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Case 1: Vocal Removal with vocals in the middle and instruments

spread around them


If the vocals are panned in the center of a stereo track the so-called "vocal removal" technique
can sometimes be effective by removing what is common to both tracks (i.e. the vocals), leaving
behind what is different (i.e. the instrumentals).
The underlying technique in Audacity is to split the stereo track into its left and right channels, make
both mono, invert all (or a selected part) of one of them then play back the result. Note, this removes
everything panned in the center, not just vocals. In some music this could mean removing
instrumental parts. Removal of the vocals can often be incomplete leaving artifacts behind; this is
especially true where there are backing vocals or where reverb (echo) has been applied as this
spreads sound sources and makes them very hard to extract from each other.

Vocal Remover
The current version of Audacity includes a Nyquist plug-in effect to automate the steps involved in
Case 1, called Vocal Remover (for center-panned vocals), accessed from Effect > Vocal Remover
(for center-panned vocals).... It includes a Help screen and an option to retain a specified range of
frequencies (thus removing everything outside that range). There are three choices of removal
methods that can be used, for details see here.
Although two channels of output are produced the result will be mono because both channels will be
identical and panned to center.

Case 2: Vocal Removal with vocals in one channel and everything


else in the other
If you have an unusual stereo track where the vocals are mixed hard into one channel and everything
else hard into the other channel you can split the stereo track into left and right then delete the vocal
channel. To isolate the vocals, rather than remove them, delete the other channel. To split a stereo
track in Audacity, click on the downward pointing arrow at the top of the Track Control Panel (where
the mute/solo buttons are) then click on Split stereo track.
To delete one of the channels click the [X] to left of the downward pointing arrow. If you accidentally
delete the wrong channel, use Edit > Undo to get it back. Finally, click the downward pointing arrow
again and choose Mono, so that the track will play out of both speakers.

Case 3: Vocal Isolation


If you can make a two-channel track with center vocals removed (as in Case 1 above) it is tempting to
think that those vocals be isolated by inverting this track against the original track, so as to remove the
non-vocals.
Vocals often cannot be isolated in this way. The result of the Audacity Vocal Removal effect is a mono
mix of sound that was in the left and right channels but was not common in both. Mixing this back with
the original track (either inverted or not inverted) will produce a stereo track that contains a new mix of
the center panned vocal and the non-center sounds. Different techniques used by some third party
plug-ins such as 'ExtraBoy' claim to be able to isolate vocals given suitable audio material (see this
page in the Audacity Wiki).

Using Audacity for vocal isolation

An Audacity user (Marco Diego) posted this technique on the Audacity Forum for using Audacity to
attempt to isolate vocals; it will not work successfully in all cases.
It is sometimes possible to isolate vocals by using Audacity's Noise Removal to capture the noise
profile of a song that has had vocals removed, then run Noise Removal with that profile on the original
mix before vocals were removed.
1. Make a copy of your original stereo track
1. Select the whole track (click in the space its Track Control Panel)
2. Copy the track with Edit > Copy
3. Create a new stereo track with Tracks > Add New > Stereo Track
4. Use Edit > Paste to make a copy of the original track in the new stereo track
2. Select the whole of the copied track (click in the space its Track Control Panel)
3. Remove the vocals in the copy by using Effect > Vocal Remover (for center-panned
vocals)...
4. On a copy of the track remove the vocals as in Case 1 above using Audacity's Vocal Remover
5. The copied track should remain selected, so use Effect > Noise Removal... and click on
the Get Noise Profile button
6. Now select the original track (click in the space its Track Control Panel)
7. Use Effect > Noise Removal... and click on the OK button
8. Delete the copied track (click in the [X] at the top left of its Track Control Panel)
The following may let you remove drums which are not centered but keep the vocals:

Use the steps above to create a track with vocal isolation.

Then import the original song into Audacity again and try this Nyquist plug-in elliptice.ny to
move the bass frequencies to center.

Then remove the drums from the center by inversion.

Finally mix the vocals back in.

Using an instrumental track to isolate the vocals


In order for this to work you will need to have a studio version of the instrumental track in which the
instrumental part is identical to the full track. Many studios release the instrumental tracks (with and
without backup vocals) for use with things like karaoke. There are places online where you can buy

these tracks (Karaoke-Version.com for example and some records even have them on the B side).
MP3 encoding of one or both versions will create small differences that will make this technique less
effective.
As opposed to the final mono track you get from removing vocals, this method will leave you with a full
stereo track. As such, it becomes more important to try and match the quality of both tracks and align
them before you isolate the vocals.
1. Open Audacity and Import both the regular and instrumental tracks.
2. Select one of the tracks and use the Time Shift tool to roughly align the two tracks.
3. Zoom in really close and then zoom in more.
4. Exact alignment is critical. Pick a peak or trough in the left channel of one track and match
it precisely with the left channel of the other track. If the alignment isnt right the process
wont work.
5. Select the instrumental track, and invert it using Effect > Invert.
6. Use Ctrl+A to select all of both tracks.
7. Use Tracks > Mix and Render.