The main reason that I love sampling and use it so heavily in my own music is because of the creativity, innovation, and diversity that it brings to the table.
It’s no secret that with sampling, artists are able to hear how different sounds and styles can be combined in unexpected ways to create amazing new things.
With the rapid emergence of artificial intelligence, it’s possible for this new technology to dramatically push the boundaries of sampling (and music creation in general) forward to places we’ve never been before.
Whether AI is involved or not, easily my #1 most favourite thing about sampling is how it democratises music production and lowers the barrier of entry for anyone to get involved with the joys of making music.
Budding artists with limited resources who might not have access to traditional instruments or studios can still produce music — it doesn’t matter if your family couldn’t afford music lessons or gear.
Simply put: thanks to sampling, anyone with passion and a bit of creativity can create really compelling music.
Why Folks Hate On Sampling (& Why They Are Wrong)
With that said, the naysayers will usually point to things like artistic integrity, copyright infringement and a lack of originality. And I definitely agreed when I was a younger and more naive artist. “Real music is played by real artists using real instruments,” — A younger, dumber me (probably).
However, I had a massive change of heart once I was shown how creative artists can get with sampling and how much of an insane transformation can take place.
Watching one of those videos that reveal popular samples of amazing songs can have that effect on anyone:
Imagine stubbornly thinking that a song you loved was played by “real artists” only to find out that it was a creatively chosen and manipulated sample all along?
Artificial Intelligence & The Future of Sampling
Considering the fact that sampling is a production technique that is very focused on technology, it only makes sense to consider how something like AI might impact the future of sampling and how artists create music.
Now, there are some obvious reasons to be critical when it comes to using AI to make music generally:
- Loss of the “Human Element”
- Threat of job loss to human musicians, artists and composers
- Ethical and copyright issues
- Quality and depth of music
- Over-reliance on technology
- Impersonal or generic outputs
Ultimately, the opposition to the use of AI in music often stems from concerns about authenticity, artistic integrity, and the potential impact on the music industry and its professionals.
Which can all be true, but when it comes to AI and sampling in particular, I think the future is a lot brighter and a heck of a lot more nuanced. In fact, I’ve even started experimenting with AI in my own music by:
- Finding a sound inside of a song that I want to sample.
- Using an AI tool called LALAL.AI to isolate the entire instrumental from that recording so that the sound I want isn’t masked by drums or vocals.
- Sampling out the specific part I want and then dropping it into a plugin called Synplant 2 that uses AI to recreate the audio sample with traditional synthesis.
It’s not a perfect process by any means, which often leads the end result to be much more unique than the originally sampled material.
As an artist who can’t afford expensive hardware synthesisers and never learned proper music theory because my family couldn’t afford music lessons, things like this are a Godsend for helping me get the creative ideas out of my head and out to the world.
Positive Impacts of AI On Music Sampling
Like in the example I just gave, AI can help with enhanced sample detection & extraction by having algorithms that can identify and isolate specific sounds more efficiently than humans ever could.
Leveraging the power of AI in music sampling can have several other positive and significant impacts. When approached correctly, AI can be used to help artists take the technology behind sampling to even greater & more exciting heights.
Let’s take a look:
1. Automated Clearance of Samples:
AI could streamline the process of clearing samples by automatically identifying the original source of a sample and facilitating the legal clearance process.
I can personally see greedy corporations using this one more for evil than for good, but it definitely could streamline the sample clearing process.
2. New Creative Possibilities
AI can assist in creating unique samples by manipulating and transforming existing sounds in ways that might not be intuitive or possible for human producers.
I’ve experienced this firsthand while trying to use AI to emulate a pre-existing sample — I can only imagine how creative and interesting sound design could become with AI that is fine-tuned for that purpose.
3. Time and Resource Efficiency
By automating certain processes in sampling, AI can save time and resources, allowing artists and producers to focus more on the creative aspects of music production.
With generative text-based AI like ChatGPT, it’s easy to imagine being able to simply ask for a particular sample based on a description of a pre-existing recording or a completely random and new description.
4. Accessibility and Democratisation
AI tools could make sampling more accessible to a broader range of artists, including those who may not have the technical skills for traditional sampling methods.
Most sampling devices require the artist to use hands (i.e., computers, samplers, etc.), but it could be possible for sampling to take place via other inputs like voice and maybe even thought in the future.
The Bottom Line: Is AI & Music Good, Bad or Somewhere In Between?
Looking back, apparently, sampling in music goes as far back as the 1940s and 1950s in France with an experimental genre called Musique Concrète (very weird stuff where they would edit together recorded samples of natural and industrial sounds).
However, sampling as we know it today began to take shape in the late 1970s with the birth of hip-hop and was further revolutionised in the 1980s and beyond with the introduction of digital sampling technology like AKAI’s MPC line.
Personally, as an artist who started off making rock music with traditional instruments before transitioning into making electronic music with computers, I can see both sides of the argument for and against sampling.
It’s impossible not to agree with the fact that AI can be taken way too far with literally anything inside and outside of music.
At the same time, it should be impossible not to agree that AI can be used in really amazing ways to help human artists create even more remarkable art and push the boundaries of creativity even further.