Have you ever attempted to learn a song and wished that you could hear the drum part more clearly? Perhaps you want to jam with music or record your own drum cover without the original drum part masking your playing?
Well, what used to be a Back to the Future-style pub conversation that started with, 'Imagine if…" is now a pretty high-quality reality. We may not have hoverboards (yet), but in 2023 it’s possible to deconstruct pre-recorded, stereo mixes into individual isolated tracks, and what’s more, it doesn't have to cost you anything.
How does it work?
You’ve probably become very aware of AI over the last couple of years, but as well as threatening our jobs and writing our music for us before it inevitably overpowers the human race, for now AI can also be employed in a more useful way.
That’s exactly what makes this possible. While making The Beatles’ Get Back documentary, Peter Jackson and Giles Martin used custom AI software to ‘de-mix’ the original master recordings, but for those of us who don’t have access to Hollywood budgets, all is definitely not lost.
Of course, there are plenty of places to find songs with the drums removed or isolated (as with the two examples shown here from YouTube). But what if you want to do it for yourself, or can't find the song you're looking for?
There are plenty of AI software tools that can deconstruct an audio file and split it into stems - Moises, LALAL.AI, Bandlab Splitter, Voice.AI and more. For this tutorial, we’ll be using Moises which has been around for a few years, is easy to use and works on your PC/Mac, iOS or Android device. Crucially, Moises offers a free plan and can deconstruct a song, display the chords, transpose the audio and more.
Without paying, you simply sign up and you’ll be able to upload five songs per month. Moises will split each stereo file into a two-stem (vocals and instrumental) or four-stem (vocals, guitar, bass and drums) file for you to re-mix.
If you want to upload more files, split files into a greater number of stems, add more comprehensive smart metronome functionality or download your separated tracks as .wavs rather than .mp3 files then you can take out a paid-for plan.
Before we get started, there are a few caveats: you’ll need to own the stereo file. Moises can import audio from your music library, phone, computer or cloud storage locations, but it isn’t compatible with streaming services. So, you can’t just point it towards your streamed Spotify or YouTube playlists. It’s also worth noting that the free plan is limited to five-minute tracks (increasing to 20 once you start paying.)
How to create drumless jam tracks or isolated drum tracks of your favourite songs using Moises
First you need to sign up. To create a free account, all you need to do is visit the Moises website if you're working from a desktop computer, or download the Moises app for iOS or Android. Create your account, select the free plan and you can get started immediately. You can upgrade to Premium or Pro tiers at any time if you find the free functionality isn’t enough.
As mentioned, you’ll need to have access the file that you want to split into stems. Here, we’re using the Moises desktop web app to upload a track from our iTunes library stored on our computer, but you can do the same from the mobile app. If your library is stored in the cloud, you can input a link for Moises to download the audio from.
With the file uploaded, you'll be able to choose the number of stems. For our purposes, we want all the instruments to be isolated, so we've chosen four.
Give the software a moment to process it. We’ve found it to be faster using the desktop app, and if you take out a paid subscription the processing times are quicker.
Once the track has been analysed, you’ll be presented with a screen displaying the separated tracks. Here you can solo, mute or adjust the volume levels and panning. The free account allows you to apply a click track, complete with count-in, but it will only work for the first minute. Solo the drums for an isolated drum track.
If you want to make a drumless track for jamming, simply mute the drums. Now, it’s not always 100% accurate. The results will depend on how the song was recorded, mixed and processed during its production in terms of the artefacts and separation. However, we’ve tried multiple songs from multiple eras and it’s impressive. Once you have your mix configured, you can download the track(s). Witchcraft? Nope, it’s just robots.