Audio Sampling

Sampling is the art of taking a piece of any pre-recorded audio and using it again in another production.

I have selected the group Portishead and the Hilltop Hoods to analyse further, concentrating on their equipment, techniques and approach to implementing samples in their music.


Portishead are Predominantly a Trio group from Bristol, England, formed in 1991. This era in Bristol was known for the birthplace of Trip-Hop, heavily reinforced by Portishead.

Portisheads’ music has been described as Gothic Hip-Hop with small influences from break-beat, jazz, funk and soul. Playing at some of the biggest festivals in the world such as Coachella. The band performs using live instruments (guitar,bass, drums, guest musicians), synthesizers and samplers.

Portisheads’ approach to sampling is dictated by whether it’s a live gig, a recording environment or just plain rehearsing. Their songwriting process wasn’t about writing notes on paper, but more about creating sounds through experimentation.

Influenced by vintage synthesisers they were always looking for new ways to capture the sounds they imagined. One good example contrast to Hilltop Hoods is the way in which Portishead take samples from old mono-synths. They do this so they can and import them into a multisample synth which effectively allows you to play chords, comprised of the mono-synth sound.

For live gigs Portishead quite often record their own samples beforehand from favorite synths, later triggered live by a sampler. The sampler consists of pads which could be struck, triggering the sample. In the earlier days a Akai S1000 or a Roland S330 were used, which at the time was regarded as high quality equipment. As times evolved so did the samplers they used, later opting for something like the Alesis Pad Pro.

During rehearsals it was never known what sounds would be created so Portishead recorded their sessions and later sampled bits and pieces from those.

In this video you can see the Alesis type sampler being struck by drum sticks to trigger synth samples previously created and recorded by Portishead. 

Portishead live

Another example of Portishead using sampling is in the track Machine gun. “We sampled a terrible old organ [an Orla Tiffany 4]. Beth wrote this hymn–like song which contrasts with the brutal beats” (Utley, 2008).


In the video below is a track called Threads, the guitar you hear was firstly played by Beth the lead vocalist. later the recorded samples were chopped up in a computer, re organised to create the melody.




Hilltop hoods  

The Hilltop Hoods as most of you would know are an Australian Hip-Hop trio influenced by “a broad range of influences,  they have never lost touch with the unique flavor they created in the Adelaide Hills as young Hip Hop fans” (Hilltop Hoods, 2015).

To me the hoods’ approach to sampling is to revive classic songs with great hooks predominantly from the 70’s and 80’s showing them in a different context. Other aspects where sampling is used is when the DJ scratches sampled audio.

The track “NoseBleed Section” from 2003 included samples from the  “People in the front row” by Melanie Safka in 1972.



The next track i'll mention is "Still Standing", a track where the Hoods’ used sampling in a similar fashion used to create a laid back reggae feel.

This is taken from the original “Teeth in my Neck" by Scientist 1980.



The overall sampling style of the Hoods seem to heavily influence the writing process. Almost like the sampled hooks are the inspiration in which they build the track from. Both Portishead and Hilltop Hoods use sampling to create certain vibes that may have not always been apparent with instruments on hand. By chopping and playing around with samples (their own or otherwise) allows for creative music arrangements. Using sample can also be a way of saving time producing a long as you have sample clearance.  



Hilltop Hoods. (2015). Biography. Retrieved from

Utley, Adrian. (2008, November). Recording Third. Retrieved from

Utley, Adrian. (1995, June). Portishead Sound Shaper Retrieved from