How to Make EDM with Samples and Loops

Producers that make EDM, use different techniques to make their music including using, virtual instruments, live instrumentation, and samples.  Production techniques will continue to evolve as technology changes.

Today, producers are even using cellphone apps to produce their music like Arturia iMini or Propellerhead’s Thor.

But, if you are a beginner or an advanced producer, try using some high quality, well produced samples, to improve the quality of your music.

Download my free EDM samplepack here.

How i use Royalty Free Samples in my Electronic Music

When you make electronic music, you create different parts that are mixed together each track including a bassline, a lead melody, ambient effects, etc.

A sample is just a starting point which you can chop up, reverse, and rearrange to make the part you want.

When you mix in some samples, you can try to find a sample that fits exactly in your track, but more likely your going to have to ‘edit it‘ to make it fit in by time stretching it to match the tempo, or changing the pitch to fit the key.

You can make a song that is entirely constructed of samples, you can mix  parts from different samplepacks from different genres, or you can combine parts from samplepacks with your own synth parts, live instruments, or vocals.

I personally like to combine virtual synths (like Xpand2 that comes with pro tools), live instruments like guitar or piano, and samples that i download to make my parts.

High quality, royalty free samples can be layered into your music to help fill out all frequency ranges and create a full, rich sound that you hear from a professional artist.

I usually add samples towards the end, to fill in the sound, but i’ve made songs entirely out of samples and it sounded really good.

Download my free EDM samplepack here.

What types of samples do you need to produce EDM?

To make a track, you will usually need about 6-8 parts including drums, a bassline, a lead melody, some ambient parts, and some percussion.

You can make these parts with a hardware synths, soft synths, or live instruments yourself, or you can start with some pre-made audio that you download from a samplepack.

Samplepacks are also good if you want to add an instrument that you dont play like piano.

For example, if i want to add some piano part to a song that i have in the key of A minor, i’ll look for a piano samplepack that has parts in the key i need (here’s a piano samplepack that i like).

Then, I’ll chop up the piano samples, pitch shift them, and rearrange them audio to get the progression that i want.

Matching the Key of your Song

One issue you might have when you use samples is that the key of the sample might not match key of your song.

In this case, you can use samples that are in a relative key, or you can shift the pitch to match your key.

Sometimes altering the pitch of a sample works great, but other times it can leave artifacts that make the sample unusable.

I’ve noticed that bass frequencies don’t pitch shift well without leaving artifacts, but higher frequency sounds like leads do.

Matching the Tempo

The tempo of a sample will usually not match your song perfectly, but you can stretch or compress it, to make it fit.

Stretching or compressing audio can leave artifacts if it is more than a 10 bpm difference, which can make it unusable.

Any less of a difference than 10 bpm and it usually will be fine.

Making a Bassline with Samples

You can download some really cool basslines in a samplepack, but in my experience, shifting the pitch of a bassline doesn’t really work that well. It can leave artifacts, that dont occur when you shift higher pitched samples.

One way you can alter a sample bassline is to cut, paste, and rearrange different parts into a bassline that you like.

The bassline is the core of your song, so I work hard to make it sound simple, but interesting. Sometime i’ll spend an hour or more, trying new basslines and patches.

One way to make you basslines more interesting is to use a filter with plugin automation, to sweep the frequency for a cool effect. This will make simple basslines more interesting.

Using Samples and Loops to Make Drums in EDM

When i use drum samples, I like to layer loops and individual samples on top of each other for a really complicated drum track.

Sometimes loops that you buy are separated into top loops, kick and snare, and the full loop. I usually find a kick and snare pattern that i like, then blend them with multiple ‘top loops’, which are usually just the high hat and percussion. You can also use high and low pass filters to separate them even further.

After i have a few loops together, i will add another layer of snare, highhats, kicks, 808’s, and percussion which will give a really full and complicated drum sound.

How i use Ambient Samples in my Electronic Music

One thing i’ve been doing lately is adding ambient samples to fill out my drum n bass tracks.

I usually try adding  ambient parts to the into, 2nd half of lead melody, break, and outro.

It sounds good when you add some wide reverbed chords to a lead part that is playing by itself, then bring back in the drums and bassline after 4-8bars.

If you mix a couple ambient samples together, you can get some really complex sounds that make you song sound full and professional.

