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August 20, 2013 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Isolatedvocals is a SoundCloud user that posts iso'd vocal tracks from a variety of pop songs. The tracks range from Outkast's mind-bendingly impressive vocal track on B.O.B., to the unhinged-sounding vocal track on the Pixies' Debaser. Somewhere in the middle, the user has also posted vocal tracks from Come out and Play by The Offspring, No Rain by Blind Melon, Say It Ain't So by Weezer, among others (and even more over on Reddit).
posted by schmod (66 comments total) 129 users marked this as a favorite

 
Where do they get these?
posted by mediocre at 3:37 PM on August 20, 2013


Yeah, I'm wondering the same thing. These couldn't have been isolated from the mixed tracks electronically, could they?

The Blind Melon one is incredible. If I were more adept with recording software, I'd make some crazy mashup remixes with these vocals.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:44 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I actually posted an askmefi question looking for more music like this - I love isolated vocal tracks.
posted by jb at 3:44 PM on August 20, 2013


BOB! Brings back memories

Moving like Floyd, coming straight to Florida
posted by bdz at 3:48 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Bad Religion one just knocked me on my ass.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:48 PM on August 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Where do they get these?

Apparently, "the Rock Band and Guitar Hero games were a big source for isolated tracks."
posted by aubilenon at 3:49 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Good heavens that Blind Melon gave me vapours!
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 3:50 PM on August 20, 2013


mediocre: "Where do they get these?"

I know of one technique where you essentially subtract the karaoke version of the track from the original and that leaves you with the vocals only.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:53 PM on August 20, 2013


(If there is a karaoke version available)
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:54 PM on August 20, 2013


I really like the Roxette track, but boy oh boy these Nirvana pieces are something else entirely. Love it.
posted by oddman at 3:54 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you listen carefully to one of the 2 Snoop tracks you can still hear some residual percussion fragments in the vocals. I guess whatever technique is used doesn't always work 100%.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:56 PM on August 20, 2013


Ah, here it is:

How To Isolate and Save Vocals From Music Tracks Using Audacity
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


This is so great, thank you!
posted by nevercalm at 4:00 PM on August 20, 2013


Yeah, most of these would most likely be from the studio stems, which I guess is what Rock Band would have used, and not isolated from the finished masters (which is not trivial, but depending on the source material a relatively clean isolated vocal can be achieved).

Even if they came from the studio stems, it would still possible to hear some percussion if you get leakage from the headphones while recording vocals or other instruments (listen to the intro of 'In a Little While' by U2 and you can clearly hear some drums in the opening guitar riff). If they're using the various cancellation techniques on the finished masters, then you're definitely not going to get a 100% clean isolated track.
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:01 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


These couldn't have been isolated from the mixed tracks electronically, could they?

Melodyne can approximate something like that, but not as cleanly as these were done (taken as they were from multi-track sources like Rock Band).
posted by jedicus at 4:02 PM on August 20, 2013


Self Link, but here's how to do it if you don't have a karaoke version to work with
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:07 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


The vocal track for No Rain really shows some very interesting and judicious use of reverb. Its nice to see somebody using reverb sparingly and strategically as if it's some limited, precious resource.
posted by chambers at 4:13 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you listen carefully to one of the 2 Snoop tracks you can still hear some residual percussion fragments in the vocals. I guess whatever technique is used doesn't always work 100%.

It could also be the case of the technique working fine (in many cases said technique may well be "get your hands by hook or by crook on the actual mix stems that have vox as a separate track" with no magic involved at all) but the vox track having some bleed from the band or backing track in the actual recording.

Basically, if Snoop liked to blast the backing track when he laid down his vocals, it'd be really easy even with pretty good closed cans for a little bit of that audio to bleed out past the headphones seal and get picked up by the mic. This is basically a non-issue in practice because any bleed in the vox track will be overwhelmed by the actual full mix the vocals sit in, but when you go an iso a track like this, blam, there it is.
posted by cortex at 4:14 PM on August 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The vocal track for No Rain really shows some very interesting and judicious use of reverb.

Yeah, it's surprisingly subtle when isolated from the instruments. There's a couple of parts where it doesn't even sound like an effect. When I initially cued it up I had a moment where I thought "Wait a minute, was Shannon Hoon doing that wobbly thing with his voice all by himself?"
posted by Strange Interlude at 4:20 PM on August 20, 2013


Wow... that's pretty neat.
posted by ph00dz at 4:20 PM on August 20, 2013


Wait a minute, was Shannon Hoon doing that wobbly thing with his voice all by himself?

