How The Best Vocal Samples Make A Smash Hit

The best vocal samples can make or break a track, carefully toeing the line between a callback to a classic era of pop music with a catchy hook or just simply ruining a decent enough mix by distracting your ear - millennial whoop, anyone? Here, we’ll look at how one song can be sampled by different producers and used to create an entirely new sound that keeps it sounding fresh almost 50 years after its original release.

Etta James - Something’s Got A Hold On Me

The original song that we’re starting with is an R&B classic from 1962 - “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” by the legendary Etta James. This was the third single from James’ third studio album and contains all the hallmarks of soul, blues and gospel that you’d expect on an R&B album from a Chicago studio in the early ‘60s. Over the years, the track has been covered many times, with versions released from Ike & Tina Turner, The Kingsman and Natalie Cole, right through to contemporary mainstream acts such as Christina Aguilera. As well as full cover versions, the catchy vocal hooks in “Something’s Got A Hold On Me” has lead to multiple samples in more modern mixes. It’s not surprising that its legacy lives on so let’s see how it was used in three different ways

Pretty Lights - Finally Moving

"Finally Moving" features on “Taking Up Your Precious Time”, the debut studio album by Pretty Lights who were, at the time, an electronic music duo featuring Derek Vincent Smith and Michal Menert before Menert’s departure. Pretty Lights’ music relies heavily on music samples from a wide range of genres to create a sound reminiscent of hip-hop and soul with a heavy dose of electronica. "Finally Moving" is a great example of this, sampling two classic records from the 1960s to create a brand new sound to suit contemporary listeners. The instrumentation of the track is mainly based on "Private Number", a 1968 hit for Judy Clay and William Bell and the 1969 instrumental version by Sonny Stitt. The main hook in "Finally Moving" features the lines:

Just want to tell ya right now /

I really do feel it /

Oh, sometimes I get a good feeling, yeah /

Get a feeling that I never, never, never, never had before. Oh, no /

I get a good feeling, yeah

Creating an arrangement with breakbeats, scratches and classic R&B vocals treated with delay and reverb gives a fresh modern take on a classic, and provided other DJs plenty of inspiration too...

Avicii - Levels

Sometimes even using the same vocal sample can have dramatic effects when used across different genres. As one of the most groundbreaking electronic artists over the last 10 years, Avicii’s records help bring EDM to the mainstream with a string of top 10 hits. Thanks to Levels, Avicii’s career shot to prominence, taking the Swedish DJ from bedroom remixer to worldwide EDM phenomenon. An early version of “Levels”, without the famous vocal sample, was played during an appearance at Radio 1’s Essential Mix back in 2010. It wasn’t until a few months later that the vocal line was included during a set at the Ultra Music Festival and the popularity of the track started to grow. Like "Finally Moving", "Levels" features the same line:

Oh, sometimes I get a good feeling, yeah /

Get a feeling that I never, never, never, never had before. Oh, no /

I get a good feeling, yeah

It’s said that it was Avicii’s manager, Ash Pournouri, who suggested picking out the Etta James classic as the main hook, and he was able to not only work in a deal to clear the sample with the label but also land himself a songwriting credit on Levels. When the track was officially released in October 2011 it quickly became a top 10 hit in over a dozen countries and is up there with "Wake Me Up" as one of Avicii’s most enduring songs.

Flo Rida - Good Feeling

Good Feeling was the lead single off Flo Rida’s fourth studio album Wild Ones, and gave the US rapper his third number one hit in the UK. Not only does it sample “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” but the track borrows from Avicii’s use of the main vocal hook. Whilst “Levels” features a prominent synth line, the production in Good Feeling is built up of acoustic guitars, keys and electronic drum beats. According to Flo Rida, this version came about as his manager at Atlantic Records played him “Levels” and encouraged him to lay down a rap vocal to contrast against the classic vocal sound.

How do you clear a sample of this size?

Unsurprisingly, a song of this magnitude can be an utter nightmare in terms of clearance. The original version had three songwriters in Etta James, Leroy Kirkland and Pearl Woods along with two producers; Leonard Chess and Phil Chess. By the time you get down to Flo Rida’s "Good Feeling", his production team of Dr Luke and Cirkut are credited as lyricists, in addition to the team who created Avicii’s version. In all, there are nine songwriters on "Good Feeling", but a whopping 21 parties listed under the song’s publishing rights, who are all in line for a slice of the royalties.

