How to Isolate Vocals in Audacity?


Isolating vocal is a process in which you separate vocals from the instrumental part of a song with the intent of primarily using the vocals. In the end, you might find a use for the instrumental but it is not the priority. It is a process that is popular among DJs who will take the isolated vocals and use them in a mash-up with another song’s instrumental. Here is a process to take your mixes to the next level. Sometimes you might find the acapella and instrumentals posted online by the artist hence you will not need to go through this process. But this is very rare.

Also, having worked at a radio station and being a DJ before will help you access these from the artist themselves every time they release a new song or upon request. The relations that you build with artists will be of great help.

Can you use this process in other scenarios? Yes. I once got an audio interview that had two individuals, a host, and a guest recorded at an event. The issue with the recording was that there was music playing in the background at some point in the interview. The interview was held slightly away from where the music was playing but the music was still audible. The client wanted to post the video on youtube. Here, I could have removed the part but the part was critical to the rest of the recording. Also, posting the video as is will attract a copyright strike by YouTube. Alternatively, the part can be muted by YouTube. Both of which do not help the client.

The best way to tackle the issue was to try to remove or attenuate the music in the background so that I do not have to remove the section. This process is described in the subsequent section.

How to Isolate Vocals Panned At The Centre

Import the file. The file in such a case might have vocals from the start of the file till the end. Also, the vocals that you intend to isolate might just exist in a section of the file. Once imported select all if you want to isolate vocals that exist all through the audio file or just select the section that you intend to get the vocals from. Always make sure that you make a copy of the file that you are about to edit as a precaution.

Once selected Click on Effects in the menu tab followed by the option Vocal Reduction and Isolation.

Vocal Reduction and Isloation Audacity

The pop-up box in the image below should appear.

Vocal Reduction and Isolation Audacity 2

The Vocal Reduction and Isolation effect is used to isolate vocals from instrumentals and sometimes make adjustments to how vocals and instrumentals sound in a particular audio file.

In the pop-up box, there is a preset entry and sliders. In the only entry which is labeled Action click on the entry to open a dropdown list. From the list of presets click on the Isolate Vocals preset.

Remove vocals Audacity

When isolating vocals you are aiming for the removal of the instrumental that exists in the audio. The three sliders namely: Strength, Low Cut for Vocals (Hz), and High Cut for Vocals (Hz).

The default settings for the Isolate Vocals preset might work great and at times they will just manage to remove the instrumental partially. If the latter is the case, use the three sliders to refine the audio by eliminating the residual instrumental.

Islolate Vocals Preset Audacity

Every time you make an adjustment to the slider click on the Preview button to sample how the effect is being applied.

Once you are content with how the vocals sound press Ok to finalize.

How to Isolate Vocals Mixed In One Channel of A Stereo Channel

Mixing is not a standard procedure. Sometimes the vocals will be panned to the center of a stereo track and the instrumental is spread around the centered vocals. In such a case you can always use the vocal reduction and isolation effect process outlined in the previous section of this article.

This second process will address a case where the vocals will be on one channel and the instrumental on the other. Here, you can use the Track Control Panel, a feature found on the left side of the audio waveform to identify which channel has the vocals by either panning left or right.

Track Control Panel Audacity

Once you have identified the channel that the vocals are in click on the downward-pointing arrow next to the audio name. This will open a drop-down list with a number of options. Click on Split Track To Mono.

Split Stereo to Mono Audacity

Click on the X icon on the top left corner to delete the instrumental channel.

delete instrumental channel Audacity

Export the remaining vocal channel.

A take before the conclusion is to reiterate that you will not always get a perfect result, so as you are making adjustments in the sliders under the voice reduction and isolation pop-up box always aim for ideal-sounding audio rather than a perfect result.


Hopefully, the process worked great for you. The success of this process depends on the engineering process of the audio file. At times you will not end up with perfectly sounding vocals. This will be a result of factors like the usage of reverb effects or cases where background vocalists were used. There are buttons on Dj Controllers and online sites that are dedicated to this function and I can say that their end result is not as great. Therefore, Audacity provides you with a better alternative as it allows you to manipulate the end result.

Lastly, I will address the issue of mash-ups which is the common use in this process.

Mash-ups are creative processes. The process involves the blending of other people’s works that sometimes might be copyrighted. Copyrightable work is original hence to avoid crossing hairs with the original creators be wary of where you intend to use the isolated vocals. Music remakes and recreations are a murky process, therefore knowing where you can use them will be of great use.