Sampling Synthesizers 101 tips & tricks for iOS

edited March 2018 in App Tips and Tricks

This article is aimed towards learning effective ways to utilize sample management, tips for IOS and sampler hardware users alike, and also tricks for accessing samples on IOS.

This is a topic not widely discussed online from what I can tell. First I will go over some of the basics of sampling and the different types.

A sampler is an electronic or digital musical instrument similar in some respects to a synthesizer, but instead of generating new sounds with filters, it uses sound recordings (or "samples") of real instrument sounds (e.g., a piano, violin or trumpet), excerpts from recorded songs (e.g., a five-second bass guitar riff from a funk song) or other sounds (e.g., sirens and ocean waves). The samples are loaded or recorded by the user or by a manufacturer. These sounds are then played back by means of the sampler program itself, a MIDI keyboard, sequencer or another triggering device (e.g., electronic drums) to perform or compose music. Because these samples are usually stored in digital memory, the information can be quickly accessed. A single sample may often be pitch-shifted to different pitches to produce musical scales and chords.

Often samplers offer filters, effects units, modulation via low frequency oscillation and other synthesizer-like processes that allow the original sound to be modified in many different ways. Most samplers have Multitimbrality capabilities – they can play back different sounds simultaneously. Many are also polyphonic – they are able to play more than one note at the same time.

A traditional sampler is a great tool for collecting, sequencing, and manipulating your sounds. They are available as both hardware units, software, and apps.

Typically they come in two different styles for the most part. The classic MPC style, and the more linear styled ones like the Electribe.

The majority of sampler users seem to use them for drum arrangements, but they can also be used for synth and bass lines just as effectively.

Some of the major issues people encounter are lack of space to store samples, not grouping similar samples sequentially for an easy workflow, not naming them correctly, not looping with zero crossing, consistent volume levels, etc.

I am an avid IOS user and a big fan of samplers in general so I want to share some tips with you all that I’ve learned along the way.

First of all, it is very important to have a depot where you store your files. Think of it like a bank where you make deposits and withdrawals. Personally I use audioshare.

First off I will make major categories, than sub categories, and adding as much of a detailed description as possible. For example, Synthesizers as the main category, than under that the names of the actual synths. Example. Korg DW8000, Yamaha DS1000 etc.

Try to get in the habit of using the manufacturers name and the model for easier location when you have that information.

Do not get lazy with naming your newly deposited samples or your collection as a whole will suffer. I can’t stress this enough.

Samples aren’t even worth collecting if you can’t easily find them.

When I can’t identify the actual synth used I’ll describe it and put it in a category with a generic description. Moody, strings, pad, or sounds like artist xx for example.

Under the actual synthesizer, I name the samples by key, note, chord or type of sound it is.

Sonosauras makes an excellent tuner app you can use to identify the notes being played or the chord used.

I Use twisted wave editor app if I need to raise the volume, fade out, or adjust zero crossings.

Zero crossings means your sample (for looping purposes) starts and ends on 0 so there isn’t a little click sound when you loop it.

If the sample is plain crappy just delete it now instead of collecting things you will never use.

Trust me, it’s better to curate your sample list of what sounds good to your ears.

It is not uncommon for me to download a random sample pack of say 300 samples, and only keep ten of them.

I am big on resampling samples I like, through audiobus or AUM with various effects and archiving the variations in the same folder.

I highly recommend checking out FieldScaper for this purpose.

It is completely possible to sample with your iphones mic. I find myself collecting field samples almost daily.

It’s almost critical to download an app called GoodReader to get around Apples download restrictions.

There are many instances I can’t download through safari and this fills that gap

After download samples and packs from online with Goodreader, open in audioshare.

I literally sample every hardware synth I come into contact with.

If I am in a hurry I’ll record just the c note of each sound I like so I can do a bunch of samples quickly.

I like to go to my local music store and bring a 1/8” to 1/8” trs cable and also a 1/8” to 1/4” adapter and sample synthesizers and drum machines I can’t afford.

Also sample other instruments, guitars, bass etc.

This is a great way to start your sample collection guys and keep it unique.

In my opinion it’s more fun to collect your own samples than sift through someone else’s packs, but both yield good source material.

If you are a hardware sampler user I was taught this trick and it’s amazing. Use an app to play your sample at twice the speed as normal, load that sample into your sampler and drop it an octave. This will save half the space on your sampler.

Another fun thing I recommend is to challenge yourself to make unique drum kits out of the world you live in.

If I go someplace interesting or memorable I’ll sample random things from there to tie an emotion to a tangible sound.

Random = awesome.

Think about gathering foley and layering types of sounds too. Even crumpling up a bag of jalapeño Cheetos can be a useful sound.

Sometimes I will let my iPhone just be recording when I’m somewhere random.

Later I will cut up the sounds and use filters or just use snippets. Small snippets can be looped too in the fashion of a wave table synth, you can of course use or make single Cycle wavs, but often samples just a smidge longer sound great too.

Sometimes synth samples when you physically look at the sound wave have a gap of silence in the beginning, use an editor to erase those or your sample will have a delay in the beginning.

Also some synths when not looped sound better adding a fade out.

It is easy to fade out using audioshare only for basic edits like this.

