In music, sampling is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a sound recording in a different song or piece. Sampling was originally developed by experimental musicians working with musique concrète and electroacoustic music, who physically manipulated tape loops or vinyl records on a phonograph. In the late 1960s, the use of tape loop sampling influenced the development of minimalist music and the production of psychedelic rock and jazz fusion. In the 1970s, DJs who experimented with manipulating vinyl on two turntables gave birth to hip hop music, the first popular music genre based originally around the art of sampling. The widespread use of sampling in popular music increased with the rise of electronic music and disco in the mid 1970s to early 1980s, the development of electronic dance music and industrial music in the 1980s, and the worldwide influence of hip hop since the 1980s on genres ranging from contemporary R&B to indie rock. Since that time sampling is often done with a sampler, originally a piece of hardware, but today, more commonly a computer program. Vinyl emulation software may also be used, however, and many turntablists continue to sample using traditional methods. The inclusion of sampling tools in modern digital production methods increasingly introduced sampling into many genres of popular music, as well as genres predating the invention of sampling, such as classical music, jazz and various forms of traditional music.
Often "samples" consist of one part of a song, such as a rhythm break, which is then used to construct the beat for another song. For instance, hip hop music developed from DJs repeating the breaks from songs to enable continuous dancing. The Funky drummer break and the Amen break, both brief fragments taken from soul and funk music recordings of the 1960s, have been among the most common samples used in dance music and hip hop of recent decades, with some entire subgenres like breakbeat being based largely on complex permutations of a single one of these samples. Samples from rock recordings have also been the basis of new songs; for example, the drum introduction from Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" was sampled by the Beastie Boys, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Mike Oldfield, Rob Dougan, Coldcut, Depeche Mode and Erasure, among others. Often, samples are not taken from other music, but from spoken words, including those in non-musical media such as movies, TV shows and advertising. Sampling does not necessarily mean using pre-existing recordings. A number of composers and musicians have constructed pieces or songs by sampling field recordings they made themselves, and others have sampled their own original recordings. The musicians in the trip hop band Portishead, for example, made some use of existing samples, but also scratched, manipulated and sampled musical parts they themselves had originally played in order to construct their songs.
The use of sampling is controversial legally and musically. Experimental musicians who pioneered the technique in the 1940s to the 1960s sometimes did not inform or receive permission from the subjects of their field recordings or from copyright owners before constructing a musical piece out of these samples. In the 1970s, when hip hop was confined to local dance parties, it was unnecessary to obtain copyright clearance in order to sample recorded music at these parties. As the genre became a recorded form centred around rapping in the 1980s and subsequently went mainstream, it became necessary to pay to obtain legal clearance for samples, which was difficult for all but the most successful DJs, producers and rappers. As a result, a number of recording artists ran into legal trouble for uncredited samples, while the restrictiveness of current US copyright laws and their global impact on creativity also came under increased scrutiny. The hip hop genre also shifted toward a wider aesthetic in which sampling was only one method of constructing beats, with many producers instead crafting wholly original recordings to serve as backing tracks. Aside from legal issues, sampling has been both championed and criticized. Hip hop DJs today take different approaches to sampling, with some critical of its obvious use. Some critics, particularly those with a rockist outlook, have expressed the belief all sampling is lacking in creativity, while others say sampling has been innovative and revolutionary. Those whose own work has been sampled have also voiced a wide variety of opinions about the practice, both for and against sampling.