It used to be so easy – we all just went to a website that shared them all (it was called acapellas4u, if you’re new to this, by the way – people still talk about it in hushed tones). But that site doesn’t work any more, nor do any of the other major acapella sites. And so if you want to DJ with acapellas (and why wouldn’t you? It’s great fun!), you need to look elsewhere.
Read this next: Where DJs Get Their Music
Luckily, there are loads of places you can get them, and all sorts of ways to make your own, too. So what follows is a short, simple list of places to start your search, and tips for making great acapellas.
Official, studio acapellas are the “gold standard” – they sound great. They’re also the hardest to find. But there are a surprising number out there, so here’s where to look:
- Online download stores – Wherever you buy your music, basically. Try Traxsource, Beatport, Juno Download, even the iTunes Store and Amazon. Search for the word “acapella” (and alternate spellings, “a capella, “accappella” etc plus plurals) and trawl the results
- DJ streaming services – Tidal, Beatport, Beatsource and SoundCloud are streaming services that work in most DJ software (Amazon and Deezer work in some, too), and all of these contain acapellas, just like the download stores – the trick is to put them in playlists inside the streaming services, then log in from your DJ software. Find that playlist, and bam – there they are, ready to spin with
- Download pools – If you’re a serious DJ, you may decide to pay for a subscription to a DJ download pool, where not only can you get unlimited upfront music each month for one fee, but DJ-friendly versions, including acapellas and acapella versions of songs for easy mixing with. Try DJcity, BPM Supreme and zipDJ
Watch the show
Prefer me to talk you through this? In this video, a recording of a live show from the Digital DJ Tips YouTube channel, I talk you through everything in this article, and we take questions from our community on the subject.
Learn to DJ with us: The Complete DJ Course
So what if you hear a song that you’d love the acapella of but don’t have? Well, you can make your own acapella nowadays pretty easily from any source material. Here’s how:
- Use the Stems function in your DJ software – Most DJ software has a “stems” function where you can, in real time, isolate the vocals (or drums, or bassline, or melody…). By switching this on, you can usually get a passable acapella. You can DJ directly with it, or hit “record” and use the file as an acapella in your DJ sets. Even if your software doesn’t have it, you can do this – try downloading VirtualDJ (for free without a controller) and use its stems function for obtaining recordings
- Use a dedicated stems program – There are web apps like Moises, Lalal.ai, Stemverter and many, many more that all offer to take a track, and return to you the various parts you choose as individual files (so you’d specify the vocal to get an acapella) – but the one we recommend is RipX, which is a paid-for program you download, but has the flexibility and audio quality to provide you with the very best stems possible using this method
- Get DIY acapellas from anywhere – People make these. They share them. Popular websites feature them (YouTube being an obvious place). You can search for them in just the same way as detailed above for download stores. But how do you record them? Whatever the source, if it can play on your computer, it can be recorded – you just need a little computer utility to “route” the output of the audio from, say, your browser, to the input of anything on your computer that can record (Quicktime, Audacity, whatever). If you’re a Mac user and you want the best, Loopback is amazing. For a free option on both Mac and Windows, try VB Cable
Read this next: The Easy Way To Beatgrid Acapellas
Two rules of acapella DJing
Firstly, is any or all of this legal? It’s a grey area, but for DJing (rather than producing), our first rule is to always own the original track. If you own a copy of the original track, ethically we think you’re on pretty solid ground obtaining and DJing with the acapella. But we’re no lawyers, and there’s a difference between ethical and legal. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make a judgement call on this.
The second rule is simple: If it sounds rubbish, it is! There is a whole range of acapella quality out there, from frankly shockingly poor to amazing, and it’s your call as to whether something is good enough to use in your DJing. So trust your ears, always!
I’ve got two final tips for you. One, if you want to do this, but are scared you’ll mess up in front of an audience, even though you can pull tricks off at home, it is absolutely fine to record your acapella mixes, tricks, techniques and transitions ahead of time, and simply play the recordings at your DJ gigs. It’s not like you’re pre-recording the whole set, and it’s the music that counts!
Secondly, obtaining acapellas is of course just the start. You need to know how to beatgrid them so you can sync them up to backing tracks; how to use them in your particular hardware and software; how to organise them; how to mix with them (especially things like key, timing, volume, cues and loops).. and wouldn’t it be nice if someone could show you a whole load of “done for you” tricks to get you started?
Now, get the skills
Our Mixing With Acapellas (& Stems) course does all of this. If you want to learn how the pros use acapellas for amazing DJ sets, and how to use the new stems functions on your DJ gear, click here to learn more about the course.