Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sample Sets: Frequently Asked Question #2

A lot of folks have asked me about the process of compiling (and completing) our sample sets, so I thought I’d break it down for you, because yes, there is a method to this madness:

Step #1: Listen to the Album!!!

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t stress it enough. Most of the info used for our sample sets can be easily found online thanks to sites like The-Breaks and even Wikipedia. But sometimes, even these behemoths of data can miss out on some stuff here and there; so it’s important to listen to the album (in full) to try to fill in the blanks. Specifically, listening to the album can help in tracing down scratched vocal samples, which are rarely listed in sample database websites. Being as complete as possible is the true goal here.

Step #2: Research, Research, Research

Now that we’ve taken our own notes, it’s time to aggregate this info with the aforementioned sample databases (there are plenty of ‘em out there). I amass all of this info in a simple Notepad file, typing up lines that appear as follows: “Song Title: Sampled Artist – Sampled Song Title” etc. Now I’ve got the list of songs I need to get down to the dirty work: e-digging.

Step #3: A Pirate’s Life for Me

I hope that title explains it all for you. I use a whole bunch of great resources to track down the MP3 files I need. With years of this kind of experience (I was f*cking with Napster back in the 20th Century), finding what I want can sometimes get a bit tricky, but I almost always come across what I’m looking for, by hook or crook. I have a personal policy to only get tracks with a bitrate of 192 kbps or above. Under only a handful of circumstances, however, I’ve ripped tracks from media sites like YouTube or iMeem. But for the most part, 192 or above is the mission statement.

Step #4: Tagging & Artwork

Naw, I’m not talking about graf-writing. I’m a freak about this kind of stuff for my personal music collection. ID3 tagging is important to me, because it keeps the tracks looking polished and organized. So once I’ve prepared the proper track titles and track numbers, it’s time to compliment ‘em with a well-matched album cover. Photoshop is what it’s about (shout out to my 10th grade computer teacher), only after I’ve found a high-res cover to work with. I like to go with something that’s 600x600 pixels, but sometimes only 500x500 will do. Anything below is unacceptable. I’ve actually put off working on sets just because I couldn’t find a large cover. It’s that important to me.

Step #5: Audio Tweaking

Oh, you thought I was done? This part might get overlooked – which is why I’d like to highlight it for those that may not have noticed this extra effort I put into my sets. Since I’m downloading all of these MP3s from various sources, album collections etc., there are two things one will notice when they are played together, back-to-back: audio levels are not equalized and blank spaces take up the back (and sometimes intro portions) of songs. Getting rid of these annoyances is an absolute must. This step is very important to me because it provides a congruence of volume, as well as smooth transitions between tracks. To me, this step is crucial – I can’t stress it enough. The process itself is relatively simple, but it’s very time-consuming. I load up all of the tracks into Adobe Audition, and I manually alter the audio levels (using the Normalize function) and blank spaces (Delete/Cut). Now play it back! Ah, much better. Finally, I convert all of the tracks to 192 kbps bitrate. To me, this is the standard for achieving high (enough) audio fidelity, combined with a compact hard drive allocation. I’m saving you time (quicker downloads) and money (less external hard drives) – but it’s still all high quality music.

Step #6: Gift-Wrap

We’re just about done here. A quick re-ID3 renaming, along with some proofreading, is in order. Also, I like to embed the artwork with the tracks; not necessary, but it looks cool on MP3 players. Now it’s time to .zip up the file and upload it. And... that’s that! Sample set #___ has just been completed. Arduous? Sure! But it’s a labor of love.

And you get it for free. F’ing A…

Read: Frequently Asked Question #1


  1. I knew you did a lot of work, but wow!
    I am in awe THANK YOU!

  2. just wanting to say that i appreciate the awesome work you've done in compiling these samples. loving them!!

  3. i appreciate all your hard work its great!!!

