Classical Music Sampling: What You Need to Know

A lot of people think that sampling in classical music is a recent phenomenon.
However, it has been around for centuries, with some of the earliest examples dating back to the 14th century.
In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what classical music sampling is, how it’s done, and some of the famous examples of it.

What is Classical Music Sampling?

Classical music sampling is the use of a sample of a classical music piece in another piece of music. The sample can be from an recordings, live performances, or other sources. Classical music has been used in many genres of music, including hip hop, electronic dance music, and pop.

There are two main ways that classical music can be sampled. The first is to use a recording of the original piece, which is then played back in the new piece of music. The second way is to take a section of the original score and have it played by new instruments or voices. This second method is more common in modern classical music, as it allows for more creativity and flexibility in the new composition.

Classical music sampling can be a great way to add depth and complexity to your own music. It can also be a fun way to pay homage to your favorite composers and pieces. However, it’s important to make sure that you are respecting the copyright of the original composer when you use their work in your own music. If you are unsure about whether or not you are allowed to sample a piece of classical music, you should consult a lawyer or copyright expert before using it in your own composition.

The Different Types of Samples

There are two different types of samples that you can use when classical music sampling. The first type is an unlicensed sample, which is a sample that you take without getting permission from the copyright holder. The second type is a licensed sample, which is a sample that you take with the permission of the copyright holder.

Type 1: The Excerpt

An excerpt is simply a smaller section of a longer work. It might be two measures long, or it might be two hundred measures long. An excerpt can come from the beginning, middle, or end of a work, and it can feature any combination of instruments playing any type of music. You might hear an excerpt from a Beethoven symphony on the radio, or you might see an orchestra playing an excerpt from Swan Lake during their season preview concert.

Type 2: The Melody

Like Type 1 samples, Type 2s can come from all sorts of music, but there is one key difference: a Type 2 sample features a snippet of the original song’s melody. This could be anything from a part of the main melody to a countermelody or even just a motif. The Beastie Boys’ track “Pass the Mic” is built around a sample of James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” which in turn samples Clyde Stubblefield’s drumming. But it also contains a section of Brown singing “I feel good,” which provides the song’s title and hook.

Other examples include Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which contains a section of the riff from Devo’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and chilled-out house classic “Unfinished Sympathy” by Massive Attack, which takes its unforgettablestring melody from Judy Clay and William Bell’s 1967 soul tune “Private Number.”

Type 3: The Harmony

This category of sample is a little more difficult to define, as it can manifest itself in a few different ways. The simplest way to think of it is that this is the kind of sample that flips a melody or chord progression and uses it as the basis for a new composition. To be clear, we’re not just talking about repeating a section of the track – the harmony must be manipulated in some way, whether that’s by speeding it up, slowing it down, or playing it in a different key. More complex examples might involve chopping up the sample and rearranging it into an entirely new melody or chord progression. This category also includes what are often referred to as ‘mash-ups’, where two or more tracks are combined together to create something new.

Type 4: The Rhythm

The fourth and final type of music sample is the rhythm. This is perhaps the most difficult to find, but also the most rewarding when you do. A rhythm sample will take a small section of a drum beat or percussion line and use it as the basis for the rest of the track. These samples are perfect for giving your track a little extra oomph, especially if your original source material was a little light on the drums.

How to Get Permission to Sample Classical Music

If you want to sample classical music, you need to get permission from the copyright holder. This can be the composer, the music publisher, or the record label. If you can’t get permission, you can’t sample the music.

Classical music has been around for centuries, and as a result, many of the original compositions are public domain. This means that anyone can sample them without obtaining permission from the copyright owner. However, if you want to sample a more contemporary piece of classical music, you will need to get permission from the copyright owner.

To do this, you will need to track down the copyright owner and request permission in writing. It is important to note that the Copyright Act does not give copyright owners the right to control how their work is used or performed; rather, it gives them the right to control reproduction and distribution. This means that you will still need to get permission from the composer or publisher even if you are not planning on distributing your composition.

Once you have obtained permission from the copyright owner, you will need to create a new composition that incorporates the sampled classical music. This can be a tricky process, as you will need to make sure that your new composition does not infringe on the copyright of the original work. To do this, you will need to make sure that your samples are significantly different from the original work, and that your new composition adds something new and original to the classical music genre.

Public Domain

If a piece of classical music is in the public domain, that means that the copyright has expired and anyone can use it without getting permission. In the United States, copyrights last for 70 years after the death of the composer. So if a classical composer died in 1950, their music would enter the public domain in 2020. You can check to see if a piece of music is in the public domain by searching for it in the Public Domain Music Database.

If you want to use a piece of classical music that is not in the public domain, you will need to get permission from the copyright holder. This can be the composer, their estate, or their publisher. The best way to do this is to search for the piece on a licensing site like ASCAP or BMI. These sites will give you contact information for the copyright holder and tell you what permissions you need to get in order to use the piece.

Creative Commons Licenses

One way you can legally sample classical music is by using a track that has a Creative Commons license. These licenses give you the permission to use and share copyrighted material, provided that you follow the conditions of the license.

There are several different types of Creative Commons licenses, so be sure to read the terms carefully before using a track. Some licenses allow you to use the track for commercial purposes, while others require that you give credit to the artist.

If you’re not sure whether a track has a Creative Commons license, you can search for it on the Creative Commons website.


In conclusion, there are a few things to remember when it comes to classical music sampling. First, make sure you have the right to sample the music you want to use. Second, be aware of the potential negative consequences of sampling classical music without permission. Finally, consider contacting a copyright lawyer if you are unsure about your rights or the risks involved in sampling classical music.

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