Why has The Amen break become one of the most sampled pieces of music in audio production

A bit of background

The Amen Break is a 6- to 7.2-second drum solo performed by Gregory Sylvester G is for Gill, an American session drummer who played with soul and R&B musicians in the 1960s. “Amen” was recorded by The Winstons in 1969, but it wasn’t until the 1980s when the song became an unlikely hit in the hip-hop world.

The Amen Break is one of the most sampled pieces of music ever having been used by over 2,000 artists which include the biggest names in Hip Hop including popular tracks from The Beastie Boys, N.W.A., Dr Dre and more recently Kanye West on his single “Black Skinhead”. This breakbeat has also been used by artists such as Madonna, The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim and Faithless. It can be heard in films like Forrest Gump, Bad Boys II and The Beach, games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and TV series including Dexter’s Laboratory, Metalocalypse & Hannibal.

So what is it about the Amen Break?

The Amen break is one of the most sampled pieces of music because it is six seconds of pure adrenaline. It’s a short, snappy drum solo that packs a punch but what makes it so popular with music producers is the way in which it can be cut up and rearranged to make drum breaks.

This is done by importing the Amen break into an audio sampler then cutting it up into small pieces. Then, select a small section of the break to use. Cut the section out and save it as a new file. Repeat this process until you have enough sections to create a full drum beat.

The Amen break and me.  It took me 16 years to discover it !!

I was aware of the Amen break but until 2021 I had never thought to use it in any of my work however one night I stumbled on an onLine Tutorial showing how to cut and use the break. This was at the time when I was making a lot of small audio clips for the FiveNotes media free music site so I thought that I would give it a go

And I was hooked What amazed me was without too much effort I could recreate that Old School Jungle vibe. I was amazed at how many variations of a drum break I could get out of a 7-second sample. I only wish that I had done this when I was using my ASR 10. That beast with its ability to cut and time stretch would have made the Amen break really sing for me.

Sampling and copyright issues of the Amen Break

There are many sampling and copyright issues surrounding the Amen break. For example, The Winstons did not receive royalty payments for any samples that were created from their song until they won a lawsuit against Phonogram records in 2000 for unpaid royalties. Additionally, at least six different hip-hop songs have been removed from YouTube for copyright infringement, including “Amen” by Meek Mill.



Here is little something that I put together using the Amen Break.