Sampling: Quantity vs. Quality

One of the big topics I wrestle with when it comes to sampling is the age-old debate of Quantity vs. Quality.

PALA Sound_Ukulele_Sampling_Session

If you’re not familiar - it’s basically the debate of what to value: a greater quantity of output (in this case, more samples) or a higher quality of the samples (fewer samples but better ones).

A typical response is “both!”. But that’s not helpful, nor does it have roots in reality.

Quantity and Quality are directly related to one another. The more you shoot for quantity, the less you are able to focus on quality. And vice versa - the more you shoot for quality, the less you’ll be able to focus on quantity.

Of course, you can hack this by doing a few things: 1) spending more time on it, and/or 2) getting better at doing it faster. But generally speaking, there is a point at which the quality will suffer, even if you’re incredibly fast, effective, and spend all your time doing it.

So that being said, let’s get back to the matter at hand: when creating samples, is it more important to create a lot of samples or the highest quality of samples.

My first instinct is to think that a lot of samples is the way to go, focusing on quantity. A folder of 1,000 kicks and snares is better than a folder of 10 kicks and snares, right?

But after giving it some thought, I pretty quickly realized that was wrong. Even IF all 1,000 kicks and snares were decent samples, it’d be almost unusable to have a folder of 1,000 samples without a very sophisticated search method, etc.

Plus, how many different kicks and snares do you need? I produce about 600 tracks per year, and I don’t come anywhere near using that many samples. I’d say I use about 50-60 kick samples per year, maybe 100 tops.

So for me, quantity isn’t even a question when it comes to sampling. I solely focus on quality. I want to have a folder of 50 AMAZING kick samples and 50 AMAZING snare samples, not a folder of 1,000 mediocre samples.

Here’s why:

  1. It’s easier to actually use the samples this way - like I said, nobody can flip through 1,000 samples when you’re actually producing.

  2. Great tracks start with great sounds - if you’re using mediocre sounds to begin with, how can you expect a great track at the end of the session?

Sometimes, I’ll go out and sample stuff all day, and only end up with 15 samples at the end of the day. But I can guarantee those 15 samples will be incredibly useful and will show up in dozens of tracks I make.

And since I am always sampling stuff, my library grows pretty regularly. I’m probably up to about 1,000 total samples across my own library, and I truly love each and every one.

So my advice would be: whether you’re getting samples from Splice or another service like it, or if you’re making your own samples, focus on getting a small yet insanely usable folder of samples going, not a ton of average or unspectacular samples. You’ll have more fun and make better tracks since you’ll be starting with better samples.