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Eliminating the Lead Vocal

Written by Scott R. Garrigus - 2005, Scott R. Garrigus. All Rights Reserved.
No, I'm not talking about bumping off the lead singer in your band. What I mean by the title 'Eliminating the Lead Vocal' is removing the main vocal part from a prerecorded song. Someone recently asked me if this was possible, and I told him yes and no.

Yes you can remove the lead vocal from a prerecorded song, but only if the vocal is panned directly in the center of the stereo field. And even then, the process isn't perfect. There isn't currently any audio software on the market that can analyze and remove only a single vocal part. Instead, you have to cut out the material in the middle of the stereo field. That means cutting out the vocal and everything else centered in the field.

Here's how to do it in Sound Forge:
1) Open the audio file.
2) Choose Edit > Select All to select all the data in the file.
3) Choose Process > Channel Converter.
4) In the Channel Converter dialog box, choose the Stereo to Stereo - Vocal Cut preset.
5) If you want to end up with a pseudo-stereo file, no other settings are necessary. If you want to end up with a pseudo-mono file, activate the Invert Right Channel Mix option. Using this option makes the final results sound a bit better.
6) Click OK.

Here's how to do it in Cool Edit Pro:
1) Open the audio file.
2) Choose Edit > Select Entire Wave to select all the data in the file.
3) Choose Transform > Amplitude > Channel Mixer.
4) In the Channel Mixer dialog box, choose the Vocal Cut preset.
5) If you want to end up with a pseudo-stereo file, deactivate the New Right Channel Invert option. If you want to end up with a pseudo-mono file, no other settings are necessary. As I mentioned earlier, the mono file sounds better.
6) Click OK.

Depending on the type of material that you're processing, the results will vary, but they'll never be perfect. You can try to tweak the mix a bit with EQ, but other than that, what you get is what you get. Maybe in the future we'll have more sophisticated software available that will be able to analyze and separate specific sounds from an audio mix.

For more information: Sony Sound Forge Audio Editing Instruction Books

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