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8th February, 2020

How Do You Remove Vocals from a Song?

Removing vocals from a song is one of the oldest and most common questions amongst artists in music production, DJs and karaoke lovers all over the world.

And, it’s a question that doesn’t have a clean-cut answer or a perfect result. 

But in saying that, there are a few methods that will allow you to get very close! These strategies might take a while, but they’re well worth it if you’re chasing a dream track for your sets or remixes or karaoke session!

Understanding Vocals in Music

Vocals are present in many areas of the frequency spectrum. Therefore, extracting them can leave your song sounding as though it is lacking a body. However with technology changing our ability to remove vocals leaving only background music has improved.

So, if you are trying to make acapella audio files, a karaoke version, or an instrumental track, these are the best methods we have found. With a little elbow grease, practice and patience you could become a master of the vocal edit.

But, in order to know how to remove vocals or separate vocals from a song, you first need to know the steps in isolating the vocals from the background music.

Vocal Remover Quick Reference Guide

Vocals in the middle: Most songs are mixed in this way, with the voice in the center, or just slightly to the left or right, with instruments around them, creating the stereo effect.

Vocals in one channel: Typically songs from the 1960s use this approach when stereophonic sound was still being explored in the studio.

For effectively removing vocals, you will need a stereo track. You should perform all of the tricks on lossless audio files so that you can retain as much information as possible when you separate vocals from the background music. If you can’t get a lossless (WAV/AIFF) then you should use the highest possible bitrate MP3 you can find.

Phase Cancellation or Phase Inversion

In a nutshell, the idea is to have two copies of the tune in stereo and to invert the phase one copy and then play them together simultaneously. When perfectly in phase you will cancel out the vocal.

If you are aiming to create an acapella then you’ll need an instrumental version of the track you are using and then by following the same phase inversion steps you will be left with the vocal.

Duplicate the track, swap the stereo channels in the second one, and then use the invert effect. By inverting your phase you are mirroring your audio.

If you then play your two audio tracks together, you will cut out the vocals and create instrumental tracks.

Case Study: Slynk

Here is a video from Slynk that will walk you through the process to separate vocals in Ableton.

In the next video, Slynk goes on to use a free plugin that is available for PC called Kn0ck0ut. You can install and use knockout in any DAW on PC.

If you don’t have time for a video, here is a step-by-step guide that Ableton Certified trainer Rory PQ has put together. He has done a lot of Ableton tutorials in the past that are extremely informative.

Removing vocals from a music track in Ableton Live using the phase cancellation method is easy. All you need is two quality recordings and Live’s Utility device.


Load the vocal mix and instrumental mix to separate audio tracks in Arrangement View. Also, make sure to line up both tracks along the grid.


Load Live’s Utility device on the vocal mix and enable both the Left and Right Phase buttons. If everything goes correctly, you should only hear the vocals when playing back both tracks together.


Create a new audio track to record the results. Next, select ‘Resampling’ from the Input Channel chooser and arm the track for recording. Lastly, enable the Arrangement Recording button to begin recording.

If using a freeware online vocal remover and audio track editor like Audacity, you are able to use the phase inversion trick or run the vocal remover plugin to perform a similar task. This video explains the methodology very well.


How do you use your vocal removal tool?

Begin by opening the audio file you wish to edit (File > Open) in your chosen vocal remover tool.

Once loaded, play the music track; make sure you can identify the areas where vocals appear. It’s a good idea to have some familiarity with the track before proceeding (and, of course, with the vocal remover software of your choosing).

Next, select the audio files (click the header on the left, or press Ctrl + A) and choose Effects > Vocal Remover. You have three options for removal: 

  • Simple
  • Remove frequency band
  • Retain frequency band. 

Start with Simple, and use the Preview button to check how this might be applied.

If you’re satisfied, click OK to proceed; otherwise, try the other options.

When you’re done, use the File > Save Project option to retain the changes. To create a new MP3 audio file, use File > Save other > Export as MP3.

