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The Best Free Sample Packs of 2020 And How To Use Them

Photograph of the blog post author, Logan Turner

Logan Turner

26.3.2020

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“Free Sample Packs,” you type into Google for the umpteenth time. You’re hoping things have changed and that the whole process might be just a little bit easier. Inevitably disappointed, you’re forced to navigate website after website, failing to find anything close to what you were looking for.

Eventually, you’re just bored, maybe a little hungry, and not really all that up for making music anymore. 

It can be pretty devastating when this happens, especially so if your music is a side-hustle for now. Time is limited and being ill-equipped can cause serious problems.

Creativity blossoms best if the proper tools are on hand. It tends to wilt in the corner if the tools it needs are hidden behind paywalls, endless streams of adverts, and clunky website design. (Who knew creativity was a flower?)

So How Do You Fix This Problem? 

How do you find the best free sample packs that are:

  1. Relevant to your style
  2. Royalty-Free (We’ll go over why this is important later) and
  3. Going to provide lots of high-quality sounds, loops and textures that you want to use?

Use the information provided right here to learn some of the best places to find all kinds of free sample packs. And there are some extraordinary sample packs available. You could even say some are out of this world! (Genuinely, NASA has a SoundCloud, you can find the link further down)

Mixing desk free sample packs

What Are Sample Packs?

A sample pack is a collection of audio samples collated by a collective or an individual based on particular criteria, such as genre or instrument. Or at least that’s the boring definition.

The packs can consist of one-shots (individual sounds, such as a kick drum or a single vocal note/phrase) or loops (samples which have a particular tempo, and are intended to be looped in time with a track – these are generally longer than one-shots), or a combination of the two.

Keeping things clinical really sells them short. So, let’s look at some ways you can use sample packs and how they shaped some of the most well-known recordings of the 21st Century. 

Who Uses Samples?

In short, pretty much everyone. Sure, there are some people that shrug the convenience that sample packs offer in favour of recording everything themselves. Fair play to them. But you can save time and induce creativity from using sample packs! The majority of professional producers/DJs (and quite a few artists) will have at least a small collection of tried-and-tested samples that they can pull out in a sticky situation. 

This varies from person to person. It could be made up of a number of free hip hop sample packs from hours of trawling through google results. It could also be a selection of some of the most expensive high-quality vocal chops and loops available. Individuality is as true with samples as it is with live acoustic music, the nuances are there if you know what to listen for!

Samples are used in all genres of music for a multitude of purposes. They are often the building blocks of modern music, in the form of drum machines and sampler instruments on a computer. Below we’ll explore some inspiring uses of sampling – and learn how to find the very best samples and sample packs for yourself.

Samples You Didn’t Know You Knew!

Records and headphones using free sample packs

One of the most well-known uses of sampling, particularly in hip hop, is on A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 Single “Can I Kick It?”, the third single off of their debut album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. Most notably sampled on the track is Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”. However, there are actually four other credited samples! 

“What a Waste” by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, “Spinning Wheel” by Dr. Lonnie Smith, “Dance of the Knights” by Sergei Prokofiev and “Sunshower” by Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band are all sampled on the group’s worldwide hit. 

Phife Dawg, one of the members of A Tribe Called Quest, has said that using the Lou Reed sample actually led to the group not making any money off of the record, as Reed claimed the profits. 

Royalty-Free Sample Packs

This raises an extremely important point – wherever possible, make sure that the samples you are using are royalty-free (meaning you can use them without paying royalties to anyone) and if this is not possible, ensure you license the samples correctly so that you don’t get stung with a massive fine/court case for using someone else’s music without their permission. 

Midi controller using free sample packs

Zomboy’s 2011 release “Game Time” is an example of what we’re really talking about – taking something directly out of a purpose-built sample pack and editing/adapting it to suit the needs of the project. In this instance, Zomboy uses sounds produced by Vengeance Sounds. These are off of a pack called VEC3 Special Sounds. It’s the same pack that Yung Lean used in “Oreomilkshake” from 2013!

Both of these producers manipulate the sample differently. Zomboy opted for a faster and more driven use of the sample, while Yung Lean has it providing a cleaner and slower, yet equally important role in its capacity within his track. 

This is testament to the idea that just because a sample pack is free, or even simply available on the internet, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make it your own and use it in an individual, unique, and exciting way. 