Download a Free Trap Sample Pack

The trap sound is very popular in both the hiphop and EDM genres. It drum sound mostly consists of booming 808s, claps, paper thin sounding snares, complicated hi-hat patterns, and chants. The instrumentation over the drums is usually pretty sparse with a bassline, a lead, some samples, and maybe vocals. Most of the sounds come from the Roland TR-808 and TR-909.

Download free trap drum samples when you sign up to my newsletter here. <—

I’ll be sending out more samples to my subscribers as i make new sample packs for you.

The trap sound comes from southern hiphop, but has recently become more popular in the EDM world and is popular at EDM festivals. It is also being incorporated into other genres of music including dubstep and bass music, who make use of the low 808 bass sound and fast hi-hat rhythms. The sound is even showing up in Korean pop music.

How to make a Trap Beat

The signature sound of this genre i would say is the drums. The 808s are very loud. Producers also make use of tuned 808s to create additional bass movement.

If you want a more defined kick drum sound, you might also try layering in a boxier sounding kick over the 808.

The hi-hat pattern is also really important in this type of beat. It can be fast, and complicated, with alot of variation throughout the track. I also like to use chorusing or flange on my hi-hats to give them a more metallic sound that cuts through in the mix and widens them.

The snares in this genre of music are very thin sounding and can have a more complicated snare pattern with snare rolls at the end of 4 or 8 bars. I like to cut off some of the low end with a high-pass filter and add a plate reverb. Sometimes the producer will even alter the pitch of the snare up or down during a snare roll.

Claps are also found alot in this genre. They can be done on the 2 and the 4 or on the offbeat along with a chant. I would add a reverb to make it spacey and very wide.

Chants are another sound that is common in this style. Chants are repeated vocals like “hey”, usually on the offbeat. Alot of time they are very reverbed out and wide. Try cutting alot of the lowend off, so they fit in the mix over the 808s and the bassline.

Top Artists in the EDM Trap Genre

The trap sound has recently evolved more from a hiphop sound into a dance music sound. Popular artists in the EDM traps genre include RL Grime, Flosstradamus, Baauer, and Dj Snake. These artists have recently become popular with EDM festival goers and is even transitioning into pop music.

Download Free 808 Samples Here

808 drum samples are used in many genres of electronic and rap music. They give a low end sound that hits you hard like a rock guitar, and they work really well in drum n bass, trap, edm and hiphop music.

This popular drum sound comes from the Roland TR-808 drum machine.

This sound is basically just a sine wave and can be made by any modular synthesizer.

If you have this type of modular synth (hardware or software), you can make your own.

  • Download a free pack of 808 samples when you sign up to my newsletter here. <—-

How to Add Effects to 808 Drum Samples

808 drum samples sound good on their own. But, in a lot of tracks, they can be heavily effected. Here are some of the effects i like to put on an 808 kick:

Distortion – A distortion or lofi plugins sound really good on an 808 kick sound. This type of sound is currently very popular in trap music and hiphop. This is probably the most common effect you’ll hear on an 808 kick

Reverb – A short reverb is something i tend to add to my 808 kicks. You can even add in a bigger sounding reverb on parts of the song like the intro or pre-chorus, and pull in and out during the song using plugin automation.

Chorus – Sometime i use a little bit of chorusing on my 808s to make them wider.

Layering Kicks with an 808

Layering different types of kicks that occupy different parts of the frequency spectrum on top of your 808 sounds really good.

One thing i like to do is cut off some of the high end of an 808 with a low pass filter. Then i will layer a boxier sounding kick (like a rock drum kick sound) on top of the 808. Layering different types of kicks makes your kick sound huge and fills out the frequency spectrum.

Sometimes i even layer percussive sounds like a chopped up synth part or a high hat to make it really sound big in the mix.

Using Pitched 808 Kick Sounds

Since an 808 kick drum is made from a synthesizer, it has a pitch which you might want to match to the key of your track.

Most of the time, when you add a kick, you dont really think about the pitch. But, with a tuned 808 you want to match it to they key of your song, but with 808s you can create your own melody out of tuned 808 kicks.

These days lots of rap music is pretty sparse sounding, but they make use of tuned 808 kicks to provide a bass progression. This would sounds especially good if you don’t have alot of extra instrumentation going in in the track.

