Flip a Sample

What Does It Mean to Flip a Sample? (Explained)

You may hear the term often in the hip-hop world of music, but what does it mean to flip a sample?

Flipping a sample is the process music producers use when they take a previously created piece from another artist, deconstruct it and reformat it into something new.

Find a track to work with, and then chop it up into smaller clips. Using a recurring theme, or hook, in the song, fit the rest of the sections around it and add in effects to finish your flipped masterpiece. 

Flipping a sample can be a lot of fun- but it’s also difficult if you don’t head into the process with a plan.

In the rest of this article, we’ll explain what it means to flip a sample and how to do it well. 

What Does It Mean to Flip a Sample?

Sample flipping is a staple in hip-hop that’s slowly making its way through other genres. 

Flipping a sample means taking a previously created piece, deconstructing it, then repurposing it into something completely new. 

The pieces, or slices, of a flipped sample usually get adjusted when repurposed into a new track. For example, they could get sped up, slowed down, reversed, or distorted. 

For an example of a flipped sample, check out this video by Ocean Beats.

Sample Chopping VS Sample Flipping

It is important to know the difference between sample chopping and flipping. 

Chopping, sometimes called slicing, is listening to a sample and then cutting it into smaller audio tracks. 

Flipping is rearranging samples that you have already chopped or sliced. 

How to Flip a Sample

What Does It Mean to Flip a Sample
Flipping a sample in Fruity Loops

1. Choose a sample to use

When preparing to flip a sample, your first task is finding audio gold.

Look for a piece that overflows with potential- your personal preference and imagination are your deciding factors for this task. 

Generally, there are two types of samples that you can choose from:

  • Song clips
  • One shots

One shots are shorter, non-musical sounds.

These types of samples require more ingenuity than song clips since there is very little to choose from within the track.

Some examples of one-shots are a squeaking door, a dog barking, a clock ticking, and cars driving. 

Popular places to find samples to use are YouTube channels and Splice.

You can also get samples from MP3s, CDs, vinyl, and more. 

2. Chop your chosen sample

Now that you’ve chosen a sample to work with, you can pick it apart.

Find the sections you like. Look at the patterns within the beat that speak to you or a melody line that excites you.

There are different ways that artists go about chopping, or slicing, samples.

Some slice by listening to the patterns and going for it without worrying about sticking close to 1/4 notes.

Others prefer to chop among even notes, keeping everything on time.  

Listen for a piece of the sample that represents the whole the best. Cut that piece up and use it as the hook in your flipped masterpiece.

This hook will be the starting point that inspires the rest of your vision. 

Making notes while you listen to the sample about parts you like can help you as you’re chopping.

Take a particular interest in chord progressions, and chop them up however you want. 

3. Re-arrange the chopped sample pieces

This part of the process is where the fun begins- sometimes, however, it can feel like playing musical Tetris. 

After your hook, try to fit the other slices into the track. Play around with it.

Find where certain pieces work better than others.

Don’t worry about fitting all the clips in.

If you have stuff left over, you can use it in gaps later as you go. 

After working on flipping the chopped sample, a rhythm should start to surface in your mind.

Drop the beat as it comes to you. 

4. Process the flipped track

The track may be a little bland when all the clips are in place the way you want them.

Don’t worry- that’s normal. All you have at the moment is a rearranged track.

Now you need to process it. 

Have a goal in mind when you start this process.

What do you want the track to sound like when it’s finished? Without a plan, you’re likely to create a disorganized mess. 

The most common tools for processing a flipped sample are stretching, reversing, and pitch shifting.

Stretching your audio clips to extreme lengths will give you robotic, mechanical sounds.

With a little editing, you can turn this unnatural-sounding audio into a cool, new ambient pad for your track.

It would be best if you used reversing sparingly.

It removes any sense of rhythm, and it will make the lyrics sound foreign and strange.

Overall, it displaces the listener. This displacement can be a good thing to use on single sections, not whole samples or tracks.

The result is incredibly powerful, so use this tool to your advantage!

Pitch shifting is great for creating different tones in the song. By dropping the octave, you can give the listener a darker feel.

Usually, this works best when you use it to dial back intensity for lofi songs.

But exercise caution while shifting the pitch down.

Using too much too frequently can impact the energy of higher frequencies. 

5. Add in effects

After you’ve processed the track, it’s time to uncork the last reserve of your creativity to add some effects.

Many producers have a ready collection of about 15 effects for a flipped sample.

These lists are useful because they help you find the exact sound you want. 

Utilize tools like granular synthesis, distortion, delay, reverb, and more to find the exact feel you want for this flipped sample. 

Final Thoughts

Flipping a sample is a way for artists to recreate previous works by others by chopping and rearranging.

A flipped track is usually pretty bland without effects or other add-ins to elevate it up a level.

Remember to have fun with it and to have a basic plan in mind when you start!

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