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:



4 Answers 4


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.

  • 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, 2012 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.

  • 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, 2012 at 2:05
  • Are you looking for genre specific definitions?
    – Luke_0
    Mar 27, 2012 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, 2012 at 14:44

I think sample means to take a part from a song and add it to another song

Interpolation on the other hand is taking a songs melody and adding different lyrics to it


An interpolation refers to the use of the underlying written material which is re-recorded instead of sampled or modified lyrically or musically. Hints the writers of the work are credited and the title is listed A sample I s usually the sound recording that is used. It credits the writers and original performers. A portion is usually longer such as no more drama by Mary j blige uses portions of the young and the restless theme. An element is usually a single part

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