Quick Karaoke: Remove Vocals from CD Recordings

You can easily create your very own Karaoke CDs using the latest version (1.3.12 Beta) of the free audio editing program Audacity, which is available for both Mac and Windows users.  To download Audacity 1.3.12, go here.

Before we get started, you should be aware that removing vocals from a recording it not a perfect art.  There will always be some residual vocals left on the backing track, but once your singer is performing along with the backing, they’re generally not too noticeable.

Import Your Song

The first step is to import your song into Audacity so it’s ready for editing and there are a couple of different ways you can do it.

Method 1 (if you use iTunes to manage your music):

  • Open Audacity
  • Open the iTunes window and re-size it (or position it) so you can see the Audacity window behind
  • Locate the song in iTunes
  • Drag the song from iTunes on to the Audacity window
  • After a moment (be patient!), the song will appear as a wave file in Audacity

Method 2 (if you don’t use iTunes)

  • Open Audacity
  • Go to File > Import > Audio
  • Locate the song on your hard drive
  • Click Open and after a moment, the song will appear in Audacity as a wave file

Removing the vocals

  • Once the song is in Audacity, you can play it back using the playback controls in the top left-hand corner
  • To remove the vocals, go to Effect > Vocal Remover (for centre-panned vocals).  Leave the settings as they are and click OK

    Vocal Remover

  • Play back the song to test the results.  If you get a poor result, try running the effect again with different settings
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Tutorial: How to Convert Audio Files Using iTunes

If you ever need a specific file type for use in an audio editing program or other multimedia program, you may need to convert your audio file from MP3 to WAV or vice versa.  iTunes, which is available for both Mac and Windows users – can do the job for you.

When you import a CD into iTunes, the default import setting is:

  • Import as AAC (Mac)
  • Import as MP3 (PC)

You can easily check the format of the songs already in your iTunes library by switching on one of the View columns.  Go to View > View Options and check the box next to Kind. Click OK.  You may need to re-size the other columns in order to view the Kind column.

1. Change iTunes Settings

To change a song, from MP3 into a WAV or AIFF file, you’ll need to change the import settings in iTunes:

  • Go to iTunes > Preferences (Mac) or Edit > Preferences (PC) and click on the General tab
  • Click on the Import settings button in the lower half of the window

  • In the next window, click on the “Import Using” drop-down menu and select AIFF Encoder if you’re using a Mac or WAV Encoder if you’re using a PC.  Click OK and then click OK again to close the Preferences window

2. Convert the song

  • Find the song in your iTunes library that you want to convert
  • Right-click on the song and choose Create AIFF version (Mac) or Create WAV version (PC)
  • Be aware that some purchased songs are “protected” and won’t allow you to create a new formatted version

3. NB: Change import settings back again

It’s really important to change your import settings back again once you’ve converted the song, otherwise everything you import into iTunes from now on will be a WAV or AIFF file and your iTunes library will be enormous!

To change it back:

  • Go to iTunes > Preferences (Mac) or Edit > Preferences (PC) and click on the Import settings button
  • From the “Import Using” drop-down menu select Import as AAC (Mac) or Import as MP3 (PC)

4. Locating the contents of  your iTunes library

When you need to directly access the songs in your iTunes library, you’ll need to know where they are located on your computer.  You can’t just drag a song from the iTunes window into another program.

The location of the music files is as follows:

  • Mac OSX – /Users/username/Music/iTunes/iTunes Library
  • Windows XP – C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Media
  • Windows Vista – C:\Users\username\Music\iTunes\iTunes Media
  • Windows 7 – C:\Users\username\My Music\iTunes\iTunes Media

And if you can’t remember the above locations, you can always right-click on a song in your iTunes window and select Get Info. The location of the song is listed on the Summary tab:

Avoiding Snail Mail: Easy Ways To Share Audio and Video

Flickr BombDog the Summit

The Summit by BombDog on Flickr

Have you ever tried to send someone audio files via email?  Or worse still, video files?  Working in the music & multimedia education field I find myself frequently needing to send or receive recordings of songs, photos, videos and presentations to a range of people that include students, attendees of my training sessions, clients and colleagues.  These sorts of files are simply too big for email and if you’re like me, you’ll do anything to avoid resorting to burning a disk, finding a padded envelope and making the long trek to the Post Office.

The easy solution is to use a file sharing website: you upload files from your computer to the site and provide the location details to your recipient or group of recipients.  They can then visit the site and download the files they need.  It’s a digital “locker”, if you like.

My own use of these sites includes:

  • Distributing session notes to attendees of my training sessions or conference presentations.  Many are happy to have an electronic copy and we save a few trees in the process
  • Sharing collections of loops, sound effects and videos for film scoring workshops
  • Receiving audio recordings and MIDI files for transcribing or arranging jobs I’m working on
  • Receiving large scores for orchestral copying work

File-sharing sites are also particularly useful for itinerant music teachers without a permanent office or computer.  They can store their own schedules, student lists and other working documents which are then accessible from any computer in any school.  I know of one teacher that uploads backing tracks so that his students can download them at home for practice purposes and another that uses a file-sharing site for student assignment submissions.

The Basics

If you’ve never used a file-sharing site before, here’s how it works:

  • You go to the file-sharing website (see options below)
  • Sign-in (if applicable)
  • Click the upload button
  • Select the files you want to send and then wait while the files upload
  • When the upload process is finished there will be a link (web address) you can email to your friend.  When they click on the link, they’ll see your file/s and be able to download them to their own computer.

Most sites offer a free service for files (a single file or combination of files) up to a 100MB in size and there are a few that offer uploads of 200MB, 500MB, or even more.  There’s also a paid option if you need more space.

To give you an idea of file sizes, consider the following rough guide:

  • PDFs or Word documents are usually small enough to be measured in kilobytes and are suitable to email
  • A single photo at high resolution can be 5-10MB or more
  • A 3-minute pop song in MP3 format (compressed) can be around 5MB
  • A 3-minute pop song in WAV format can be around 50MB
  • A 7-minute cartoon might be 70MB

My two favourite file-sharing websites have been drop.io and Mediafire, but there are plenty of other choices out there, like Soundcloud which was designed specifically for sharing audio files.

drop.io

Drop.io is simple to use, you don’t need to sign up to use it and it includes lots of extras like the voice memo feature.  You can password-protect your “drop” and you can even opt to receive notifcations when files are downloaded from – or added to – your drop.

Mediafire

MediaFire is also straightforward to use, allows uploads up to 100MB and if you choose to set up a user name you can access extra features like the ability to organise your collections of files into folders.

Soundcloud

Soundcloud is a recent discovery, but looks like a great solution for audio files.  Soundcloud supports AIFF, WAV, FLAC, OGG, MP3 and AAC files and you can choose to make your uploaded files public (for anyone to access) or private (accessible only by those you grant access).  You do need to sign up for this service, but one huge benefit is that there’s no file-size limit.

If you’re interested in reading about some of the other file-sharing options, there’s a useful comparison chart here.