VIDEO: The Early Days of Sampling

These days, most of us (including myself) take sampling for granted. We have our MPCs and MASCHINEs sitting right in front of us, and it's just a matter of dragging and dropping a file and you're good to go.


But that wasn't always the case. In addition to technically being more "work" to get the audio into your own track, early sampling was often "lifted" from copyrighted material, causing a firestorm of legal battles between content owners and those using their audio.

This video is a great look into where the sampling world was back in 1988, both legally and technically.  Also, I'm pretty sure that's a young Saul Goodman at the 7:45 mark.

Fairlight Sampler


June 08, 2017 by Ryan Gruss
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Rick Washbrook

Rick Washbrook said:

“I don’t feel it is fair to take sections from a real famous song and use it in one’s own song to then add little jabs, some over dubs, and a vocal to make a new song. It is something that should be just for fun. Making money from that method is showing how lake of talent one has when using this method. It also does not bring the people in our societies to look inside to bring out real new inspiration. This whole approach is making a social statement “Everything Has Been Done Before And Can Be Taken” That is such a negative vibe for children, and new artists growing up in the world. It mirrors to our children that they have nothing new to say, or don’t have the imagination to create. This method of sampling parts from giant hit songs brings on a very weak link in creativity and the way the youth feels about themselves. It causes new the youth to not being able to come up with their own ideas. It is crushing the latent talent, and taking us all backwards socially and not forwards. If allowed to keep doing this manner of production it will cross over to other disciplines in life and weaken slowly the fabric of humanity. Just because some of our leaders are thief’s do we as the little man, the hard working guys have to be thief’s? It is a good question to think about when bringing up your children and being true to one’s self. Everything comes back to you..everything you do.. cause what you do .. comes back to you".
Rick educator..recording engineer/producer June 10th, 2017


Dante said:

Many of the original groups complain about sampling. Yet, many of them have stolen much of their material from other songs or claimed to have been “inspired” by the works of others. But the industry allowed them to still make money. It was only when African-Americans figured out a way to use samplers to help them make music when these “original artists” are claiming sampling to be foul. Yet, many of the record companies own many of the original catalogs of Black Music, but want to make it seem that sampling is a form of extortion. But correct me if I am wrong, the British group “The Art of Noise” sampled every and anything they wanted to make music. Just listen to the song “Beat Box”. Their use of the Fairlight CMI was considered to be an Avant Garde form of music. Yet when Blacks sampled, it is considered a crime.

Rick Washbrook

Rick Washbrook said:

What does black have to do with it?
Since ’ The Art Of Noise ’ This whole thing has snowballed and millions are sampling parts of big hit songs and adding a beat, and some keyboard jabs, and sound effects and releaseing these songs. The amount of money that is being made now has escalated incredable for this manner of making music. June 12th, 2017 Rick Washbrook quote.

Dan Hawkins

Dan Hawkins said:

As long as proper credit(including royalties) is given I think sampling is alright


Christopher said:

I disagree with you also Dante…. theres a HUGE difference in a person composing ‘Springsteen like’ riffs and a person blatantly ripping them right off the record. You can not ‘sample’ something ‘in the style of’ said artist – since you are in fact carbon copying.

For me all of this since the 80’s – has been akin to somebody tearing up the Mona Lisa then pasting it back together in some other ‘artists interpretation’ and claiming to have created their own original work.

Further more – we have already established people love the Mona Lisa therefore we know the piece is guaranteed a certain amount of attention before even seeing the light of day. Come on now…. your not sampling the flops and failures. Are you?

If the song was already a hit why should you receive accolades for simply hacking it up and laying back down over something else? Most the time your sampling THE MOST CATCHY FAMOUS riff of song, the very fabric that turned ears and made the song a hit.

Its like wanting a gold medal for a great chocolate chip cookie recipe – again; Have we not already established a thousand times over that people LOVE chocolate chip cookies? (much like the hits you sample) ……but suddenly were all to bow down to your greatness and make you rich? I dont think so.


Larry said:

I think the “history” of sampling really started before the technology existed – in the sense that DJs were mixing in parts of what was in one LP track while another track was playing. (Jungle?) So originally, the quality of what you were producing depended on your mixing skill. If you sucked, it sucked. And if you were good, it was like Sugar Hill Gang. Creative use of “primitive” equipment. Then the computer came along and it became harder to judge who practiced more vs. spent more. And the question of something being derivative perhaps became more complicated to discuss. This question probably upsets older music lovers because they remember when people had to play an instrument and be in a band and looping tech wasn’t part of the scene. imho


keyway said:

this is art. F*** yo rights. you can not control creativeness. you can put all the rules on it you want but people will do what they want. i sample and i wont clear any and if they sue me then i should be in a position to make even more money so it dont really matter to me


ledale said:

i agree with Larry. Being a DJ in the late 70’s, you can consider cuttin and scratchin a form of sampling. Sometimes a vocal cut of one song was overlayed on an instrumental of another song to create something both familiar and new. Was that considered sampling or was it creativity?

Shayne O'Neill

Shayne O'Neill said:

As a musician people expect me to dislike sampling, but I disagree. Culture has alway had aspects of bricolage. Even back before the industrial revolution bards would take existing songs, re-arrange the lyrics around and create new songs. Blues largely works off the same 12 bar pattern with variations. Poets take inspiration from other poems and rearange the ideas into new ideas. So for me, its just another tool in the toolbox. Sure I might dislike what someones done with my art, but its their art now, and deserves respect for that. So by all means, sample the shit out of my music. Just make whatever you create good.

Robert Shelton

Robert Shelton said:

This article has a very circular feeling to it, for me, in that I feel like these people embedding a video in their articles EXACTLY LIKE THIS ONE, and writing a very short article with no substantive addition to the content of the video, then monetizing their article should be required to pay the creator of the original product, just the way musicians should be payed by the rappers that are reselling their product.
This is really the exact same behavior.


Jeb said:

I don’t think sampling crushes talent, or sends kids the wrong message about making music. I think it shows more creativity than going on American Idol, or playing in a cover band. No one is saying that sampling is the only way kids are allowed to make music, moving forward. Any kid can go buy a synth or guitar, and create something fresh.

There are artists, like DJ Shadow, that make very complex pieces, irreducible to the samples used. There are other’s that are overly plagiaristic, and while I don’t gravitate to that style, someone does, and another’s musical interests should be theirs to decide. I’m sure you listen to music that has identical sonic characteristics to work that preceded it. In my opinion it is a moot point to argue the semantics.

Go make the music in the way you want to, and listen to the artists that vibe with you. You didn’t invent the Gregorian scale. You didn’t invent the DAW. You didn’t invent amplification or oscillators. If a sampling artist bites someone else’s work and finds an audience, good for them. Don’t be bitter. Nirvana did it, too.

Bobby O

Bobby O said:

Stop bitching, people…music creation is beautiful, and there is NO wrong way to do it!!

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