  4. Woooo and here I thought you were just uploading a set from Lime Wire! No, I'm J/P - thanks for the time consuming, mind numbing at times, dedication!

  5. how do you imbed the artwork into the mp3?

  6. Bob, Jon, Snd & Denise: Thank you, thank you, you're far too kind (C) Hovito.

    ynngg...: Windows Media Player.

  7. It's a Hard Knock Life for a sample collector!

    Seriously, all this is much appreciated. That's why HHIR is the shit!

  8. Thanks for going through all that trouble just so I have a great listening experience!

  9. wow Ivan, thanks a lot for all the hard work you put into your compilations.

  10. I always wondered how your sample sets came out so much cleaner sounding than some others I have come across and your step #5 is where the "magic" happens.
    Although I never messed with Napster back in the days (audiogalaxy FTW!) I would have thought you have access to some library that holds CD's and records in order to track stuff down.

  11. Hey, Thanks for you Work.
    Im also really strict with my ID3 Tagging.
    I got about 13'000 Songs in my ITunes. Everything has to be organized.
    How you tag the Samples? I Mean there are from various years and theire various Genres?
    You tag every song with the original year or with the release of the sample set?

  12. exxcellent work my ni99a.


    YO, I GOT 102 FREE MP3 DOWNLOADS JUST 4 U BABYeeeeeeee including - BRAND NEW - M16 FT barack obama inaugural address HIP HOP MIXES + NOTORIOUS B.I.G./TUPAC/LIL WAYNE/jay-z REmixes & more on my page. come thru & check it out if u have the time
    GO TO -
    & -

  13. I am a tag freak myself, what service do you use to tag your albums?

    Also, you have missed some samples for the 2001 album, I left a comment there, I'm not sure you had a chance to read it.

  14. To be honest Ivan, this seems like a lot of work to put in and then upload to RapidShare. No doubt, I appreciate and admire all the work you put in, but why not Mediafire? :)

  15. Bozo, m16 & Anon: 'ppreciate it! :D

    Belve': I do have access to a pretty large CD collection, actually. But I don't have so many of the soulful gems that are sometimes hard to track down. Often times, they haven't even been reissued in CD format.

    Theo: I tag them with the date that the hip hop album came out. It'd be nice to tag them with individual release dates for each track, but I figured it'd look way too funky when organizing it in media libraries. Knah'mean?

    anon tag freak: I use a program called ID3 Renamer. Very, very helpful. I oughta check back w/that 2001 set, huh? ... :D

    GF: Mediafire has f'd me over in the past. I don't trust 'em. I've been with RS for years and they're secure as can be. If there was a way for Sharebee to link-up with my RS account (so I still have access & data of the files I upload), I'd be using Sharebee. Until then...

  16. admire your dedication.. I'm the same way, with epically that part about the album covers.. I sometimes spend hours attaining the proper album cover cause ish not right with out that cover.. but yeah.. keep up the detailed work

  17. Whether the thousands of people that get your sets write a thank you comment or not, believe me when i say they appreciate it and the sets are flawless, taggin' an all that shit.
    Thanks for those crazy sets maan

  18. anon, Kicks & Paul: Thank you guys, so much. I really appreciate it.

  19. thanks ivan.
    Youre right if you tag a album with various years it looks crazy. So i keep it with the release of the hiphop album too.

  20. many thanks ivan,

    all your work is truly appreciated by so many people here [as well as the lurkers] - you really put it in [no homo]

    stay frosty

  21. yuh! good post man spread the word, tag those files! when we older folks started putting up tracks we had to get them off vinyl and do a couple songs at a time because hard drives were tiny. nothing but laziness now if you cant even correctly tag the stuff already on your machine. Spent the last few weeks digging out the doubles and incorrectly titled music from a drive my boy lent me so i'm feeling pretty raw about it right now. got the monster 62,000 track collection down to about 57,000 and I'm only in the beginning of the "t's".