A Brief History of Drum Sampling

Sampling – one of the most well known techniques in music, it refers to the reuse and manipulation of different sound recording portions, commonly known as samples. In many modern genres (mostly in hip-hop and rap), one of the most commonly found types of samples are drum samples. And, as the art of sampling has been around for quite some time now, we figured it would be a good idea to take a look back and see how it all began.

A Brief History of Drum Sampling

The Drums and the Drum Machine

First of all, it is important to mention the drums… As one of the most well-known and oldest musical instruments, drums have been around for quite some time. However, the modern drum kit which we all know and love has only been around for the last few centuries, more specific, the modern drum kit dates back to pre-civil war United States, where marching bands combined various percussion instruments into trap sets. Naturally, from this point on, the drum kit would change significantly as time went on, ultimately leading to the invention of the drum machine. The drum machine allowed for the use of digital drum samples, and the first modern machines entered the music industry some time during the 1970s. Companies like Krog and Roland, among others, were the first to experiment with electronic drum sounds while making their machines, while Pink Floyd was one of the first well known artists of the period who actively used synthetic drum sounds in their music.

A Brief History of Drum Sampling

A New Era

Drum machines and drum sampling opened the doors to a whole new world when it came to the creation and production of music. Various drum samples were used left and right to create entirely new genres and subgenres (most notably rap, hip-hop but also various kinds of electronic music). Some of the most iconic drum sounds from this time period went on to become immortalized as samples and stored in drum sample packs. Furthermore, as time passed on, the price of drum machines was significantly lowered, thus allowing many young up-and-coming musicians to enter the world of music. Until the drum machine became common, a huge obstacle existed in the form of available drummers, as it could be difficult to hire a professional drummer for a recording or practice session. But now, drum samples could be used as a replacement. Of course, a human drummer is still significantly more flexible than a machine; however, machines and samplers could still hold their own and provide an excellent alternative. And, as we mentioned before, some drum sounds were sampled way more than others, and these include James Brown’s “Funky Drummer”, Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” and The Honey Drippers’ “Impeach the President”.  Some of these drum samples would go on to be featured in many popular songs for years to come.


In conclusion, drum samples and drum machines had, and continue to have, a significant influence on the music industry, and as the technology keeps improving, it doesn’t seem that their growth will stop in the foreseeable future.