Unique Sampling: Capture Everyday Sounds To Inspire Your Music

MMaking music has never been easier. With user-friendly computer software programs complete with a wide variety of loops, drum beats and instrument sounds all built into the program, just about anyone can “drag and drop” his or her way to song creation. The more musically talented among us can use these home-based programs to sound like polished producers. But what happens when you’ve been through all of the sounds that come standard with the program, or you just get bored with them?

Hopefully, that’s the moment your creativity will kick in. Start opening your ears to the wonderland of sounds all around you. Let your environment be your guide to new levels of creativity. A good recording device is all you need to capture snippets of sound that can be the inspiration for your next hit.
Is this idea new to you? Here are 10 ideas to help you get started:

Radio Waves

Old-school AM/FM radios, shortwave radios, radios with dials and AM receivers can yield a huge variety of interesting and weird sounds. You can’t use copyrighted material, but those partially tuned sounds and “the spaces in between” stations offer a variety of hissing noises, buzzing, squeals and other sounds. More advanced users can try vocoding some random twisting of the dial knob along with a drum track.

Motorcycle Engine

Consider restoring an old bike and using the sounds of the creation process as inspiration. BikeBandit motorcycle parts can provide all of the components. However, if building a bike on your own is too daunting, consult a friend who owns a dirt bike or motorcycle and sample his sounds.
Soundcloud app

Record on the go with mobile apps

Everyday Sounds

Leave a mini-cassette recorder hidden somewhere and press record. Let it run until the memory is full, then see what you’ve captured. Sample interesting sound snippets and make your own loops. (Don’t use people’s voices without permission.)

Hybrid Sounds

Sound designers know how to apply incoming signal dynamics and mix them in with another signal. How about using a sound with no discernible envelope, such as wrapping the envelope of a guitar note around the buzz of a mechanical noise? Experiment with sounds that seem to be “opposites” and see what happens. Blend pitched musical notes with “found” sounds.

Get Back to Nature

Why not draw from all the amazing sounds found in nature? Earth, air, fire and wind are fertile grounds for sound sampling. Try to catch the unexpected: the buzz of a dragonfly or a child’s bare feet walking in the mud.

Water Creativity

This idea is nothing new, but it works great; fill a variety of containers with varying amount of water. Slosh them around, stir them, tap them with a variety of instruments, all the while recording the results.

Get Scientific

Remember all that stuff you learned in science class about heat, temperature, expansion, contraction, etc.? Why not recreate some of those experiments while recording the results? You’re sure to capture something unique.

Rattle It

Fill a variety of containers with sand, pebbles, uncooked rice, or whatever you have on hand. Shake and rattle the containers at varying speeds and intensities while recording the results.

String Theory

Strings aren’t just for guitars or cellos. Stretch instrument strings across buckets, mechanical devices or even your body. Record these more subtle string sounds to add atmosphere to any track.
Computer software has opened up a whole new world of creativity for many musicians and aspiring musicians, but it isn’t the only way to make unique sounds. There’s a symphony of inspiring sound all around you—you just have to open your ears and creativity to it.

Jake is a recent graduate who majored in engineering and music.