Making Your Own 808 Kicks

Here’s a vid that explains how you can make you own 808 kick with Native Instruments Massive Softsynth.

Dont forget to sign up to my newsletter here for some free 808 kicks (i’ll send you lots of free drum samples, synth loops, and softsynth settings) and also follow me on Twitter @puzzlevortex

How to use Royalty Free Samples in your Tracks

In this article i wanted to talk about how i use samples to fill out a drum n bass track. Lately, I’ve been using virtual instruments to make the main parts of my track, then i’ll use certain types of samples to make it more complex and more interesting.

You can download some royalty free samples to try out, if you sign up for my newsletter here.

There are certain elements i use in almost every drum n bass track. They include drums (kick, snare, and high-hat), a bassline, a lead melody, usually a chord progression, some additional percussion, and also some ambient sounds to fill out the sound in particular parts of the song like the intro or breakdown.

For the album i’m making now, i’ve been using a mix of programmed virtual instruments (xpand2 that comes with protools), samples, and sometimes live instruments (i play guitar). I’m going to put a layer of live guitar on top of my tracks to fill it out and emphasize the chord progressions.

I’m not really into buying lots of plugins, I just use the stock plugins that come with protools. I think its more important that you use your plugins creatively, than to blame your gear as the reason your music doesn’t sound good.

Starting a New Track

I’ll usually start a new track by programming a main melody or bassline with midi. OR, i’ll find a sample with a melody or bassline i want to base the song around.

I’ll find or make about 6 parts that work together, then or add them in or pull them out as the song progresses. Its important to that each part of a track is strong. If your song doesn’t sound good, make better parts instead of adding something on top of it.

I like to make basslines the part of the track that everything else is built around.  In bass music, its important for the bass to be wide and move along with the kick.

I’ll add effects like distortion, lo-fi, and eq to improve the tone and width of the bassline. I might also use a little chorusing or flange to make the tone change as the song progresses. You can also use filters with plugin automation to change the tone of the bassline in certain parts of the song.

With the lead melody, i will usually add some reverb, delays, flange, eq, and/or chorus to address the wideness of the melody and help it stand out in the track.

I love using midi. I used to play the parts on a keyboard and work with the audio, but lately i’ve switched to programming them with midi because i’m not that great of a keyboard player and its much easier.

Midi is great because it allows you to change the melody, progression, or bassline as the song develops. Sometimes you get new ideas and get sent in different directions as the song progresses, midi makes it really easy to change it without having to replay the part.

I’ve found that if you focus on creating an interesting melody, bassline, and chord progression, you really don’t have to do that much else. The song will sound good based on a well written melody, chord progression, and bassline. If you have that, mixing the song is easy. If your song sucks, make better parts.

After i have a cool melody or bassline, i’ll usually add a drum loop. This will quickly give me an idea of how the track will sound with drums.

After this, i will layer more individual drum samples on top of the loop.

Layering Drums

After i’ve got a couple parts and a drum loop, i’ll add a second layer of drum sounds on top using individual drum samples placed on the grid in pro tools.

I’ll add in a nice sounding 808, another snare, and another high hat on top of the loop.

Adding multiple layers of drum loops and individual drum samples on top of each other help create a layered, more complicated drum sound that is important in drum n bass music.

Creating a lead melody or main loop

Interesting loops can be found in any piece of audio. I work hard to create a strong main melody or find a loop that is good enough to carry the song.

To find a good loop in a piece of audio, I’ll import some audio that i like, then highlight different sections of the audio in pro tools, then I’ll listen to them on loop playback. I’ll do this until i find a good repeating piece of audio that is strong enough to use as my main loop.

Or if i dont use a loop, i’ll program my lead melody with midi.

I love sampling songs, but I don’t really want to worry about copyright, so i will usually work with royalty free sample packs, and find a piece of audio that i like, or i’ll program it in with a virtual instrument.

A loop is just a piece of audio that is a starting point for you build a part with. I always change the loop. The loop will almost always sound different after i alter, manipulate, chop up, or layer the samples on top of each other. It will usually sound nothing like the original sample.

I like to add some samples once the basic parts are laid out. Mixing in loops can also give you new melody ideas or chord ideas and send you in directions you might not have thought about.

When i pick a sample, i’ll look for ones to use which are in the same key as the song or will shift the pitch of the sample to match the key of the track. You can also use samples that are in relative keys to your track.

