PhonicMind Blog

How to Remove Drums from Songs & Samples

April 3, 2021
drum remover stems maker

Is it possible to remove drums from a music track? This is a popular question that you probably wondered about.

While the ability to remove drums from a song used to be near impossible, today, thanks to the accessibility of machine learning and artificial intelligence – removing drums from a song is now possible.

But what’s the reason someone would want to remove drums from a song anyway? 

From what we gathered, here are a few popular reasons: 

  • Making drum covers – With platforms like YouTube, these days it’s possible to express your creativity and talents to people around the world. And making drum covers means you will need backing tracks without the drums.
  • For drumming practice – One of the best ways to practice drumming is to drum and jam on top of a music piece. This means having to remove the drums and percussive content of a song.
     
  • To do research – Ever wanted to break down or isolate drums from certain songs and discover how it was performed?
     
  • Remixing and sampling – Isolating drums elements from music, to create samples for remixing, beat-making, Dj-ing, and generally producing music.

In this post, I want to share three ways to remove drums from a music track.

We’ll start with the first method – where we’ll use an EQ (equalizer) technique and the second method, with a multiband compressor. 

Both the EQ and multiband compressor technique isn’t perfect and you might end up with a music track with other instruments removed as well.

However, you’ll learn some good music production techniques along with the steps, so follow along. 

Otherwise, if you want the fastest, most efficient way to remove drums from any songs, just skip to method 3.

Let’s get started!

Method 1 – Use an Equalizer (EQ) to Remove Drums

what is an equalizer

An equalizer (EQ) is an audio engineering tool used to manipulate a music track’s frequency content. So the logic is if we can identify frequencies of the drum elements within a song, we can use the help of EQs to filter them out.

The downside is that in most cases, other instruments within the song sharing the frequencies as the drums will also be filtered out with EQ.

But the good news is that software-based EQ effects are readily available to us in most audio editing software or Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) – such as Audacity (free, open-source), Adobe Audition, Logic Pro, Cubase, and Studio One

As long as you can get hold of an audio software with an EQ effect, the steps are fundamentally similar. So let’s continue. 

1 – Know Your Drum Frequencies

Before doing any sort of equalization, first, identify the frequencies of the drum elements within a song – like a snare, kick, hi-hats and cymbals.

Audio frequencies are measured in Hertz (Hz).

Here is a general guideline for drum frequencies:

  • Kicks – 80-150Hz
  • Snares – 120-250Hz
  • Hi-Hats – 300-300Hz (Can extend up to 10-17k Hz for the ‘airy’ sound.)
  • Cymbals – 400-500Hz (Up to 12Hz for its shiny, silverish sound.)
  • Floor Toms – 60h-110Hz
  • Tom-toms – 100-600Hz

As you can see, a typical drum kit covers a wide frequency range, thus making isolating drums with EQ-ing, a difficult task.

Keep in mind that the guideline above is merely a general guide. The frequencies of drums differ from song to song, depending on how it’s recorded. So, it’s always better to trust your ears more.

2 – Filter out Drums With a High-Pass Filter

A high-pass filter (LCF) is a good start to filtering out drums in a music track. 

In this example, I’m using Logic Pro’s Channel EQ, a multiband equalizer that includes a low-pass and high-pass filter – exactly what we needed.

Note: A high-pass and a low-cut filter are essentially the same things. You can also use single-band or DJ EQs, which have the same function.

With equalizers, you normally have a few crucial settings:
 

  • Type: Determines the general shape of the EQ band. Commonly, you’ll find the high-pass/low-cut, notch, bell, and low-pass/high-cut.
  • Frequency: Use this to set the center of your EQ band, where you wish to cut or boost.
  • Slope: The slope of a filter sets how aggressively frequencies are attenuated (reduced), once the cut-off frequency is passed. A 6dB per octave slope will sound more natural, compared to a steep 24dB slope. 
  • Q factor: The Q factor of an EQ controls the bandwidth that will be cut or boosted. A lower Q factor means more frequencies will be affected. 
  • Gain: Refers to how much you cut or boost.

Using the low-cut filter, I filtered the EQ from around 540Hz, setting a steep slope of 48 dB per octave with a high Q-factor. I had to use a steep slope because there were lots of drum elements in the low-end of the song I chose for this example.

before-after-eq

Watch the video below to listen to the track before and after EQ-ing: 

You’ll hear that we have reduced the drum kicks by a bit, however, the snares and hi-hats are still present in the song. 

You may also notice that the bass and lower-end frequency content are also filtered out along with the kick drums.

3 - Refining with Multiband Equalizers

A multiband EQ gives us more control over what to filter. Instead of just using a high-pass filter, we’re going to refine by additionally targeting some extra frequencies we want to reduce. 

With the same EQ which also acts as a multiband EQ on Logic Pro, I shifted the frequency of the high-pass filter to around 400Hz to give some room. Then I added a few bell filters at the 2kHz, 5kHz, and 11kHz mark – targeting the snares and hi-hats.

multiband-equalizer

The result is a slightly cleaner-sounding song with the drums reduced, but again, not entirely removed.

If you’re wondering, which frequencies to cut depends on the song we’re working on. Rather than following a set of frequency guidelines, it’s better to do careful listening as you filter out the drum elements from your song. 

A good technique to find frequencies to cut is the ‘boost & sweep’ technique – where you boost a frequency band, slowly sweep it through the EQ spectrum to find prominent drum frequencies, and once you do, reduce them by pulling the frequency down.

frequency-boost-sweep

Method 2 – Use a Multiband Compressor

Now that you know how to use an equalizer, let’s move on to using a multiband compressor to remove drums from a song.

