Music Production Tutorial: How to Isolate Vocals From a Song w/ Rory PQ

In this tutorial, Dubspot’s Rory PQ demonstrates how to isolate vocals from a song using phase cancellation in both Ableton Live and Logic Pro.

Isolate Vocals

Have you wanted to remix a song or create a mashup and needed a good acapella? In this tutorial, we will look at how to isolate vocals from a song using phase cancellation in both Ableton Live and Logic Pro. There are several different ways to isolate vocals in a song. However, one of the most efficient methods is to extract vocals using phase cancellation when simultaneously playing back an original vocal mix with an identical instrumental version of the same song.

What’s Needed

  • Original song with vocals
  • An identical instrumental version of the same song
  • DAW of choice

How Phase Cancellation Works

Phase cancellation is an audio phenomenon that occurs when multiple waveforms work against each other resulting in a reduction of frequencies. For example, waveforms have many peaks and valleys. If these peaks and valleys are out of sync while playing back two signals with similar frequencies at the same time, they will either cancel each other out or reduce levels of certain frequencies. If two identical waveforms are 180 degrees or 100% out of phase, they will completely cancel each other out when combined.

Phase Cancellation

Flipping the phase on an original vocal mix while simultaneously playing back an instrumental mix is highly effective because the two identical versions cancel each other out leaving only the vocals. This method could also be used in reverse. You could use an acapella to cancel out the vocals from the original mix to create an instrumental version of a song.

Potential Issues

The phase cancellation method often works better than the other techniques used to isolate vocals, however, keep in mind that it doesn’t always work 100%. It is important to use high-quality audio files and to ensure the instrumental version is identical to the vocal version. You may also hear some sounds bleed through at times if any background noises were picked up while recording the vocals or if an instrument or audio effect has a parameter set to random. If you encounter any unwanted sounds, use an EQ or specialised audio restoration software such as iZotope’s RX 5 Audio Editor to clean up the vocals.

Song Examples

The song ‘Man in the Making’ used in this demonstration was created by NOAH and remixed by James Chelios. Both artists are Dubspot Alumni.

NOAH | Man in the Making (James Chelios Island Dub)

NOAH | Man in the Making (James Chelios Island Dub Dub Instrumental)

Vocal Isolation Using Phase Cancellation

Extracting Vocals in Ableton Live

Extracting vocals in Ableton Live using the phase cancellation method is extremely easy.

Step 1 | Importing Songs

Load the vocal mix and instrumental mix to separate tracks in Arrangement View and ensure they are lined up exactly to each other.

Isolate Vocals

Step 2 | Phase Inversion w/ Utility

Drop a Utility device on the instrumental track and enable both the Phz-L and Phz-R buttons. That’s it! If everything goes right, you should only hear vocals.

Isolate Vocals

Step 3 | Recording Vocals

Create a new Audio Track, select ‘Resampling’ from the Input Channel chooser, arm the track for recording, and then enable the Arrangement Recording button to begin recording.

Isolate Vocals

Extracting Vocals in Logic Pro

Extracting vocals in Logic Pro using the phase cancellation method is accomplished in a similar way as in Ableton Live.

Step 1 | Importing Songs

Import the vocal mix and instrumental mix to separate Audio Tracks and ensure they are lined up exactly to each other.

Isolate Vocals

Step 2 | Phase Inversion w/ Gain

Load the Gain device on the instrumental track and enable both the Left and Right Phase Invert buttons.

Isolate Vocals

Step 3 | Recording Vocals

Select both tracks and simultaneously set the output for each to the same Bus channel. Next, create a new Audio Track and set the input to the new Bus channel. Lastly, arm the track for recording and then click the Record button to begin recording.

Isolate Vocals

 


Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program

About This Program

At Dubspot our world-class instructors provide the most complete and cutting-edge Ableton Live learning experience. The Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program is the flagship of our music training. After completing this program, you will leave with a portfolio of original tracks, a remix entered in an active contest, a scored commercial to widen your scope, and the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Ableton Live.

This program is about learning Ableton Live by going through the entire process of being an artist, by developing your own sound through a series of sketches and experimentation. You will also learn the ins and outs of this powerful software through a series of exercises designed to help you master the steps involved in producing your own music. After a level of getting familiar with the tools that Ableton has to offer, you will then develop your sonic ideas into full-length tracks. You will be exposed to a variety of approaches to arrangement and composition, storytelling techniques, ways of creating tension and drama in your music. At the end of the day, it is the sum total of your choices as an artist that define your sound, and levels 2 – 6 will give you the experience of actually completing tracks to add to your portfolio.

What’s Included

  • Ableton Live Level 1: Beats, Sketches, and Ideas
  • Ableton Live Level 2: Analyze, Deconstruct, Recompose, and Assemble
  • Ableton Live Level 3: Synthesis and Original Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 4: Advanced Sound Creation
  • Ableton Live Level 5: Advanced Effect Processing
  • Ableton Live Level 6: Going Global with your Music

Overview

  • Dubspot’s complete Ableton course load: six levels/48 class sessions
  • 132 hours of hands-on instruction
  • Additional lab hours to work on assignments in Dubspot’s onsite facilities
  • 24/7 access to Dubspot Online’s Ableton Live course videos
  • Access to the course videos for one year after course completion

 

Visit the Ableton Live course page for detailed information on this program here.

If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.

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