The piano holds a special place in the hearts of most musicians. Omni-genre in its utility, the keyboard has been used in every style of music created (after the caveman era). The ability to develop both melodies and harmonies without the constraints of sound makes the piano one of the essential instruments in a composition. For those who haven’t spent years perfecting their piano skills (such as myself), allow me to introduce you to piano samples.
Quicklook: Best Piano Samples
- Piano and Wurli – Technical, Detailed Piano Samples
- Bedroom Beats & Lofi Hip-Hop – Lofi Piano
- Pop Keyboards – Pop Piano
- Soul Serum Keys with Harold O’Neal – Jazz Piano
- R&B Progressions – R&B Piano
- Serenity – Downtempo Piano
- Narco Loops- Keys & Synths – Trap Piano
- Soulful Piano & Keys Vol. 1 – Soul Piano
Adding Samples & Plugins To Your DAW
Adding plugins to your DAW is a highly differentiated process per your workshop. However, adding samples to your DAW is typically much more straightforward. For most DAWs, you can either load the downloaded samples into a native sampler, or you can select the sample you want and add it into an empty track; either way, you are good to go. If you are a user of Splice Sound, you can click the top navigation menu and directly transfer your samples into your DAW by dragging and dropping.
Top Piano Samples
Piano samples are at an all-time high in modern music. From Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” to any Metro Boomin mixtape, repurposing pianos to create something new is more popular than ever. Given this new-found popularity, hundreds of piano sample packs were released over the past year. To help cut through the mediocrity, I listened to 50 of the most popular piano sample packs and narrowed it down to just 8.
Best for: Technical, Detailed Piano Samples
Piano and Wurli, by Ben Thornewill of Jukebox the Ghost fame, partnered with Converse Sample Library to release a soulful, textured piano sample pack. Recorded at South by Southwest 2015, the samples are composed of riffs and textures played on a 1936 Baldwin Baby Grand Piano- one of the most sonically beautiful pianos ever released. There are over 400 piano samples, ranging from melodies suitable for a Rolling Stones song to choppy chords more suited in a recent rap album. All and all, this piano sample pack delivers a litany of choices from one of the more talented pianists around.
Best for: Lofi Piano
Previously mentioned in my Lofi hip-hop piece, Bedroom Beats & Lofi Hip-Hop is a fantastic sample pack for those looking to capture the sound of artists like YUNG LEAN or JPEGMAFIA. Soft, melodic piano loops lay the groundwork for excellent compositions. Coupled with the vinyl recording, the jazzy and soulful keystrokes sound as if they were directly taken from a gramophone. While not exclusively a piano pack, the variety of samples offered makes Bedroom Beats & LoFi Hip-Hop a must-have for lofi producers looking for piano samples.
Best for: Pop Piano
Ben Thonewill hasn’t only released Piano and Wurli- Pop Keyboards could be even better than his first release. Recorded at the Aura Studio in Brooklyn, the Pop Keyboard pack features classic pop riffs, Rhodes, and Hammond M3 stylings. Throughout the 196 piano samples, one common theme permeates- uplifting, technical pop. For producers looking to make something more complex than the intro to Runway, Pop Keyboards will satiate you.
Best for: Jazz Piano
Harold O’Neal is one of those rare artists whose qualifications do not need to be mentioned. The definitive artist of Jazz piano, O’Neal’s work has influenced artists such as Jay-Z, U2, and Boardwalk Empire. The Soul Serum Keys sample pack delivers 111 of his best jazz piano riffs, each with a matching serum preset. If you are someone who rents Serum from Splice or already owns it, each and every sound can be recreated and reworked via MIDI with ease. For those who don’t, take a listen. You’ll see why he is the king of jazz piano
Best for: R&B Piano
R&B Progressions, by Prime Loops, delivers 180 24-bit piano samples. Inspired by the works of Akon, Beyonce, Alicia Keys and more, the romantic grooves and funky ballads found within offers something for every producer and every possible genre fusion. The emotive piano lines, as well as the more poppy chords, build off of the sounds of the aforementioned artists, giving you the power to craft something entirely new. Regardless of the end-genre, one thing is for sure: some of the most beautiful musical loops are here.
Best for: Downtempo Piano
Serenity, from Origin Sound, is a tranquil journey into the world of ambient piano. Lush chord progressions coupled with delicate melodies allow for producers to create ambient or cinematic compositions with ease. While not exclusively a piano sample pack, Serenity offers 12 bass loops, 12 hypnotic chord loops, and 24 serene melodies, giving you more than enough to work with. If you want to produce songs inspired by artists such as Bonobo, Tycho, or Lane 8, this is where you should start.
Best for: Trap Piano
Narco Loops, by Capsun ProAudio, is an aggressive and modern piano sample pack. Featuring acoustic piano, Rhodes, and toy keyboards, Narco Loops has plenty of variety in its sound. Each of the 200 samples has been mixed, mastered, and keyed for modern-day hip-hop beats. With almost every key being minor, this pack delivers ghostly, chaotic piano lines reminiscent of Sonny Digital, Zaytoven, Lex Luger, and more.
Best for: Soul Piano
The second pack from Capsun ProAudio to make this list, Soulful Piano & Keys Volume 1 is everything a neo-soul producer could desire. Tom Phelan, professional pianist, and musical director crafted all of the loops in the pack during a single recording session- bringing singular energy and vision to the beauty of the keys. Made up of 100 ephemeral piano samples, Soulful Piano & Keys brings an atmosphere of quiet peace found in artists such as Joji or Trilogy-era the Weeknd.
The piano is one of the most essential instruments for producers to learn. However, not everyone can dedicate years of their lives to be classically trained; thus, piano samples are omnipresent in every genre. Whether your ambitions lie with trap music or are rooted in jazz, I’m confident that there is a piano sample from one of the eight packs listed that’ll inspire your next masterpiece.