This site is supported by the advertisements on it, please disable your AdBlocker so we can continue to provide you with the quality content you expect.

Welcome to Our Community

Wanting to join the rest of our members? Feel free to sign up today.

Preparing stems for mastering

Discussion in 'F.O.H.' started by Heabow, Nov 19, 2014.

  1. Heabow

    Heabow More cowbell!

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2011
    Messages:
    1,994
    Likes Received:
    31
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    France
    Hey

    Sorry in advance if the subject has been already discussed.

    I will be mixing an album soon and the band hires a mastering studio for the final step which is great as until now, I always mastered my own mixes. I will have to send stems.

    I always have a bunch of plugins in the 2buss (compressors, tape saturation, clipper, etc.) that naturally react to the sum of all tracks. If I solo the drums, then guitars, etc. I won't get the same result of course. Bypassing my master chain is not an option as it would affect drastically the entire mix. So how to prepare my stems?
     
  2. Arsonstudios

    Arsonstudios Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2011
    Messages:
    74
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    6
    can't really see an option for the tape saturation as you won't get the glueing effect if you're not using it on the whole mix. i wouldn't recommend using clipping cause its something the mastering engineer can easily recreate but it limits his options if you are already using it.
    for the compression a common practice is to sidechain the compressor with the whole mix. which means in practice (for example...you could also achive it in other ways but this is the fastest to explain) that you print the mix with all the processing that is on before the bus comp (with the comp and all plugins afterwards bypassed) and import that to a seperate track. this track is send to a bus which is the sidechain input of the comp. now all the stems you print have the same amount of compression as the whole mix would. all in all if you tweak it you'll get a similar glue.

    but still its a compromise...
     
  3. Heabow

    Heabow More cowbell!

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2011
    Messages:
    1,994
    Likes Received:
    31
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    France
    Thanks man. Your solution sounds good to me. I will try that. Otherwise, I was thinking of sending my mix with the 2buss processing as a stereo file for reference and list the plugins I used specific info (gain reduction) then sending the stems without 2buss processing. Seems a bit risky tho.
     
  4. Taurean

    Taurean \m/ \m/

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2009
    Messages:
    246
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    18
    heabow can I ask why it has to be stems? How come you guys can't simply send the stereo mix? Stem mastering can be tricky, the mix could be drastically altered. May be that's what the band is going for...?
     
  5. UncleBob

    UncleBob Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2010
    Messages:
    505
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Just say no to stem mastering
     
  6. bryan_kilco

    bryan_kilco Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2007
    Messages:
    4,623
    Likes Received:
    19
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    Poconos, PA
    I never fully grasped stem mastering. Is each stem track mastered separately?
     
  7. Studdy

    Studdy Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2012
    Messages:
    947
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    It about giving the mastering engineer more options. He can balance the stems before mastering to have more control. Or each stem can be "mastered". Its just more possiblities/options/control.

    Example if the bass guitar has way to much low end, that can be treated by itself with out affecting the kick etc. If the vocal is too loud, it can be turned down.

    Hope this helps.
     
  8. bryan_kilco

    bryan_kilco Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2007
    Messages:
    4,623
    Likes Received:
    19
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    Poconos, PA
    Thanks, understood.
     
  9. KHE

    KHE Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2009
    Messages:
    611
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    switzerland

    sounds like mixing to me... :D:D


    joke aside, why do you and the band think about stem-mastering if the record isnt' even mixed yet?
     
  10. Clockwork

    Clockwork Bass playing guy.

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,082
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    Washington DC
    I was asked by a band to send stems to a mastering engineer once and I emailed him a few questions ahead of time and his response was basically "so am I mixing the record too?"

    Man did I feel stupid. Ever since then when people talk to me about stem mastering I try to explain why we don't want it to come to that haha.
     
  11. mickrich

    mickrich Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2007
    Messages:
    1,757
    Likes Received:
    70
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Tell them you mix into a bus compressor and it is an essential part of the way you mix.
    Giving a mastering engineer stems will let them remix (or possibly wreck) your mixes.
    I certainly wouldn't give stems to a mastering engineer.
     
  12. wishtheend

    wishtheend clip the apex

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2005
    Messages:
    1,013
    Likes Received:
    6
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    SL, UT
    I can see the benefit of stems, but if there is an isolated troubled area it should be fixed in the mix. If you must supply stems, include a reference mix with no loudness/clipping/limit. Or maybe just word it instead of stereo mixdown as reference, provide that as the primary option and link stems as a "only if absolutely necessary" backup. I'd imagine the guy doing the mastering would prefer to just work on the stereo mix anyways (less work for him) but you've given a fall back option (stems) if there is something drastic that he needs to correct.
     
  13. Studdy

    Studdy Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2012
    Messages:
    947
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    16
    The advantage to stems is if the mastering engineer is a lot better mixer with better tools, better listening environment than you are, you will get a better final result. If you love your original mix don't send stems.
     
  14. Heabow

    Heabow More cowbell!

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2011
    Messages:
    1,994
    Likes Received:
    31
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    France
    I misspoke actually, I won't really have to send stems but it was an option. I was thinking that stems will allow the engineer to do his job in a better way. It's obviously wrong in my case. Thanks gentlemen for your time!
     
  15. Sloan

    Sloan Sounds like shit!

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2006
    Messages:
    5,077
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    If it were me in this position and I HAD to send something, I would send a stereo Drum stem, mono Bass stem (unless you are using a stereo chorus or something), stereo rhythm guitar stem, stereo lead gtr stem, stereo vocal stem, stereo fx stem (as in sound fx if used). i would keep my buss compression but remove my hard limiting. all of your reverbs, delays and stuff would be baked in.

    For yourself, go ahead and make stems of DI's. after all your stems are done, clean up your project and archive it!

    that means that the mastering engineer can control the width and balance of just those elements and it's not going to sound drastically different (for better or worse!.
     
  16. KillFrenzy

    KillFrenzy Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2007
    Messages:
    403
    Likes Received:
    10
    Trophy Points:
    18
    From what I understand, when you sum up all the stems, it has to sound exactly as the stereo mix. So it's just about giving a little more control to a mastering engineer over some possible issues you looked over when mixing. Or giving him space to be more creative. If you trust the guy and he likes to work that way, go for it. Otherwise, I wouldn't.
     
  17. Jordon

    Jordon Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    1,008
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    Chicago
    Why am I seeing so much more of this stem mastering malarky these days? most mastering engineers I know really don't like dealing with stems.
     
  18. TonyS.

    TonyS. www.SoundCollab.com | www.risingstorm-music.com

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2010
    Messages:
    615
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    16
    Location:
    Berlin
    When I do stem-mastering, I try to use something on the 2bus, which the mastering engineer is able to recreate. Something like mixing into a SSL bus comp plugin.
    In this case I send a preset and a screenshot of the plugins with the whole project. So when he open the ProTools session, he will see the stems bussed into the second buss with the plugins I used while mixing.
    ...if a hardware comp is used, I will send the setting and gain reduction, too.

    Did this with Fascination Street Studios...worked great.
     
  19. Taurean

    Taurean \m/ \m/

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2009
    Messages:
    246
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    18
    yea I mean it is like getting away with delegating mixing liability and responsibility under the guise of mastering. The only time I see it as okay
    is if the tracking and mixing is so poor, there is no need of fidelity or staying true to the mix which means you have free reign over the sonic outcome.
     
  20. Jordon

    Jordon Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    1,008
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    Chicago
    I agree. I wouldn't send stems to a mastering engineer unless they were specifically requested to fix a minor issue, like if the vocal was getting buried compared to one of the other songs on the record.
     

Share This Page