What are Stems in Music? 4 Benefits + Huge Guide!

What are Stems in Music?


There are a variety of occasions in which it’s useful, and even obligatory, to create stems in your music. However, while one may assume that it’s as simple as bouncing and exporting all the tracks that make up your music into individual WAVs and calling it a day, there’s really a refined art to deciding the way you’re going to divide all of it up.

So let’s discover some methods of dividing music into totally different pieces and be taught to understand the art of making stems.

what are stems in music

What are Stems in Music?

An audio stem is a full song-length audio file that incorporates an isolated factor, or group of components, from the music. These stems could also be groups of comparable tracks, corresponding to “drums,” “strings,” “voices,” and so forth.

Or, they might be single-track instruments with all mix components already utilized. The important thing is that all of them have to have precisely the identical size, identical beginning time point, and be of the identical audio file type (for instance 24-bit, 48kHz WAV).

Here is our take on two giant DAWs: FL Studio vs Ableton

The aim of audio stems is to allow the tracks to be inserted into any DAW and re-create precisely the identical sound that you’ve got within the original mix. This may be helpful in quite a few conditions:

  • Making a remix
  • Altering components of the music sooner or later shortly without returning to the unique mix session
  • Sending your tracks to a mixing engineer to touch up the mix on a distinct DAW
  • Backing up the mix
Stem Creator Software

Audio Stems Usage

Simply create variations of your music, corresponding to radio edits or instrumental variations.
It’s easy to see the advantages of creating audio stems for your songs, even in case you might not have any instant need for them. However, to ensure we get the very best use out of those stems, some care should go into the method of making them.

The Benefits of Using Stems

#1 – Collaborators can simply add, subtract or substitute components

At this time’s extremely collaborative music panorama is made possible by stems. They permit outside collaborators to include your music in their recordings and performances in a fast and straightforward approach.

Changing the drums or bringing complete sections out and it is simple if you’re working with good tidy stems.

When a number of tracks are grouped by category and packed into stems, it lets collaborators simply access the core of your concepts.

#2 – They open up new artistic potentialities

Consider stems as one other instrument in your music creation toolkit. They supply limitless artistic potential not only for music production but additionally for songwriting and performance.

Stemming tracks means that you can take concepts from one track and use them in new songs in fascinating methods. You may consider this as sampling your personal work. For instance, a vocal part stem taken from an outdated tune can sound utterly new and compelling within the context of a brand-new tune.

For live performances, stems could be looped, altered, and used to reinforce songs and transitions. From making tune intros extra unpredictable and thrilling to streamlining your set, stems are helpful performance guidelines.

#3 – You may maintain some of your processing

Grouping tracks into stems are ideal for sustaining production decisions over a number of tracks. Stems maintain you from retracing your production steps and having to do the same stuff twice.

Even in the event you’re sending stems to be mixed, you could have plugins or audio effects

#4 – They’re simpler to use than bounces of each file

Bouncing every track in a session eats up helpful producing time. By grouping comparable tracks into stems, you’ll save yourself plenty of time.

Plus, working with categories of sound is usually simpler than coping with individual tracks.

If you happen to send files to a collaborator, a folder filled with dozens of disorganized tracks could be irritating. Stems allow you to send simply important individual elements in a neat bundle.

Stems by Masteringthemix

Click on the link if you need more insights on the mastering process: How to Master Your Song!

Audio Stems for Mixing

Stems are helpful in case you plan to have an expert mix engineer end your mix. Taking the time to rigorously edit your recordings, and assemble a set of stems, can save you quite a lot of value by permitting the mixing engineer to work from a smaller set of stems.

Keep in mind that no matter your position in music, you’re not required to hand over a full session to anybody except if it’s been agreed upon in a contract. The session itself is your work, similar to the master tapes of older analog recordings. The band or label is often paying you for the audio – the multi-tracks or printed stems inside the session. The key sauce behind it that you simply are making use of within the DAW is totally yours.

When you’re ever involved about whether or not you want to give somebody the session as a part of a contract, please seek the advice of a lawyer to ensure you’re defending your interests.

The Difference Between Stems and Multitracks


Multi-tracks are precisely what their title implies – Multiple tracks from the recording session. The terminology has been utilized in studios for many years; way back to multi-track tape recorders existed. Engineers have continued to make use of this terminology within the digital world in the present day.

The hand-off from recording engineer to mixer ought to at all times embody multi-tracks of the session. If there’s an editor doing cleanup between the 2, they need to be receiving the “raw” multi-tracks from the recording engineer and offering cleaned and comped multi-tracks to the mixer after they’re done.