Sample packs is a cheap, quick way to work with audio from something you might not have had access to like an orchestra or choir. If you were going to hire an live musicians, it would be really expensive and a pain to setup.

Filling out a sound with ambient samples

When i have the basic elements of a song together (melody, bassline, drums), i will use ambient and percussive samples to thicken up and add some variation to the track.

I tend to mix in ambient samples on the intro, outro, breakdown, and the 2nd half of the lead melody part to make it more interesting.

I also like to add lots of reverb or delay to make the sounds very wide when contrasted with the main melody part.

Its a cool effect when you have a melody playing by itself (with no drums) for about 4 bars during a breakdown, then bring in a wide, reverbed out, ambient part. The contrast between these parts sounds really cool.

Adding Percussion and FX

If you buy a sample pack, there will usually be a folder called “one shots”

One shots are just short stabs of a percussive sound, ambient sound, or chord that you can use in a pattern throughout the track, or very loud at transition points in the song.

I usually add one shots every 4 – 8 bars, or in a pattern as percussion.

I look for fx samples that have a unique tonal characteristic in the high or low range that might be missing from my track and use it fill out the frequency spectrum.

Filling out the entire range of frequencies with different instrumentation is what phil specter did with his “wall of sound”. This makes the song sound full and finished.

Changing the BPM and pitch of a sample

It is nice when you find a sample that fits the exact key and tempo of the
track you are working on.

But most of the time you will have to stretch the sample or shift the pitch to get it to fit into the track you are working on. In protools you can do this pretty easily using the time stretch tool. Here’s a video that shows you how to use time stretching in pro tools.

In my experience, if the sample is plus or minus 10 bpm of the track you are working on, you will be able to get it to stretch or shrink without any artifacts.

But if there is any more of a difference than about 10 bpm, there may changes in how the sample sounds when it is stretched or compressed.

Also, if you have to shift the pitch too much, you can also have some artifacts which ruin the sample. This is especially true in the low bass frequencies. Sometimes shifting the pitch in low frequencies can produce an unusable sample.

But, altering the pitch of higher frequency samples will usually work without too much damage to the sound quality. But if the pitch is shifted to much, it can make it unusable.

How to Use Drum Samples and Drum Loops to Fill Out a Track

A good set of high quality drum samples that include different types of kicks, 808s, high-hats, snares, percussion, and fx will make your tracks sound much better.

(sign up for my email list here and get some free drum samples)

For a long time i was using the drum and synth sounds that came with my Korg Triton. More recently i switched to a combination of virtual instruments (like xpand2) mixed with sounds i get from sample packs. The drum sounds on my Triton didnt sound half as good as the drum sounds i could get from a good sample pack.

Working with high quality drum samples and loops is an easy way to make your tracks sound much better.

Layering Loops with Individual Drum Samples

I feel like my tracks started to sound alot better, when i started using the drum sounds i got from sample packs.

I would just place the individual drum samples on the grid in pro tools and create a beat. I also started layering them on top of loops.

One way i use drum loops in my tracks is by layering multiple loops on top of each other.  I use high and lowpass filters to separate the parts of the beat that i like (like the highhats, percussion, or kick), then layer them on top of each other. This lets you get a full, complicated drum sound, that you hear in drum n bass.

I like to use some chorusing (or spectral chorus) on the high end to make it sound really metallic, so it stands out in the mix.


After i have a couple loops that are mixed pretty well together, I’ll add in another layer of individual drum sounds placed on the grid in protools.

I like to add a nice 808 on top of the loops, another snare with alot of reverb, a high-hat that uses chorusing or flange, and i also like to use high-end synth sounds as percussion.

For example, it sounds good to chop up a synth that has alot of frequencies above 10k and use it as percussion to fill out the high-end.

This is similar to what Phil Spector did with his “wall of sound”. He created instrumentation that filled out each frequency range and made each part of the song sound full.

Drum loops are also nice because of the convenience. They can give you a quick idea of how your song will sound with a groove, once you get a few basic parts of the song down. It will also give you ideas about where to take the song.

Listening to your tracks with a groove will often take you in different directions with your bassline or melody, which might lead you to alter or change it.

How I add effects to my Drum Samples

Adding EQ and effects to your drums is an important part of mixing your track. There are no rules on how to add effects, but here’s what i tend to do.

