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Sampling (music)

In music, sampling refers to the act of taking a portion of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument in a new recording. This is done with a sampler, which can either be a piece of hardware, or a computer program on a digital computer. Similar to sampling is the technique of creating loops of magnetic tape with a reel to reel tape machine.

Often "samples" consist of one part of a song used in another, for instance the use of the drumline from Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" in songs by the Beastie Boys, Mike Oldfield and Erasure. "Samples" in this sense occur often in hip hop and R&B, but are becoming more common in other music, as well.


Sampling dates back to the 1960s when Jamaican DJs tried out a type of music called dub. These DJs combined reggae albums with other albums into single works. Frequently, they would rap over the music, scatting unrehearsed lyrics. These early practices made their way to America in the early 70s. With the assistance of Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc, who moved to the Bronx, dub, the buoyant predecessor to hip-hop, fashioned latter-day DJing and sampling techniques. Initially, DJs did not have the technological comfort of samplers.

By the late 1970s, the stylings of Herc spread from the West Bronx all over New York City. Like any musical style, dub became modified to its surroundings. As an alternative of reggae, disco and funk music - which was the trendy inner-city music of the day - were mixed together. New Yorkers were improvising their own variety of poetry and dub was soon christened "rap".

Near the mid-1980s, rap music was budding and samplers were very low-priced. It was at this time that sampling finally became mainstream.

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