What To Do When You Can't Clear a Sample


We've all been there.  You've found the perfect sample that just MAKES the song but it's copyrighted or taken from another track.  After all, not all of us have the access to big budgets or a network of major record labels and publishers who can clear a big sample.

In this article we're going to explore samples alternatives, recreations or figure out 'how do I clear a sample;.  So..


Things To Look Out For

If you've made a song you've fallen in love with but the sample is:
- Well known
- Prominent in the new recording,
- or Shazam just picks up the original,

Here's our guide to what you can do:


How Do I Clear A Sample?

Mara Kuge, Superior Music Publishing President states "There isn't a central database or a central way to clear these songs."  "It's something that has to be negotiated with all the parties that own the song you want to sample.  It's this lack of clarity that can make the process tricky.  Both the artist, the writer(s0, the label and their publisher would need to be contacted before a rough agreement could be put in place.

I think we can all agree that the difficulty that these steps cause could lead one to look for alternative options.  So, here's a few things you could do instead.



Recreate The Sample

A. Recreate the bones of the sample with live musicians or have a go yourself.  Find bassists, string players, guitarist etc.

It's easier than you think as the music is there and most session musicians are skilled at playing whatever you want them to, especially when you have the original for them to follow. Tip:

Fiverr is a great place to start looking as it's packed with great musicians who are willing to do small amounts of work for a tiny fee.


Manipulate The Sample Beyond Recognition

B. Use more FX, time stretching, chopping and moving sounds, pitch bending, reversing to manipulate the sample further, creating something unique and recognisable.  We need to re-iterate that the final sound needs to be completely unrecognisable from the original - we don't want any copyright issues popping up.

Here's some of the plugins and programs we recommend to do this:

- Sugar bytes Effectrix - Chop, stretch, distort and filter your samples into a whole new world.  This glitchy plugin beast has been a staple of producers for years now and provides endless manipulation options.



- Paulstretch - This incredible plugin allows extreme time stretching BUT without the artefacts you'd usually expect to hear.  From 5 seconds to 20 minutes, Paulstretch can create incredible ambience loops from the smallest of sounds.



Tip: If you're created a tracks that's just not working why not add it to Paulstretch and build an ambience loop that could work in your next track.


Remove The Sample At The End

C. See if the track you have built around the sample is strong enough with the sample removed. Sometimes this can take away the magic, but sometimes you build so many elements around a sample, there comes a point in the session where you may realise the sample was only needed as inspiration to get you lifting off.


Reach For A Sample Pack

D. Now we are clearly biased but often there will be a sample pack created in the style of the sample that you've used.  The royalty free nature of sample packs means that you'll never need to worry about copyright issues. ;)