Stems are an incredibly powerful option for anyone that uses music for video.
A musical Stem is a component of a music mix that’s less than a complete mix, but more than an individual track. With Stems, you can put together your own high-level mixes without the complexity of working on a mixing console. Using Stems, you can create unique versions of tracks, each with a specific purpose, that will still retain the familiar feel of the original music. This is an ideal way to create audio tracks for use with video.
Stems are very easy to understand if you think about them like this: imagine a group playing in front of you. Let’s say they’ve got quite a few musicians: lead singers, backing vocals, rhythm (drums, percussion, bass), horns (sax, trumpet and trombone) and keyboards.
Traditionally all of these musical elements will be mixed to produce a master stereo track. And once they’re mixed - you can’t unmix them, just like you can’t unscramble an egg. Until now, that is.
Let’s look at this in a bit more detail.
In olden times
In the early days of multitrack recording, there weren’t many tracks. Even super groups like the Beatles had to make do with four recording channels. The track count increased rapidly through eight, sixteen, twenty four and forty eight. That was about as far as you could go with tape recorders, but today, with Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs), there’s almost no limit.
More tracks means more control and more creativity, but it also means that mixes can get very complicated and if you mess with the mix, you almost have to start from scratch. That means a lot of time and - of course - expertise.
Video content producers may be experts in their own field, but what they don’t have time for (even assuming they could get hold of the multitrack master tapes) is creating brand new mixes.
This is where Stems come in.
Parts of a recording, but premixed
Stem tracks contain pre-mixed sections of a complete mix. Just like in the band example above, stem tracks, all derived from the same tune, might consist of lead vocals, backing vocals, rhythm, horns, keyboards and any other part of the whole mix. But - here’s the thing - they’re already premixed. This is important.
“Premixed” means that the Stems themselves sound like finished recordings. They’ll already have equalization, reverb, compression and any other effects needed to make them sound good. All the video producer has to do is decide which stems to use in any given section of his or her production.
Most importantly, all of the Stems are designed to sound great either separately or in any combination. No additional processing is required.
1) You get complete control over your music. There’s no need to be an expert mixer: you can simply select a Stem that works best for your project.
2) You can craft your tracks to suit what’s going on in the video. Without pausing the music, you can transition from a “full-on” selection of Stems for an action sequence to a “thinned-out” combination to accompany a voice-over.
3) If you use a track to establish brand identity, Stem versions from the same track can be used to create new, previously unheard versions while maintaining familiarity.
4) You have more flexibility over timing. Use the full track for longer pieces, and your choice of stems for shorter versions.
5) The ultimate flexibility in editing. With Stems, you no longer have to work around the length or nature of the music. Stems allow you to edit with complete flexibility while maintaining musical integrity.
Create your own tracks
Stems give you the professional quality of a finished mix with the flexibility to create your own tracks, tailored to your productions.