Note that you’ll probably never achieve a perfect vocal-free track, especially with online vocal remover software. You’ll need to accept a trade-off between some vocal artifacts and lower quality, muddier instrumental tracks.

The next method is also a vocal remover freeware called ISSE: An Interactive Source Separation Editor. The spectral editor looks like a lot of fun to use and this video explains how to create instrumental or acapella quite easily. However, the task can be quite time-consuming. 


The next option is to pay for online vocal remover software that will help you to remove vocals from a song.

Melodyne Vocal Remover Software

One professional option is Melodyne. They have a 30-day free trial so you can spend some time seeing if it is right for you.

This innovative tool makes it easy to extract vocals from any audio files and use them for a remix. This ability also works in reverse. You can use RX 7 to remove vocals or other parts to create an instrumental version of a song. This approach also eliminates the need for different track versions or stems.

Isolating vocals with a vocal remover like Music Rebalance in RX 7 is quick and easy. The software runs as a standalone audio editor. However, you can connect to your DAW via the RX Connect plugin. There’s also a suite of plugin modules available in your DAW.


To get started, launch RX 7 and import a song. You can use the File menu, Open File button, or drag and drop a song into the editor window.


Choose Music Rebalance from the right-side Module List. After Music Rebalance opens, turn down the Bass, Percussion, and Other sliders. Leave the Voice slider at zero to focus on isolating vocals.


Select a Separation algorithm from the drop-down chooser. These algorithms determine performance and processing speeds. For example, Advanced Joint Channel mode offers the highest quality separation results.


Adjust the Sensitivity meter to get the best results. Lower values contain less audible “bleed” from other mix elements. However, this can introduce artifacts and reduce vocal clarity. Whereas higher values will have fewer audible artifacts and more potential for bleed.


When ready, press Render to create a file containing the isolated vocals. Lastly, export the file and drop it into your DAW for further editing.

RX7 is an impressive & expensive tool that can work well. If you are thinking this option might work for you, there is a monthly rent-to-own option available through Splice.

Traktor’s recent improvements in the stems game has had a lot of people looking at how to remove vocals from songs. Audionamix has come up with an answer.

The release of Xtrax Stems 2 a few years ago has made it now a strong contender in the list.

This is a huge update from the first version with results that are far more impressive and at $99, far more affordable than Melodyne and RX7. Here is an example video…

It is a huge advance in vocal remover technology and results!

The next option is as scary as it is exciting and it’s all about using an AI technology similar to XTrax.

Phonicmind AI Vocal Remover

Phonicmind is an AI that you are able to run your tracks through for $5 each. There are free bundles but even without it, Phonicmind can be cheaper in a bundle than some other options.

PhonicMind’s vocal remover opens a door to the new era of source separation. Its vocal remover uses deep neural networks to do vocal elimination.

In other words, artificial intelligence understands music. No other vocal remover can compare to it in terms of separation quality. We are also continuously pushing its capabilities to new levels on a daily basis i.e., machine learning. So, it’s just getting better and better over time and AI vocal remover technology continues to improve.

Summary: How do you remove vocals from a song?

A combination of these techniques will most likely work best for you. Remember to always use the highest quality audio that you can. So depending on the microphone used to record the original audio, sometimes you might find one method or software better than others. 

Pro tip: If you are in a DAW and inverted phasing isn’t working too well for you then you should low cut instantly to 200-300hz.

If you can get your audio source from a CD or download the phase inversion trick, the process will be a lot easier. And if you can find the instrument or acapella elsewhere you’ll save yourself many hours of work.

The acapellas4u website is one of the acapella and instrumental track resources we have found. Plus, the Discogs marketplace is also full of gold.

Need more help with all things music production? Contact DJ City today!

Whether you need more assistance with choosing the right vocal remover method, troubleshooting how to separate vocals, or you have comments and suggestions we can add to this guide, please let us know. 

The team here at DJ City are passionate about more than just matching DJs and music producers with the very best audio gear on the market but with helping to create the very best music as well! 

Contact us today.

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