A sampler is a sound module that contains short audio samples of real instruments you can use in your home recordings. Most samplers come with sound libraries that contain hundreds of different types of sounds, from acoustic pianos to snare drums to sound effects. These sounds are often much more realistic than those that come in some synthesizers.

The real purpose of a sampler is to allow you to record your own sounds. For example, in the ’80s, it was cool to make a drum set out of unusual percussive sounds. A snare drum could be the sound of a flushing toilet or breaking glass. Tom-toms could be grunts set to certain pitches. You would be amazed at the strange stuff that people have turned into music — all with the help of a sampler.

Another common use of a sampler is for recording short sections of already-recorded songs. This can be a melodic or rhythmic phrase, a vocal cue, or a single drum or synth sound. Sampling other songs is common in electronic music, rap, and hip-hop (be careful of copyright issues before doing this, however). If you’re into electronic music or hip-hop, you may find a sampler a necessary addition to your studio.