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What Are STEMS?! How To Use STEMS In Music Production

What Are STEMS How To Use STEMS In Music Production

An audio STEM is a full song length audio file that contains a premixed group of audio tracks. Usually, a stem consists of a certain group of instruments (drums, strings, guitar, bass, etc.). That is, the song is vertically divided into sections by instrument. The point of stems is to export tracks to any DAW, quickly recreate the sound of the original track, save time working on the project, and in the case of live use, expand the DJ’s expressive means.

Don’t confuse a stem with a group of tracks in a DAW. A Stem is a WAV file saved in stereo and processed. Stem sessions are usually used when the main work of recording, editing, and mixing has already been completed.

Stems vs Multi-tracks: Know The Differences Mixing Engineers Will Love You For This

Multitracks are a collection of individual tracks in a project, either mono or stereo. There will be no processing and effects in multitracks. And each channel contains only one specific voice or instrument, not a group of instruments. For example, a drum stem is mixed version from the entire drum kit and additional percussion. They have already been processed with EQ, Compression, Saturation, etc.

There are usually 4 to 20 stems in a project. There can be up to several hundred multitracks.

How Audio STEMS Are Used

Stems not only make the editing process more manageable but also ensure that your music can be modified, mixed, and mastered in various environments without losing quality or requiring extensive setup.

1. Time and Cost Efficiency in Mastering/Mixing

Using stems can significantly streamline the mixing process. For example, it’s much simpler to adjust the compression on just the drum section without affecting the vocals or other instruments when you’re working with four stems instead of 400 individual tracks.

2. Preserve Song’s Audio Quality

If the initial recording and premix were done in a high-quality studio, using stems ensures that all the processing done with expensive equipment is retained. This means if you need to make edits later, you don’t have to reconstruct the entire multitrack, rebuild effect chains, or realign levels from scratch.

3. Flexibility and Compatibility

Stems can be opened in any studio, on any Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), providing flexibility and ease of access. This is particularly useful if the original recording used a plugin that is no longer supported or if you no longer have certain plugins installed on your (or the studio’s) computer.


Audio Stems Vocals Synth Bass

To assemble a track from stems, it is important that they are the same size, same length (same tempo), saved in the same format (for example, 24 bit / WAV / 48 kHz), and start at the same point on the timeline. Stems should be allocated according to their categories in the arrangement.

For example drums, bass, keys, guitars, lead vocals, backing vocals, noise and texture effects, etc.

Stems are also good when several engineers are working on a project. If a person who is not very familiar with the previous stages of the project is working on the next stage, he should not send a multitrack. With a few stems, things will be much easier. And it’s much easier to assemble a complete picture in a DAW from prepared stems than from hundreds of multitracks.

Up until a few years ago, nobody would have thought of bringing individual tracks to a mastering session. Although multitrack recording began in the 1960s with a 4-track recorder, the master was always created from a finished mixdown. Only the digitization of music created the possibilities for this.

The handling of finished music titles or individual tracks as a digital audio file enables problem-free storage, transport, and sending on the Internet, even large amounts of data without loss of quality. Today it is not a problem to come to a mastering session not only with one stereo track, but any number of stems can be delivered.

DJs and producers take elements of the original song but interpret it with a different tempo, different beat, transposition, etc. Dedicated software such as Serato DJ, Traktor, and Ableton Live are great for remixing. You can download a stem pack that usually includes all the individual audio elements in WAV and MIDI format. So you have free hand to edit, slice, chop, and create original new tracks. Stems can be a great way for producers to get inspiration!

The number one rule in working with stems is that they should be the same in length to eliminate problems with synchronization in the project, as well as cue marks for DJs. Mute unwanted tracks. Check that the effects chain and automation curves work for all stems. Keep in mind that there will be no effects on the master bus for obvious reasons.

If you are looking for some great Stems packs you can just make a search in our store (use the search form, search for “Stems”). You will find hundreds of sample packs that includes full beat construction kits loaded with stems in WAV and MIDI format.

All stem packs available on the ProducerSpot website are delivered under a royalty-free license, so you can use them in your own releases and have the right to publicly reproduce them.

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