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A sample library is a collection of digital sound recordings, known as samples, for use by composers, arrangers, performers, and producers of music. The sound files are loaded into a sampler—either hardware or software-based—which is then used to create music. Sample libraries appear in a variety of forms:
- As a tempo-based musical phrase that can be looped (repeated in tempo with the arrangement), or edited in a cut and paste collage fashion.
- Collections of note-by-note recordings of musical instruments for playback on a digital sampler, known as multi-samples. This method of sample playback is to construct a playable instrument, or emulation of another instrument, from a sampler or computer.
- One-shot hits or stabs of non-tempo-based audio, particularly for sound effects.
The term sample library, when used in a commercial context, implies a collections of samples that have been produced and licensed for the purpose of being used as samples. Such a library, sometimes called a sample pack, can be distributed either physically (on CD or DVD) or over the internet. Some sampling websites, such as The Freesound Project, utilize user-generated sample libraries.