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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Oct-16 > Stem mixing in Logic

Stem mixing in Logic

Stems can transform the way you mix, and can be a versatile means of archiving and delivering your music output. Mark Cousins takes a closer look…

Like many buzzwords in the audio industry, the term ‘stems’ can mean different things to different people. For some audio engineers, stems are about mixing – a means of strategically combining groups of sounds to then apply compression as a form of glue. For other engineers, especially those working in the film industry, stems are a means of archiving and delivering music, offering greater flexibilities for changes further down the production process. Going further still, many mastering engineers suggest stems as being a more suitable means of mastering, rather than the restricted two-channel format of a stereo mix.

Stem cell

Whatever your reasons for using stems, it’s clear that there are a variety of ways the process can dictate or influence your workflow. On a basic level, you could choose to bounce the mix multiple times, each time muting and un-muting the components to produce a series of stems grouped by instrument type. If done correctly, the stems allow you to recreate the complete stereo mix with all the stem files aligned at the same time point and all faders set to 0dB. In theory, subsequent users – like a mastering engineer or a film’s dubbing mixer – can then tweak the mix (maybe lifting the vocal, or dropping the level of the drums) without a complete mix recall.

If you don’t produce a lot of music and have plenty of time on your hands, then the manual approach to stem creation may well be the best solution. If, however, you need to produce stems on a more regular basis, or indeed, you want to explore different ways of mixing, archiving and delivering your music, then a more automated means of working with stems can be a better solution. By embedding stems directly into your workflow, you’ll be able to produce both stereo and stem-based mixes at a moment’s notice, as well as looking at the sonic possibilities of mixing in a more segmented and incremental fashion.

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