all the samples that are used in the track and the time when you can hear them in the sampled track.

When looking at hip hop tracks it’s common to see a lot of old Soul artists being sampled. With this in mind, a hip hop producer’s search may begin in the Soul or R&B section of the record shop. This is merely a guideline to get started and not a hard rule so don’t limit yourself to a specific genre or section of the record store. It’s also important to remember the whole point of digging in a record shop, to find rare and unique samples! So avoid buying records that have been sampled multiple times or that are available online. If you’ve never heard of the artist and a search on iTunes or Amazon turns up no results, you’re on the right track.

Remember to have fun thinking of ways you can push the boundaries when sample shopping. Any sample can be creatively altered, cut down, faded, and distorted to make the sound unique. Remember to be patient. Digging through vinyl takes time and not every trip will result in a crate full of gems.

What Sounds Do You Want?

Pay attention to the instruments used on records.

When you enter the record store it can help to have an idea of what sounds you are looking for. Are you looking for drums, breaks, or specific instruments? What you’re searching for depends on what genre you associate your music with.

For example, Euro Dance records from the 80s contain plenty of samples great for House music. The tracks usually contain vintage Roland keyboards, classic synthesizers, and Lo-Fi drum pads. Another example where you can find good unique samples are classic tribal tracks or 90s tribal house.

Tribal beats have very simple straight to the point sounds, so these types of samples will find great homes on minimalistic tracks. Lastly don’t forget classic funk records for sampling some old-school groove lines, bass and percussion samples. You will find that most samples from classic funk tracks can fit in multiple genres. Another great source for samples are classic Orchestra records for strings samples that can be altered for genres like Trance.

Remember that you can be as creative as you like, so when you find a sound you really like play around with it before thinking it might not fit. Adjust the pitch control up or down to get a feel for the sample at different pitches and speeds.

Looking for really obscure sounds? Grab some space samples from NASA.

What Tools Do You Need?

First thing is to locate a local record store in your community. If you don’t live by one, it’s very easy to access record stores online. Buy a few records that have some components that stick out to you. These are the ingredients of a track, and they will be listed on the back of most record covers. Always have fun, and try sounds you never listened to before.

Next thing you will need is a turntable to work with. Most record stores will sell turntables as well, so pick one up if you don’t own one. In order to record the turntable into music software, most people will use an external audio interface. Make sure in the description of the interface it has a “phono-preamp” built in. If you have an audio interface already that does not include one you can always purchase a phono preamp separately. For Serato and Traktor DJs that use DVS, both Rane and Traktor (Audio 6, Audio 10) soundcards have phono inputs, so there’s no need to purchase another audio interface.

Once everything is connected, you can go into your production software and select the audio interface in the input settings. If the soundcard has multiple inputs then the track will need to be assigned to that input that the turntable is connected to. Put the needle on the record and it should now be playing back through your software. Now hit record and capture the parts you would like to sample. From here the manipulation possibilities are endless. Reverse it, chop it up, pitch it down, pitch it up, it’s all up to you.

Stand Apart From The Rest

Sampling is a tool that any artist looking to explore new grounds with their production should highly consider. Think about how many people might have purchased the same music software as you. Though each DAW is different and ships with it’s own library of core samples, it’s time to think about bringing other sources to the table to compliment them. With that being said, getting unique samples from a record shop makes the margin between you and the rest bigger.

The last thing to consider is the fact that each record store has its own style. So the record selection in your shop will be completely different from someone else’s in a different city. Rest assured that your tracks will sound extremely unique in no time.

Share your digging stories.

Tell us about a record you found in the comments below!

audio interfacecrate diggingdiggingmusic productionproducersrecord diggingrecord shoprecord storesamplingturntablevinyl samplingwhere to find sampleswhosampled
Comments (31)
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  • sammsousa

    there is only one crappy record shop in my small town so i usually go to thrift stores and second hand stores, i buy most of my records for1$ each… found lots of cool stuff already

  • Patrick Ijsselstein

    oh so many stories, i work 2 half days in the week as a volunteer in a second hand shop where i sort the “new” vinyl first hand. Most of it is crap, like about 95%, but occasionally there are real gems to be found. One of my last discoveries was a vinyl pressing of bbc radiophonic workshop with some tracks of Delia Derbyshire, awesome. Also there are various vinyls to be found which have sampled field recordings on them. Just take the time to dig yourself trough hundreds of records, and prepare yourself for the fact that there’s a big chance you won’t find anything useful.

  • DJ Lippy

    (Mild self-promotion alert, but topical – hope it’s ok)
    Some DJTT readers might be interested in a weekly radio show I host in Austin, TX on KOOP-FM called “Free Samples” where we explore the art-form of sampling by
    showcasing deep-cut original sample material, and celebrate the tracks
    that flipped them.

    If you’re feeling it, tune-in on Sundays 3:30pmCST on, or check

  • seenematic

    here’s how I used to do it (this was 8 years ago)

  • DJ Crazz

    I think there should also be some info on the legalities of sampling like how long or short of a sample you can use and how much should you alter it to avoid soundcloud copyright detection.

