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I've read on many topics that it is very hard to make backing tracks for guitar. The only way to do it is to get access to the master tracks. Once it is mixed to the mp3 file, it is usually impossible to separate the guitar part.

But on Youtube, when I pratice a song, there are a lot of backing tracks available with pretty good quality (for example: Enter Sandman, The Loner). Do they really have access to the masters track? It is hard to believe.

If not, is it really impossible to make a backing track from the mp3 files?

  • For the person who downvoted my question, could you please explain why? I'm very open for the constructive discussion. But it makes me uncomfortable having a downvote without any explaination. – Metariat Sep 28 '16 at 8:33
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Some people do have access to MOG files which have all the tracks separated. These people usually work in studios and have access to such files, or pay money, or have the talent to actually create multi-channel and multi-instrument recordings.

There are a couple of good ways to get a backing track. If you just want something to jam to for lead composition or otherwise, then just convert the YouTube feed into mp3 at http://www.youtube-mp3.org/ . I use this all the time for rhythm practice and general jamming. After conversion to mp3, I import into the DAW - Scarlett 18i and Presonus Studio One.

For composition ideas and creating 'mock-up' tunes, I use Band-In-A-Box. This allows me to take a rhythm that closely matches the target rhythm for lyrics composed. From BIAB, I remove the instruments I do not want (rhythm and lead guitar, maybe keyboards), then export that into my DAW setup via WAV file.

For cover material, or practicing new cover songs, I go to http://www.karaoke-version.com/ and get the karaoke version of the cover and remove the guitar part. In that web site, you are able to customize the track, so you essentially get a true backing track of a popular song.

Also, for general past time and jamming, I use Jam Player on the iPad plugged into a Line 6 Amplifi 150. Line 6 finally got most of the bugs worked out, so awesome tool. Also plugged into the same Amplifi is a Trio, which is an awesome tool for jamming.

Finally, for traveling and just to have a portable drum machine, I take an electric guitar, full powered iRig setup, iPad, short cables and combine all that with a BeatBuddy and Looper. Besides the guitar itself, all of this packs into a small size and is great for traveling.

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    This comment is slightly off topic but you may have some insight. I have looked at the BeatBuddy to use as a drum machine when I play without a drummer but the issue I had is that it's a pedal/stompbox style interface - yet to change songs you must turn the dial by hand. Have you discovered an easier way to control song selection without having to bend over between every song (maybe with the i-pad somehow)? – Rockin Cowboy Sep 20 '16 at 0:16
  • True on the beatbuddy. Between each song, having to bend over and change songs in a live situation is a no-go. Nope, I don't know any way around that. However, you can get a beatbuddy feed into your DAW and record the output of the beatbuddy, create a playlist in order, then put a set list of recordings into your iPad (iTunes?). – blusician Sep 20 '16 at 19:55
  • I thought about that but as far as I can tell you would then lose control over your drum track. No start, stop at will or change tempo mid song. Also if you decide to do the extended version of a song because the audience seems to be really diggin it, pre-recorded will end at the pre-determined time - just like a backing track. With beat buddy you can end the song early or make it last longer by repeating the last verse and chorus or just keep repeating the final chorus (like if folks get to singing along with "Friends in Low Places"). – Rockin Cowboy Sep 21 '16 at 20:14
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I would agree that completely separating the tracks from each other on an mp3 recording is impossible. However that depends on how it was mixed. Older rock and roll recordings (from the 60s and before, usually) often had different instruments completely panned to either the left or right channel (this was called "Big Mono") A good example of this would be The Who's 1971 album Who's Next, where the drums are usually on the right or the left, and the same going for the guitar. It is especially prevalent on jazz recordings of the 50s and 60s, e.g. John Coltrane's Giant Steps. Of course, recording technology advanced quickly and that technique stopped being used in the 70s.

So, assuming what you've got is an mp3 or wav or something similar, then you won't be able to completely separate the parts, unless the track is panned in big mono. There are some programs that help with transcribing and practicing songs, however. Search "music transcription software" and you'll find some tools to help with learning songs, if that's what you're after.

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