There’s so much you can do with samples to make them your own and add individual flair. Whether that’s layering kick drums to get the right punch and boom, or pitch shifting vocal loops to create counter-melodies, you can always get creative and conjure up something magical. 

Phone playing music on a blue background

How To Find The Best Free Samples By Yourself

Now that we’ve covered the basics of sample packs for anyone that wasn’t up to speed, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty. Where can you find the best free sample packs for you?

Where To Look For The Best Free Sample Packs

While the examples a bit further down each offer special and unique qualities, there is still a chance that you’re going to find yourself wanting something a bit more niche. If you’re in this situation, don’t panic! There are still plenty of tools and resources available to you so that you can find the perfect sample packs for you, without breaking the bank. 

Best Free Sample Packs Off Reddit

Community is at the heart of Reddit. It is built on the basis of subreddits, which break down the site so that information gets shared where it’s most relevant. 

As you might expect, there’s actually a specific subreddit for sharing free sample packs, r/samplesforall is the ideal starting place when you’re looking for inspiration. 

Other useful subreddits include r/freesounds and r/loopkits. None of the subreddits has a huge following,  but there are still quite a few gems to be found.

Drummer with 4 cymbals holding drumsticks

FreeSamplePacks

Sure, the website’s a little clunky. OK, it’s just a directory and doesn’t actually host any sample packs itself. BUT… It’s free, relatively fast, and absolutely chock-a-block with links to some of the best free sample packs available on the internet. 

If you’re willing to put a little bit of extra work in to find exactly what you’re looking for, freesamplepacks is one of the best places you could spend that time. There’s just so much choice!

Loopmasters

A sleeker, more functional website at first glance, Loopmasters has a couple of tricks up its sleeves. While it does offer some great free sample packs which are royalty-free (and you can access here), a lot of their content is behind a pay wall. 

In part, they have a subscription service – Loopcloud – which gives you access to a large number of sounds for a monthly cost based on a credit system, similar to the other subscription services listed below. 

The other paid aspect of the website is the large catalogue of sample packs that are available to purchase, which generally range between £15-30. 

Midi Controller using free sample packs

How To Get Started

Let’s start off with some great examples (all royalty-free)!

Mega Drum Machine Collection

808s, 909s, Korg Minipops, BME’s Rattlesnakes. You name it, this insane drum catalogue has everything you will need (and then some) to get started making some of your best drum parts ever. 

Handily designed for use with Native Instrument’s Kontakt, this pack has so much to offer. Ease of use, range of sounds, there’s really nothing which is noticeably missing. (note: this does not work with Kontakt Player)

Also, if you don’t happen to have Kontakt on your system, you can just use the samples in their basic audio form, meaning they’re easy to transfer onto external hardware samplers as well. 

Rating: 7/10

Legowelt’s Analog Synth Collection

There’s beeps, buzzes, and bells all over the shop with Danny Wolfer’s FM Synthesizer sample packs. Head over to his simple html website where he’s conveniently arranged packs by instrument. 

Perfect for making your own drum and bass sample pack, free to apply any effects or processing you want to make the perfect sound library for you. This pack requires a bit more knowledge of building sampler instruments, but the sounds are so good that it’s worth the extra effort. 

Rating: 7.5/10

Keyboard sat in front of an open window

Philharmonic Orchestra 

A selection of sound recordings, organised by orchestra section, played and recorded by some of the most talented people on the planet. There’s really not much more to say. It would take a few hours, but with the plethora of content provided you could easily build a number of sampler instruments to replicate the entire orchestra. 

All the sounds are dry and untreated so you can add your own effects. If you’re not looking to use strings often, you could easily import the samples straight into your DAW or beat-maker app and layer them directly on the track – a quick and easy, beautiful-sounding fix if you just need “some strings on that last chorus”. You can find more information on the best DAWs and beat maker software on our blog.

Rating: 8/10

NASA Samples 

“Houston, that bassline is rude”

Beef up your subs with the sound of a space shuttle taking off. Breakdown? Marsquake. There’s a never-ending number of possibilities available to you when you’re on NASA’s Soundcloud page – I know, technically not a sample pack, but it has essentially the same functionality and can be used for the same purposes, so I’m chucking it in with a pinch of salt because these extraterrestrial sounds are too good to pass up. 

Rating: 8/10

Music keyboard and computer keyboard

Vocal Ad-Libs  

SampleRadar, the sample-centred subdivision of musicradar.com, has a wide range of samples and sample packs readily available. There was one pack that stood out so much that it seemed to deserve its own mention, so here it is – 327 free vocal ad-lib samples by SampleRadar. 

