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Isolating Samples

Isolating Samples – Flipping & Filtering

Check out the following simple techniques for isolating samples just using your native plugins like equalizers, filters and others. It’s time to get the most out of your samples! Some of us do these techniques instinctively already, but for those of you struggling with isolating clean parts of a sample, prepare to have your mind blown. I learned these techniques from a seasoned engineer who did the mixing many, many hip hop records including some big hits from Jay Z, 50 Cent and others.

Let’s get into it!

Let’s look at an example and see what’s whats possible. I took the track Love Song by Lani Hall which has a beautiful chill melody which hypnotizes you when looped. Unfortunately on the whole record there’s a simple drum loop running on top of it. While you can probably get away with turning your drums up a bit, so the layer and drown out the originals, isolating samples would be nice – just have the bass and melody from the track to work with.

Now this song is quite old. One thing to know is, that especially around 60s and 70s you have the drums, vocals or certain instruments panned to left and to the right. The opens up the opportunity to seperate them and afterwards blend them differently. Thanks to modern software and capable equalizers with M/S functionality, there’s a lot pf possibilities here.

Check out the following six examples who all have the same source file. They just have different plugins at work. If you don’t believe me and you are an Ableton user, you can grab the Sample Filter Rack I used to in the examples and try it for yourself.

Examples of Isolating Samples

Original Sample

This is what you find on the vinyl, CD, or the youTube video you want to sample.

Left Mono & Right Mono

Using the Utility plugin in Ableton we are able to just listen to the left channel and summing it to mono, so we hear it properly through two speakers. I’ve done the same with the right channel and in the example I skip back and forth to show you that depending on the sample you get quite different results. You still hear the drums on this one, but you potentially have a verse and a chorus section right here.

Sides & Middle

If you sum the sides to the middle, you’ll get only a little bit of the drum bleeding through, so definitely a worthy contestant if you’re unhappy with the drums on the sample and want to get rid of them. In the example I switched between the sides and the middle and you can hear how the guitar part really moves to the background when I just play the middle.

On The Radio

If you filter out the lows and highs, the sample sounds like it’s beeing played through an old radio at the barbershop. This version can be highly usable in the intro of your beat, in the breakdown section or as main sample when combined with just the bassline.

Just Bassline & No Bassline

Here we use a low pass filter, to just keep the bass. It’s not perfect, but especially for boom bap or li-fo hip hop this is good enough. Then I switched the filter to a high pass. This way you have the missing piece to the Just BAssline version and if you play both back at the same time, you would have the original sample again. Why would you do this? For one, you can use just the bassline for the verse and bring in the rest of the sample in the chorus. On the other hand, it allows you to mix your sample differently.

You can crank up the Bassline and leave the No Bassline channel. This way the sample becomes more beass heavy and the bassline will start to drive the song – a whole different dynamic.

That’s it for today.

Like a lot of things, these are often small changes and differences, but if used correctly and combined with other techniques you can really get unique results. And you don’t need expensive plugins or even outboard gear for it. Those things might get you slightly better results in the end, but you see in the above example, that with only some stock Ableton plugins, you can do some serious sample voodoo!

Download the Ableton Sample Filter Rack

Ah and you can do the same for chopping out drum hits from your favourite classic drum breaks. But that’s a story for another day. Until then – PEACE!