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1. Starter loop: Filtered Vibraphone

I’ll kick this Sample and Hold session off with some filtered “vibraphone.” This sample recalls the quirky world of a mysterious genre called library music:

landr samples selector

Library music is the term for background and novelty tracks made to be licensed cheaply to TV, radio and film productions.

If you’ve ever seen a retro TV documentary or museum movie you’ve probably heard library music in its natural habitat.

Session musicians churned out track after track for library music labels throughout the 60s and 70s.

These talented players were rarely credited properly and often received a flat rate for their compositions.

Library music has an innocent, playful quality rooted in instrumental grooves. Its diverse instrumentation can include everything from buzzy synths to slick horn sections.

Few of these tracks ever found their way into productions. But the volume of material these labels recorded is impressive.

For those willing to dig through a massive back catalogue, these analog instrumentals are a gold mine.

For those willing to dig through a massive back catalogue, these analog instrumentals are a gold mine.

Library music is a classic sample source for crate-diggers. But it made its way to the mainstream with the success of artists like Boards of Canada.

Their breakthrough Music Has the Right to Children is full of library music samples. It also shares a visual aesthetic with the films that use library music.

The band’s name itself is a reference to Canada’s National Film Board—a major customer of library music!

Selection 1: Hang percussion

On the 2 page of my starter sound I found a brooding mid-tempo loop. The main instrumental sound is the unmistakable Hang percussion instrument.

landr samples loop

You might have heard the Hang in an atmospheric film soundtrack or entrancing street performance:

The Hang is a boutique instrument from master percussion workshop PANart in Switzerland. Each Hang is individually hand crafted from proprietary materials and tuned for ideal resonance.

Its creators discourage the use of the word “drum” to describe it. But the original Hang and its imitators (called “handpans” generically) are idiophones.

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Idiophones are a class of instruments whose entire structure vibrates to generate sound.

Idiophones are a class of instruments whose entire structure vibrates to generate sound.

The Hang’s unique take on the concept produces a haunting, resonant tone. Its melodic “notes” are full of complex harmonics.

Hangs with several different tunings exist, but this loop contains quite a few pitches. Considering how rare and expensive these artisanal instruments are, could this loop be a sample of a sample?

Selection 2: Reverse audio

On page 2 of the Hang Selector session I found a nice animated soundscape that makes great use of reverse audio:

Playing a tape in reverse was one of the first experimental sound effects. The technique was popularized by pioneers like Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the composers of Musique concrète.

By the mid 60s reverse tape effects had become popular in the burgeoning psychedelic rock movement. Psychedelic bands embraced the otherworldly sound it produced.

We still don’t fully understand why backwards audio sounds so uncanny.

We still don’t fully understand why backwards audio sounds so uncanny.

A possible explanation is that a sound’s amplitude envelope is an important cue for our perception and cognition systems.

Reverse the envelope and a sound becomes unrecognizable—even when its other characteristics are the same.

Despite the rational explanation, reverse audio effects remain deeply unsettling.

In the 70s, rumours spread that musicians were using them to broadcast occult messages. Fears of “backmasking” lead to some of the most persistent urban legends in rock…

Selection 3: Chopped vocals

Speaking of cut and paste techniques, I found a well-chopped vocal hook with a unique flavour on page 7.

It’s a great example of how you can create variation using your sampler’s built-in tone tools.

Many classic sample techniques come from smart use of these functions. Transposing, adjusting the ADSR envelope or manipulating the start and end points are all great sound design techniques.

In this example, a single vocal phrase forms a polyphonic figure. The melody cleverly takes advantage of its basic melodic outline. That’s musical sampling!

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