Originally Posted by henryspencer
Is there some sort of historical context as to why this sound was used so much in those days? Does it have to do with the fact that synths were expensive so people would just borrow a synth and sample a few chords and then just work with those?
I wasn't working on electronic music at that time, but based on what I have read and what I can figure: the answer is basically yes, furthermore, samplers had limited sample memory.
Somewhere on IDMf there is another thread floating around about jungle sample CD's. Even though I started making music much later, the number of electronic music sample CD's today is still exponentially larger than at that time - as far as I understand there was basically not really an industry catering to colour-by-numbers electronic music (unfair characterisation I know
). To me this is cool because it meant that it gave a lot of coherence to those old tracks, but on the other hand could also result in forumlaic garbage. There also were of course no DVD's so the amount of samples was less. Among other things this would mean that you would be unlikely to get a range of samples across the keyboard for a given sound.
Since no one else has mentioned it: the chord you are describing is a C major chord. Having also recently began to compose with sampled stabs more, one of the things about them is you can really only use one or two notes without the track structure going completely insane.
While my music theory is shaky, the reason has to do with modes. If you have a track where you are using only the white keys, traditionally musically speaking you could use the C major stab on the C, the F and the G. The reason, if you play it on any other keys you are effectively pressing the black keys (which may clash with other notes in your track), which is changing the key of your track for that moment.
Hope this makes sense. I wrote far more than I should have.