Bored of your usual samples? Strapped for cash? Or just looking for some inspiration? We’ve rounded up some of our favourite places to mine for free — and importantly royalty-free — samples, covering a huge range of sounds and styles. Whatever you make, we’re sure you’ll find some inspiration to help you create music on little to no budget.
What is a royalty free sample?
If the publisher of a sample pack states that the samples on the pack are ‘royalty-free’, it means that you are free to use them in your tracks however you like, without having to pay any royalties to them or the people involved in creating the sample.
Usually when you sample someone else’s work, you would need to ‘clear’ the use of the sample with both the owner of the recording (the label or the artist) and the owner of the copyright of the work (the artist or their publisher). Head to our help centre for info on what you need to release music with samples in it.
When people create samples that are specifically designed for other people to use, they make them royalty-free so that they can be used however the person downloading them wants. The sample creation industry is a big one, and sample production companies charge a fee for people to buy the samples and the right to use them freely.
This guide, however, only lists samples whose creators have explicitly given them away for free. So, no upfront fee, and no usage royalty fee. Why would someone give samples away for free? Well, some producers just enjoy making them, or want to be generous with material they have produced for their own use, or just want to give back to the community of sound creators. Whatever their reason, it’s good news for you.
Make sure that the website you’re downloading from has a statement about free use of the works you are downloading. To be on the safe side, you could take a screenshot of the text and save it in the same folder as your sample pack just in case you’re asked for proof later on that it was royalty-free.
So where do you get the best free (and royalty free) music samples to use in your music?
Dutch electro, techno and electronica genius Legowelt is a real gearhead. He owns dozens of vintage synths and drum machines, and he has created an incredible array of sample packs picking through his favourite sounds for them. His incredible archive features lovingly created packs of sounds recorded from classic machines like the Juno 106, the Boss DR660, the KORG Electribe ER-1 and the Yamaha DX series, with everything from drum hits to FX, bass, leads, pads and plenty more. There’s an absolute treasure trove to discover here, and an education in vintage hardware to be had while you’re doing it.
He’s also made a variety of excellent Ableton plugins and VSTs which you can also download for free from his website.
For more free VSTs, check out our roundup of the 12 best free VSTs you can get online.
A huge community of amateur sound creators, Freesound has many thousands of snippets and recordings which users upload under the Creative Commons license which allows anyone to use and modify the work that they upload freely and without payment. It’s great for found sound, background textures, sound effects and foley recorded in the real world — just type in a keyword and preview the results in the embedded audio player — but people upload everything from synth sounds to vocals and full tracks too. It’s an endless resource, and one that’s particularly great for injecting some real-world atmosphere and inspiration into your tracks. Why not upload some of your own creations while you’re there too?
One of the big sample production companies, Loopmasters have a huge range of sample packs, including many produced by successful artists. They always have an offering of free samples (if this link doesn’t work, click Genres in the menu bar and then Free Samples), as well as a bunch of packs for £1 each, and free VST presets for the likes of Sylenth1 and Serum too.
This website brings together the online content of magazines including Computer Music, Total Guitarist and Keyboard Magazine in one place, and it hosts a full archive of the 70,000+ free sample packs they have created and given away over the years in cover discs and online downloads. Whether you need some jazzy keys, some Prodigy-style samples, trap samples or world music flavours, they’ve got you covered. You could make an entire album of diverse music from what they have on offer.
German software and hardware company Native Instruments have a very generous free package available for all called Komplete Start. The package includes a whopping 2,000 sounds as well as 16 virtual synths and additional effects plugins. As the name implies, it’s plenty to get started with and to boost your set up with.
A small but perfectly formed collection featuring everything from drum hits sampled from a Roland SH-101 to groove templates from classic MPC machines to add vintage swing to your tracks.
New Zealand sample instrument producers Goldbaby are also vintage machine lovers, and have an immense selection of samples available for free download that includes lots of classic drum machines hits and some juicy synths sounds.
If you need more inspiration, or just want some friendly advice on the best tools to make music check out our articles on the top music production DAWs and our roundup of free tools to make music from home. And when you’ve got that banging new track, we’d love to release it for you. Login or sign up to get started.