Sample packs, production templates, and soundpacks. What is the difference?
Sample packs: A collection of genre specific samples, loops, and one shots that can be used in productions (royalty free). These need to be loaded into a sampler and don’t have any inherent musicality to them.
Production Template: Usually an Ableton Project File that contain the tools needed to make up a song. For producers staring at a blank project window, a production template can serve as a guide to help form their next track. These kinds of templates are great for studio use but they’re not really designed for live performance.
SoundPack: A soundpack has elements of both sample packs and production templates but with a song naturally built in. It’s a collection of sounds laid out in a 4×4 grid that are designed to be played together in a live performance. Similar to production templates, soundpacks are usually setup with effects, choke settings, and all the programming done for you. Since soundpacks are built around a 4×4 grid, they’re perfectly suitable for pad controllers such as the Midi Fighter 3D, Maschine, Akai MPD controllers or any other controller with at least 16 pads.
Sound packs are exceptionally fun because there is very little in the way of just sitting down and playing music. It has the accessibility of DJing, because all of the music has essentially already been written, but the flexibility of production because the possibilities are endless. With a single well crafted sound pack, you can explore it for hours and find new ways to play and manipulate the various samples and textures.
What’s So Special About Soundpacks?
Choke Groups ensure that sounds don’t overlap.
Soundpacks are essentialy a song’s DNA expressed in a universal format that anyone can learn and play with common tools. Think of it like the Ableton Live version of sheet music for the Piano. Once you learn how to play a soundpack, then you can download anyones music in that format and re-play their creation with your own unique flair.
Minimal, but powerful. With only 16 sounds, producers have to be focused and clever with their packs and do not have any room for bloated compositions of 32 tracks. This reductionist environment ends up being a nice creative forcing mechanism that tends to keep these creations simple, and easy to understand.
Consistent layouts and structure are a very important element of soundpacks. With a consistent layout, producers will be able to create soundpacks faster since they’re not starting from a blank slate, it’s simply a matter of filling in the blanks. They can also be very beneficial for practicing. If the layout is the same for all soundpacks, then patterns or rhythms that can easily be carried over to any soundpack and it will still work even though the sounds may be different. Another benefit of a consistent layout is that it makes the soundpacks modular and remixable. Once producers have built a number of soundpacks they can swap out different drums or different risers on soundpacks simply by loading them onto the appropriate pad/button in their soundpack.
Finally soundpacks are designed for live playback so that producers and DJs can give their audience a very hands on performance. It’s a new way of performing that can surprise an audience and change their perception of what a DJ/producer can do live. When the audience sees the performer playing their controller like an instrument, it breaks the stigma that DJs and producers are just turning knobs or “pressing buttons” to make it look like they’re performing.