Iconic French house duo Daft Punk recently disbanded after 28 years of meshing music with technology. During their game-changing tenure, the helmeted robots experimented with multiple ways of producing, including using analog synths and drum machines, live instruments and even a symphony for the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. But perhaps what they’re best known for is their unique style of sampling.
Check out how to sample like Daft Punk in their trailblazing 2001 album, Discovery.
Crate digging to find hidden gems is an art form in itself. Daft Punk particularly loved sampling obscure disco and soul records from the late ‘70s to early ‘80s. If you want to try and emulate them, anything with a nice groove, retro sound, live instruments and analog synths would be a good candidate.
“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” sampled the 1979 song ”Cola Bottle Baby” by Edwin Birdsong.
“One More Time” samples the 1979 song ”More Spell n You” by Eddie Johns.
“Aerodynamic” samples the 1982 song “Il Macquillage Lady” by Sister Sledge.
When using a sample, the first thing to do is change the speed and pitch of the sample to fit in the intended tempo. Many of Daft Punk’s biggest hits from Discovery are at around 123 BPM, including all of the previously mentioned songs. Look for instrumental sections or small chunks of the original that stand out, and see where it takes you.
Daft Punk often chopped their samples up in a stuttered way, as you can hear on “One More Time”. “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” also has this stuttered editing in its intro. After the intro, it turns back to an untouched four-bar loop. You might think it’s lazy, but if it works – it works! If you’re into more complex sample chopping, you could try something more like their track “Aerodynamic” where they separated the sample by instrument and layered them into a stabby riff.
Daft Punk likely used a sampler like the E-mu SP-1200. This sampler was 12-bit, a limitation of the time, but one that still has its own charm. The low bit rate made the sound grittier and crunchier. You can emulate this type of sound with a bit-crusher effect like the Degrader in Soundation.
Compression is the secret to the energetic, in-your-face sound that you want in dance music. Go heavy on the compression with a high ratio to squash the dynamics and get that punchiness.
Old records are pretty modest in their tonal balance. To make it sound more polished and contemporary, you can shape the tone with an EQ. This often means boosting the bass, removing some boxy mid-frequencies, and increasing the treble.
The French house genre that Daft Punk pioneered is also known as “filter house” for its generous use of filters. Filtering certain sections of the songs with lowpass, highpass, and bandpass filters make the tracks more dynamic and hit even harder when the filters open up. You can hear this technique in the intro to “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.
Another type of effect that was used a lot in French house music is modulation effects like flanger and phaser. These effects add movement and a swirling feel to the track. You can hear this in “Aerodynamic.”
One effect that’s become very common in EDM is side-chain compression, which is usually used to make the track pump to the beat of the kick drum. Nowadays, you can get that pumping effect more easily with an effect like Fakie in Soundation. You can hear this pumping effect in “One More Time.”