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I am referring to extractions like these:

The quality is, quite frankly, amazing. One could remix the song starting from the tracks.

All of these seem to be extracted from the final mix. How is this done? Using what tool and how does that tool operate?

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2 Answers 2

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Quite simply: You don't. End users generally get them by extracting them from games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band, which have these tracks separated. The tracks themselves are provided by the bands or record labels.

The links you provided are ALL based on tracks from the original studio recordings and were NOT extracted from the final master.

While various extraction techniques are being researched, perfect extraction is mathematically impossible. That's because a significant amount of data is lost forever during mixing.

The ability to detect and isolate whatever's left of the individual tracks is a hugely complex computer-science challenge that's a bit similar to computer vision. There is just no known way of doing this right now that even closely resembles the human capacity to isolate these tracks while you're listening.

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Ah-a, so they are ripped from games! interesting... –  Sklivvz Jan 2 '11 at 15:23
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As a side note to this excellent answer, most of the music for Guitar Hero and such is re-recorded by studio machines. I'd imagine for something as well-known as Master of Puppets they might have been able to finagle licensing the masters, but there is a video on the Guitar Hero 3 disc where they show some of their studio machines recording covers of the music. –  Brad Jan 3 '11 at 1:22
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This isn't entirely true; isolated tracks often exist as separate recordings long before they make it into any videogame :) It's common to hear these referred to as "studio masters." You may be thinking of the first couple of Guitar Hero games when they didn't have licenses to use the original masters, so they recorded covers instead. –  Warrior Bob Jan 3 '11 at 6:47
    
+1. This saves a lot of other questions like this. –  Pelle ten Cate Jan 3 '11 at 9:58
    
@Warrior Bob: Of course they existed before Guitar Hero and such. These tracks have existed since the dawn of multi-track recording. All I'm saying is that this is how end users have been obtaining those tracks recently (by ripping them out of the game CDs/DVDs), since they're otherwise never released to the public. –  ldoogy Feb 4 '11 at 2:13

There is a trick with vocals though. Many singles come with instrumental versions of the tracks. These are usually done with the exact same mix as the vocal version, but with the vocal tracks muted. As a result you can subtract the instrumental version from the vocal version and get a version with vocals only. It won't be perfect, you will still have artifacts, but these are usually silent enough to be drowned out once you use the separated vocal track to other music, and you can also improve the situation with filtering.

This is often how mashups like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j98zaF5592c is done. (Although not necessarily THAT specific mashup).

But this only works if you have the song without the instrument/voice you want to separate, so this is not how it's done in your examples.

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