Tips to Build Your Own Sound Library by Dom McLennon

Build Your Own Sound Sample Library

The producer’s sound library is a sacred place. For some more seasoned producers from the generation before us; this library could include a physical library of vinyl disks, hard drives, floppy disks or memory cards full of artifacts of days spent crate digging for that one break. To a newer producer, a “sound library” can include their essential go-to sounds. Items that can fill in an unfinished idea, the proverbial “in case of emergency, break here” safety blanket of patterns and loops found and programmed over a short time.

Everybody’s sound library is unique and everybody creates their own collection of sounds through the sample packs they buy of free download over time from the Internet. The Internet is “the spot” where music producer currently spends 90% of time when it comes to looking for a new sound, sample or patch for his soft sampler. From drum kits to presets for many soft synths, sampled keys, breakbeats and midi files, your library can includes a variety sound and file types. Here’s some of my tips on building a solid sound library, whether you just opened your DAW for the first time or you’re trying to figure out how to revamp your catalog. Many of this tips is for Hip Hop producers, but may apply to others who want to diversify their sound library.

Don’t limit yourself to “Producer” or “(music genre)” sound packs.

A critical mistake I see on some producers libraries is a list of folders with some artist names attached and the word “official” to kits that really have nothing to do with the artist at all. For every ten kits like these though there are some gems, like Jake One’s SnareJordan kits, which are some of his hand-picked favorite samples out of his drum library used on tracks before. I recommend you to don’t spend your money on this kind of drum kits. You can find many such drum kits for free on different websites.  Here are some examples: or check the ProducerSpot’s Free Download section for more freebies. The only website with this kind of “Producer Drum Kit” and breaks samples that I can recommend you is, where you can find some “real drum kits” from “real producers” such as Frank Dukes, Butcha, J-Zone, Illmind, Stix, Mike Chav, Havoc and more.

In the video bellow, Jake One, a Grammy nominated producer explain how he started to make beats and how to chose the perfect sample then create a new beat with this.

In his career Jake One released three sample packs available at links listed bellow:

Do not abuse this drum kits! The chances that your “next hit” to resemble and sound very much with other instrumentals from other producers is quite large. To stand out from the box, use the specific one shots samples combined with others and mix them together to create your own drum track.

When you’re chopping up samples, listen the song in it’s entirety.

I have seen in practice this mistake quite often. Sometimes, some music producers that use the sampling technique find a song and sample just the beginning. I advise you to listen the whole song, maybe a very nice break is hidden at the middle or at end of track.

As I stated above, some of these “Producer packs” are really people just ripping sounds from other songs and doing a little bit of audio makeup to give it a unique appearance. With this knowledge, why not do it yourself?

Remember the break.

An often lost element in many producers sound libraries is a “breaks library”. Not only a break library is critical in your sound arsenal for sampling and chopping, but these breaks existed in one period of time for a reason. The break reminds us of a time where all the extra elements of a song would drop out to revel the bare bones and soul of the track. This is what people used to dance to and it used to drive the clubs into a frenzy. Collecting breaks not only is useful in finding knowledge it’s also a direct link back to the classic soul that no is lost in our modern music.

With Abeton 9 introducing the Audio-To-Midi capability as well as various other programs having similar options, like Reason’s ReGroove, these breaks can give you an extra human feel to build a solid foundation until you choose to replace it with original sounds of your own. If it doesn’t sound good over a break, chances are it doesn’t sound that good in the first place.

Field recording is the future.

More and more people are turning to sounds recorded from the real environment. It seems that the wheel spins and soon the world will return to the sounds taken directly from nature. The huge volume of synthesized sounds used in today’s music made the originality disappear and more and more songs sound the same. If you already have some experience in sound design you can head to this. With a budget of about $1000 you can set up your “portable studio”. This must include a portable recorder, headphones, some wind-screens filters, stands for microphones or/and the portable recorder, cables .etc.  The result of field recording will surprise you and you may find that you are instantly rewarded with original and unique material to add to your personal sound library.

In conclusion, build your own sound library by collecting the perfect breaks from old soul, funk tracks or any kind of genre that inspire you. Browse the Internet for best drum sample packs, presets for your synth, MIDIs and plugins, bring them together and use them combined to create your own style. As a music producer to have your own original style is very important. Most Important! Don’t spend your money on garbage drum kits who comes with fancy names. Also, if you have financial possibilities point your attention to field recording.

Hope you enjoyed my tips in how to build your own sound library. Your comments are welcome!

[author image=”” ]Dom McLennon – US, 21 year old musician and member of the AliveSinceForever, creative collective. Experience in projects regarding recording, producing, directing, as well as many other skills in the group and beyond.[/author]

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