Vocal Sample Packs From Prime Loops

Thankfully, with vocal sample packs from Prime Loops, you don’t need to worry about juggling dozens of songwriters and making sure they get paid. All of our music samples are royalty-free, meaning you can get creating straight away, and here are just a few of our favourites.

Pure House Vocal Samples

Pure House Vocal Samples pack from Prime Loops With nearly 450MB of male and female vocal samples, this is the ultimate sample pack for aspiring and professional house producers. Perfect for producers of Deep House, Tech House as well as those digging deeper into the Soulful and Detroit/Chicago house sound. Click here to find out more.  

India Vocal

India Vocals sample pack from Prime Loops One of the most detailed Indian vocal sample packs ever published from Rast Sound. Featuring over 250 samples including vocal samples, solo instruments and more with an unmistakable Indian folkloric sound. Click here to find out more.
Download music sample packs from Prime Loops here
Follow Prime Loops on Facebook, Twitter & Soundcloud
Need more inspiration? Create a Prime Loops account and get a free welcome pack of loops and samples

Related Articles

  • The Legend Of...The Jupiter 8

    The Legend Of...The Jupiter 8

    In an era where Synthesiser manufacturers were engaged in a race for progression and innovation around Analog technology; the launch of Roland's Jupiter 8, in 1981, represents a milestone in the histo

    Read More 2
  • 5 Ways to Get Creative With Organic Foley

    5 Ways to Get Creative With Organic Foley

    It’s all too easy, when producing these days, to get stuck inside the box and, whilst you may have a dope tune on your hands, it can be missing, well, something... Foley There’s a natural move

    Read More 2
  • The Legend of 909

    The Legend of 909

    From its humble beginnings in Osaka, Japan, the Roland TR-909 Rhythm Composer was born in 1983 with a run of 10,000 units and sold for $1300. Blissfully unaware of the impact it would go on to have, R

    Read More 2
  • UK Grime Production Tips

    UK Grime Production Tips

    UK Grime has gone from being a small, DIY spin-off of Garage through a stratospheric rise to become THE sound of the last decade in Britain and beyond! The Birth of a Genre & nbsp; Its earliest conc

    Read More 2
  • Lo-Fi Hip Hop Production Tips

    Lo-Fi Hip Hop Production Tips

    Lo-Fi Hip Hop continues to go from strength to strength, especially with the emergence of YouTube channels such as Chilled Cow, ChillHop, The JazzHop Café amongst others. The question is, from a pr

    Read More 2
  • The Emergence Of Trap Soul

    The Emergence Of Trap Soul

    ‘Trap Soul’ is the budding new star to emerge from contemporary R&B. First gaining notable success and prominence around 2016 with breakout stars Fetty Wap and Bryson Tiller achieving Top Ten

    Read More 2
  • How To Make Better Music When Your Studio Is Your Bedroom

    How To Make Better Music When Your Studio Is Your Bedroom

    Unfortunately for music producers, few of us have the luxury of having round the clock access to a first-class recording studio. Everyone has to start somewhere though and for most budding producer

    Read More 2
  • The Rise of Afrobeats

    The Rise of Afrobeats

    Over the last few years, no other style of music has emerged out of Africa quite like Afrobeats has, gaining global recognition and infiltrating Western charts with almighty force. Drawing from a h

    Read More 2
  • Marie Kondo Your DAW And Declutter Your Home Studio

    Marie Kondo Your DAW And Declutter Your Home Studio

    After the Bird Box challenge luckily came and went, the latest Netflix craze doing the rounds is making homes around the world a bit tidier. Thanks to Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, homeowners are ta

    Read More 2
  • A History Of Music Sampling Through The Decades

    A History Of Music Sampling Through The Decades

    The music industry loves sampling and a new joint study by Bose and Currys has gone in-depth to highlight some of the most groundbreaking and popular music samples of all time. If you take a listen

    Read More 2