How to Remove a Drum Track

By Shawn M. Tomlinson
You can remove the drum track from audio recordings if you start with multitrack source material.

Budding musicians often want to play along with their favorite songs. It helps you learn what the recorded musician did and helps you develop your own skills and talent. Professional musicians often listen to their own recordings and tweak them before they are released to the general public. Sometimes this involves changing an individual track, such as the one holding the drums. If you use multitracking recording equipment, removing a drum track takes almost no time. With multitracking computer software, the removal of a drum track simply takes a few steps.

Load the multitrack recording into a computer. Convert the file format to one compatible with your particular multitracking recording software if necessary. Most multitrack recordings are stored in common sound file formats such as WMV or AIFF, but your particular recorder may need a specific format.

Open the multitrack editing software and import the song file. It will display with each individual track for each instrument and vocals. Usually, these will appear as horizontal graphic element boxes. They should be labeled according to which instrument or vocal appears on which track. For example, you may see a “Lead Guitar” track, “Backing Vocals” track, “Percussion” track and “Drums” track among others. In digital multitracking, there is virtually no limit to the number of recordable tracks you can use.

Isolate the drum track you want to remove. If the individual tracks are not labeled, click the “Mute” button on each track, then deselect this option for one track at a time. When you find the drum track or tracks you want to remove, remember where they are. Note that in some multitrack software packages each individual track is color coded for easy recognition.

Select the first drum track you want to remove. Usually, you can delete individual instrument tracks simply by hitting the delete key on your keyboard. If this does not work, look for an “Edit” menu or a “Track” menu and find the option for deleting tracks.

Save the multitrack recording without drums as a new file with a new name. If you intend to listen to this recording as a standard WMV, AIFF or MP3 audio file, you will need to mix down all the tracks to stereo and output it as a normal audio file.

Tip

You can also remove a drum track if you have a multitrack audio tape of the song, too. During playback, you just need to set your mixing board to silence the drum track. You can mix down the song without the drum track to a stereo recording for normal listening.

Warning

It is virtually impossible to remove a drum track from a standard stereo mix song, such as ones you have on your computer or on a CD, record or audio tape. When a studio engineer makes the final mix of a song for commercial release, he almost always combines all the of the many layers of music together. That means that any techniques you use to try to eliminate the drum track would take out whole chunks of the music, from vocals to guitars to keyboards and backing singers.

About the Author

Shawn M. Tomlinson has been a newspaper and magazine writer for more than 28 years. He has written for a variety of publications, from "MacWEEK" and "Macintosh-Aided Design" to "Boys' Life," "Antique Week" and numerous websites. He attended several colleges, majoring in English, writing and theater, and has taught college classes about writing.