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Stems from mixer

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Stems from mixer

Postby erinasaboy » Wed Aug 26, 2020 8:01 pm

Hi all,

I've just finished mixing an album and want to ask the mixer to provide stems as well as final mixes, so I can make minor tweaks later on if desired without doing tedious revisions with him now.

Not that familiar with it, but what are typically the stem groups you would ask for? The band layout is indie rock, so: drums/bass/gtrs/keys/vocs

I was thinking of asking for group stems as follows:

Lead vocal solo
BG vocs group
Guitars group
Keys/synths group
Strings
Bass gtr solo
Drums


Does that make sense? Not entirely sure how stems are grouped usually? My basic aim is to be able to toy with Bass up/vocal down/more drums/more strings kinds of mixes.

Pretty basic question, but anything else I should know?

Thanks!
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Re: Stems from mixer

Postby James Perrett » Wed Aug 26, 2020 9:11 pm

Not sure what the current practice is but on some old projects that I've been transferring recently it has been standard practice to have the main mix and then vocal up, vocal down, no lead vocals and totally instrumental mixes. There are also often other mixes with other combinations of instruments up, down and even removed completely.

If the mix is being done digitally then it is also possible to extract solo vocals given a vocal and an identical mix with no vocals.

It may also be worth saying that, depending on how the stems are created, you may find that the mix of stems won't sound identical to the finished mix as some effects rely in the interaction between different instruments.
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Re: Stems from mixer

Postby CS70 » Thu Aug 27, 2020 8:45 am

erinasaboy wrote:
Lead vocal solo
BG vocs group
Guitars group
Keys/synths group
Strings
Bass gtr solo
Drums


Does that make sense? Not entirely sure how stems are grouped usually? My basic aim is to be able to toy with Bass up/vocal down/more drums/more strings kinds of mixes.

Pretty basic question, but anything else I should know?

Thanks!

Well so long you pay for it, you can ask what you want. :)

What I normally do - if asked - is to provide a mix with and without vocals.

Stems, you have to specify if you want global effects or not (for example, reverbs) - and both with and without have pro and cons. Due to these, you can't usually reconstruct the mix from individual stems - you have to have the stems and the specific configuration (plugins+settings) for any global effect. Even if you print the effects, what you print really depends on what is sent so it quickly becomes a very large number of combinations (i.e. time consuming, hence expensive).

So to do that kind of re-mixing you really want the session. Or second best, get dry stems, ask the engineer to tell you what he's used, buy the effects and replicate the setup.
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Re: Stems from mixer

Postby ore_terra » Thu Aug 27, 2020 10:18 am

what he said :thumbup:
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Re: Stems from mixer

Postby The Elf » Thu Aug 27, 2020 10:26 am

As said, if you're paying then you can ask for what you want. Ideally you would negotiate this before the mix work is begun, but most engineers will be accomodating.

Personally I'd be far less interested in 'stems' and more inclined to get the entire project folder back. That way you can see the mix, learn from it, and do what you like with it - assuming you have the same DAW (and, to a lesser extent, plug-ins). At the very least a track-by-track dump would be my second choice.
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Re: Stems from mixer

Postby erinasaboy » Thu Aug 27, 2020 4:47 pm

James Perrett wrote:Not sure what the current practice is but on some old projects that I've been transferring recently it has been standard practice to have the main mix and then vocal up, vocal down, no lead vocals and totally instrumental mixes.

So our original agreement was Mastered, Unmastered, TV, A capella, and Instrumental mixes. Not sure if I might just ask to tack on a vocal down mix and then skip the stems.

James Perrett wrote:It may also be worth saying that, depending on how the stems are created, you may find that the mix of stems won't sound identical to the finished mix as some effects rely in the interaction between different instruments.

Yeah, I had this in the back of my head but wasn't sure how it worked. I sorta thought having stems for say Drums, Bass, Gtrs, Layers, Vocs, and setting all to C and 0 on the fader would recreate the exact mix, but I guess not. It makes sense that different side chains and such interactions would lead to differences.
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Re: Stems from mixer

Postby erinasaboy » Thu Aug 27, 2020 4:52 pm

CS70 wrote:Stems, you have to specify if you want global effects or not (for example, reverbs) - and both with and without have pro and cons. Due to these, you can't usually reconstruct the mix from individual stems - you have to have the stems and the specific configuration (plugins+settings) for any global effect. Even if you print the effects, what you print really depends on what is sent so it quickly becomes a very large number of combinations (i.e. time consuming, hence expensive).

So to do that kind of re-mixing you really want the session. Or second best, get dry stems, ask the engineer to tell you what he's used, buy the effects and replicate the setup.

Yeah, this is way more complicated than I thought. I don't want all that. It would probably be expensive, rightfully so, and I don't think I'd ultimately want significant enough changes to justify it.

I'm more of a songwriter/instrumentalist, so just wasn't sure if working with stems was a bit simpler than the above and a standard ask from a mixer.
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Re: Stems from mixer

Postby erinasaboy » Thu Aug 27, 2020 4:58 pm

The Elf wrote:Personally I'd be far less interested in 'stems' and more inclined to get the entire project folder back. That way you can see the mix, learn from it, and do what you like with it - assuming you have the same DAW (and, to a lesser extent, plug-ins). At the very least a track-by-track dump would be my second choice.

I think he uses Protools and can only assume he has way more/different plugins than I do. I use the basic version of Cubase with mostly stock plugins, one waves bundle, and a handful of others.

Otherwise, I would absolutely love to get a few project folders back and learn from the mix. Would happily pay for that. I mean, hell, just to get insight on how to work with a drum kit and bass would be gold to me.

I think based on the above replies I will skip asking for stems and maybe just see what the extra cost is for vocal up/down mixes so I have them in hand if ever needed.

Thanks all for the insight!
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Re: Stems from mixer

Postby James Perrett » Thu Aug 27, 2020 9:34 pm

erinasaboy wrote:A capella, and Instrumental mixes.

In which case you should have all that you need to give you any vocal level you like. You could also use the main mix and TV mix to achieve the same end although you'd need to do a little more processing.

I have one particular mastering client who often asks me to extract the vocals by using the difference between the full mix and instrumental mix because he often changes his mind about the vocal level he wants after he's had the song mixed.
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Re: Stems from mixer

Postby Zukan » Fri Aug 28, 2020 9:11 am

The Elf wrote:As said, if you're paying then you can ask for what you want. Ideally you would negotiate this before the mix work is begun, but most engineers will be accomodating.

Personally I'd be far less interested in 'stems' and more inclined to get the entire project folder back. That way you can see the mix, learn from it, and do what you like with it - assuming you have the same DAW (and, to a lesser extent, plug-ins). At the very least a track-by-track dump would be my second choice.

^^^^ This.
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