Let’s say I download a sample pack from online into GoodReader and open it in audioshare. After the zip is open, there are a few steps to do immediately to save space.

Delete the zip from GoodReader, than audioshare, than clear your deleted folder in audioshare. Only keep the opened up file, save and label what you want, discard the rest.

I have come across many fantastic sites over the years for obtaining samples and will probably edit this post and add some links when I have more time.

With new apps like grooverider gr-16, having an organized and curated sample depot is key in your workflow.

I also occasionally do a full audioshare backup, just Incase I lost or destroyed my phone.

I have noticed many people are generous with crappy or unorganized, unedited samples but stingy with the curated ones. It makes sense to a small degree as it is a lot of work to make them useable and effective.

There are however some real musical philanthropists on this huge web who routinely share samples from there rare and expensive analog gear.

Other boutique websites just have generous users with good taste.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what sounds good to your ears!

Samples or synths I might be partial to might sound like nails on a chalk board to you and nice versa.

I personally am not into collecting other people looped synth or drum sample material and prefer one shots or a loop of a continuous note, or a chord being played but that’s just me.

If you are into those kind of loops I should note it’s important to add tempo to the description.

Audioshare into audiobus as an input and output with whatever fx in the middle will allow you to resample.

Also for example, synth app xx into audioshare for sampling some of the fantastic iOS synths and harvesting your own samples that way.

I recommend sampling the c note so everything sample wise will be in one key, but adjust to how your work flow goes.

Feel free to sample other notes, chords whatever just be sure to label them or you won’t have good results.

There are loads of fantastic non audiobus apps that you can sample too if you have multiple iOS devices.

I hope this article was useful to you guys and am happy to answer any questions.

Feel free to link any interesting tips that you guys want to add or any links with good quality synthesizer samples (not drums) you want to share.

Have a great day friends and be blessed


  • edited March 2018

    wow, man. thank you.
    I would love to see a video of your process.

  • tjatja
    edited March 2018

    This is by far the most unreadable text I ever saw.


    Don't want to put you down for all this thoughts and work of yours, but:

    How about some newlines, headings and other separations?

    This would just be a minute more for you, but others could then realy read what you wrote.
    Currently, they can not.
    Or only with many hurting.

  • Thank you for taking the time to write this. I have so much fun with samples but have an awful and uninspiring library. I’m going to try some of these tips.

    @stuck80s said:

  • Great tips.

    Do not get lazy with naming your newly deposited samples or your collection as a whole will suffer. I can’t stress this enough.

    Samples aren’t even worth collecting if you can’t easily find them.

    Zing! It’s true. I have hours and hours of random, cool shit i’ve recorded wasting away, unlabeled, in forgotten folders. The samples I use have names, are trimmed tight, and normalized, and are organized folders where I can find ‘em.

    A sampler is nothing without a library, therefore a samplist is nothing without being a librarian.

    Is it possible in this day and age, to embed tags in a .wav file? That is the great way to organize photos, be nice to do it with sounds too. Like the outstanding browser in iM1, and Cyclops, you can enter in characteristics you are looking for and the browser sifts through the tags.

    Can you give us an example of a well named sample?

  • Nice writing !

    This is why I love mitosynth so much. It's the perfect candidate for your sampled synth sounds.

  • Good read.

  • some good points here - and you're right, there's very little info of this kind available concerning ios. Thank you!

  • I've noticed if you trim your samples under one second, performance suffers. It's okay to have a long tail on your sample. I think one second ought to be the minimum length.

  • Great read. Thanks fir posting :)

  • If audioshare would implement “tags” it would be a huge step in the right direction. It is already pretty perfect, but that would be the icing on the cake

  • @stuck80s said:
    If audioshare would implement “tags” it would be a huge step in the right direction. It is already pretty perfect, but that would be the icing on the cake

    You can add tags via the Files App on iOS 11:

  • @stuck80s And many thanks for editing! I could finally read your text ;-)

    I love GoodReader but tend to use it less and less in the last time.
    But you are right, for downloads it often is very helpful.

    I also used the Aloha and iCabMobile webbrowsers with good effect.

  • Great job writing and revising this very informative text. Can’t wait to see what you produce next. B)

  • Thanks for the kind words crew. I will be venturing into a recording season in the next month or so once life settles down and I can focus on it entirely.

    Currently I’m fine tuning my set up and work flow so when my life is back to normal I can crank out music when inspiration strikes.

    I have some analog gear being modified/enhanced, some much needed software and also some Mogami cables being ordered.

    I should have everything set up shortly and can’t wait to share what I’ve been working on in the studio with you all.

    My wife is putting on a film festival so our lives have been hectic for the past few months.

    I am a storyteller type of musician, I enjoy going into unknown frontiers and painting with sound.

  • @stuck80s said:

    I am a storyteller type of musician, I enjoy going into unknown frontiers and painting with sound.

    Now i definitely want to see a video of your process. This sounds really interesting.

  • One of the best posts I’ve read on AB. Thank you for sharing the knowledge.

  • Thankyou for the kind response

  • The bit about properly naming and organizing your samples has to be the most important part of this fabulous article! My god, who here doesn’t wish they could go back in time and organize your f***ing samples in a f***ing semi-coherent fashion???!!!

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