Sample library

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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.

Individual sample packs can often be found in online libraries or website directories that host the files (free or paid) for download. It is important to know if the samples being utilized are royalty-free or having certain usage restrictions (such as not being allowed in commercial content) when downloading these files. Usually this is stated in the usage rights of the pack or under the Terms of Service on the website they were downloaded from.

Samples can be imported into Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) such as Pro Tools, Logic or Cubase and manipulated individually. A more efficient workflow has emerged where composers and sound designers make use of a sampler within their DAW such as Native Instruments Kontakt which allows users to perform with VST instruments in a more musical manner. This has become a standard workflow of many film, TV and games composers in order to produce high quality demos.

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