Removing vocals ONLY, and not other instruments


So i’ve been searching everywhere for methods and answers and decided to register and post my question here.

I am trying to create an instrumental of a certain song called “Men In This Town” by Shakira.
Of course when I do the separate channel/invert option I get a “sort of” instrumental, however along with the main vocals, the main instrumentation, the beat, gets removed as well.

Now I found someone who posted a clip of his instrumentation/stems and he seems to have succeeded in doing so, however he’s not responding. I am quite certain this is possible with audacity. I will post examples of what I mean.

Original song:

Instrumental with the effect of the use of splitting channels and inverting:
(this one also removes the main beats and instrumentation)

And the version/snippet of the chorus of the song from the guy who managed:

As you can hear in the little snippet, the main beat seems to still be present without any main vocals.
Is there a way to achieve this? I am quite desperate, I’ve been messing with vocal removal plugin’s and noise removals but no succes, I came close but didn’t succeed, I seem to be missing a step. I hope you understand what I mean.

Thank you so much in advance.

Effect > Vocal Removal is just that split-channel-invert and add thing in one tool. Vocal Removal has some extra tuners so you can get some of your bass notes back.

Vocal Removal just cancels out everything in the exact left-right center of a stereo show. That’s what the split/invert thing does, too. That usually (but not always) affects the main vocal but also usually bass and drums. It also doesn’t affect main vocal echo.


Thank you for your reply,
I tried messing with the vocal remover and tried some Lowpass effects, I get some of the bass back but I’m actually really trying to get that beat that you clearly hear in the snippet that someone has made, but that snippet has that “sparkly” noise below it, which is during the chorus, he only gave a snippet of the chorus, but that beat above it is in the rest of the song, in the verses that is, which you can hear in the original track and that snippet. If you know what I mean, is there a way to maybe get that sound separated from that sparkly sound below it?

If the Vocal Removal and maybe some Effects > Equalizer didn’t work, then you’re stuck. You can’t ad lib split apart a mixed performance into individual instruments and voices.

he seems to have succeeded in doing so, however he’s not responding.

I’m not surprised. I bet he got thousands of postings asking how he did it. If I had to guess, I’d say one of the multi-thousand dollar software packages. I don’t know of any way to do that in Audacity. Other elves may post. (Many time zones. You just have to wait).


Ok thank you for your answer, I will look elsewhere as well, do you have any knowledge of any program that MIGHT be able to do so? I just need to at least get rid of that sparky sound in the stem, because that beat plays through all of the verses so I could almost recreate it myself.

I’m not sure what you mean by “sparky”.
The best way to re-establish a beat is probably underlaying a new one (128 bpm).
The bass itself has to come from the vocal removal (low cut at about 140 Hz).
I’ve essentially managed to isolate the beat (kick and snare). The problem is that there will always be fragments of the main voice too.
You can of course filter those out by looking at the spectrogram and cut the frequencies that do not belong to the drums (not easy because they do overlap).
You mix the drum track back in eventually, no matter if it is a new one or the extracted one.

You can of course filter those out by looking at the spectrogram and cut the frequencies…

I could almost recreate it myself.

So that would be yes.


Thank you for your reply.

With “sparkly” I mean the instrumentation you hear in the stem at the 0:30 mark:

In the 1st part you hear this thick beat above it, which you also hear throughout the verses in the original song, minus those sparkly instruments in the verses, which is what I am basically trying to isolate.
You say you essentially managed to isolate the beat (kick and snare) did you try that on this track?

Im no pro in Audacity how should I put my frequency settings to cut out those sparkly instruments? What are the steps I should take?

I assume that you mean those fast arpeggios (harp-like synth sounds), that’s at least what differentiates the verses from the choruses.
We can of course not eliminate or isolate single instruments. You have to use professional software for this (e.g. Melodyne).
Here’s the link to my Audacity project.
I hope you can open it.
It has three tracks:

  • original
  • center (inverted)
  • drums
    (- Bass)
    The first two ones represent together a stereo version with the vocals removed. Soloing the center is equal to the vocals without most of the instruments.
    The third track represents all strong onsets, mostly kick and snare drum. However, there are some main vocal artefacts as well.
    Those are the critical points that need additional attention.
    Some onsets had actually to be replaced by neutral ones, i.e. take the beats from passages that are not corrupted by vocals.
    In general, you can simply silence the center track wherever only instruments are audible. Select those regions, search for zero crossings (key “z”) and silence the audio (ctrl-l). You can also use the envelope tool for non-destructive editing.

The vocals are (as usual nowadays) heavily processed with autotune, compression, reverb and distortion effects. This produces on one hand more presence but leads to overlapping frequency ranges. For instance, the main voice can be heard even at low frequencies, where a female voice shouldn’t be that present.
We should furthermore use a CD version that is not so compressed, neither dynamically nor in file size (mp3). This would yield cleaner results.

