6 Best Samplers For Live Bands & Songwriters
Adding a new element to your songwriting or live performances
Samplers don’t have to be used exclusively in the world of electronic music, and are often overlooked by those in bands or acoustic guitarists as something best left to the EDM community. However, they can be a valuable tool for all styles of music, including solo artists, acoustic singer songwriters and even those who take to the streets with their instrument and busk. Take the likes of Jack Garratt for example, his use of samplers along with a myriad of different instruments has seen him carve a successful career in music which has really helped expose just how useful samplers and electronic instruments can be in a more conventional singer-songwriter or live band setup. Samplers can be a great addition to your set and your overall sound, allowing you to trigger specific noises, sounds or even pre-recorded loops to use in your live set and really bring your music to life by adding an entirely new dimension. They can even inspire some fantastic creativity when you add them to your acoustic writing sessions as a looped beat or sample could be holding the key to get past that writers block that we all get!
So with that in mind we’re going to look at 6 great samplers perfect for guitarists and musicians that are easy to use and extremely useful.
A super simple yet professional grade sampler, the Akai MPX8 Mobile SD Sample Pad and Player is an easy to use sample player that touring musicians and even buskers could really take advantage of. This sampler is perfect for adding new dimensions to your music such as drum beats, backing vocals or whatever you want to add, and will even allow you to tweak sounds on the fly too. It comes packed with a plethora of pre-loaded studio and stage ready samples and functions to tweak your sounds via the built-in reverb and tuning applications. One of the coolest things about this sampler is that you get Akai Pro loop library for free, a MIDI cable and drag-and-drop sample editing software that is compatible with MAC/PC and can instantly speak to your DAW of choice. You have 8 MPC-style velocity sensitive and pressure sensitive pads to trigger your sounds with, which should be more than enough for those who just want to add a few samples to their set. For those who want a few more options the Akai MPX16 Sample Recorder and player offers 16 pads top play with as well as a built-in stereo microphone to record anytime, anywhere, making it another great option.
For those who want to manipulate sounds and trigger samples in the live arena, the Korg Volca Sample Digital Sample Sequencer is a great choice for the more electronically influenced singer songwriters out there. This small but extremely powerful 16-key step sequencer would be perfect for those who want to manipulate sounds which they can import directly into the unit via MIDI and adjust the likes of playback length; frequency; pitch attack and decay times; amp attack and decay; and pan. You can even skip steps and create irregular rhythm patterns, drag beats or simply use it to maintain tempos with added samples.
If you’ve ever been to see a band or group that uses samples, or even a solo artist that triggers sounds or backing tracks on stage inadvertently, chances are you’ve seen a Roland sampling pad on stage, as they’re pretty much the industry standard. Drummers in particularly will appreciate the benefits of the Roland SPD-SX Sampling Pad live and in the studio. With this great piece of kit you can drop in pre-loaded intro’s, loops, sounds and one-shot samples or even entire backing tracks with speed and precision. This is perfect to add to your live setup whether you’re an acoustic artist, drummer in charge of triggering samples, DJ or keyboard player. Each pad is velocity sensitive so you’ll appreciate the feel and response if you’re adding extra percussion and the 2GB of internal memory will make sure you’ve got more than enough room for your samples or backing tracks. The addition of Wave Manager software allows you to easily import, assign and organise your samples whilst the large backlit LCD display and variety of buttons on the unit make it easy to change things up on the fly in the live arena. By far one of the best samplers ever made.
When it comes to samplers, the Maschine Mikro MK2 from Native Instruments is another item that is widely regarded as one of the industry’s best owing to the huge amount of options and fantastic reliability of the product. Not only is it compact enough to slot into your backpack and small enough to transport from gig to gig, but it’s also hardy enough to stand up to years of touring and consistent use. You can create beats via the 16 highly sensitive back-lit multi-coloured pads and assign patterns, sounds and samples effortlessly via the Maschine 2.x software and a copy of NI Massive synth which is included. With the software package you actually get over 2,000 sounds for basses, leads as well drum kits, one shot samples and acoustic instruments. For a guitarist or musician who wants to add new elements to their sound, the Maschine Mikro MK2 is a great, budget friendly option that is perfect for creating music on the go especially as the unit is compatible with the iMaschine app on your iPad or iPhone, meaning you can start tracks anywhere and finish them on the unit.
For those who want to take their sampling and sequencing to the more professional levels, and we don’t blame you, the Pioneer Toraiz SP-16 Professional Sampler and Step Sequencer is a great choice. This combined sampler and step sequencer is a complete production and performing unit that has been designed by the legendary synth creator Dave Smith, so you know it’s good. This 16 step sequencer allows you to create up to 256 unique patterns whilst the 16 velocity sensitive trigger pads make sure you have enough creative room for triggering your loops, rhythm patterns or any samples you have created. You can even manipulate those samples via the touch strip and bend pitch or time stretch each one. The huge benefit musicians will appreciate, especially those who may be using this to busk or perform live, is the fact you don’t need a laptop to operate it. The 8GB of flash memory ensures you have enough space to work with tonnes of sounds, whether the ones you’ve created or the 2GB of pre-loaded options whilst the 7-inch, full-colour touch display allows you to select and scroll through your catalogue with additional control from the sturdy knobs just underneath the screen. This is an all in one performance sampler that is perfect for those who want a reliable, professional grade option that will last for years.
Delving into the realms of serious sampling technology, we have the Elektron Octatrack DPS1 – an extremely powerful sampling device for musicians who want a complete performing package that can create music on its own. This is essentially a studio in a box, packed with 8 audio tracks and 8 MIDI tracks that can be used within any of the 256 pattern slots. Capture your sounds via audio or MIDI connectivity and create 64 step patterns. The key benefit guitarists will appreciate is the use of 8 tracks. You can pre load entire songs filled with what you need to perform and even edit them on the fly. Record your acoustic backing tracks, samples at home via the audio input and get to grips with the 8 MIDI tracks each with their own arpeggiator. You can even add a serious amount of effects to your tracks including flangers, phasers, compressors, EQ’s, delays, reverbs and much more – best of all, you can actually add these effects to any single step too!
So there you have it, the 6 best samplers for bands and singer-songwriters as well as acoustic artists. Remember, there aren’t any rules when it comes to music, so experiment as much as you can and don’t be afraid to try out something new in your set! Check out a full range of samplers over at the Dawsons website.