Sampler (musical instrument)

A sampler is an electronic or digital musical instrument which uses sound recordings (or "samples") of real instrument sounds (e.g., a piano, violin or trumpet), excerpts from recorded songs (e.g., a five-second bass guitar riff from a funk song) or found sounds (e.g., sirens and ocean waves). The samples are loaded or recorded by the user or by a manufacturer. These sounds are then played back by means of the sampler program itself, a MIDI keyboard, sequencer or another triggering device (e.g., electronic drums) to perform or compose music. Because these samples are usually stored in digital memory, the information can be quickly accessed. A single sample may often be pitch-shifted to different pitches to produce musical scales and chords.

An AKAI MPC2000 sampling sequencer (1997)

Often samplers offer filters, effects units, modulation via low frequency oscillation and other synthesizer-like processes that allow the original sound to be modified in many different ways. Most samplers have Multitimbrality capabilities – they can play back different sounds simultaneously. Many are also polyphonic – they are able to play more than one note at the same time.

Lichttonorgel (1936),
an earlier sampling organ utilizing analog optical disc

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