Chapter 4:How Loops and Samples can help you make your music

Looping and sampling can form the basis of a great song; there is a wide mass of songs around today that either use one or the other, or even both techniques, in some form throughout the arrangement of the track.

To really understand how both help to make your music, it is first important to understand what each element actually is.


A loop is quite literally what its name suggests it is; a piece of music that plays over and over again in a loop. A loop is one of the most common techniques used to make songs today.

The loop itself tends to be short, with the finished product being no more than 30 seconds long. It is cleverly recorded so that the beginning of the loop meshes perfectly with the beginning of the loop, making it difficult to differentiate the end from the beginning, which allows the loop to play seamlessly. Once a loop has been made, you can then play around with the speed, the layers of the loop, as well as chop and change the length.

You can create loops by using a variety of digital hardware and software tools, which allows you to create various musical effects that are only achievable electronically and couldn’t be created without the use of the software or hardware.

Due to being able to create loops so easily with electronic equipment, looping is obviously very popular in electronic music, although it has crossed borders into other genres and isn’t necessarily exclusive to this class of music.

There is also an extensive library of pre–existing loops available, however it is imperative that you find out if they are royalty free in order to ensure that you don’t infringe any copyright that has been placed on the loop. A loop is short; creating one yourself isn’t as hard as it seems.

DIY Tip: Put your music on a shuffle and listen to a wide variety of songs; try to cut out the lyrics and listen to the music behind it; you’ll be able to pick out a loop that is used to form a backbone of a song. It is harder to come by a song that doesn’t have some form loop worked in throughout the track and it is surprising just how samey a song can sound without the added lyrics and layers of the track put on top of a loop.


Music sampling is the process whereby a segment of an old song is taken and reused in a new track. A lot of the time, the sample is quite a distinctive slice of the song and will be easily recognisable.

Hip hop was a music genre that emerged mainly based on sampling, with DJs playing around with two turntables and an audio mixer in order to create one track out of two separate tracks, a practice that often creates tracks called mashups; quite literally, the mashing together of two songs.

Today, sampling is widely used in many genres of popular music, including electronic music, R&B and even pop music, mainly taking classics and completely revitalising them into something new and fresh, with a touch of nostalgia.

There are many ways to create samples, with a wide variety of software on the market that imitates the original method of mixing two vinyl records. Most sampling is done by using a sampler, an instrument that is quite similar to a synthesizer, but throws out samples of pre loaded tracks, instead of creating new sounds.

However, many artists still favour the technique of sticking with the turntable, a technique that keeps the sample sounding raw. Many also feel that it is important to keep the traditional methods of sampling alive.

DIY Tip: If you are a total turntable purist and want to create samples the old way, hit charity shops for old vinyl records; think outside of the box and don’t just go for the music genre that you are most comfortable with, the best sample entwined tracks often combine two different genres.

How can sampling and looping help to make a track?

As previously mentioned, looping is one of the most common ways of making a track and even The Beatles became renowned for using looping as part of their song composition; it gives a track an underlying foundation to build on, making it sound uniform and pulling a track together.

There are many people who class using loops as a lazy option when it comes to song making, however a line has to be drawn as to what constitutes lazy, and what constitutes being time efficient. After all, a loop doesn’t define a song; it is just the building blocks upon which a great melody can be built upon and helps to form a composition. If it’s good enough for The Beatles...

Pros of looping:

  • Saves time– Looping is not the only component of a song; having a loop saves time and allows you to concentrate on other elements that really identify a song.
  • Song writing– Many artists find that having a basic loop can be a great way of generating inspiration for the words; sometimes all that it takes is a simple base to work from.
  • Minimises human error– If you are recording a song that is based around a particular riff that you are playing, making it a loop means that you won’t fall victim to human error. Playing a loop continuously, as opposed to playing the same riff over and over again, will ensure that you get a flawless recording.
  • Access to instruments that you can’t play– If you are a guitarist, you may not be able to play the drums in order to create riffs; a loop will allow you to create sounds from instruments that you can’t play, allowing you to give your song more depth.
  • Layering– A great approach to making music is layering and having a loop helps you to develop the different elements of your song. This is an innovative approach to making music and allows you to concentrate on each aspect of the track individually.

Pros of sampling

  • Nostalgia– If you have gone for a sample that is from a well known track, it can generate interest around your track if people recognise it; sometimes listeners like to hear an old song with a new twist. This can be seen as one of the hardest parts of working with a sample as making an already established song your own takes some skill.
  • Cherry on the top– A sample can create something really special within your track and show it off; layering once again comes into play here and incorporating a sample as a layer can make the depth of your song really meaty and interesting.
  • Cost– As with everything, money is always an important factor and buying the permission to use a sample can sometimes be cheaper than creating a complicated sound yourself.

When it comes to sampling, this is not a technique that is as straightforward as it seems; being able to blend another record into your own track takes skill, an eye for detail and a vast understanding of making music that also takes into consideration your own creativity.

Some people go for a large chunk of another track, some just a small section that they think will compliment and set their track off. Once you have gained permission to use the sample, it can be the missing puzzle piece in a track that takes it from great, to mind blowing.

DIY Tip: Pair loops with samples to create the song layering that is now so popular; you may find that you will want to drop one or even both elements as they gave you inspiration, but don’t necessarily need to stay in the track.