The cm guide to OLD-SCHOOL SAMPLING
Retro tools and techniques,
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.