How to Creatively Use Samples


We all love turntables & CDJs. Yet, there is also a community of controllerists within our DJ community. Some DJs, who didn’t have turntables available to them through friends or family, or that aren’t fortunate enough to afford technics or CDJs, often find themselves learning how to DJ with controllers. These all-in-one alternatives to the full set up we are used to seeing from DJs are often frowned upon to club owners or other DJs. However, there are a lot of benefits to using a controller. One of the main benefits is the very easy use of samples.

Controllerism is an art in itself. People don’t legitimize controllers because they usually provide the SYNC button. However, taking full advantage of a controller an require a lot of practice and skill. Controllers or sample mixers can be very useful when performing live because it can definitely set you apart from other DJs.

Live remixing, producing, and performing can be extremely creative and stimulating.

For an example, check out this video of DJ BrainDead performing on a Pioneer DDJ-SX controller:

Before breaking down various sample tricks, be sure to understand that a performance like this requires A LOT of preparation…

It is important to note how many “pre-produced” samples DJ BrainDead used. A lot of the time, for performance purposes, DJs will pre set their sample pads with specific sounds or samples for complex remixing.

Extracting, tightening, and really understanding each sample requires a ton of practice. When it is time to perform, the samples are literally at your fingertips to manipulate.


Sample Tricks:

1. Drumming – Different synths and drums can be mapped on to the sampling pads (kick, snare, synth sound), and can be used to to live production. Understanding where each sample is assigned, a DJ could have a track on channel 1 and provide other drum patterns and synths on channel 2 to compliment and completely make the track their own.

2. Stabbing & Filtering  – This trick can be used for transitions. Repeating a sample while using the low pass filter can be a creative and useful way to seamlessly transition songs or to even start a set, like BrainDead does in the video.

3. Setting a whole loop on a single sample pad – It can be useful to put a full length or loop onto a sample pad to play while you prepare or even play other tracks. If you only have two channels, the sample pad could act as a third, giving DJs much more room for creativity and possibility.

4. Using sample to create a keyboard – A DJ is able to set different notes for each sample pad to allow them to play their samples, or “juggle”. Referring back to the video, the DJ assigns the sample pads with different notes from Coldplay’s “Clocks” piano riff. He think plays the different notes with another track playing and creates a mashup right infant of our very eyes.

5. Vocal loops – Assigning sample pads with vocal loops can make for live remixing and mashups. A long intro to an EDM track can be complimented with vocal samples to keep it from being boring or lagging.

It can also make mashing up genres pretty easy as well.

If you assign short phrases to your sample pads, with practice, you can make almost any vocal loop match with any beat, regardless of BPM.


In addition, samples can be very useful in battle mode. In the highly regarded Red Bull Thre3style DJ Championships, samples are used heavily in order to customize sets. Check out DJ Twist‘s set below:

Samples are always a great way to spice up a mix or hype up a crowd, but don’t limit yourself! Use your samples to legitimize yourself as a performer and set yourself apart from other DJs.

We can show you how to do all of this and more inside of our lab in Central Square. Looking to schedule a tour? Mouse over and click this.

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