10 Vinyl Record Digging Secrets


Someone recently heard an advance copy of my soon to be released 100 Breaks Part 2 mix and asked how I found all the samples. The funny thing is that I really didn’t have a clear answer and was forced to sit back and analyse all the record research and digging habits that have become ingrained ingrained in my behavior. Listed below are some of my favorites.

  1. Follow The Leader – If someone has already sampled an artist chances are that there are more hot used and unused breaks & samples by that very same artist.
  2. Follow The Musicians & Producers – So you like that crazy piano sample, sound, or that unique feeling the song seems to evoke? Guess what,  you can probably find that same artist playing even better on another album. Many times musicians and producers worked on different projects with each other and you can catch someone early on in their career putting down some great sounds with another group.
  3. Watch The Year – Just like the golden age of Hip Hop, each genre has had its highs and lows and there are virtually no exceptions. Jazz, Funk, Soul, and Rock have all had their great time periods containing distinctive styles of the times.
  4. Know Your Resources – Read the All Music Guide, Read album liners, online sample databases, Wax Poetics, sample dictionary books.
  5. Make Friends With Diggers – Although digging is generally very secretive and almost anitsocial, if you have a friend that knows their stuff you can both put each other up on records while digging. My friend DJ Trends and I have a tendency to bounce breaks off of each other and let one another know of digging spots.
  6. Trust Your Intuition – A certain spidey sense tends to develop after spending a bit of time getting dusty in the bins and over the years I’ve cycled through a few different digging theories of this type. For example, I-ve been know to pay close attention to a record with circle wear on the cover, looking for that radio station dj copy with a certain track circled, and records with funk or soul in the title. I know it sounds silly, but it actually works.
  7. Become A Label Whore – Many of the best artists had a tendency to hang around the same label and be produced by the same people. Some of the more known examples of this are Kudu, Blue Note, Westbound, and CTI.
  8. Develop Your Ear, Personal Style, And Love For Music – This is probably the most important piece of the lesson. You will only become a successful digger if you truly have a love of music. This may be beyond the comprehension of many; however loving Hip Hop and loving music are two completely different concepts. I know many people who claim to love music, but the only time they listen to anything other than Hip Hop is when they are looking for samples. Most diggers I know would rather listen to Soul, Funk, Rock or Jazz than Hip Hop. For some reason it’s a natural progression to appreciate the true creativity of the original players. After falling in love with an artist’s work and really getting into their catalog, you’ll eventually be able to recognize the styles of many musicians and develop the ability to guess an artist when you hear them playing on another unknown track.
  9. Purchase A Portable Turntable – This is the single most important factor that has caused a great increase in my digging success. I have saved an immense amount of time, money, and aggravation by avoiding worthless records. I’ve also been able to pick up many records that I would have passed over and would have never known about because of the fear of taking a risk and plunking down large sums for unknown records with nothing on them. The investment hurts a little bit in the beginning, but the key word is investment and it eventually pays huge dividends.
  10. Keep An Open Mind – Listen to everything and I mean everything, except for Country of course! You will stumble upon finds in some of the most surprising areas and genres. Also, to contradict my earlier tip… don’t judge a record by its cover. You will find great breaks and samples on some of the worst looking covers.
Bonus Tip:

Keep Digging – Be strong, develop your endurance, and dig until you can’t dig anymore. The best diggers keep digging for hours and entire days to make sure that they have covered every bit of whatever location they may be at. This may mean that you have to run out and grab a coffee, but make sure that you get make into the mix. You never know what you could be passing up.

1,237 thoughts on “10 Vinyl Record Digging Secrets”

  1. I was wanting to know if I could use this resource in an informative essay I’m writing; the essay being about ‘How to Dig for Vinyl Records,’ or something along those lines…There hardly are any resources or books available, so since I know you know your stuff and what-not, can I try citing this?


  2. yo dig tell you die…… good advice I also think that it has to do with were your at. Im in detroit so I come across allot of Motown, soul but it is not all way in the beat shape thats why sampling works its kind of like recycling old records that just are not worth much … look out for them gems keep digging

    peace rikus

  3. i guess digging mp3’s is out of the question but sadly or positively mp3’s are a huge inexpensive way of finding some hard to reach records plus you’ll be surprised at the mp3 community i have a digital treasure chest I like using, and like a 1,000 vinyl crates = 1 I pod (with ROckbox for high quality Wav. Files) As for example why not searching wikepedia, amazon, and last fm for similar artists to digitally dig, browse through peoples collection, i am positive that you will find a release you never found on vinyl and I’m sure vis versa vinyl you can’t find on mp3 my friend has a hendrix/clapton collabo.

    I am broke, If i did get a turntable (want 1 really bad) than I will most likely scour my friends parents collection for some gems and lost wax, to expand my HORIZONS.

    Its like an Mp3 is tainted, compared to vinyl, especially when you think about the highs and lows that are cut off when vinyl are turned digital, but hey music is music and discrimination sucks.

    One of my heroes is Paul Mawhinney and If I had the money I will buy that collection, a shit load of hardware, and an ounce a day and just get lost. I can go on and on. Also listen to Buck 65 – Driftwood his flow is boring but lyrics are on point his Jaws of Life beat was on a nike commercial.

  4. ^ I agree wit you on that one IV, i’m just starting to truely appreicate music for what its worth, and passing up my olds ways on certain genres of music that i did not favor. This took me close to 5 years to finally understand.

  5. Very good gems passed along in this post. One that I would like to add, something that should be painfully obvious but neccesary to stress to impatient diggers: listen to the WHOLE record. It took me years to learn this but the older you get, the deeper your appreciation for music gets. We all are looking for that next hot break but in simply skimming the record, you don’t know what you’re skipping over. On top of that, I feel that giving a record a complete listen is the least you can do. Before you take someone’s music and just do whatever you’re going to do to it, I feel like they at least deserve enough respect to just give them a listen to see where they were coming from at that moment in time. The listening process could be made easier by simply doing something else while you’re listening (ie, laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc.) BTW, I actually have the Numark pt-o1 but I never take it out the house. Maybe I should, lol.

  6. Thanks for this wonderful insight and it’s true,
    nr 8. There is the secret, because you wouldn’t
    have had to think about the question that started
    this article in the first place if your choice of samples
    were all over the place. So consistency is key when
    forming the crowd that will ask questions like that is it.
    Now, what I want to do is write a descent article on how
    to digitalise vinyl the right way and to gather info from
    the comments in order to make it the perfect way.
    Unless someone points out articles that did that already
    but I’m having a hard time finding those… lol
    Keep it up diggers!

  7. Re: #4 – The quickest way to learn a lot about breaks and samples while being thoroughly entertained is to watch the greatest crate-digging youtube show in the world, TOP 10 SAMPLES IN HIP-HOP HISTORY with DJ Funktual. Of course I could be biased. 😉

  8. “Listen to everything and I mean everything, except for Country of course!” Bro Patsy Fucking Cline! Got the illest samples from Patsy records.

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