Loops and the Art of the One Shot.

Loops and One Shot… one you’ve probably heard of, the other maybe be not.

Loops – simply put, are samples where the start and the end of the audio connect almost seamlessly.


Look at how the loop ends right against the start of the new bar.

One Shot Looped – Originally to combat CPU and memory limitations. Samplers were designed so that when you struck a key. The first part of the sound would play (the pluck) and then the mid point (sustain) portion would loop. Once the key was released the end portion would give you the tail. Like so…

One Shot Looped Example

We can see the middle section here. This is the part that will be looped to ensure sustain until the key is released.

While technology has come to the point where memory is not such an issue. You will find this process is still integrated into samplers such as Kontakt, so it’s useful to understand how it works and what you are looking at when you come into contact with an such a system.

One Shot– Has a definite start and end point. Percussive instrument often fall into this category. These type of samples can be transformed into a looped one shots but 99% of the time it’s not necessary due to the nature of what is being played back.

One Shot Example

A single sound file played back in a linear fashion. Left to right

These three ideas form the basis of today’s focus:

What is sampling and how do I do it?

Without getting all esoteric about it: sampling is a music production tool where you can take prerecorded phrases, loops and one shots and use them to re-enforce, re-mix, add to or create from scratch musical/audio compositions.

In a different way: the taking of recorded music sources and placing them into a new environment.


Take some sounds

add one part water and two eggs.

Cook for 45 mins on 185

enjoy the delicious Cake music.

Use of sampling in contemporary music:

Since most of you want to make music, let’s look at some of the ways it’s been used in the past.

1) The hook or the almost direct rip-off because the sample is awesome method: Here is where you take an obscure/older song or a small section of a obscure song and use it to build up a new song or provide a hook.

Hip hop is all over this method. Check out this video

A/B of samples – Kayne West

2) The hook or the almost direct rip-off because the sample is awesome but re-play all the parts for licensing reasons or aesthetic deviations method:

Similar to the first method but maybe the part doesn’t quite fit. So replaying gives you a bit more control over things like tone, instrumentation, arrangement etc. Timberland often employs this method, have a look here.

Samples a built upon : Timberland

3) The taking snippets of hundreds of records to form a new musical work method.

This is also pretty common in the hip hop/dance community. Often the samples are merged, eq, distorted and put back together to form something totally different.

You Got Me Burnin’ – Cloud 9 (Original Mix) which is a composite of a bunch of tunes and has been updated again recently to this

Burning Up – Peo De Pitte (Torqux Twist remix)

And here’s a great video on this process

Voodoo people – Prodigy (making of video 10 mins or so.)

4) The use/re-purposing of cleared samples to form a professional off the grid sound-set. Personal Library method.

This is where you spend time cannibalizing your failed ideas. You might take a bass patch from here and snare you liked from here and slowly out of this you develop a crate of samples that no-one else has. This is what is going to sets you apart from the millions of others out there making electronic music.

Far Too Loud – Basically Just Awesome

Zodiac Cartel – Signature Jackin’ Clap Sound

Technical Considerations when creating a sample one shot or loop:

Most important – use quality files, don’t be using 24Kps files and then wonder why you kick drum sounds bad. Use a WAV or other forms of Loss-less file.

Find a zero point.

Looking for the zero point

So you searching for a part of the sample is as close to the middle as possible. minimizing the chance of clicks

Close up of zero point

Something like this...

What if there is no zero point? You need a point close so you can fade it out.

0) Find a clean sample (if you trying to get a snare don’t pick the one with the massive crash cymbal over it) or record something. The better the sounds before you chop it, the easier life will be for you.

1)Place a fade at the front. (to prevent any clicks)

2) Place a fade at the the end or zero point. (to prevent any clicks

3) As good practice ensure the start of the sample is the start of the audio and if it’s a loop, that it loops properly. Nothing is worse than making a tune and have to manually re-adjust sample because you couldn’t be bothered doing in the first place.

4) Check it for clicks/pops and other forms of digital distortion.

5) (optional) If you want colour the sample, here’s a good place to start. Ideas could include filtering, adding distortion, equalization, phasers, choruses, auto panning compression etc.

6) Render the audio, this will save you CPU power because it won’t be trying to play the sample, the fades, the volume automation and the effect automation in the later stage of the song writing process.

7) Add it to a folder for personal samples in a sub folder that makes sense to you. i.e “Experimental Percussion Loops”

8) You’re done.

Get Your Hand Dirty:

Sample some stuff.

Got a mic? Use it. Don’t have one? Use that thing on your computer.

Record the door, your voice, opening a soft drink bottle.

Got some sample packs? take 2 drum loops, cut the snare out of drum loop 1 and replace the snares on drum loop 2.

Now take the bottle noise and replace the snare out of the loop with that. Replace the kick drum with your voice. Now you’ve got a experimental percussion loop.

That’s all for this week. Stay tuned, Subscribe and Share because next week and we’re going to start on basic synthesis waves and over the next couple of weeks going to build up into building classic drum machine inspired samples.


Further videos/information:

The Amen Break in sampling

Everything is a Remix:

Who Sampled

Legal Issues:

I am not a lawyer and in short copyright law is deep and complex. So to keep yourself out of hot water unless you have permission from the copyright holder or the work is part of the new school of copyright which allow derivatives and remixing. Don’t touch it.

Here a little more info on US copyright law and an entry in Wikipedia that refers to the “you can sample a little bit” argument you often hear about.




About Braydon Zirkler

Currently based out of Melbourne. I'm dividing my time up between this blog, teaching, a radio show that's in the works and working on a live performance project with physical theatre performers. Get in touch here: blindmanbass@gmail.com
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