Hey, thank you so much!! This is really awesome, it’s better then any version I have personally ever created or found, the vocals are near absent! I am so happy with this! But you are saying it’s going to be even better with a CD version? I have re read 3 times the last part what you did but it’s basically chinese to me at some points, I have tried to find some parts of the main beat which wouldn’t be corrupted by vocals but there are none in the verse that I can find, hence why I would like the main beat separated from the vocal from the main track or from the sound cloud stem.

Could you write me a little tutorial of how you did it? If it’s not too much to ask, I am basically a beginner in audacity, I know how to mix things a bit but not things as complex as this, could you write me down the steps step by step? If you have the time of course, I’d be so happy if you could manage to do so because I have been trying to make more karaokes but I’m always missing most of the center instruments, your karaoke version brings back almost all of those, I hope I can manage to get the main beat out of that stem.

So I was wondering, if you use this technique on the Stem that I posted from soundcloud , would the center channel in that stem which has the beat (normally the vocal channel) give you the main beat that I am also looking for without the fast arpeggios? Since the second track in the karaoke you created in your audacity project shows the mean beat + the vocals and not the fast arpeggios. I need the main beat which I mean to put over the verses on the karaoke version you made (and which i’m going to try and remake if I know the steps with a CD version)

Thank you ever so much once again, I hope to hear from you :slight_smile:

I am glad that you’re fairly happy with the result.
I’ve used a lot of things that are actually not yet published.
Firstly, I don’t use the Audacity vocal remover because it produces only a mono output and does not support “Isolate Center”.
About half a year ago, I’ve written my own tool for this. You find the newest version of the “2D Stereo Toolkit” in the drop box folder (link above).
Put it in the plug-ins folder and restart Audacity.

If I recollect correctly, I’ve firstly duplicated the original track (after recording from your source).
I then applied “Isolate Vocals (inverted)” from the action menu of the plug-in mentioned (under effects, 2D Stereo Toolkit) on the copied track.
I’ve changed the low cut frequency from 120 to 210 Hz to have more bass preserved.
This gives a center channel. You can split this track to mono since the both channels are identical (track drop down menu, split to mono).
Mute one of those or delete it.
That’s about all in order to produce an ordinary karaoke version.

In a secondary step, we have to bring back the beat. That’s a rather ticklish task.
That’s a thing that will go next into the plug-in. Unfortunately, the code is not yet mature and I had therefore to work from the Nyquist prompt (also effects menu). The “Drums” track is simply created by extracting the loudest peak in comparison to its neighbourhood. The ultimate goal is to extract the frequencies that are common to all these peaks, this should give the drums without vocals.
But I don’t want to go into detail for now, maybe we can handle the “Drum Separation” in another post. It might be sufficient for now to say that a new created beat would be the best solution for the time being.
I put another plug-in into the karaoke folder, named “Tempo Teller” (appears in the Analyze menu). It returns the estimated beats per minute. It helps to adapt a new beat or to simply boost those times with a kick or snare beat.
However, all this comes later.

By the way, I’ve not used the any of the secondary sound examples you’ve linked to. They sound somewhat strange to me, as if they were from a totally other song version, I’ve no idea how it is made or treated in the first place.

Hey, thank you so much!!! I’ve been busy in the past two days with that plugin and tried a few things! I followed your steps and experimented on a few different tracks, I am amazed by the stereo outcome and I managed to mix some tracks where I needed parts of other instrumentals and you barely hear it’s inverted is where you normally would with the normal inverting technique. You were right about using a CD quality version, I used a flac file and the main beat was way more present, I’m really happy it keeps most of the main instrumentation and beats but deletes almost all of the vocals at certain points!

What I notice is that the secondary track is close to a filtered acapella, is there a way to use that plugin to mainly keep the voice, or is that impossible?
I’m curious to know how the drum separation goes and how the “Tempo Teller” plugin works!

Once again, thank you so much!

There’s certainly a lot to discover in that plug-in. It is actually a program within a program. That’s the main reason why it isn’t included in Audacity.
I always try to improve the algorithms. Especially “Remove/Isolate Vocals” should eventually be smarter in order to really concentrate on voice (-like) sounds.
We have essentially those sounds within a song:

  • pitched instruments
  • voices
  • percussion
  • noise and reverb artefacts

There are some key points or “features” that can serve to discriminate one kind from the other. However, the boundaries are rather fuzzy. Otherwise, no one could do beat boxing for example.
I do first try to eliminate (regular) percussion beats from the center channel.
It is obvious that the probability for a percussive sound is higher for frames (small parts of the audio) that do fall onto a multiple of the actual tempo.
That’s why I’ve written the tempo teller plug-in. It constructs a table with all magnitudes from 30 to 700 bpm and searches for the highest peak(s).
That’s by no means a trivial task because often the peak does not correspond to the felt tempo.
Nevertheless, it is working better from version to version.
I hope that it can soon be integrated into the 2D Stereo Toolkit to cut or boost the percussion.
After that, other instruments will be attacked.