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I'm wondering how people usually get the instrument track for the songs they want to sing.

I was wondering if there is any way I could get the instrumentals for the song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ee7pG4ROQhk (the exact same pitch and length).

Of course I'm aware we can Google "Song - instrumentals" or something, but (usually) a downloadable copy of the song is not available on the internet..

I'm not sure about the state of art in "vocals removing" for software, but what other alternatives do we (do you guys) often use to obtain your instrumental tracks?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Well, there are a few options, but there are considerable limitations.

First, copyright. The instrumental backing tracks for popular music are usually the property of the producer or record label, so finding these on the internet for free is of questionable legality.

Some labels do provide licensed CDs for exactly the purposes you require (or karaoke, which is relatively likely).

Taking a produced track and "removing" the vocals is technically impossible to do. The master in the recording studio contains the vocals in a separate track that can be easily removed, but once that master is mixed down to stereo, the best you can do is try to identify the frequencies of the voice and pad them with EQ. This is essentially what "remove vocals" in software is doing, but you are of course also taking those frequencies out of the background instrumentals along with the voice.

What is usually the easiest and highest quality option when there are no legal issues is simply to produce one's own backing track. Of course, this takes considerable musical aptitude in various fields, so for those without the ability, you will be limited to what you can get your hands on in terms of licensed instrumental CDs.

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just a quick question.. so how exactly did ruben got his track at youtube.com/watch?v=Ee7pG4ROQhk? (the instrumental track is definitely not the original version) –  Pacerier Jun 10 '11 at 18:48
5  
@Pacerier - I can't speak for this one specifically, but most of the time on American Idol, they have a band/orchestra that is playing the accompanying music. If not, American Idol probably had it re-produced by someone. –  balentaw Jun 10 '11 at 19:34
    
Yah--most likely, Rueben didn't do very much at all. The show's producers licensed it from whoever owns the copyright, and then rearranged it for their studio ensemble. –  NReilingh Jun 10 '11 at 20:28
    
I was under the impression that "remove vocals" is normally a center-cancel as Umi has described. –  Tim Lehner Mar 8 '12 at 18:40
    
@TimLehner I don't know for sure, but that does sound equally likely. (I upvoted him.) You run the risk of destroying other parts of the track no matter what you do. A "remove vocals" function probably does a bit of both with some fine tuning on the EQ. –  NReilingh Mar 9 '12 at 4:52

It's actually pretty easy to remove just vocals from a track with something as simple as audacity. Most modern songs have just the vocals panned hard center (everything else is slightly to the left or the right.

  1. import into audacity.
  2. to the left of the window, there's the name of the track you just imported, just above where it tells you the info for it ("stereo, 44100Hz…" or something similar). Click on the name of the track for a drop-down menu and click "split stereo track". This lets you edit the left and right ears separately.
  3. select one of the two tracks you have now (either one, doesn't matter. Go to Effect->Invert.
  4. Now go to each of these tracks (in the same menue that you originally split the track) and make them Mono.

This doesn't work for all songs. You may also need to equalize the final sound, as some soudns will be more panned then others and the levels of the other instruments will not be consistent with the original.

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what if the sound file is a track i've converted to mp3 from youtube video? –  Pacerier Jun 13 '11 at 16:59
    
@Pacerier: I've tried with mp3s from various sources, some work, some don't, but even with CD's, it doesn't seem to work all the time. You just have to give it a try. I'm interested in hearing back from your trials anyway. –  Anthony Labarre Jun 14 '11 at 12:26
    
@Anthony i've tried it but it doesn't work.. do i need to export or do i just need to hit the play button after completing the 4 steps? also does it work with mp3 files? (my file is located at www2.mp3raid.com/search/download-mp3/11904358/…) –  Pacerier Jun 14 '11 at 15:25
    
btw the page audacity.sourceforge.net/help/faq?s=editing&i=remove-vocals says import stereo.. does he mean the import Audio ? –  Pacerier Jun 14 '11 at 15:30
    
@Pacerier - This works with mp3 files, though you end up with better quality results when you start with better quality audio. It doesn't work sometimes if the original is panned in a different way. traditionally, a lot of masters are done by centering the vocals and nothing else. If the audio from youtube is stereo, it may also work, though that will be fairly low quality. –  Umi Jun 15 '11 at 2:11

It depends on the quality you want, but for something "good enough" a midi sequence is an interesting option. I use it a lot.

  • One possibility is to try to google it (trying searching "karaoke" or "midi"). They usually have a voice track that can be simply muted (beware of copyrights, as NReilingh said)
  • Otherwise, I roll up my sleeves and "simply" write the midi sequence.

After that step, I convert the sequence to a wav. Here is where your quality needs and taste is most important.

Back it up on a CD and you are ready to perform :-)

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uh you write the midi sequence..? –  Pacerier Jun 14 '11 at 11:26
    
yeah well, I use a tool :-) I mean I don't play it on a synthesizer, I'm not proficient enough at the keyboard. I used to use Noteworthy Composer because it has quite extensive MIDI capabilities (to my humble level), but I'm currently writing my own free software (almost out of scope- but search MiXuP) –  cadrian Jun 14 '11 at 12:20

The best answer I can give is MIDI, GuitarPro or PowerTab renditions of the songs, the web is full of them. And yes, as others have said, copyright may be a problem...

For example, I've followed these steps successfully many times:

  • Search for a song in GuitarPro or PowerTab format (.gp3, .gp4, .gp5, .ptb)
  • Open it up with some compatible software. I use and love Tuxguitar (it's free and open source)
  • Customize the tracks to get just the instruments you want (you can skip this step if the song is alright)
  • Export as a MIDI file (File -> Export -> MIDI)
  • If you want to have it in an mp3 you can use some software to do the rendering for you. It may even use a good quality soundfont to get some better sounding instruments. I use Timidity++ in Linux for this, but there a lot of other software out there.

The downside is the obvious lack of quality of a MIDI sound versus the real track.

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