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When reading album booklets, I often see different terms being used to indicate some sort of sample.

One thing I'm pretty sure about:

  • A sample is a piece of a recording reused in another recording. It usually gives credit to both the authors of the work and the performers of the original recording.
  • An interpolation is a replayed piece of a recording meant to sound exactly the same as the recording to avoid copyright clearances. It usually gives credit to the authors of the work but not to the performers of the original recording. In a sense, this could be considered as a (partial) cover version of a work.

But how do elements and portions fit the "sample" definition? Sometimes they only credit the authors of the work, other times they credit the original performers, which is pretty confusing.

Examples from discogs:

http://www.discogs.com/Jennifer-Lopez-This-Is-Me--Then/release/1104590

http://www.discogs.com/Erykah-Badu-New-Amerykah-Part-Two-Return-Of-The-Ankh/release/2205137

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2 Answers 2

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This is how I've always interpreted it: samples and interpolations ARE elements and portions, but not all elements and portions are samples and interpolations. Example: I replay the melody from Lollipop by Lil' Wayne. If I try to make it sound like that version, it's interpolating. If I make it sound different while still playing the same notes, it's just an element. If I add all of the elements playing in that part of the song at once, it's a portion. If I completely use the audio in the original song, that's a sample.

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Although from an ear's and author's perspective the difference between elements an portions is still debatable, I think your answer is the best you can get, thanks! –  dmonsieur Sep 3 '12 at 1:02

You're right on about the sample definition. Interpolation, however, can take on several definitions in different styles:

From Wikipedia

Classical Music-- an abrupt change in elements, followed almost immediately by a continuation of the first idea.

Pop Music-- the addition of new material in a performance or recording of a previously existing piece of music.

Rap Music-- using a melody – or portions of a melody (often with modified lyrics) – from a previously recorded song, but re-recording the melody instead of sampling it.

An element is a part of the song in a way. It is like a drum solo or a chord progression. A song is made of elements. Some are general, such as counterpoint, others are almost musicians' signatures such as certain drum beats. A portion is basically the same as a sample, but it usually tends to mean something longer. A portion of a song might be the second stanza, but a sample might be the third verse.

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In a strict musical sense, I follow your definition of an interpolation. But in a "sample" sense, I tend to follow the Wikipedia definition: In rap music, interpolation refers to using a melody – or portions of a melody (often with modified lyrics) – from a previously recorded song, but re-recording the melody instead of sampling it. Your definition of elements and portions don't really differ from a "sample" in general, so why are they indicated as such in the booklets? –  dmonsieur Mar 27 '12 at 2:05
    
Are you looking for genre specific definitions? –  American Luke Mar 27 '12 at 13:21
    
Not really, because these terms are used in booklets of releases from different genres (not only rap music). I just don't understand how elements and portions differ from samples and interpolations. –  dmonsieur Mar 27 '12 at 14:44

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