Chopping is the art of editing, trimming and dissecting your samples ready to load and play in your beat. It typically involves adjusting the start and end points of your audio sample but the deeper you go in the process the more complex our chopping method can go. Lets have a look and some of the different techniques we can use when chopping our samples and some tips we can utilize. Lets get to it.
Basic Chopping / Truncating
So lets start with a look at the basics, chopping and truncating a sample. This is typical when extracting an exert from a piece of audio such as a loop for example. Once we have recorded our audio and have our sample ready to edit we can adjust our start and end points and truncate (shorten by cutting off the top or the end.) This will leave us with just our loop or the audio we want.
Start and End Points
The only thing we need to be concerned about here is our start and end points and we want to make sure there are no clicks or pops at the start or end. If there is this will indicate that we are either chopping our sample too short or possibly too long. We want to have a clean start and end point and depending on our sampler of choice we can automatically or manually find the zero crossing point. The zero crossing point is the instantaneous point at which there is no signal present.
Now we're sure many of you have mastered the art of chopping basic loops and samples like this so lets have a look and some more complex chopping methods.
Complex chopping involves refining and extracting smaller sections of audio from a sample such as individual drums or instrument stab sounds. When we are doing this our ear needs to pay closer attention to the smaller slices of audio we are creating and again focus on our start and end points but that is not all. When slicing smaller sections of audio like this and again finding our zero points on the sample we have to be thinking about how we are going to be using our chops in our beat and overall beat arrangement. Our end goal here is to make the best music with our chops otherwise whats the point? Our focus should be quality not quantity. It really doesn't matter how many chops you use it really only matters that it sounds good.
With that in mind and thinking about how we are going to use our sounds in our arrangement we should be prepared to shave off more of our sample chops than we planned and only extract those that sound the best. The more we do this the more our ear becomes refined and accustomed to the method of doing this. When we are starting out it can be hard to figure out how we are going to use our samples until we get to the beatmaking stage, and that's fine but as we develop our chopping skills we will be able to formulate the chops in our mind before we reach the arrangement stage and thus we will be able to refine and edit our samples accordingly.
AutochopA quick word on autochop. It's great, it's easy right? Yes. Is it the best? No. Here is why. This is music not maths and depending on your sample source material if it was not fully quantized when originally created which many of the best music wasn't then the autochop will not line up correctly. Relying on autochop can make us lazy when editing our samples and make us too reliant on the visual chop indicators instead of our ears. Your ear is everything and the visual is a guide to the ear not the other way round. In saying that depending on the sample and what we are hoping to achieve autochop can get us close or in the right ballpark but usually it will take some further refinement to get our chop edits on point. That leads us to a method we would like to talk about, divide and conquer.
Divide and Conquer
Now many of you familiar with our social media accounts will know we regularly use the term 'Divide and Conquer.' Who first coined it in the use of sampling we are not sure? Do let us know if you have any ideas. Nevertheless the phrase is perfect for the art of chopping samples and the method involved utilizes all of the above techniques including autochop. The method is simple and involves cutting down our audio into small pieces (divide) in order to chop our sample and extract the perfect chops we want (conquer).
Lets say we take a long sample from a record and want to take our chops from different parts, we first break the sample into smaller manageable pieces getting smaller and smaller to the individual chops. For example if you have a four bar loop, using the divide and conquer method you would first truncate your loop adjusting your start and and end points. Now you would take your loop and divide / slice manually or automatically into four parts. Now you can refine and edit your start and end points of each slice and even add some small chops by dividing your sample again. The beauty of this method is it works with older and newer samplers and is a method we live by when chopping our samples whether on vintage MPC's or in our modern day DAW's and utilizes all of the above methods and points mentioned above as well as all of the newer technologies and older knowledge available to us. Try it for yourself and let us know your experiences of using this method.As always we want to reiterate that these are not the only methods available and we are sure many of you have your own techniques you like to use when chopping your samples. Why not drop some of them in the comments section below and share some of your insight?