Do you still know those quizzes on the radio where the listener had to guess a certain song after listening to (a piece of) intro? Such a music quiz can also be played with friends, but then a bit more difficult! All you need is the free Audacity program and some multitrack audio files available on the internet.
Okay, we admit it, the author of this article is crazy about pub quizzes and has already lit several colleagues of the editors with this hobby. So a warning beforehand: it can be addictive!
A real music lover will recognize a song after a few tones. How fun is it to make a fun quiz for an evening of music fun. And we make it a bit more difficult by not letting all instruments hear.
For this, we use multitrack audio files. These are music files in which several instruments are separately recorded on separate stereo tracks. Of course, these are not files that you use every day. In fact, such files are normally only for use by, for example, sound studios. But if you search the internet for the term ‘multitrack audio’ or ‘isolated tracks’, you will still find some material that you do not expect to download. You can also find various individual audio fragments from popular pop songs on YouTube. In those cases, you will find a separate track from, for example, only a bass guitar, drum part or keyboards. Those recordings are even from the original piece of music, which makes it even more interesting. Not only for a music quiz but also if you are a fan of a certain artist or like to learn to play music. With the separate tracks, you can hear exactly how something is played without distraction from the surrounding instruments. Multitrack audio files are offered in the Ogg-Vorbis codec format and carry the extension .mogg.
Legal or illegal?
Multitrack audio files have in most cases never been released by an artist or studio. How is it possible that you find such files on the internet? That is largely due to the music game Rock Band. To play each instrument separately in this game, official audio tracks of studio quality are used. The individual instrument tracks and voices have been ‘pulled apart’ and put on individual tracks. Often the master tapes are used from the studios themselves. The maker of Rock Band pays the artists royalties for this.
Smart hackers have ripped the Mogg files the Rock Band series and put them online. This is illegal, of course, but you can easily download these files from various forums (if you look carefully). On YouTube, you can also find multitrack files from some popular bands from the 80s and 90s (eg Toto, The Police, and Queen), where you can listen to a single instrument. Some of those tracks have been on for years, so this is probably tolerated by the artist or record company. Through various tools, you can download videos from YouTube and save them as an audio file. For example via the 4K Video Downloader tool.
02. Opening contents of multitrack
There are not many free audio programs that can handle multitrack audio. Audacity is a digital audio propagator that can do that. Versions for Windows, macOS, and Linux are available. Install the software and open the downloaded mmog file via the File / Open menu. Opening the file takes some time because Audacity first splits all individual tracks from the main file. Some mmog files contain about five or six separate instrument tracks. An average music track usually has many more instruments, and for that reason, you will also hear several instruments on some audio tracks; it is not always possible to completely isolate an instrument. In general, the drums, bass guitar and voices can be listened to separately. But that’s a matter of trying, you can not see that in advance, so you always have to open the file in Audacity first to be able to listen to the individual channels.
03. Stereo track
Once you have opened your Mogg file in Audacity, you immediately see how many different audio tracks the file contains. Audacity automatically splits each audio track into a left and right channel, or two times mono. If you opened a file with six separate audio tracks, you’ll see it in Audacity 12. Fortunately Audacity groups the channels together and it is easy to combine the two mono tracks into one stereo track. You do this as follows: click on the top audio track of the group of two on the small black arrow to the name of the audio file and choose from the menu for the option Create stereo track. A stereo track sounds just a bit more spacious than a separate mono-track.
Drums, drums and more drums
You can find multiple drum tracks in many Mogg files from the Rock Band game. That is because the goal of the game is to recreate a certain instrument as accurately as possible to get the most points. A drum set is the only instrument that consists of several ‘sub’ instruments: bass drum, snare drum, hi-hat, cymbals, and tomtoms. All these individual instruments can be played through Rock Band from the Rock Band and the game keeps track of exactly when the drum is beaten.
In Audacity you can – if you wish – only play the hi-hat, snare drum or bass drum separately. The individual cymbals are usually included in the audio track of the hi-hat.
With this gaming drum set, all parties from Rock Band can be played.
04. Listen to tracks
A Mogg file contains the different audio channels, but you can not tell from anywhere which channel contains which instrument. You can only do that if you play the individual track. In Audacity, you can play your chosen track in isolation (solo). You can do this simply by clicking the Solo button on the left side of the audio track. All other tracks are then automatically muted.
Playing a solo track makes it really fun. Especially if you are a fan of a certain musician and want to be able to hear exactly how he or she plays because you can now whine well. That also applies to the vocals: often you hear some funny things that can never be heard in the final mix, such as a sigh or a cough, or just a different way of singing because no backing vocals can be heard. In short: for real fans of a certain band or musician, this can yield nice insights.
There are many more fun things to do with the individual audio tracks. If you like audio editing and music, you can make a complete remix based on the different audio tracks. You pick up the vocal tracks from one song, the drum part from another song and again from another song the keyboard part. In Audacity, you can store each track separately as an audio file, and then merge those tracks into a new project. To export a single audio track: select the track you want to save and then choose File / Export Selected Audio. Audacity can store your audio track in various file formats, including wav, mp, and Ogg-Vorbis.
06. Music quiz
With the abovementioned possibilities in Audacity in combination with a multitrack audio file, you can play for Leo Blokhuis yourself, for example with friends or family. The great thing about multitrack audio is that you can switch on and off individual audio tracks during playback. If you want to play a ‘guess the song’ quiz, you first start with the bass line, then you let a rhythm guitar play along, then a lead guitar, et cetera. The earlier the song is guessed on the basis of a few instruments as possible, the more points you can earn.
To activate an audio track every time in Audacity during playback, first select the audio track that you want to play first. Select it and click the Solo button on the left. Now press the play button in the upper bar. All other tracks are now muted, only your chosen track will be played. To add a second instrument, click the Mute button for that track (which was pressed). Repeat the steps until all instruments of the song are played or until the song is guessed.
07. Name tracks
If you open a multitrack audio file for the first time, you can not see which track represents which instrument. For that, you always have to listen to every track solo. Fortunately, Audacity has the possibility to give the individual tracks their own name, so that you can give each track an easily identifiable name. Renaming an audio track is done as follows: click on the name of the file on the left side of the track just next to the cross and choose from the menu, for now, gives you a name, for example, bass guitar.
READ ALSO: Thumbnails of all files with SageThumbs