The Basics: Easy sampling with the SP-808

The Basics: easy sampling with the Roland SP-808

Born in 1998 so this year turning 20, the Roland SP-808 Groovesampler. At the time a revolutionary machine and in 2018 a heavily underrated unit. In this post I share with you the easiness of sampling with this magic black box. I’ve uploaded a video on YouTube to make the process visible for you.

And there was sound

The connections are easy as always. Make sure you have something with audio connected to one of the inputs, open the volume and you’re good to go. Well…to start sampling you have to insert a Zip Disk. The SP-808 uses them to save and replay the samples. No, I’m not going to talk about ‘the-click-of-death’ and ‘it should have had a card reader’…no…it’s like what it is. If you’re into old school machines then this is your unit. Period.

Arm your sampler

To start the sampling process you press the ‘SAMPLING’ button. Now your SP-808 is armed and ready for some sampling action. The screen gives you info about your future sample. Would you like to have it in Stereo or in Mono? Do you want to start manually or do you want to start when sound is coming in? Does the sample needs to be pre-triggered? When it’s sampled, do you need it to play Gated, Triggered or Drummed? (Gate = Press pad is sound/Release pad is no sound – Trigger = press pad for playing/another press pad is stopping – Drum = Playing the sample completely when the pad is pressed.) And there are more parameters. Basic is : Stereo/Mono and Manual/Level-in.

A free pad

Your SP-808 automatically samples on the first free pad. You can overrule this by pressing an already filled pad. Then the system will ask you ‘Overwrite?’. So, you will never accidentally record on a favourite sample. And remember you have 64 banks * 16 pads available so room enough 😉


When you’re done sampling you can trim the sample. Press the ‘TRIM’ button of the Quick Edit area. On the screen you see the BPM of the recorded sample and you can adjust the start and end points of the sample. If you don’t know the BPM of the original sound you have to search for the correct loop. There’s a BPM Base note which gives you a metronome to help you creating the ultimate loop.

Beat Matching

So…you have created several loops and you want to match their BPM’s? Easy job. Click ‘SHIFT+TRIM’ and you’re in the ‘Stretch’-mode. Here you choose the source pad, the destination pad and the wished BPM. You can also use the BPM of another sample ‘Match BPM’. When you press ‘Enter’ the SP-808 adjusts the BPM of the chosen samples. Really a breeze.

Organise your samples

The Clipboard function is a nice hands-on way to move and copy samples. To move samples just hold the sample pad and press ‘Clipboard’. Now choose the new location and press the ‘Clipboard’ again. Tataaa…your sample is moved. To copy the sample you have to do proces with first holding the ‘SHIFT’ button, then the sample pad + ‘Clipboard’ and then pressing the new location pad.

The sampling world is yours

In 1998 the sky was the limit and still 20 years later it is. Discover how easy this machine is and how much it can give to you.

Keep on grooving!


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