Your Questions: How Do I Isolate Parts Of A Song?

Joey Santos | Read time: 2 mins
music production Pro your questions
Last updated 28 March, 2018


Is it possible to single out vocals from a song, or to mute them to make an instrumental? Our answer…

Digital DJ Tips reader DJ C-Clef writes: “Is it possible to isolate parts of a song using a digital audio workstation (DAW)? For example, how do I take a song like ‘La Isla Bonita’ by Madonna and get just the vocals? And can I divide it into parts like the kicks, snares, and so on before remixing the track in my DAW?”

Digital DJ Tips Says:

There isn’t an app that lets you solo snare drums or other particular musical instruments yet. However, there are apps that attempt to single out vocals, or mute them if you want to create an instrumental.

Software like the ADX VVC 3.0 is used by professionals to do exactly that, but it’s expensive for a casual hobbyist (US$199 for the plugin). Apps like Capo on the Mac or iOS let you isolate or mute a vocal, but it doesn’t do as a good a job as the aforementioned ADX VVC 3.0, and you’ll have to do a bit of tweaking to get it right.

Do know that apps like these still aren’t able to single out or mute a vocal 100%, so you’ll hear a bit of the music in the background (or a bit of the vocal in the music, if you’re trying to mute the singing). This is usually masked by the instruments and music elements when you do your remix in your DAW.

Your best bet is to look online for studio acapellas and instrumentals – DJ download pools are a good place to start. You can also attempt to recreate the song itself within your DAW: When I make my own edits for gig use, for example I want to add an eight-bar intro and outro, I’ll recreate the music in Ableton Live by making an approximation and copying the sound of the drums, synths, bass, and so on. It’s time-consuming, but if you can’t find any instrumentals, that’s one option to take.

If you’d like more flexibility, try looking for Stems versions of tracks that you’d want to remix. The multitrack format gives you four “stem” tracks that you can mute and solo when used in Traktor / DJ Player Pro, and you can reverse engineer the Stem file to get to those four tracks.

What are your sources for getting studio acapellas and instrumentals of songs? Any vocal isolation / instrumental-making techniques you’d want to share? Let us know below.

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