Some people may tell you that finding samples is all about digging through crates of obscure records, while others claim that an expensive sample pack will solve your problems to getting that perfect EDM kick tone. While these aren’t necessarily incorrect, there are some free sample libraries out there that, when applied properly, can help you achieve professional-sounding results and head-bopping grooves.
The main caveat with these libraries and samples is that you will have to check licensing agreements on some of the sounds before you include it in a track you’re planning to release. Now, with that being said, let’s go through six of our favourite sites that we think are worth checking out.
BandLab is a free, collaborative online DAW that allows you to record and create tracks either on your own, or with friends, and upload the results to the platform. If that’s not impressive enough, BandLab Assistant gives you access to a free sample library that can be downloaded to your computer to be used with any DAW. Running as a separate application, BandLab Assistant will let you browse MIDI and audio loops, plus one-shots, and drag them straight into your digital audio workstation. The sounds are available as m4a.
Thousands of royalty-free samples are on offer, with a huge catalogue of loop packs. Loop packs are frequently updated and released, including packs suited to genres like Lo-Fi Hip Hop, Bassline House, Latin Pop, Chicago House, Industrial Metal and tons more. Creators of some of the packs include disco producer Enyon and tech house producer Martin Badder, with many more artists set to get involved. There is quite literally no reason for any music producer working with samples to not have this software on their computer.
BandLab Assistant can be downloaded for free here.
2Samples From Mars
Samples From Mars specialises in bringing sounds from classic hardware machines into the hands of software producers. The great thing about the sample packs from Samples From Mars is they aren’t just cleanly recorded sounds – they are also run through more analogue hardware, such as an API console recording to tape, so you’re also getting genuine analogue warmth into your tracks. The 808 From Mars pack, for example, features clean, coloured and saturated versions of each kick tone and length.
Samples From Mars loves discovering obscure, vintage and great sounding synths from yesteryear and making them accessible to music-makers of today. The recent Dr Bohm Digital Drums and OB From Mars packs are enough evidence for that.
Browse the collection of Samples From Mars’ free samples here.
If you aren’t familiar with Legowelt, your favourite producer probably is. His career spans over twenty years, more than a handful of aliases and, fortunately for us, an extensive sample library that he uploads to his website for free download. He’s taken the liberty of meticulously recording his collection of synths and drum machines, offering hundreds of one-shot samples, pad sounds and loops for each instrument.
If you ever wanted the sounds of a genuine Roland Juno 106 without going out and buying one, Legowelt has 250 samples from his, including big basses, mysterious pads, chords, haunting strings, sequences, arpeggios, drums and more. All files come in a .zip folder and the sounds are all in 16bit WAV format. Regardless of genre or taste, you truly need to browse the site and play around with some of the instruments here.
Get Legowelt’s free sample packs here
Having downloaded quite a few of Goldbaby’s packs ourselves in the past, we can truly vouch for its “passion for vintage drum machines, synthesisers, vinyl, tape and music technology”, as stated on the homepage of its website. The Goldbaby studio is packed to the brim with synths, drum machines, mixers and recording gear, meaning a lot of the sounds you get are touched by analogue warmth. Goldbaby has worked with major music technology brands in the past including Ableton, FXpansion, iZotope, Native Instruments and PreSonus, so you know these sounds are sublime.
Goldbaby’s free section has an eclectic selection of drum machines, synths and some small tasters of buyable packs. Many of the sounds in these packs are sent through tape machines or valve equipment, such as the Valve SK1 Drums, which comprises vintage Casio SK1 samples processed through SPL and Thermionic Culture valve gear. There’s no sign-up process to get the free samples from Goldbaby, although it’s always worth signing up to the newsletter so you know when a new sample pack has dropped.
Goldbaby’s Free Stuff area is available here
A free membership to Noiiz gives you access to its entire catalogue of Free Packs, with as many downloads as you like. Signing up for a free membership is as simple as entering your email address and making a password. The free area isn’t a stingy selection either, with over 500 packs to download, each containing around 10 sounds – no lengthy maths equations needed here to outline how many sounds are available to you. The packs include sounds for jazz, trap, d’n’b, neo-soul and much more, it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re after some new inspiration.
Noiiz also has a subscription-based service, starting at $10/mo, in which you are given access to a plethora of new sample libraries. This includes packs from professional creators and artists, such as Hashfinger, Samplephonics, Machinedrum, Letherette and more. You’ll also have access to the Noiiz plug-in, which works in a similar fashion to BandLab Assistant, with a swift drag-and-drop mechanic to load sounds into your sessions.
You can download sounds from Noiiz’s Free Packs area here.
Freesound may not be your go-to for funky bass grooves or lush pads, but for found sound, this site is a goldmine. Functioning as a collaborative database of audio samples recorded and uploaded by fellow users, Freesound is exactly as described – free. It’s pretty much as easy as typing in the desired sound into the search bar and see what the database has to offer. With rating systems, waveform previews, tags, download count and other filters, you hopefully won’t be spending hours flicking through clips to find the kind of thing you’re looking for.
The site is great for gathering foley sounds, soundscapes, one-shot samples and other interesting pieces of audio that you may not have direct access to. The catch is that not everything will be cleanly recorded, or recorded in the fashion you wish it to be, but it’s a great opportunity to get creative within specific limitations. Be mindful of the licensing on Freesound as well, as some of the users may wish to be credited for your use of their sound in a composition.
Have a browse through Freesound’s community sample database here.
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