WHAT ARE STEMS / MULTITRACKS ?
The term ‘STEMS’ & ‘MULTITRACKS’ has become a bit interchangeable since the first use of the ‘STEMS’ (which is actually short for ‘Stereo Masters‘ btw)
Traditionally ‘STEMS’ where stereo mixes of groups of instrument tracks (ie. all the drum tracks glued to a single stereo audio file) so that anyone playing back the stem would hear the drums exactly how you heard them when you where mixing (including all FX and processing). So you might have stems for Drums, Bass, Guitars, Keys, Vocals etc – and when all these stems are played together, they would sound exactly as you had mixed them originally.
‘MULTITRACKS’ are exports of all the individual tracks with or without their FX and processing (ie. not grouped together). So you might have Kick, Snare, Bass, Guitar 1 etc.
‘STEMS’ is often used now to refer to ‘MULTITRACKS’ so it’s always best to check with whoever you are sending them to, so they get what they need.
MULTITRACKS can take two forms – DRY / WET (or a mix of both)
DRY means there are no FX on them ie. Reverb/delay etc. but do (usually) have EQ, compression or automation etc. included. This allows the mix engineer extra scope to add reverb and delay effects etc. where preferred. You can always add reverb to a stem but you can’t remove it, so usually stems are provided dry for this reason
To produce these, it’s important to disable any reverb, delay or other FX processing on the individual channels before exporting
WET means the FX and processing have been left on the individual tracks
This is usually the case when the original mix (before export) is 99% there, but just needs a few extra level or tonal tweaks.
There may be occasions where a mix of DRY and WET is the better approach – such as when a particular effect would be difficult for the mix engineer to re-create, or is very much part of the character of the inidivudal track.
Vocal stems should already be tuned and timed as preferred – if they aren’t please let us know so extra time can be allocated for this (if required)
MIX OF STEMS AND MULTITRACKS
There might be times when it’s best to send a mixture of stems & multitracks. For example, if you have stacked BVs and have the balance and mix just how you want it, then send a grouped stem of these – if other elements need extra work then send them as individual ‘multitrack’ files’
WHEN TO USE EACH TYPE
Mix engineers will typically want ‘multitracks’ so they have the extra control to create the final mix – but if you just need to send a mix of the track (but allow some level of control ie. to a vocalist) then grouped ‘stems’ is probably the best approach so they are dealing with only a few tracks and not every individual instrument. But it always best to ask what is needed.
How the stems/multitracks are labelled is also really important and will save the mix engineer a lot time (and therefore you a lot of money!)
For example, exporting the stems as ‘Audio 1’, ‘Audio 2’ etc. will mean the mix engineer needs to listen through to every stem and label it with something useful, before they can begin mixing
A much better approach is to make sure each stem is well labelled in the original project, with a description ie. gtr_dist, vox_lead, vox_bv, fx_rvb, before exporting. This way, when the stems are exported, they will be labelled the same as their channels in the original project, making it much clearer for the mix engineer
It’s also really useful to have a mix from your original project so we get an idea of the direction you want the track to take
Examples of other tracks or artists that you think have a similar sonic quality to how you would like the final mix to sound, is also really helpful and usually means a first mix that is much closer to what you’re after
SENDING THE STEMS/MULTITRACKS TO US (STEM DELIVERY)
As projects can often have anything between 10 and 100 multitracks/stems, emailing them is not really an option.
Using a service such as WeTransfer (free) or providing a Dropbox link is a much better way to send the stems to us. WeTransfer does have a limit of 2GB so if your stems are too big and you don’t have access to Dropbox, we can provide you with a FilePass upload link.
If you need any more info on this just let us know