A multiband compressor is a compressor and an equalizer fused together. When we use equalizers, we essentially filter out frequencies. A compressor on the other hand, ‘compresses’ the sound’s dynamic range.

And with a multiband compressor, we can select the frequencies to do downward compression – that is, to attenuate signals at selected frequencies. In our case, this would be the frequencies of the drum elements.

Most audio software and DAWs have multiband compressor effects included. In Logic Pro, I simply loaded the multipressor effect.

Some important parameters you’ll find on multiband compressors are: 

  • Threshold: Sets the level in dB where the compressor starts working. 
  • Ratio: Controls how much the sound is reduced in volume. A higher ratio means your sound will be compressed harder.
  • Attack: Controls how much time the compressor takes before it starts compressing. 
  • Release: Controls how soon the compressor turns off after the signal drops below the set threshold. 
  • Gain: Using compressors usually means we inevitably lower the volume of the song, so the gain setting is to add back some gain that has been reduced by the compressor. 

Targeting two frequency ranges – from 0hz - 550Hz and 1kHz - 2kHz, I set a low threshold of -45dB and dialed in a rather high compression ratio of 21:1.

multiband-compressor

This ensures the compressor only compresses the frequency ranges I selected.

Because Logic Pro’s multiband compressor only allows up to 4 frequency bands, I added another Multipressor effect, so I can target another frequency range to compress. 

The hi-hats in my song example were quite prominent, so I tried attenuating them by compressing a high-frequency range between 5kHz - 20kHz.

multiband-compressor-remove-drums

To help the multiband compressor and to achieve a more desirable outcome, I added an EQ with a high-pass filter. 

Here’s what the song sounds like before and after the multiband compressors: 

If you’ve followed till here so far, you might think that even with all the EQ-ing and compression work done, our music track isn’t where we’d want it to be. 

And you are right!

You can still hear the drums in the song. And if we apply are more aggressive EQ or compression, we end up losing other instrumental elements of the song. 

Luckily, there’s a more effective way to remove drums from a song. And this is a method that produces the cleanest and best-sounding result.

Method 3 – Use our AI-powered Stem Maker (PhonicMind)

Having started as a vocal remover a few years ago, today – we’ve turned PhonicMind into an AI-powered stem maker that enables you to create stems out of any song.

The AI engine behind PhonicMind understands music and can separate vocals, drums, bass, and other instruments from a music track. This means we’re able to remove drums from a song and only keep the elements that we want. 

Step 1 – Launch PhonicMind and Process Your Song

On PhonicMind, click ‘Let’s Go’ to start, and drop your song into the pop-up window to upload. It’s that simple.

Using a high-quality audio file such as .wav, .aiff or .flac is preferred. But it’s fine if you only have an mp3 version of your song. 

phonic-mind-drum-remover

Depending on your song and file size, it’ll take no more than a minute for PhonicMind to analyze, process, and create stems out of the song. 

Once done, you’ll find a mixer that you can use to playback a 30-seconds preview of the stems – vocals, drums, bass, and other.

Since we’re removing drums, choose to mute the drum stem – and hit the play button to preview the song with its drums removed! 

And that’s it! You would be listening to a song without drums. 

mute-drum-track

If you prefer, instead of completely muting the drum stem, you can also dial back a little volume on the drums and mix it with the other stems. This can sometimes help your song sound more natural.

Step 2 – Perform Full Conversion & Download Your Mix

Happy with how everything sounds? Click on ‘Perform Full Conversion’ to allow PhonicMind to process the entire song. 

Processing the whole song will take a slightly longer time (under 5 minutes), so sit back and relax while it processes.

Once complete, you can still toy around with the web player – to either mute the drum stem or leave a little bit of its sound in the mix (to retain some naturalness).

mute-drums-phonicmind

When you’re ready, click download. You’ll find a few options under download – Mix, Karaoke, Vocals, and Stems. 

download-options-phonicmind

Here are what each of them means:

  • Mix.mp3 or Mix.flac – This download option gives you an exact song mix of what you hear in the web player, depending on your adjustments.
  • Karaoke.mp3 or Karaoke.flac – The Karaoke option gives you a version of your song without its vocals (vocal stem muted).
  • Vocals.mp3 or Vocals.flac – Opposite of the Karaoke option, the Vocals option gives you only the vocal stem from your song. 
  • Stems.mp3.zip or Stems.flac.zip – This option gives you all four stems – Vocals, Drums, Bass, and Others, which you can put back together or for remixing within an audio editing software or DAW. 

Whether to download the .flac or .mp3 audio file format, depends on whether you want a lossless audio file at its highest quality (.flac) or you prefer a smaller, compressed audio file (.mp3).

In my case, since I want a version of the song without the drums, I muted the drum stem – and chose to download Mix.mp3. 

Here’s how the final output sounds, using PhonicMind to remove drums:

In the video example, I mixed a little of the drum sound back using the web player to keep the song sounding more natural. However, it’s up to you, whether to remove the drums completely or to retain a little in your song!

Note: There are no download limits once you have processed a song. So download away!

Closing Off

I hope this guide on removing drums from songs and samples has helped you.

While our stem maker makes it effortless to remove drums, you can always go a step further to creatively shape your sound by using the equalization and compressions techniques explained above, after processing it with PhonicMind.

Go forth, remove drums from songs and get creative!


Reuben

Audio Mentor
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"Music producer and marketer. I create positive change!"