It sounds to me like there might be a really light chorus effect on it, reverb aside; there's a weird bit of phasing that could come from that and give the vox some of the odd shimmer.
posted by cortex at 4:31 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


It sounds to me like there might be a really light chorus effect on it, reverb aside; there's a weird bit of phasing that could come from that and give the vox some of the odd shimmer.

Double-tracking (subtle -- one track WAY lower in the mix than the other) plus a phaser (also subtle, and slooooooow).
posted by Sys Rq at 4:38 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was in some studio waiting around once, and I read the "Mix" magazine over by the couch. They interviewed an engineer who worked on "Thriller". He says he used to play for engineers tapes of Michael Jackson's vocal takes, and they were always shocked at how noisy they were, with foot stomping, clapping, grunts, uhhs, yeahs, and all other kinds of noises that Jackson made while signing. He'd literally (yes!) cut them while standing on a hardwood dance floor and doing his live dance moves. Everyone was used to trying for like hermetically isolated vocals, with no extra sound at all, but Jackson and Quincy Jones did not care a bit about that.
posted by thelonius at 4:39 PM on August 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


The El Scorcho one is hilarious. I never noticed how drunk it sounds.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:39 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Debaser, Yowch.

The Pixies is always better when you turn up the Kim Deal and turn down the Frank Black.
posted by Bonzai at 4:40 PM on August 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I always assumed it was a chorus effect, but double-tracked + phaser makes sense.
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:42 PM on August 20, 2013


holy shit. awesome.
posted by odinsdream at 4:49 PM on August 20, 2013


What was the deal at the end of Infinite Jest, where they had a recording of Linda McCartney's singing in Wings isolated or something? Somebody should do that.
posted by nushustu at 4:56 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apparently, "the Rock Band and Guitar Hero games were a big source for isolated tracks."

Hmm. Time for someone to dig into the Rocksmith track format.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:00 PM on August 20, 2013


Yes! Time for a Metafilter Remix challenge?
posted by drezdn at 5:09 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


god, shannon hood really sang his ass off on that - i always knew it was good, but he had a voice

that guy from the offspring - i always knew he couldn't sing, but god ... with some of their songs, like this one, it doesn't matter, but god ...

i've heard other isolated tracks - even entire multitracks

it's surprising how much bleed there is in a song like highway star by deep purple - aside from vocals and guitar and organ overdubs for the solos, those guys were playing it live - each track sounds pretty messy - but you put them together right and it's great

and john fogarty's isolated vocals on fortunate son are just awesome
posted by pyramid termite at 5:10 PM on August 20, 2013


Can anyone find isolated Bill Withers?
posted by drezdn at 5:36 PM on August 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


the unhinged-sounding vocal track on the Pixies' Debaser

Hellooooo new alarm sound! Never sleep in again when you can have Black Francis shout "DEBASER!" at you every three seconds!
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:42 PM on August 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


and john fogarty's isolated vocals on fortunate son are just awesome

LINK PLZ
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:42 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


What was the deal at the end of Infinite Jest, where they had a recording of Linda McCartney's singing in Wings isolated or something? Somebody should do that.

Howard Stern used to play a clip of Linda McCartney's voice up front in the mix at a Wings concert, as the poor woman did her best to sing along to Hey Jude. It hurt.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:52 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


No Excuses
posted by maggieb at 5:55 PM on August 20, 2013


Huh, that's not the El Scorcho lead vocal track from Pinkerton (the section at 0:45 in the a capella is obviously different, and a few spots in the first chorus too ... I didn't do A-B on the rest of the track). Maybe from an earlier mix? I wonder where that one came from.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:11 PM on August 20, 2013


What was the deal at the end of Infinite Jest, where they had a recording of Linda McCartney's singing in Wings isolated or something? Somebody should do that.

This is it, but it's basically a hoax.
posted by rhizome at 6:28 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Queen's are painfully beautiful:
Under Pressure (A-Capella) - Only Vocals

Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody - Vocals Only
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:29 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I want to hear Daryl Hall's isolated vocals.

Any song would be fine, but if I had a preference, She's Gone is the one. I want to hear how his voice filled the studio when he got to the climatic 3rd chorus.

"She's goooo-ooooo-ooooo-ooooo-ooooo-ooooone! Oh, I... I'd better learn how to face it!"

