· By Jan Branicki
Vocal Samples in Music Production: How to Use & Find Them
Master the apt use of vocal samples, and you can seamlessly slice, stretch and layer vocal chops to use as instrumental effects in your soundtrack. But, before learning its proper use, you must find the perfect vocal samples, which is quite tedious. However, once you find the spot-on vocal samples, you can create musical magic by turning vocals into symphonies.
This blog will walk you through how you can find and implement vocal samples to create interesting hooks and rhythmic lines for your otherwise plain soundtrack. So keep on reading.
What is a Vocal Sample?
A vocal sample is a pre-recorded piece of human voice incorporated into electronic music to add a human element to the instruments. The clips are usually recorded by a third party and unrelated artists and are later used with some modifications in the songs. Alternatively, an artist can record the samples by himself for specific use.
Why Use Vocal Samples in Music Production?
Vocal samples are used for plenty of reasons in music production. However, one of the most significant purposes is to add depth and emotions to the track. Remove the vocal elements; your song will lack the connection needed to captivate a listener. Vocal samples give life to a soundtrack by creating sonic movements with each fragment.
Here’s why vocal samples are essential to achieve depth and emotion in a soundtrack.
1. Makes The Music Relatable
Vocal samples add a soul to heavily electronic tracks, which without vocal touches, will lack a sense of connection. Vocal sounds are manipulated and changed to sit well with the soundtracks and instantly grab the listener’s attention, keeping them hooked until the end.
2. Creates Memorable Melodies
Music doesn’t only need to be catchy but also memorable so it stays in the listener’s memory. Vocal samples are typically chopped and rearranged to be used several times in a track. This repetition creates a hook and makes the music more memorable and appealing to the listener.
3. Adds Dimension
Vocal samples are reshaped to create ambient textures and background effects, which helps add depth and dimension to the track. Also, it elevates the listening experience and makes the song more captivating.
4. Sets a Mood
The pitch and tone of vocal samples are tweaked to establish the aura of a song which impacts the listener's mood. For instance, happy, energetic, calm, intense, etc., are different moods that are conveyed through vocal samples.
Examples of Famous Songs with Vocal Samples
Fade by Kanye West: The song used a combination of vocal samples, including “Mystery of Love” by Mr. Fingers and "I Feel It" by Inner City. Incorporating these two samples, the singer has achieved a dreamy effect that adds more dimension to the track.
Without Me by Eminem: The soundtrack features vocal samples such as “Buffalo Gals” by Malcolm McLaren and a sample of the phrase “Guess who’s Back?” from a song. Together these samples create a whimsical mood that goes well with the sarcastic lyrics.
Stayin’ Alive by Bee Gees: The song features a repetitive use of the vocal sound "ah." The repeated sample use throughout the track gives it a catchy and lively rhythm.
How To Use Vocal Samples in Music Production? Tips & Techniques
There are two primary techniques for chopping up vocal samples. The first method is to use audio editors like Logic Pro or Slicex to manually slice the vocal sound into smaller parts and later copy-paste them into the audio file. Although time-consuming, it allows more control and precision over the placement.
Secondly, automatic chopping involves using plugins to chop the vocal samples automatically. Most DAWs come with pre-installed plugins; however, you can also go for your preferred software, such as Kontakt 7 Player or Ableton’s Simpler.
This method is fast, but you might have to compromise with the precision. Lastly, the chopping method is widely used in genres such as hip-hop, pop, dubstep, and RnB.
Pitching is a technique used primarily in electronic music to alter the pitch of vocal samples. You can take your vocal sample to the next level using your imagination and appropriate manipulation techniques. All you need to do is appropriately raise or lower the pitch to complement the track’s key.
Pitching can be done in many ways, with pitch shifting being the first, which is used to adjust the pitch of a vocal sound. Most DAWs have built-in pitch-sifting instruments such as Logic Pro Flex Pitch, using which you can modify the sample’s pitch. The second way is Time Stretching, which is done by fine-tuning the tempo of a vocal sound to change its pitch.
Effects and Glitches
Although there is nothing wrong with using dry vocals, you can amplify your track by adding glitches and effects to vocal samples. Many music producers are experimenting with glitching to create textures and rhythm with unconventional sounds. For instance, “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons used glitchy samples to build an unconventional sound.
Similarly, effects like delay, flanger, chorus, reverb, and distortion are also used to bring a refreshing twist to the tracks. The more effects you incorporate, the more your sound elements stand out, but perfect blending is the key. Jamie xx’s work is an excellent example of effects over vocal samples.
Layering and Blending
Layering is a technique to arrange various vocal samples into a unified sound. Here’s how you can layer and blend vocal samples into one:
- Start off with the samples that complement each other.
- Mix and match different combinations to determine which one comes out as the best fit for your track.
- You might need to balance the frequencies while layering vocal samples. Use EQ to harmonize the vocal sounds with each other.
- As mentioned earlier, effects are great for adding more impact to your vocal sound. Make use of effects like distortion, reverb, distortion, etc., to elevate the sample.
Where to Find Vocal Samples?
Here is a list of the best websites to find royalty-free vocal samples:
- The Sample Lab: The Sample Lab includes a carefully picked collection of more than 200 sample libraries. From the ethereal vocal atmosphere to vocal hooks and adlibs, they have a variety of samples for multiple genres, including pop, hip-hop, EDM, rock, and more.
- Splice: The website contains an all-inclusive library of vocal sounds, loops, and samples.
- Sample Magic: Remix Magazine Sample Collection Award holder Sample Magic has a wide range of vocal samples for various genres.
- Black Octopus Sound: The website offers royalty-free vocal samples, including loops, acapella, and phrases.
How to Find Vocal Samples
Wondering how to find good vocal samples? Finding high-quality and clean vocal samples that add value to your tracks can be tricky. Here is what you need to consider before selecting and downloading vocal samples:
- Make sure samples are free from background noise and distortion.
- Check reviews and ratings of vocal samples to see what others think about them.
- Make sure the format of vocal samples is compatible with your DAW.
- Be sure that the vocal sample’s mood fits well with your track’s style.
No matter which genre you work for, you can utilize vocal samples to step up your music game. Vocal chops enhance and elevate your track by adding rhythmic and melodic elements. And when used effectively, vocal chops successfully replace instruments, adding a more memorable and unique touch to the track.
In a nutshell, vocal samples are a versatile tool that makes your music timeless and even more striking to the listeners.