There are just so many applications for this pack, and its clear organisation means it’s easy to use – a must when you’re looking to keep creativity flowing. The team at SampleRadar also offer a subscription service where you can get access to premium sample packs, there’s a section on services like this below for if you’re not in-the-know. 

Rating: 9/10

Man recording vocals for free sample packs

Honorary Mention – Subscription Services

In this digital age, it should come as no surprise that subscription services exist for sample packs, and they can be one of the best ways to get your hands on that metal guitar sample pack you were looking for, or the free sample packs for Ableton you were planning on getting to beef up your library

Because they have a much greater budget than sites that only offer sample packs for free, it can dramatically streamline the time you spend searching for samples. Truly the cream of the crop is available, with some of the most famous producers and musicians in the world using samples found on subscription services. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have the money to commit to a subscription service right now, most of the sites listed below offer a free trial, and you can keep all of the samples which you download during the trial (or otherwise), for life!

Midi controller uses free sample packs

Landr

Landr is most known for its AI-operated mastering service, useful for musicians on a budget who have neither the funds for a studio master, nor the tools/knowledge to do a sufficient job themselves. It clearly works, as the company has expanded over recent years into distribution, plugins, and most importantly for our purposes, samples and sample packs. 

The service has over a million high quality samples available to download, and even uses the company’s powerful AI to recommend samples that you might like. 

Price: £5.99/m for 75 credits per month, £9.99/m for 200 credits per month, £49.99/y for 1000 credits per year

Rating: 7.5/10

Arcade by Output

This is more than just a subscription service for one-shots and loops, or a jumbled website offering deep dubstep sample packs free next to an advert for hair re-growth shampoo. Arcade takes the best bits of all of these services (not the adverts!), along with elements from DAWs and beat maker apps, and mixes them all together into one beautiful, cohesive, immersive experience.

If you’re looking for a way to get really creative with new sounds, and mix in some of the sounds you’ve already curated, look right here. It’s right in the sweet spot of having a clear layout with simple tools and a clean interface, and having enough options and features to get original and really manipulate sounds. 

This is, in my humble opinion, one of the most exciting ventures into the music software world of recent times, and there is little competition offering anything close to the level of adaptability and excitement. Unfortunately, it’s not exclusively a sample pack / sample subscription service, so it may not be exactly what you’re looking for, but it is fantastic. 

Price: 30 Day Free Trial, £9.00/m for unlimited access

Rating: 9/10

Splice

What a gift Splice is. Access to some of the greatest sample packs available, used on countless recordings, with crystal clear quality and exceptional functionality. It’s got everything. Chill sample packs for making lo-fi chill hop beats to study/relax to, afro swing sample packs to free listeners to get moving on the dance floor, sound effects from doors creaking to bombs exploding, it really has it all. 

Nothing offers the range, convenience, and ease-of-use that Splice has frankly mastered. It easily meets 95% of my normal sample needs, and it can take a matter of seconds to find the sample that I’m looking for, and drop it straight into my project. 

Unfortunately, the trial is only 14 days, and you can’t actually download and use samples during that trial, only browse/organise, however, as with any of the subscriptions mentioned here, if you purchase a month’s subscription you can keep everything that you download with those credits. 

Price: 14 Day Free Trial (limited access), $7.99/m (roughly £6.63) for 100 credits per month

Rating: 9.5/10

Woman standing by neon signs

Final Thoughts On Free Sample Packs

Choices, choices, choices! The same twelve free sample packs for Ableton / FL Studio / Logic nagging at you to be re-downloaded, tested, and deleted yet again; an insufferable circle of disorganisation, and a poignant end to hours of fruitless, incessant scrolling.

“Chill sample pack free” flashing in comic sans on a banner advert straight out of 2004’s How To Build a Website, Stylish Edition

Pulling your hair out because the “great snare from that church” your mate gave you has someone laughing in the reverb tail. 

These should be a thing of the past, for you, right now. 

If you’ve been paying attention, you know where to find some of the best free sample packs, what to look out for when you think you’ve found something, and how to put all the best tools and information to use. Don’t let searching for the perfect sound kill your productivity. Get a killer sound library together now and you won’t ever have to worry about it again. 

At Music Gateway, we’re always here to help you with storage solutions, collaboration opportunties, sync representation and more. Try it yourself for free today! Simply sign up below.

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