It must be breathtaking.
posted by droplet at 6:39 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please someone do this for Sir Mix-a-lot:

Fellas
[silence]
Fellas
[silence]
Has your girlfriend got the butt?
[silence]
posted by zippy at 6:44 PM on August 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


I want the other side of that exchange, just so I can feel really validated about whatever I'm thinking at any time, like

Cats!
"Yeah!"
They purr!
"Yeah!"
It sounds like a motorboat!
"Hell yeah!"
posted by cortex at 6:55 PM on August 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


Re: Bleed-through. For a sort of cool example, check out this track by Merle Travis and Joe Maphis. If you have a balance control, pan it hard left or hard right and you'll hear bleed-through from the other instruments. I used to listen to this is my car with my daughter and she loved to hear JUST drums or JUST guitar.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:57 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


They used to pan stuff hard right or left in the 60's - Beatles, Stones, Kinks records - when stereo was still a novelty. It's often annoying to listen to on headphones.
posted by thelonius at 7:22 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of my aborted attempt to make an acapella of Kanye West's Stronger. The single has both the instrumental and the album version, so you would think that simply inverting one and mixing them would isolate the vocals.

You'd be right, for the first 10 seconds.

However, somewhere in the mixing/mastering irregularly spaced 10 sample phase offsets between the two tracks were added, and these offsets fade in and out. I got as far as fixing most of the phase changes, but gave up when I realized there's about 60 fades with variable attack speeds I'd still have to undo.
posted by t3h933k at 7:47 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where's that link to Diamond Dave singing Running with the Devil?
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:52 PM on August 20, 2013


The knockout plugin would probably work pretty well in that case since its frequency domain cancellation, it doesn't need to be lined up to the sample.
posted by TwoWordReview at 8:00 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


maggieb: "No Excuses"

Man, it's great to hear Jerry Cantrell's harmonies rolling all over and next to Layne, like a family bluegrass duo.
posted by notsnot at 8:00 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


god, shannon hood really sang his ass off on that - i always knew it was good, but he had a voice

A voice, yes. It actually sounds better without backing music. Shannon had terrible intonation.
posted by ovvl at 8:36 PM on August 20, 2013


JoeZydeco,

http://geaky.com/262-David-Lee-Roth-SoundBoard.html

posted by Exchequer at 8:38 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


TwoWordReview: The knockout plugin would probably work pretty well in that case

And so it did. Thanks for the suggestion.
posted by t3h933k at 9:04 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


you guys are all leaving the most impressive isolated vocals... but i will leave you the funniest isolated vocals.

Also the source of all vocals/ad-libs for my next remix project(s).

FLOCKA!
posted by raihan_ at 10:17 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


maggieb: "No Excuses"

Man, it's great to hear Jerry Cantrell's harmonies rolling all over and next to Layne, like a family bluegrass duo.


Man, that's positively Gregorian. All those perfect fourths.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:19 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ain't No Other Man, Christina Aguilera. (pix NSFW unfortunately).
posted by gottabefunky at 10:33 PM on August 20, 2013


Freddy, of course, Freddy...but Somebody to Love at 2:05? *head explodes*
posted by gottabefunky at 10:45 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


woah, no kidding. As a side note, the comments on Queen acapella youtubes are awesome. From this one , happyformiley (which, I looked at her page and it means what you'd think, and her posted videos are all cell-phone footage of the Bieb and One Direction in Mexico City) just says

I can't breathe

On the page for the Killer Queen vocal, there's

Mayniac39 3 months ago

Freddie Mercury is AWESOME! With his voice he could easily sing just the list of the shopping but it would still sounded absolutely FUCKING PERFECT!!!


Can't fucking argue with that, Mayniac39!
posted by hap_hazard at 11:35 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The ones showcasing older acts (Queen, Heart, Marvin Gaye) are really great, shows how much talent you had to have before the age of ubiquitous autotune*.

But ... does anyone else find themselves mentally substituting the guitar soloe or tapping in drum fills on their desk?

*(Which is not to say there weren't a million studio tricks employed back then as well, but it just seems the bar is raised when you can't just fix everything in post. I mean, Survivor could belt it out.)
posted by madajb at 1:31 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


that's not the El Scorcho lead vocal track from Pinkerton [...] I wonder where that one came from.

To answer my own question, it looks like it's the version from Rock Band, which is sort of another layer of weird, because the question remains: where did they print that stem from?
posted by uncleozzy at 4:48 AM on August 21, 2013


The thing that gets me about the Queen ones (specifically Under Pressure) is that the production on the vocal tracks is absolutely terrible. You can tell that Freddie misses a few cues, while Bowie misses a lot of notes. The thing is just filled with errors...

