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I'm relatively new to Ableton and am learning about sampling right now. What I'd like to be able to do is take an instrumental and isolate specific sounds from it.

Is this possible?

I imagine there's no universal way because each sound is different but are there a set of tools and methods in Ableton that are particularly useful in doing this?

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If you have a particular sound that is embedded into a wave file containing other sounds, the only mechanism anyone has for isolating that sound and excluding all other sounds is through filtering BUT this probably won't work in a general sense because....

A particular sound may be (say) a flute and its characteristic timbre is produced by a series of harmonics related to the base pitch of the note - these harmonics will extend through the audio spectrum and overlap other instruments that are also in the wave file. Disentangling a flute harmonics from other sounds is very, very hard to do effectively.

We, as humans, may recognize that a flute is being played (in the presence of other sounds) and if we can play the flute we could recreate that sound fairly well BUT it would be an interpretation of the flute part of the wave file.

How do you instruct a piece of software or hardware to recognize a flute sound and extract it - I don't think it can be done by filtering because the harmonics would clash with other instruments.

If the sound you wish to isolate is limited to a certain range of the spectrum and other sounds in the wave file do not encroach into that part of the spectrum then simple band-pass filtering should be successful. Anything more complex and the process is rather like trying to turn a baked-cake back into it's original constituents.

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  1. Try using "Gate" to eliminate unwanted frequencies
  2. Try splitting (ctrl + E) the audio sample in arrangement view, to isolate tiny bits.
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You can use equalization as stated above. You can also adjust the stereo imaging by playing with the phase. Adjusting the phase could potentially allow you to isolate vocals from the rest of the track if the vocals are mixed hard center. I've used this process successfully to hide the bass and vocals and hear what else is happening in a song.

Here's what I'd do: 1. Clone your track twice (you'll have 3 channels of the same track) 2. Flip the phase (reverse polarity) on one channel. Hard pan one left, hard pan one right. 3. Turn down your headphones or monitors and slowly move the center channel up and down. Adjusting the level will cause cancellation of the center channel and either bring up or remove elements from the center of the mix.

It's a bit hard to explain but it's a great trick to hear the background stuff in a mix (reverb, ear candy, etc.). But it can also get you just a vocal or bass extracted from a song.

The other trick is using iZotope's RX suite to extract or remove frequencies from a song.

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