If vocal removal machines don't
actually work, surely they wouldn't
sell them...would they?
A question I'm often asked is
whether vocals can be removed from an original song, leaving
just the music?
Usually this question is asked by singers who are new to the
business, and it's easy to see why they would think that this
may be a good idea. After all, why spend money buying backing
tracks when you already have thousands of great songs in your
CD or record collection - why not just remove the vocals from
them? Why do backing track companies even exist if all you need
is a machine or some software to remove vocals from recordings?
The simple answer is that backing track companies exist because
vocal elimination machines and vocal removal software don't
If they did, there would be no need for backing track companies
to produce backing tracks.
Now, I know that as you read this article you may well be forgiven
for thinking that we are perhaps biased in some way or trying
to protect our backing track business, so I'll explain fully
why vocal elimination doesn't work and why you should avoid
There are many vocal
eliminators and vocal removal machines on the market and they
fall in to two categories - hardware machines and software programs.
The hardware machines are standalone (in a box) devices whereas
the software programs are designed to run on your computer. However,
this is the only way in which they differ because, in essence,
the vocal removal techniques they use are the same. So, let's
take a look at how they work...
Vocal removal machines first appeared many, many years ago when
the designers of these original machines had a bright idea. Because
most vocals on a recording usually sit at the centre of the stereo
spectrum and are usually to the forefront of the audio mix (ie
the vocals are usually the loudest part of a recording) then if
they could devise an algorhythm that could remove the audio from
the central and loudest parts of a recording, this would, in effect,
eliminate the vocals from it.
Like many flawed ideas, it looked great on paper and the theory
behind it was certainly enough to get venture capitalists excited
and electronic giants queueing up to back their idea, but in practical
use, it failed miserable - the idea simply didn't work...and here's
You see, their removal idea made two assumptions which proved
to be alarmingly incorrect.
The first assumption they made was that vocals on all
recordings will always be the loudest part of the
recording and will always be at the centre of the
The second assumption was, that by removing these loudest and
most central parts, the vocal would then disappear and the rest
of the music would be left intact...
Years ago when recording techniques were rather more primitive
than today, this may have been true. Vocals were indeed often
"centred" and were usually the loudest part of a recording.
But nowadays it's quite common for vocals to be "panned"
slightly to one side and, depending on the piece of music and
the way it has been engineered by the producer, the vocal is very
often NOT the loudest part of the song.
Assumption number two was that removing these central & loudest
parts would leave the music intact - not true!
If you remove the loudest audio from the centre of a recording,
not only do you remove the vocals, you remove EVERYTHING
that is loud and at the centre. So if there is a saxophone, drums,
bass or any other instrument sitting at the centre of the recording,
your vocal removal machine will remove these too.
Anyone who has ever used a vocal removal machine will testify
that it's very commonplace for these machines to remove half the
musical instruments as well as the vocals, and to add insult to
injury, you can ALWAYS hear a trace of the original
vocal even after it's done - not good!
So, that should now have put you off ever buying a vocal removal
machine! But wait, there's more...
Another reason why you should avoid buying one of these machines,
especially if you are a professional singer, is that, as well
as ending up with a pile of unusable backing music tracks with
traces of vocals all over them and instruments missing from them,
it is also ILLEGAL to use the tracks! Yes, that's right - copyright
law protects an artists music from being modified in any way and
the MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) and PRS (Performing
Rights Society) will prosecute you if you attempt to perform copyrighted
material in public.
Not only do they have the power to prosecute you for copyright
violation but they can also revoke the music licence of the venue
you are performing in. The MCPS/PRS do regular spot checks on
venues all over the country and if you happen to be singing in
one of those venues that night, they will walk in and ask you
to provide proof of copyright of the music you are singing. This
has happened to me personally on many occasions and has also happened
to many of our customers. In each case the MCPS/PRS approached
the singer and asked for copyright proof - the singer then simply
showed them their MP3 Backing Trax receipts for the backing
tracks they were using and the MCPS/PRS merrily went on their
way, satisfied that all was well, legal and correct.
There is a whole host of other reasons why you should always use
professional backing tracks and our Frequently
Asked Questions section should help clue you up a bit more
on backing tracks and how they are produced.
You should also read through some of the other articles on this
website which will help you get a better understanding of backing
tracks and their uses, especially the articles on backing
track licencing, editing backing tracks.
and using backing tracks onstage.
In conclusion, our advice is, whatever you do, don't waste
your money on vocal removal machines and software! I'm
quite sure there will probably be some cynical person reading
this article who still thinks that we are discouraging you from
vocal removal machines in an effort to promote and sell you our
If you are one of them, then I'm not going to even bother trying
to convince you otherwise - I have a simple answer for you...go
out and buy a vocal removal machine, make yourself a whole load
of backing tracks out of your CD collection for free, then make
lots of money singing professionally with them.
I'll give you one week...
...by then you'll
have realised (to your cost) just why none
of the professionals are doing this!
Article Written by Kenny Campbell
(This article cannot be reproduced without express
(all rights reserved)