None of this really matters -- the song (and recording) easily remain among the best ever. David and Freddie still carry the song by being incredible vocalists, and the band gracefully compensated for any errors that were made. I think I'd be upset if the engineers had stitched together a "perfect" track from multiple takes.

If anything, the song benefits from the flourishes that let us know that the singers were human. The studio recording of Under Pressure captured a lot of raw energy that is sadly absent from most album tracks. (In another thread, I recently made a similar complaint/compliment about my current favorites, The National -- their albums are great, but their one-off radio studio sessions are always stunning in a way that the albums never seem to be able to capture)

I remember seeing an analysis (possibly on MetaFilter?) that also showed that many of the Beatles' recordings were also a bloody mess from a technical perspective. Suffice it to say, I think that things worked out fine for them....

Way off on a tangent, but the EDM song Clarity by Zedd has this one moment where the vocalist's voice cracks, and it sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. I have no idea if it was a happy accident, or something that was deliberately added, but it's an awesome twist on what would otherwise be a bland club song...
posted by schmod at 6:26 AM on August 21, 2013


oddman: "I really like the Roxette track , but boy oh boy these Nirvana pieces are something else entirely. Love it."

Holy cow. How did Kurt have a voice left after he recorded Smells Like Teen Spirit? I don't think I could shout like that for ten seconds, let alone an entire song, without being hoarse for a month afterward...
posted by schmod at 6:28 AM on August 21, 2013


uncleozzy: "To answer my own question, it looks like it's the version from Rock Band , which is sort of another layer of weird, because the question remains: where did they print that stem from?"

Rock Band's budget was large enough that they brought in a few of the original artists in to re-record some of the songs, when the multitracks were unavailable or unsuitable.

It's kind of surprising just how often this stuff goes missing, or how little interest there is in preserving it. Many of the original masters from Joy Division/New Order were recently rescued from a dumpster. Amazingly, the artists were apparently uninterested in re-acquiring them when they were contacted (although I'd imagine that there's more to the story).
posted by schmod at 6:32 AM on August 21, 2013


It's not perfect - I'd like to think it's headphone bleed, but it was probably done with some software - but I love listening to the isolated vocals for And Your Bird Can Sing.
posted by elmer benson at 6:52 AM on August 21, 2013


Regulators..... MOUNT UP!
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:34 AM on August 21, 2013


Bruce Swedien is the engineer who worked on Thriller. John Jeremiah Sullivan has a great bit in his Michael Jackson profile:
In a seminar room in Seattle, at a 1993 Audio Pro recording-geek conference, Swedien talks about his craft. He plays his recording of Michael’s flawless one-take vocal from “The Way You Make Me Feel,” sans effects of any kind, to let the engineers in the audience hear the straight dope, a great mike on a great voice with as little interference as possible, the right angle, the right deck, everything.

Someone in the audience raises a hand and asks if it’s hard recording Michael’s voice, given that, as Swedien mentioned before, Michael is very “physical.” At first, Swedien doesn’t cotton. “Yeah, that is a bit of a problem,” he answers, “but I’ve never had an incident where the microphone has been damaged. One time, though…”

The guy interrupts, “Not to do damage, just the proximity thing.”

“Oh!” Swedien says, suddenly understanding. His voice drops to a whisper, “He’s unbelievable.”

He gives the most beautiful description. “Michael records in the dark,” he says, “and he’ll dance. And picture this: You’re looking through the glass. And it’s dark. With a little pin spot on him.” Swedien lifts his hand to suggest a narrow cone of light shining directly down from overhead. “And you’ll see the mike here. And he’ll sing his lines. And then he disappears.”

In the outer dark he is dancing, fluttering. That’s all Quincy and Swedien know.

“And he’s”—Swedien punches the air—“right back in front of the mike at the precise instant.”
posted by AceRock at 10:09 AM on August 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


Just have to add to the "No Rain" love. Also, it's amazing, to me anyway, how much of the vocal nuances you don't notice when you listen to the full mix.
posted by MikeMc at 7:55 PM on August 21, 2013


Michael Jackson - Man in the Mirror and other isolated MJ vocals come from surround sound DVD or Blu Ray discs. There was a flurry of remixes after a MJ DVD came out years back, plus bootleg vocals-only discs.

There are ways to extract channels from surround sound audio, but it seems like it takes some work. Or, you can unplug or turn down the side and rear speakers and record what's playing in the center speaker.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:04 AM on August 22, 2013


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