Why Do Bands Use Samples in Their Music?

Why Do Bands Use Samples in Their Music?

Sampling has evolved into one of the most common tricks in modern music to change a musician’s style, so it’s not hard to see why bands use samples. It cuts down on time and allows the new artist to utilize a proven sound.

So, why do bands use samples? Many bands use samples to evolve their sound, pay tributes to a specific tune or artist. This tribute gets the mainstream audience’s attention. Other artists may like a sound, like Doja Cat sampling PLINI. It is a fairly in Hip Hop, who use combined samples to create entirely new sounds. 

It’s not common in many rock and metal forms, although it may occasionally give bands a distinct identity. When it does appear, it often catches the listener’s attention immediately. In the rest of this article, we will explore why bands use sampling in detail.

What is Sampling?

Sampling is when small snippets of a song are taken and inserted into a new piece of music. The technique was initially used in hip hop music. However, producers everywhere have found it useful for their music.

Sampling can be used in many ways, depending on what the composer has in mind. Some uses for it can include:

  • Main melody:  They can use an existing riff and make it the central theme of their new songs. Sampling works well for more electronic pieces, and the original take can be deconstructed and altered to fit the new means of the music.
  • Additional vocals:  It’s not uncommon to see a vocal section replicated and used in a song. This addition can act as the song’s actual main chorus and then have small slices added over the top to give it an extra twist.
  • Background boost: Some samples can be fitted in the background and added to a particular song section. This boost may be either vocal or instrumental, depending on where it is in the final edit.

Utilizing these different techniques allows musicians to be more creative in their songwriting. Musicians use these techniques to explore ideas for songs that may not come from their play style. This technique can relate to bands exploring a new sound or paying tribute to some of their idols.

Following in The Footsteps

Bands use samples from much older songs as a nod to singers or bands that inspired their sounds. It is always tricky replicating a similar sound with your instruments. It is significantly true if technology has evolved far from the original recordings.

Rather than spend weeks getting frustrated with failed strategies, bands will use a sample to get the same results. For singers, they may choose to use a sample of the vocal range that is different from their sound. This allows them to complement it with their own sound. The same technique can be used for drummers or guitarists if they want to include parts that don’t fit with the equipment they own.

Doing this will give the band satisfaction that they have paid homage while also putting their edge on things. This addition provides extra satisfaction. It also shows to the listener who has influenced the band.

Side of a Bullet – Nickelback

One great example of using samples for this is from “Side of a Bullet” by Nickelback from their 2005 album: All The Right Reasons. In this song, they pay tribute to late Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott. Nickleback does this by using outtake samples by Abbott to form the song’s guitar solo.

The clean tapping sounds are much faster and more technical than Chad Kroeger or Ryan Peake play throughout the rest of the album. However, the samples blend fluidly and give the song extra gravitas—a fine tribute to one of metal’s all-time great guitarists.

Adding Meaning

For some artists, using samples in their music can add extra emotion or feel to specific songs. Many artists will use this if they want to get particular messages across to the listener.

These samples will almost be a voice recording looking to send a message. These don’t always come from songs and can be from films, radio, or TV episodes. Opening up to other forms of media gives the artist much more selection in the type of sample they want to use.

With many historical events having vocal recordings, it is easy for the artist to access archives and put this in their music. Doing this sends a clear message and highlights their view on a particular issue or topic.

Yellowcard – Believe

9/11 has been one of the defining moments of this century. Many songs have used news footage in their songs. Pop-punk veterans Yellowcard produced one of their most moving pieces using speech samples in “Believe” from their debut album, Ocean Avenue.

In the song, both the breakdown and outro features speech samples from George W.Bush’s address marking the attacks’ first anniversary. The music written addresses emergency workers’ efforts during the disaster. The clips’ selective use gives the song an extra emotional punch at the end. It shows the power of what a small sample can do to a piece.

Fusing Genres

Many bands opt against sampling as they don’t see it as a natural fit for their music. However, other bands don’t follow this thought. Sampling can form a natural bridge to bands fusing two distinct forms of music.
The nu-metal craze at the turn of the century was proof of this.

Sampling played a significant role as bands became some of the biggest acts in the world. Many big shows from Limp Bizkit to Linkin Park used samples somewhere in their music as they stormed to the charts year after year.

One significant focus of this usage was using small snippets to complement their sound and add familiarity to their tunes. This focus, backed with the rapping and scratching, gave a metal edge to more hip-hop songs in their nature, capturing an entirely new audience.

Enigma – Return to Innocence

European electronic act Engima proved that hip hop and rock aren’t the only combinable genres with their 1993 hit “Return to Innocence.” It was here where DJ and founder Michael Cretu utilized music samples from rock legends Led Zeppelin as the base of the song sampling John Bonham’s part from “When The Levee Breaks.”

This combination provided a constant throughout the entire song and became a giant hit in both rock and electronica circles. It also has a more notorious legacy as Cretu used samples from a Taiwanese couple’s chant for the chorus landing them in legal trouble.

Why Use Samples? – A Legal Debate

Like performing cover songs, anyone planning to use samples needs permission from the original composer before publication. There are always several high-profile court cases each year. In these cases, artists clash over rights due to a sample so getting it right is crucial for all involved.

While music law varies everywhere, the consensus is that you need to get two forms of permission to use a sample:

  • One from the owner of the recording
  • One from the owner of the song

As this is almost always two separate parties, it can be a headache chasing down all the necessary contacts to get clearance. The extra effort is worth it, as you could be open to a legal battle if you don’t.

If someone feels like you have illegally or unlawfully used their music without gaining permission, you may have to re-record the song without these elements in the new version. This change could fundamentally delay your entire album should you be forced to start again from scratch.

Alternatively, a released song could see you having to hand over the money or royalties from that song to the original composers, seeing you lose money. Therefore, it’s better to get permission and ensure that everything is okay before inserting any sample into the song itself.


There are many reasons why bands use samples in their music. Musicians can use it to pay a direct tribute to an artist. This tribute places them at the forefront of a song. Other times, they can add an emotional twist to a piece. Sometimes, they can help bridge two genres together and create crossover hits. As long as all the legal hurdles are clear, there’s no doubt why bands use samples in their music.

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