Having the Right Palette of Sounds is Essential for Hassle-Free Techno Production
Let's talk techno samples. Here are the problems I wanted to solve. Now if you don't have a reason to do this you can end up drowning in near pointless activity.
What I wanted to do was make better use of the samples I do have, pick more specific sounds which will help define the music I make, have it better organized by mood/genre. Organizing by mood/genre is important - for the same reasons you'd organize playlists for a DJ set. Different songs are more appropriate for different parts of the night. Same for samples. The problem with samples is that they aren't organized by energy or feel so you can just end up with a bunch of kicks or hats. Different kicks are better for different kinds of tracks. The same applies for bass, lead sounds and so on.
I also wanted my samples key labeled which makes things sound tighter and more cohesive. And when you get things sounding great at the onset it means less time mixing. Plus key labeling makes it easier to pick out what samples to use. (I tend to focus around the Key of A or something close to it)
Here we go.
Before I get into these tips let me give you a little back story.
The first sample pack I ever bought was a double data compact disk. This was ages ago and it was by East West which is still around today. However finding usable samples for underground music or techno was not an easy task.
Imo very little was actually good - like 5% at best.
So when modern producers started making packs I found them to be tons better however I'd still use less than half of the pack's content.
More on this in a moment.
Over the years I'd grab packs from beatport when they do really deep Holiday sales - this doesn't mean I'd gorge myself on them.
To date I have maybe 20 or so packs in total including 5 (Maschine) Native Instruments Expansions. The NI ones are quite good BTW.
Anyhow it was time for me to start getting more particular about my sounds so it was time to get them organized.
What I did was make one folder called "select samples" - this folder would Be a home for the good stuff I'd use.
So, I went through each pack and searching for kicks loops hi hats synths riffs noises and so on. I then put them in folders.
From there it was easy to find gaps in my sonic palette. To fill those gaps I signed up to Splice for $8 to get more interesting usable stuff.
The beauty of Splice is you only get the samples you hand pick - I have about 79 so far.
You want to organize your sounds so they represent the frequencies in a club track. This way when your selecting stuff you'll have the spectrum covered. Now leads and melodic content may come from synths and stuff - I'll get to that.
Anyhow once your done and trust me this can be a never ending task, but once an initial pass has been done you'll want to key label your sounds.
I have an old copy of Mixed In Key version 5 that was up to the task. All I needed it for was to key label my samples - the ones that were missing this that is.
The benefit of having your stuff labeled by key is that when you get a groove going and then reach for your keys for a melody or bass line you know what key to play in.
Synth presents are another animal to organize - honestly I have yet to go there, but that's next on the list.
In short a good first pass at this would be to:
- Hand pick the samples you actually do lik
- Categories them into folders - kick, hat, ride, bass, top loop etc
- You could make sub folders as needed (Peak hour kick) but it might not make sense to go too crazy on this
- Spot categories of sounds your weak in - for me this is lead sounds, plucks, noises, and metallic percussive sounds - use the image below to see what "space" your techno samples occupy. Tracks that sounds "big" and "full" tend to fill out the entire spectrum.
- Keep in mind this is an on going task that will evolve over time. Don't let this become overly time consuming. Use a timer. This is a way you get smarter and more precise about the sounds you do choose to use.
- Organizing is helpful but organizing is not producing
Places to Shop for Underground / Techno Samples
Splice (Pretty solid for shopping techno samples by label (Sample Magic, Audio Tent) or by artist collection. Remember you can download them individually and combine them in your own sample packs or re-packs.
Raw Loops (A Personal Favorite)
Native Instruments Expansions - also quite especially if you're using Machine or Komplete Control
Samples from Mars - great for samples of analog gear
Personally I don't go out lookin for free stuff. Anything worthwhile isn't typically free.
Designing your own samples for techno is a another story soon to be covered.
In the meantime have a look at these free samples I've put out in the past.