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The Drum Break That’s Worth Millions Of Dollars!


It is common to hear sampled drum loops when listening to Rap, Hip-Hop, and electronic music. The most sampled drum break of all time is the Amen Break. Originally performed by the late Gregory C. Coleman in 1969, it has been in thousands of times in different songs.

The Million Dollar Drum Break

If you are a music producer of any genre, chances are you have heard of or maybe even used the drum break from the 1969 track “Amen, Brother” by The Winstons.

I’m talking, of course, about the Amen Break played by the drummer, Gregory C. Coleman. This drum break has found its way into thousands of songs over the years and is probably the most sampled drum break of all time.

I have even used this drum break in one or two of my tracks!

This in-depth article will examine Amen Break’s origin, history, and evolution.

Amen Break Origin

The Amen Break is a drum break that first appeared on the 1969 track “Amen, Brother” by The Winstons, hence, where it got the name the Amen Break. 

They added the drum break to cushion the length of the track. It was just a bit too short without it.

The drummer of the Amen Break is Gregory C. Coleman. Mr. Coleman was born in 1944 and passed away in 2006. 

Interestingly, “Amen, Brother” was a B-side track for the single “Colour Him Father”. It was not even a featured track. “Colour Him Father” became a top-ten R&B hit and won a Grammy award. Still, at the time of its release, “Amen, Brother” went virtually unnoticed.


Want to learn how to sample another part of a song? Check out our article on how to sample vocals from a song.

Amen Break History

Although the Amen Break was initially recorded in 1969, its first famous use was in the 1986 track “I Desire” by Salt-N-Pepa. This is the same year sampling found its way into the mainstream with the release of the E-mu SP Sampler.

Man Holding An MPC

Just a few years later, N.W.A used the drum break in their 1988 hip-hop hit, “Straight Outta Compton“. This solidified the Amen Break as a part of hip-hop/rap history.

Around this time, the Amen Break found its way across the pond into the UK electronic music scene. UK producers found that the break had great promise and began increasing its tempo to fit the vibe of their tracks.

DJ Carl Cox was one of the first UK producers to use the Amen Break. Carl Cox used the Amen Break in his 1990 track “Let The Bass Kick“. The following year, Lennie De Ice released his way, “We Are I.E.” which also features the Amen Break. Lennie produced the track in 1988, although its release came in 1991.

By the mid-90s, the Drum n Bass style was in full effect, and the Amen Break had a considerable part. You can hear the Amen Break all over the Drum n Bass genre!

Over time, the Amen Break has found its way into all genres, such as Hip-Hop/Rap, JungleDrum n BassRockAlternative, etc. Its legend is certainly not confined to one genre.

Even artists like David BowieSlipknotNine Inch Nails, and Tyler, The Creator, have used the Amen Break.

Although it was recorded about fifty years ago, artists and producers still use the infamous Amen Break in their tracks!


A crucial part of using samples is knowing how to manipulate them. For more, check out our tutorial on how to change the pitch of a sample in Ableton.

Uses Of The Amen Break

Let’s take a look at some of the Amen Break’s most popular uses:

  • I Desire – Salt-N-Pepa
  • Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A
  • Keep It Going – Rob Base/DJ E-Z Rock
  • Futurama Theme
  • Pigs – Tyler The Creator
  • D’You Know What I Mean – Oasis
  • Eyeless – Slipknot
  • The Perfect Drug – Nine Inch Nails
  • I Know Who You Are – Skrillex
  • You Know I’m No Good – Amy Winehouse
  • Firestarter – The Prodigy
  • Little Wonder – David Bowie
  • Hurt You – Chase and Status
  • King Of The Beats – Mantronix
  • Vic Acid – Squarepusher
  • Original Nutter – UK Apache

As you can see, the Amen Break has found its way into tons of different tracks among many different genres.

Remember that this is only a tiny fraction of all the songs that feature the Amen Break!

Why Is The Amen Break So Popular?

The Amen Break is so famous for a few different reasons. Let’s take a look:

Because It Is A Super Funky Beat

The first factor for the popularity of the Amen Break is the fact that it is simply a terrific groove! Gregory C. Coleman nailed it with this beat.

Because Its Release Lined Up With The Release Of One Of The First Samplers

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘right place at the right time‘? The second factor for the Amen Break’s popularity was the release of the E-mu SP Sampler in 1988.

The Amen Break came out on a drum break album that same year.

Because It Is In So Many Legendary Tracks Already

The final main reason the Amen Break is so widely prevalent in music is that it is already in many famous songs. The more popular something is, it will continue to become. 

As I have shown you, the explosion in popularity of the Amen Break was a perfect storm.

Did Gregory C. Coleman Ever Receive Royalties For The Amen Break?

Despite its widespread use in many songs, Gregory C. Coleman has yet to receive royalty payments for the Amen Break. 

This is partly because, at the time, sampling laws were not what they are today. Therefore, Mr. Coleman did not have the law regarding receiving payment for his work on the legendary drum break.

Acoustic snare

In 2015, the frontman of The Winstons, Richard Spencer, received a twenty-four thousand-dollar check due to an online crowdfunding effort. However, because Gregory C. Coleman was dead then, he never saw any royalties for the Amen Break.

Sadly, Gregory C. Coleman died broke and homeless in 2006. This is an unfortunate fate considering his contribution to music with his performance of the Amen Break.

Did Gregory C. Coleman Deserve Payment For His Work On The Amen Break?

Absolutely, yes! Mr. Coleman and the rest of The Winstons should have received royalties for the widespread use of the Amen Break among popular music.

Even if not from the artists themselves, the music industry should have come together to compensate the Winstons for their incredible contribution to music

Related Questions

What Is The Instrumentation In The Amen Break?

The Amen Break has straightforward instrumentation. This is part of the reason that artists have been able to use it in so many different ways.

The legendary drum break features only kick, snare, and cymbal.

Is Sampling A Drum Break Legal?

Unless you have written permission from a song’s original artist/rightsholder, it is not legal to sample it.

If you want to play it safe, I recommend only using cleared samples in your music. You want to avoid ending up on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

How Long Is The Amen Break?

The legendary drum break dubbed the ‘Amen Break’ is only about six seconds long.

Regarding sampling, length does not matter because it has found use in thousands of tracks of varying genres over the years.

Should I Sample Drums Or Arrange My Own Drum Track?

This depends on the sound you are going for and the type of track that you are working on.

Explore both options until you find the sound you are looking for in your track. Either option could be exactly what your track needs!

If you decide to use drum samples, make sure they are clear, and you have legal permission to use them.

Should I Use Electronic Or Acoustic Drums For My Track?

This depends on the type of track that you are working on and what you want to get out of your drums.

For example, if you are working on a modern trap beat, I recommend using an electronic drum kit to build your drums.

However, acoustic drums offer a more authentic sound for that genre if you are trying to produce an old-school hip-hop track.


Instead of sampling drums, how about recording your own? To mix these, read our guide on how to EQ drums.

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