Sample Libraries have become an incredibly important part of most beatmaker and producer workflows.
But not all sample libraries are created equal. Your needs as a producer will determine the kind of library that suits you best.
In this article, we’ll take a look at a few kinds of sample libraries and how to use them.
Then, we’ll go through my top 5 favorite sample libraries today.
Let’s dive in!
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What is a sample library?
A sample library, at its core, is a collection of sampled sounds—instruments, vocals, synths, sound effects, field recordings—for use in music and video production. These sampled sounds are typically royalty-free and can be freely used by artists and producers in any way they see fit.
Sample libraries come in a handful of shapes and sizes.
In general, they can be broken into three groups—large-scale online sample marketplaces, DAW based library plugins and sample-based instrument plugins.
How to use a sample library
Depending on the kind of content you produce, there’s many use cases for every kind of sample library.
If you work with loops as the basis for your tracks, online sample marketplaces or loop-based sample plugins are probably your go-to.
Producers that love downloading new one-shot percussion, synth or keys samples likely turn to online sample marketplaces that are constantly updating their offering with new sounds.
Sample-based plugins have changed the game for producers that need a wide selection of instruments and sounds to play with a MIDI keyboard,
Modern sample library plugins offer a huge library of playable instruments all built on pristinely recorded samples.
The 5 best sample libraries right now
Now that we unpacked the basic varieties of sample libraries, let’s take a look at five of the best ones on the market right now.
LANDR Samples is one of the biggest online sample marketplaces, boasting a collection of well over two million individual samples from premium sample pack makers.
You’ll find everything on LANDR Samples—vocals, loops, drums, 808s, guitar, SFX and beyond.
Plus it comes with a companion plugin that anyone can download for free, making it possible to bring LANDR Samples’ intuitive workflow straight into the DAW.
LANDR Samples is available through a variety of plans—or you can grab some free samples to try out the marketplace for yourself.
IK Multimedia SampleTank is maybe the most impressive sample library plugin available right now.
It comes with hundreds of instruments, meaning you can add any instrumentation you desire to your music.
Whether you’re looking for a smooth Fender Rhodes sound or a Chinese erhu for your track, SampleTank has you covered.
It’s astounding how many options this plugin opens. You’ll find everything you need from the most obscure percussion instruments to pristinely recorded grand piano and beyond.
If you’re looking for an impressive and completely free sample-based plugin, you need to grab Spitfire LABS.
This incredible suite of sample libraries is available entirely for free and features some pretty interesting instruments.
LABS’ Whalesong, soft-piano, and vintage drums sample library were a particular favorite free plugin of mine.
Spitfire is constantly updating LABS with new libraries. Be sure to download the Spitfire app and check back often for new creative, inspiring and free sample libraries.
No list of sample libraries is complete without a mention of Native Instruments’ legendary plugin, Kontakt.
While comparable to IK Multimedia Sample Tank, Kontakt is different because it works a loader for Kontakt sample libraries.
NI Komplete, is the main library for Kontakt and features a huge selection of pristinely sample-based instruments and a lot of customization options.
It also has the option to load custom samples from third party developers.
Inside Kontakt you also get tons of ability to sound design and tweak sounds with its powerful filter, ADSR, EQ and effects panel.
Kontakt is the original sample-based instrument library, so definitely take a look at this one if you’re looking for a professional option.
Loop-based plugins like Chromatic are a relatively new entrant to the sample library world.
Chromatic prioritizes curation and simplicity by assembling loops that are easily played and modified with a MIDI keyboard.
Instead of requiring a user to know music theory and play the sample-based instrument like a real instrument, the professionally recorded loops are designed to stack together and generate quick moments of inspiration.
Chromatic comes with a huge selection of loop packs that are organized by moods and offer tons of sound control through its intuitive keyboard-based interface.
It’s a totally new and fun way to create in the studio and find inspiration fast.
Sampling is here to stay
It’s remarkable how much inspiration and material modern producers have to work with at their fingertips.
Whether you need a specific tone of 808 kick, a punchy house drum loop, sensual R&B vocals or a ripping guitar solo—any of these sample libraries have you covered.
What you choose instead depends on your needs and the way you desire to create tracks.
So pick out a sample library and start writing your next hit!
Alex Lavoie works as a staff writer at LANDR by day and moonlights as a drummer for folk-rock outfit The Painters.
Gear guides, tips, tutorials, inspiration and more—delivered weekly.
Keep up with the LANDR Blog.