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  1. Music & Audio
  2. Samples
Music

Compiling a Sample Pack

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Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

After more than 15 years in the music making game I wanted to improve my workflow and speed of the whole music creation process.

I used some techniques. I read several blogs and books. And did some thinking. Then I found an answer for my problem.

Goal Setting

When creating a sample pack I like to do some thinking. I like to make questions about what I'm trying to achieve.

  • Why I am creating a sample pack?
  • For whom I am making this pack? Just for me? Or for others?
  • What kind of sample pack will that be?
  • What instruments do I want to feature?
  • Will there be only loops or one-shots?
  • Do I want to have stems for each loops or just the flat / final / master version?
  • What will be the musical key?
  • What will be the tempo?
  • What style I'm doing?
  • Will it feature MIDI or presets to be a kind of producer pack?

Folders

It is a good practice to keep the number of root folders to a minimum. I used 4.

  • Adam_Firegate_Producer_Pack\drum_hits
  • Adam_Firegate_Producer_Pack\drum_loops
  • Adam_Firegate_Producer_Pack\fx
  • Adam_Firegate_Producer_Pack\presets

There will be a lot of sub folders, but good structuring is key for organisation.

Main Folders
The sample pack in big icon view in Windows Explorer

Sub Folders

This is an example of how the sub-folder structure may look.

  • drum_loops\breakbeat
  • drum_loops\conga-bongo
  • drum_loops\percussion
  • drum_loops\shaker
  • drum_loops\tops
  • presets\effect
  • presets\instrument

Naming

The best practices for this are to:

  • Keep the file name short
  • Include instrument name or group
  • Include tempo
  • Include music scale
  • Include stem type or sub group

Musical Key

It is a good action to stay inside the standard Western 24 scales.

Examples:

  • C-major
  • E-minor
  • G#-major
  • A-minor
  • F-major
  • B-minor

Tempo

Use whole integer numbers for BPM.

Bad Examples

  • 89.11 BPM
  • 119.7 BPM
  • 127.2 BPM

Good Examples

  • 77 BPM
  • 120 BPM
  • 150 BPM

Using Ableton

I used Ableton Suite for compiling the sample pack in the following ways:

  • the browser is good for quickly listening to and collecting audio files
  • with the context menu I can open Show in Explorer to open it up the Windows folder
Ableton Suite view
My main tool for browsing and listening is Ableton Suite browser view

If you want to create multiple samples similar in content:

  • Place each sound on a new channel
  • In the Export window set all individual tracks

This way it will automate rendering all the channels in sepearate files

Using Mixed In Key

Mixed in Key is paid software for quickly finding out musical scale of any .wav or .mp3. I just bought it in December 2016 and I'm very satisfied with it. It is easy to use and I can find out things quickly.

Mixed In Key
For tagging tempo and key info I use Mixed In Key

Qualifying Samples

Each time I make a sample pack I critically listen to each one-shot and loop then collect only the most interesting variations in the appropriate category subfolders. I repeat the process until I'm satisfied with the quality and quantity.

Sample Editors

I use two free sample editor program for Windows. Each has its advantages and the two complement each other in nice way.

Batch Processing

For repeated tasks, such as normalising or amplification you can use batch processing.

Wavosaur can perform the following tasks:

  • Normalise
  • Insert silence at beginning
  • Insert silence at end
  • Convert to stereo
  • Convert mono left
  • Convert mono right
  • Mute
  • Invert
  • Remove DC
  • Auto Trim
  • Convert bit depth
  • Convert to Wav
  • Convert to Mp3
  • Add Loop point
  • Delete Loop point

In Audacity you can do many things using chains:

  • Export
  • Amplify
  • Auto Duck
  • Fade In
  • Fade Out
  • Echo
  • EQ
  • Invert
  • Leveller
  • Repair
  • Reverse
  • Repeat
  • Low Pass Filter
  • Normalize

and many more.

Copyright Considerations

When you use samples from other packs it is important to be sure about the usage terms of each license. Especially if you want to make money or distribute freely the end product. 

My advice is to use public domain samples, or create your own samples if you want to share it with others.

  • Public Domain means you can do anything you want, even selling and distributing without giving any credit
  • Creative Commons is a relatively permissive license with a lot of choice, it can be free for commercial use or not. Check the specific licence as there are variations to usage
  • Royalty Free means usually means you can use the samples in a music but not in a sample pack or distribution.

Using Existing Sample Packs

Usually most of the sample packs are royalty free and they have many limitations in the license that accompanies them.

To avoid legal issues use your own samples. My tip is to use a combination of your own sound recordings and software instruments. You can blend them together or modify them in any way you want.

If you are doing a sample pack to speed up your own music making you can be more relaxed about this.

The Workflow Of Compiling a Package

Compiling Workflow
Simplified workflow for making a pack
  1. I decide what kind of pack I want, for myself or for others
  2. Collect samples from my projects
  3. Check my bought and freely downloaded packs
  4. Listen and qualify samples
  5. Copy the sounds to the subfolders
  6. Play all the samples from this new pack
  7. Objectively thinking it as a whole
  8. Renaming files if necessary
  9. When ready I back up the package to my external hard drive and to cloud

Summary

In this tutorial I showed you how I compile a pack from existing samples. I guided you through all the steps from concept to finish. This is all you need to know to start the process. I wish you good browsing for your next pack.

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