Retro tools and tech­niques,

Computer Music - - Contents -

The vast ma­jor­ity of pro­duc­ers mak­ing use of sam­ples to­day do so in soft­ware. Re­play­ing, pro­cess­ing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing recorded sounds is so easy in mod­ern DAWs that we take it for granted – but this cer­tainly wasn’t al­ways the case.

In fact, soft­ware sampling is quite a re­cent devel­op­ment in the big­ger pic­ture of mu­sic mak­ing. Un­til as re­cently as the late 90s, if you wanted to use a sam­ple in a track then you’d prob­a­bly have done it with a hard­ware sam­pler.

The his­tory of sampling as we now know it only re­ally stretches back to the 1970s, when the devel­op­ment of dig­i­tal au­dio tech­nol­ogy meant that, for the first time, sounds could be recorded and played back with a new level of ac­cu­racy and un­par­al­leled pro­cess­ing po­ten­tial. How­ever, these early sam­plers were ex­pen­sive, and so gen­er­ally only ac­ces­si­ble to the ul­tra-rich.

It was only in the 80s that the tech­nol­ogy be­came com­mer­cially vi­able, with hard­ware sam­plers grad­u­ally drop­ping in price and in­creas­ing in power up to their 90s hey­day. Come the late 90s and early 2000s, the writ­ing was on the wall for hard­ware sam­plers as soft­ware op­tions fi­nally be­gan to ma­ture, and DAWs of­fered pre­vi­ously un­seen lev­els of sam­ple pro­cess­ing power.

Tech­ni­cally speak­ing, there’s no such thing as ana­logue sampling. The name ‘sampling’ it­self de­rives from the process of con­vert­ing an ana­logue sig­nal to dig­i­tal form. How­ever, you can see clear par­al­lels in in­stru­ments such as the 1960s Mel­lotron (which used tape-based record­ings to gen­er­ate sounds) and the ways in which ex­per­i­men­tal ‘musique con­crète’ artists used tape-spliced record­ings in their work.

To­day’s pro­duc­ers can draw on all of these his­tor­i­cal op­tions in their cre­ative process, as ev­ery mod­ern DAW packs more sam­plepro­cess­ing power than the mu­si­cians of the 70s could pos­si­bly have dreamed of.

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