    • Mike Kraze

      Agreed, very important, any word on this DJTechtools? I’m going to google the answer right now, but how about for those who don’t?

    • sammsousa

      the answer is that technically its all illegal. it doesnt matter if you sample 1 sec or 60 seconds. sure if you sample 60 seconds it will be easier to recognize so you are in more trouble, but legally its all illegal. all those rumors that say that you can sample 2/4 bars, or 10 seconds or what ever are just that, rumors!

    • sammsousa

      one other thing worth mentioning is that if you sampled something and your tune only sells 200 copys or so, its way to little money for them to come after you. so in other words, the less you sell the less you are in their radar

  • Peet

    For those in the bay area who don’t already know, Rasputin is fantastic for this. I haven’t been digging in a while but for all their old stacks of vinyl it’s $10 for 30 records.

    • CUSP

      There’s nothing stopping you from recording the entire album to FLAC. No matter what, clean your records really well before sampling… unless you want the pops, hisses and scratches of vinyl.

      Playing Vinyl isn’t my thing anymore, but I’d love to hang out with other artists in SF.

    • Michael Andrews

      Which Rasputin location? I live right around the block from the Mountain View one and most of their vinyl is all “new” repressings of Pop/EDM crap. I didn’t see any old stuff at all. At least there wasn’t any the last time I looked (which was right after the store moved to its current location).

  • Pokim

    Nice ’10 minute’ track by fracture for fact magazine completely made of samples. Should give any beginner a good idea of how to

    • Lakatta

      He has a maschine course that is very very well done. Build a DnB track from beginning to end.

  • GLL

    Watch the movie Copyright Criminals.

    And tjeck out the Danish DJ duo “Den Sorte Skole”s album “lektion III”. Its a sampling masterpiece. Up for graps.

    • Mike Kraze

      Saw this doc a few years back, loved it.

  • deejae snafu

    this article would have been even better if there were some examples of sample chopping techniques, like how the slicing to a new track feature in ableton,can emulate the MPC style of sample chopping for instance.

    and actual examples of cutting and time stretching to mold samples to a different BPM or even time signature, while carrying the original idea of the sampled song.

    id like to see DJTT also do more on warping, its something that mystifies a lot of new people and long time users as well. considering ableton is updating their warping engine, a ripe time might be soon 🙂

    • No Qualms

      I still make tracks this way. I find you can’t get that MPC sound and feel in a DAW unless you use an MPC Renaissance/Studio hosted as a plugin in your DAW. The swing of an MPC is unique and the restrictions placed upon you makes you work a certain way and makes you trigger sample parts in a certain fashion, you just won’t choose the same ideas in Ableton. Protools has a MPC swing function which works quite well, but once again the way you will work the sample will be different. So if you are wondering why your chopped samples sound ridged and boring and why some one like J.Dilla’s samples have so much groove in them (besides him being a genius), try using an MPC, chop, trigger, swing, aaah! 🙂

    • CUSP

      What’s weird about Warping is that it takes standard time signatures and stretches the beats to fit them, and that changes the way drummers may have played the song. Most of those old Beach Boys, Chanelle’s, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, etcetera, songs are played on the beat for the first and third note, and then just a little before or after on the second and fourth note. This results in the classic “beat… beat-beat… BEAT” sound of classic rock and roll. When Ableton warps these tracks, it sounds like “beat, beat, beat, BEAT” at a different BPM and that makes it sound very weird.

      The new Warping tool gives you some flexibility to move beats to where they “should have been”, but it takes a lot of effort to do this, especially when more than one musician plays off the beat.

      • deejae snafu

        yah getting live samples to sound natural or even half way good with quantized arrangements is the whole art. this is why i figure something deeper on this valuable skill would have been on target for a sampling article like this one.

        • CUSP

          Yeah, I think there’s something like a keyframe (I think they’re called anchors) which you place on tracks and then tell Ableton how you want to Warp the track. The two seemingly good ways (to me) would be setting the downbeats where they “should be”, or setting where they are (leaving the floating key frames / anchors alone) and then telling Ableton to double-time (and thereby setting a phantom key frame/anchor) where it should be. I’m not sure how well the latter would work for triplets (or any other non-even time signature).

  • madd martigann

    How about as sampling vinyl pt. 2 with a discussion of programs like Izotopes RX4, i.e. getting rid of pops/clicks, boosting lo-fi recordings, etc.

    • sammsousa

      why would you want to get rid of pops and clicks? if you want a clean sound just sample digital files. fun of sampling these old records is all the extra noise that comes with it!

      • CharlieTooHuman (Capt Obvious)

        I love vinyl crackle and noise… such a soothing sound.

  • wondercat

    sampling vinyl is lots of fun an all but in today’s SoundCloud scanning for copyright infringement age how likely is it you can get away with releasing tracks that contain loads of sampled content?

    • name

      It’s possible, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you’re getting creative with your samples.
      You are getting creative with your samples, aren’t you?

    • Dj DoIn BaD

      All of the beats ive made and have put on soundcloud were sampled based. Havent had any issues with copyrights so far? But if your still worried about that you could put your stuff up on Bandcamp, ive never heard of anyone having copyright issues on there