A mixer needs multi-tracks to do its job accurately. Offering them something much less means fewer choices when mixing and much less control they’ve when balancing the mix.

Multitrack Tape Machine


Stems are stereo tracks printed down on the end of a mix that ought to sound almost similar to the ultimate mix when performed back at unity gain (zero dB on all faders). The one distinction can be mixed bus processing because it isn’t often utilized for the stems.

They’re often printed in stereo groups, which may differ from session to session. The most typical stems embody Drums, Guitars, Vocals, Bass & Synths/Production Sounds. A great rule of thumb is to print something that’s bought bus compression gluing the group collectively.

The concept of a stem is to provide remixers flexibility to use elements for their final mix, however with the isolation that comes from having separate tracks. Because of this, many mixers desire to print their effects directly to the stems as well – maintaining their vocals, guitars, and so on. sounding precisely as meant.

Stems can be used to create alternate mixes quickly and simply. In case you are needing an instrumental version of a song, it will be very easy to achieve it with stems. As an alternative, your stems could be loaded into any DAW and printed with the vocals muted. The same goes for different widespread mix requests: vocals up, vocals down, production solely (backing tracks), acapella, and more.

Audio Stems for Mastering

Stems are helpful for a couple of causes. Stems are used in audio mastering to save lots of time and price for the client. Having stem mixes can save having to ask the mix engineer to make small changes to the mix, due to this fact saving on time or audio production prices. For instance, a standard problem is that the vocal is perhaps barely quiet, relative to the mix.

If stems are supplied, it’s simple to handle that without having to ask the mix engineer to make any adjustments to their mix. Mastering stem mixes is an extra advanced and time-consuming process, nonetheless, the added flexibility that comes together with it oftentimes makes the investment effectively worth it.

DAW Mixer

Stereo vs Stem Mastering


Stereo mastering makes use of a single stereo mix as its sound supply. Nevertheless, this technique of mastering limits flexibility. For instance, in the event you increase the vocal volume, you’d probably also enhance the volume of different parts. The identical rule applies to EQ, dynamics, saturation, stereo imaging, and different processing.

Nevertheless, the advantages of stereo mastering embody the cost and ease of delivering your complete project. Mastering a single audio file costs lower than treating a number of files. Additionally, exporting, managing, and offering a single-track file is less complicated than dealing with quite a few files.


Stem mastering provides better control over the form and tonal steadiness of your music. This technique uses a number of audio files referred to as “stems” as a sound source. Stem files mix individual tracks right into a single file. Usually, stems files include certain elements of the mix like drums, vocals, bass, synths, and many others.

With stem mastering, you’ll be able to process these separate tracks in isolation. This method provides you with extra flexibility and comfort. For instance, you’ll be able to deal with the vocal track without affecting the other parts within the mix.

After treating every stem, the mastering engineers will then apply the finishing touches to the complete mix. This method usually leads to an extra balanced, professional-sounding master.

Mastering Setup

Regardless Of Your DAW

Don’t export to a decreased resolution than what your project at present uses.

In case your DAW has the choice to create WAV or AIFF files, these are lossless codecs that work nicely for mastering. Retaining these codecs in your export/bouncing is a good suggestion.

Moreover, don’t normalize (this will increase the gain of your file leaving even much less room for mastering). Choose interleaved to generate a stereo export file (multiple mono is simply related for individual tracks).

Moreover, real-time bounce refers to writing the audio to disk at the speed of playback within the DAW. This usually means a slower, however maybe more dependable, export speed. Offline bounce is far quicker however provided that files will probably be packaged as stems, this is much less essential than when exporting many tracks.


Over time, each producer and engineer develops their personal workflow and plugin preferences for varied components of a session. It’s what makes their sound distinctive. Well, this topic should help you out when you are at the stage of mixing and mastering and we believe that it can help you to print a better final product.

Whether or not these preferences are made to imprint their stamp of approval on a mix or are made to maintain them sounding as clear as possible.  We hope that now you have a clearer image of what are stems in music and what benefit will you have from them, no matter if you choose to go for individual stems or stereo master.

Check our eBook on Mixing Tips! If you want to get a more in-depth breakdown of those tips we share, follow our link and get the “Ultimate Mixing Tips Booklet” and up your game quickly!!


Nikoloski is the founder and main content writer and editor of Mixing Tips. With his experience in audio engineering, mixing, and mastering for over 15 years, will provide hands-on experience and expertise in all the matters covered on this website.

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