How to Build a Sound Collection for DJing and Mixing
The definitive list of sites where you can download samples for free or very cheap to kickstart your sound collection. Get SFX, acapellas, loops, drops, jingles and drum breaks.
For music producers, DJs and other people interested in creating and producing their own music, having an extensive sound gallery is crucial. Loops, effects, DJ drops, jingles, acapellas, quotes and other samples make your mix unique, impactful and memorable.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the game - sound collection is something that’s never finished. You need to regularly tap into a number of different sources to ensure that your library is ever-growing.
Here is a list of services that will help you keep the sets and recordings diverse and fresh. The following sites provide various samples that can come in handy for beginners and seasoned musicians alike.
1) LALAL.AI is a powerful AI-based stem splitter that extracts vocals from any audio file with incredible precision. It’s perfect for DIY acapella making - just upload a song and get the studio-quality vocal stem in mere seconds. If you don’t want to browse through hundreds of files on acapella sites and know exactly what vocal part from which song you want to experiment with, LALAL.AI is just what the doctor ordered.
The service supports all popular formats and provides isolated vocals in the same format and quality as the original file - no conversion required. On top of that, it can also be used to extract instrumental stems as well as 6 musical instruments: drums, piano, synthesizer, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and bass. You can sample them for your other mixes, create drum loops, beats, etc.
2) Acapellas4u is the OG online acapella resource loved by numerous DJs and producers since 2003. It has over 30K vocal tracks, making it one of the biggest acapella databases. Anyone can download up to 30 free acapellas from the site on a monthly basis; donating contributors can access the entire library. Acapellas4u has convenient search and sorting features that allow to quickly discover vocal tracks of specific key, tempo, duration and bitrate.
On top of that, the site has several forums where users discuss all things music, share DJing and production tips, sell and buy gear, and even touch on culture and politics. Though Acapellas4u looks dated and clearly needs a redesign, the content there is more helpful and relevant than that of many other modern and polished platforms for musicians.
3) Voclr is a relatively new acapella site that quickly became the go-to source for those who look for high-quality vocal tracks. The site hosts upwards of 15,000 acapellas and the majority of them are by popular artists such as Cardi B, Travis Scott, Calvin Harris, Little Mix, and the like. Voclr has a clean design and user interface and offers filtering options by genre, key and BPM.
The service proclaims itself as “the home of FREE acapellas,” but it actually runs a freemium model. Free membership is limited to 5 monthly downloads and only allows you to access certain types of content. The download limit can be reset from time to time in exchange for social sharing. As a premium user, you get unlimited downloads of vocal parts and sample packs and the ability to preview acapellas before the download.
Honorable mentions: CCMixter has over 5,000 free vocal tracks but only a few categories and overall poor search filters. On the bright side, the content is actually free and you can filter it by license, which is rare and helpful if you’re planning to use the acapellas for commercial purposes.
VocalDownloads provides a great catalog of royalty-free and clearance-free vocal samples dating back to the ‘00s. The majority of them are short hooks and you have to dig deeper to find samples for a full vocal project. Prices start from $0.99, all vocal parts are high-quality.
YouTube is often overlooked as an acapella source but it actually has a fantastic database of vocal parts that you can download for free using services like 4K YouTube to MP3. The only downside is that content from YouTube can’t be legally used in any of your commercial projects, but as long as you are not utilizing it for any financial gain, you’ve got an inexhaustible vocal samples supply on your hands. Check out acapella-dedicated channels like KingAcapella, MSProjectSound, and Sk3pticAcapella.
DJ Drops and Jingles
1) DJ Drops 24/7 provides dry (with just vocals) and fully-produced DJ and mixtape drops. You can use the service to order a custom drop with 24 hour turnaround time, as well as purchase an instant download of existing intros, drops and drop packs. The service has celebrity DJ drops, old-school DJ drops, male and female DJ drops of different kinds. Prices start from as low as $5.
2) Music Radio Creative is a diverse international team of audio producers that create voiceovers, DJ drops, jingles, radio and podcast branding. In addition to paid custom orders, they’ve got free jingles, sound effects and free DJ drops. They also host Free Jingle Friday on YouTube every week on Fridays at 13:00 GMT where any watcher can request access to a free jingles file and use the contents for DJ sets, podcasts, radio shows, etc.
3) Freesound is a big collaborative database of audio snippets, samples and recordings released under Creative Commons licenses that allow their reuse. The content cannot be used for commercial purposes, however, it’s absolutely free. All sounds are downloaded in MP3, FLAC, OGG Vorbis, AIFF and WAV, so that you can use them in your creative projects without quality loss. Use the search bar to find jingles and DJ drops or check what was downloaded by other DJs, for example, here you can see a variety of drops saved by DJ Nitty.
Drum Breaks and Samples
1) Real Drum Samples offers tons of high-quality drum samples including snares, kicks, claps, hi-hats, toms, cymbals, and 808 sounds, all suitable for any genre of music. You can download over 100 premium samples for free via the email request form on the site.
The service also has 2 premium packs, each with over 400 samples that were individually equalized, filtered and compressed for maximum impact. Some of the big names in the music industry use these samples, such as producers and beatmakers of 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, The Game, Chris Brown and Justin Timberlake, so you know it’s the real deal.
2) SoundSozai has tons of sound effects, scratch record samples and drum breaks that fit every taste and can be used in Serato DJ and Rekordbox. You can download 30 drum breaks for free that were adopted by many beatmakers in the ‘90s and use them in your mix or DJ set.
3) Landr is not only a popular online mastering service but also a great source of samples, drum breaks in particular. Samples can be sorted by instrument, BPM and genre. All of them are completely free, though you need to be a registered user to download them. Here, for example, you can grab the collection of 50 best drum breaks.
Bonus: You can get over 1,000 free drum breaks and break loops from various sources collected by HipHopMakers.
1) Looperman has nearly 100,000 royalty-free samples, a huge number of which are loops. They are searchable by category, genre, key, tempo and date. Loops are clearance-free and free to download, the only downside is that there are some low-quality samples, so you have to take some time to get the best ones for your music projects.
2) DJ Puzzle has a list of loop sources that can be freely used for music production.
3) HipHopMakers posted 40 free sample packs that feature loops by DJ Mustard, Kanye West-inspired samples, vinyl fills and other goodies, making 3 GB of data in total. They also shared an extensive library of loops with over 3,000 free samples.
1) SoundBible is one of the best sound sources. The service is full of great audio clips useful not only for DJs but also for video editors, game designers, film producers and other creatives. The site is updated every week, adding progressively more sound effects as time goes by. The downloads are free, and the license for each file is clearly labeled on the site helping you avoid copyright issues.
2) Zapsplat is a user-driven service with a big database of sound effects available for free download. All sound effects can be saved as MP3 and WAV files and up to 24/96 kHz. The content is diverse and well-categorized, allowing you to quickly and easily find the right sounds.
3) FreeSFX has over 4,500 individual sound effects files to choose from. The site’s interface might be dated but it’s structured in a way that helps you easily navigate the categories and quickly find the sound effects you need. All of the sound effects can be downloaded for free but mind that you need to be a registered user to do so.
Bonus: Here are some other helpful SFX services similar to the ones mentioned above in no particular order - FreeSound, AudioMicro, SoundEffects+, SoundGator, Splice, Partners In Rhyme, 99sounds.