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Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer explains why computers are musical instruments, and the value of original work. Also, working with samples and the difference between samples and stems!

A rare booklet screenshot taken from a 1994 Hans Zimmer sample library. This release “Guitars Volume 1.” Note the hand-drawn looping system; a precursor to the auto-loop locators of today’s modern software samplers.

5 basic steps to getting a sample into your DAW

Image shows a stereo audio sample from the article: Hans Zimmer courtesy of
  • Record the sample: Use a microphone or any other recording device to capture the sound you want to use as a sample.
  • Convert the sample: Convert the recorded audio file into a usable .WAV format using an audio converter tool.
  • Load the sample into your DAW and trim.
  • Edit the sample: Use various effects and plugins to manipulate the sound and make it unique.
  • Save the edited sample in your DAW as a project or export it a usable audio file.

The difference between samples and stems

Image shows a screen shot of X STEMS software from the article: Hans Zimmer courtesy of

A sample is a short clip of audio that is used in a music project as an instrument or as an effect. Examples are: incorporating the sound of a drum snare or recording the notes of a violin, these can then be pitched, edited and used in a project you’re working on.

Sample use can also include using everyday objects. Such as a car idling, the sound of fireworks or a vocal exclamation.

A stem is a multitracked and usually pre-mixed snippet of audio. These samples can then be used to build a song like blocks. Which are then placing side by side to create a track. Stems use if often found in the live DJ world to accent a song part.

Attack magazine has a good article on four of the best stem separation tools to get you started.

Mix with the Masters

A computer is a musical instrument that needs just as much practice as when you practice the piano, or the violin or the cello… In [1994] I started to do my own samples, but it wasn’t about making the music sound better or making it easier to get the job. It was just for me because I didn’t want to sit there all day long listening to shit sounds… I don’t understand why people don’t make sounds more themselves, why people don’t really learn how their computers work.

Hans Zimmer speaking to Mix with the Masters via

There are always going to be success stories that could potentially overshadow fledgling efforts. And the success Hans Zimmer has accomplished could be a case in point! thinks that would be a great shame. In that cited above Hans encourages us to go out into the field and experiment. And here in The Art of Discovery I highlight the willingness to experiment and to be excited by that process, because nothing truly unique to you belongs to someone else.

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