If you're a music producer, sound engineer, or an artist, you've likely come across the term
"audio stems" in your creative journey. But what exactly are audio stems, and why are they so
crucial in the world of music production and sound design? In this video, we'll demystify the
concept of audio stems and explore their importance in creating high-quality audio recordings
and mixes, and how to prepare them.
What Are Audio Stems?
Audio stems are individual, isolated audio tracks that make up a complete recording or mix.
Each stem represents a specific element of the composition, such as vocals, drums, guitars,
keyboards, or any other instrument or sound source used in the production.
Once we have the track done, and we decide to send it to mixing and mastering, the best
practice is to create stems and that way reduce the number of audio tracks that will be mixed.
In Psytrance, we mostly use a lot of channels to create our music, and in many cases that
number can be over 100 channels. We mostly use a high number of channels so we can make
our track sound richer and more interesting, and rarely will we use many layers for the same
Now, the mixing price can be offered by the mixing engineer's recommendation depending on
each track, while the industry standards are that it would be charged by the number of stems.
Considering this, we should come to the right number of channels or stems so the mixing
engineer can do the best job but also we should be smart and make just enough stems for this
process to save time and money.
For the mixing and mastering psytrance track I will provide you detailed instructions on how it
should be done the best way.
For the drums section, I recommend that you create separate Stems for the following
- Kick: Put the kick on solo and export it in the full length of a track. If you use a
separate hi-hat as a top punch on the kick, then export it together with the kick. In case
it doesn’t sound good enough, the engineer can send additional requests to you for
sending them separately
- Bassline: even if the bassline is not a part of the drums but a part of the rhythmic
section, in EDM music and especially in Psytrance, kick and bass are accepted as the same
category. Select the bassline channel and export it to the full length of a track. case of
the multi-layer bassline, you can whether decide should you send the primary bassline
as one stem and other layers as another, or you can decide if you wish to send all of
them as one stem
- Snare: The Snare has an important role in punching the kick and it is an important part of
the drum section as it is a unique drums element. Snare covers the mid-range together
with highs and it will have a huge part in the energy of a track. Snare dynamics will play
a huge role and therefore it is important to have this element separated.
- Open Hi Hat: Open Hat is played mostly in the peak of a track, and as the snare, an
open that can play an important role in bringing the track energy.
- The rest of the hi-hats and Loops: The rest of the drums will be played one by one, and
all other hi-hats can be processed
Sounds that are in the Impact category, all the elements that are hiding in the form of a single
shot. By single shot sounds we categorise the elements that have a beginning and an end, and
they don’t repeat rhythmically but we use them as we feel. I would say that all impacts can be
placed in one Stem. Crash, Claps, Booms, Expolosions…
Similar sounds as the impacts are just in opposite directions. All risers or uplifters, are the
elements that start with low energy and build up to a certain change and boost the energy of
a track in a specific placement. All of them can fit into one stem file.
Fills we use in between two chapters to bring more dynamic to the track and to switch from
one part of a track to another and we should place them as one stem.
All melodic content that is used, arps, melodies, and leads, together as the sequences that are
just riffs or tonal rhythmic elements. Certain melodic content that is repeated in patterns.
Each of these sequences should be sent separately. These elements are mostly the main
happening of a track and will carry a huge importance. All of them should be balanced equally
and therefore all of them placed in separate stems. In the case of using multi-layer maladies,
all the layers should be sent as one stem group. Example: in the case of a multi-layer arp
melody, solo all the layers and export as one stem.
Single Shot Sounds:
If you use Single shot sounds, like atmospheres, one shot, grouping them in one stem by
selecting the ones that do not overlap with each other and creating a stem of the
elements that are not summed together. That way engineer can isolate specific One-shot
sounds into another channel and process them individually if needed. The number of stems
will depend on how many shots you use in a track.
The Intro can be separated into a few stems, depending on the Intro structure. The drones,
pads and other elements should be separated from one-shots and provide the ability to mix it
All in all, in most cases the number of stems should not exceed the number of 20!
If you need a service for mixing and mastering, you can request them on my website at the
following link: https://www.eclipmusic.com/services