808s – alot of times i’ll cut the top end off an 808, then use a different acoustic sounding kick drum on top of it. I usually add a little bit of a short reverb to the kick. Distortion can also sound really good on 808s. They use this alot to get a trap or hiphop sound.

Kicks – I will often add a boxier sounding kick on top of my 808. I’ll sometimes add some reverb or distortion.

Hi-hat – I’ve been adding chorus or flange effects to my hi-hats to make them really wide, so they stand out in the high end. I’ll also add a bit of reverb. Spectral chorus makes everything sound really metallic and stand out in the mix.

Percussion – Another thing i’ve been doing lately is adding some really high frequency synth sounds as percussion. I just chop up a high frequency synth sound in a percussion pattern.

Layering Drum Loops

Complicated drum patterns are an important part of drum n bass music. There are alot of 16th note snare hits of differing volumes on the 3rd and 4th beat in this style.

The drum n bass sound comes from a often sampled breakbeat called the ‘amen break’. (listen to it here)

One way to get this complex, offbeat drum sound, is to layer multiple drum loops on top of each other. EQ the different loops, so they mix better together.

Try muting and unmuting the loops and cutting them up into little pieces . Also try copying and pasting interesting parts of the loop and repeating them to add some variation.

Try using high pass, low pass, and bandpass filters to mix your parts in better. Also pick a few loops that have elements in different parts of the frequency spectrum.

Get some free drum samples here. Send me your tracks on twitter if you use them @puzzlevortex


How to use Ambient Samples to your tracks

Ambient music consists of ‘droning chords or vocals’ that often have no structure or beat. I like to buy ambient sample packs and use the samples in the intros, breaks, and outros of my drum n bass tracks.

I’ll add ambient samples once i have the basic structure of a track laid out. The ambient sounds add a nice break from a hard, fast drum n bass beat.

How i add Ambient Samples to my Tracks

I’ll start a brand new track with a pro tools template that has about 4 or 5 virtual instruments and effects applied to each track. (i included a pro tools template for you to download when you sign up to my newsletter)

I’ll start the new track with a melody or bassline. I’ll begin by entering notes in midi at random and play it back to see if anything sounds interesting at all.

Then, i take the interesting parts and build off of them. I keep doing this until it eventually develops into a structured song.

I use a combination of synth sounds (i use the xpand2 soft synth) and effects that i know will sound good together because i’ve used this pro tools template for many different tracks. Using a template allows you to put tracks together very fast.

After I have a decent bassline or melody, ill add a drum loop really quickly to give me an idea what it will sound like with drums.

Once i have a basic melody, bassline, and beat, i’ll go over it with a second set of individual drum sounds, including 808‘s, snare, hi-hats, and some percussion.

Then, once i have a few basic parts, ill try to arrange it into more of a song with an intro, lead parts, breaks, and outros.

This is where i add some ambient samples to fill it out and add a pleasant sound during the break to provide some tension release after a hard, fast drum beat.

Its fun to work with new sample packs, because its like buying art supplies to paint with, or a new instrument to work with.

Where i use Ambient Samples in a track

When i pick out an ambient sample to use, I’ll find a piece of audio that is very wide, very spacey, and in the same key (or close enough to pitch shift it) as my song.

I like to work with pleasant, consonant sounds because they sound really good as a relief from the tension of a fast drum n bass beat.

I will usually add ambient samples to an intro, second 8 bars of the lead melody, the breakdown, and the outro.

Ambient samples sound really good when you have the lead melody playing by itself, then you bring a very wide, reverbed out ambient sample. Then bring in some drums with the main lead part.

What I look for in an Ambient Sample Pack

I would say that the most important thing when your picking out an ambient sample pack is that you need high quality loops and unique sounds that are in the same key or relative key as the track you are working with.

Sometimes the pitch can be shifted without much damage to the sample. But, if you shift it too much it might make it pretty unusable.

The tempo of your ambient sample isn’t quite as important as it is with a sample of a melody or drum loop.

With drums or a melody samples, the tempo needs to match up exactly. You can usually shrink or stretch it without artifacts if they are off by 10 bpm. But it doesnt really need to match up with your ambient parts.

But, working with ambient samples is a little different. It is just a ‘droning’ sound that doesnt really need to fit perfectly. You can just trim it to fit into your track.