You should know how to print stems whether you’re a producer hiring a mixing engineer, a mixer bouncing stems to send clients or an artist finishing the recording process. Making sure the artist leaves the studio with all the necessary stems will prevent the need to reopen finished projects for specific stems in the future. Here are the essentials to avoid time consuming back and forth.
Stems and Individual tracks (Multi-tracks) are not equivalent in nature but are commonly used interchangeably. If you are a producer or artist sending your project out to a mixer, clarify whether individual tracks are needed or stems.
There are many benefits to printing stems as a producer and as an artist. Producers can group tracks with specific creative processing and bounce those effects. If you are receiving stems, you can take out or boost entire sections for remixes or to change up the genre. Give the song new life by adding in a completely new drum section or make it acoustic with only the live instruments. For artists, stems can open many business avenues. Sending your song out for sync placement? You’ll probably be asked for the instrumental stem or the drum and bass stem, maybe they just want the vocal a cappella, you’ll have those stems ready and available.
Stems are organized, convenient and customizable speeding up and giving more control in the final mixing stages as well as future collaborative projects.
Beginning: The Set-up
Organize and LABEL all your tracks and groups. This will make the process of printing and sending out simple. (Pro Tip: Creating a Session Template to open at the beginning of every session makes this process quick and seamless.) Have all of your instrumental sections grouped and color coded ie; drums, bass, lead vocal, backgrounds, harmonies, synths etc. Start each individual track name with the name of the group it is in or a number for effortless communication. With everything organized, you’ll save a lot of time importing tracks and making stems for your project.
Finally, label your song with the Key and BPM in the title for easy translation.
Middle: Printing Your Stems
This is where stems become a powerful tool for producers and maintaining control over their soundscape.
First, make sure your stems are all starting at the beginning for your session and ending where you want them to. They should all be the same length when sent out for mixers and artists.
Print your stems with your stylistic processing! Tracks that are processed strictly for mixing purposes ie: compression, EQ’s to tighten up the sound, should be printed dry for the mixing engineer. When the processing is a stylistic choice ie; big reverbs, delays, time effects, saturation etc. anything that is a necessary piece of the soundscape, print those. Your processed stems are preferred to trying to recreate the pivotal saturated Bass that drives the song. It is quicker, easier and more satisfactory for everyone involved to mix processed stems into the session than trial and error from dry tracks. If the dry track is needed, the engineer can request it.
Check with whoever you’re sending the tracks to what type of file is preferred. When sending out final stems to a client, 44.1kHz – 24-Bit wave files is universally the way to go.
End: Release Ready!
What stems are you gonna need to send your client?
- Instrumental Version
- Live Version
- Master 44.1kHz, 24-Bit Version
- Master 48kHz, 24-Bit Version
Instrumental: Self explanatory. You already have all your sections organized, named and grouped so you can easily go in and mute the Lead and Background vocal groups.
Live Version: This one you’ll have to ask for clarification from the artist for their performances. Will they have a live band or want the backgrounds in but not the lead or if they want an acoustic version. This can turn into multiple live versions.
Master 44.1kHz, 24-Bit: This is the highest quality that distribution sites will accept so this will be the one sent to Spotify, I-tunes and the like.
Master 48kHz, 24-Bit: If the artist plans to release a music video, this version will be necessary for quality in the video.
Master.MP3: When bouncing an MP3, make sure to fill out all the file tags: title, album, artist, writers etc. It embeds all that information on the file for when you send this version to blogs or reviews which occasionally only accept MP3’s.
Happy Release Day!