What Are DJ Samples & How To Use Them Correctly?

Can You Over Sample In A Set?


When it comes to sample overload, we’ve all been there. Either you are guilty of it or you’ve had the unfortunate opportunity to be present while another DJ has decided to sample the audience to death. Either way, it’s not pretty. I’ve seen both amateur and pro DJs fall into this rabbit hole, and it something I advise new DJs against.

DJ samples should be used…sparingly at best. Just because your DJ software offers hundreds of different samples doesn’t mean you have to use every single one of them in your first 5 sets. Learn how to use these samples the right way and your set will be better for it, overdo it and risk turning off the crowd.

What Is A DJ Sample?

A sample is simply taking a part (or sample) of a sound and reusing it in a different song. You can use a sample to act as an instrument or a prop to another song. If you find a song you want to play and you think police sirens or air horns would make a great addition, you’ve just created a sample.

Side Dish, Not Entrée

The biggest problem most beginner DJs have with DJ samples is that they simply over use them. Whether it’s because they haven’t smoothed out their transitions or haven’t learned the art to mixing a perfect sample, sample overload can ruin an otherwise decent set.

A good rule of thumb when relying on DJ samples is to avoid the basics like the dreaded police siren, lasers and dog barks. Ok so that’s just a personal preference of mine, I still think it’s pretty good because those are the most overused samples on the planet. Who really wants to hear a cop siren all night long when you’re trying to knock back a few drinks and dance ‘til your feet hurt? Certainly not me!

Anytime you use samples in your set they should complement the song, not outshine it.


Bye-Bye Dancers

You may not realize this but going crazy with DJ samples can unwittingly turn the crowd off. Samples, by their very nature, tend to play slightly louder than the track accompanying them. This can sometimes distort the sound and honestly just plain annoy those on the dance floor. The dancers will want to take a break, even if it’s their favorite song, because the sample is just too overpowering.

This distortion is one reason I recommend all DJs to take a good listen to their sets before setting them loose on a crowd. I don’t mean listen through your headphones, I mean sit on the other side and see how it sounds to your ears. If you don’t mind all those super loud DJ samples pounding out at ear-splitting decibels, your crowd shouldn’t either.

If you see the dance floor begin to clear out…maybe it’s time to rethink those samples.

Samples Are A DJs Friend

None of this means that you shouldn’t use samples. Of course not. But it does mean that samples should enhance your set not cover up for what you lack in skill as a DJ. Harsh I know, but it’s better to hear it now than hear it from someone who could’ve given you a weekly gig.

DJ samples really can add a lot to a set. They give the audience a peek into the DJs mind and allow them to experience tracks from the DJs perspective. In fact if possible, create your own samples. Sure it takes time to sift through sounds and cut something that appeals to you, but this will make sure you don’t use it too much.

Trust me if you spend as much time listening to other DJs as I do—and you should too as a part of improving your skills—you’ll see the merit in taking the time to make your own DJ samples. Pull sayings from your favorite films or shows or clip a sound that appeals to you from another track.

Just because your DJ software comes with hundreds of samples doesn’t mean you should use them all. In fact you should whittle down the amount of samples you rely on as a DJ. Ask yourself, why this sample belongs with this song? Does the track suffer without the sample?

If a song is as good with the sample as it is without…skip the sample.

What’s the point of any set? To present songs and sounds that have been heard before, in an original context. So why add in DJ samples that have been overused since we first heard of samples? You should always strive for originality as a DJ, and one way to do that is to use original DJ samples you’ve created on your own and use them as necessary.

Work on your transitions so you can be sure you’re only using these samples when they’re needed, not to cover up shoddy DJ work.

I hope I helped you learn how to use DJ samples the right way. Email in the box below to get access to Free video DJ lessons that will answer all of your questions on how to become a disk jockey!

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