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Stem files: How do I use these?

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So I have been asked about Stem files and I am not certain what these are.
I get the general idea but assuming I am sent stem files, how do I get these into CBB or versions of Sonar for that matter?

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Hello Audioicon--

 

Stems are just individual tracks of audio and are typically used by music editors/music supervisors for TV shows or commercials. They give the editor the control over raising or lowering certain parts of your music to fit the scene. The most common is lowering (or muting) a vocal track while there is dialog going on in the scene. The reason here is obvious.

If you are receiving stems, then you would just import them as audio files--preferably WAV.  I believe it is File --> Import Audio, but I'm not at my DAW.  You would do this for each stem and align them all at zero start time. If they were created correctly by the person sending them to you, then they should all start at the time of zero--even if the audio on that track/stem doesn't start until later in the track. If every stem starts at zero, then they all will line up.

I'm surprised you're being sent stems if you're not familiar with what they are. May I ask what kind of project it is?

I hope this helps.

 

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1 hour ago, razor7music said:

Hello Audioicon--

 

Stems are just individual tracks of audio and are typically used by music editors/music supervisors for TV shows or commercials. They give the editor the control over raising or lowering certain parts of your music to fit the scene. The most common is lowering (or muting) a vocal track while there is dialog going on in the scene. The reason here is obvious.

If you are receiving stems, then you would just import them as audio files--preferably WAV.  I believe it is File --> Import Audio, but I'm not at my DAW.  You would do this for each stem and align them all at zero start time. If they were created correctly by the person sending them to you, then they should all start at the time of zero--even if the audio on that track/stem doesn't start until later in the track. If every stem starts at zero, then they all will line up.

I'm surprised you're being sent stems if you're not familiar with what they are. May I ask what kind of project it is?

I hope this helps.

 

Thank you!
While I have a long line of experience with audio files, I think it is the context that threw me off. Here is a more specific scenario.
Another producer who works in Logic asked to send me his files, I know this may seem trivial but he said, "I am going to send you the stems." WHAT!?
Honestly, while the term is not autonomous to logic, I was put off by it because I was under the impression those files carried additional configurations that may not be suitable for importing into Cakewalk as apposed to importing general audio files. 

I am assuming this is something that can be done right? Seems pretty straight forward, importing audio files as you have nicely explained.

 

Edited by Audioicon
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1 hour ago, Craig Anderton said:

Some mastering engineers receive stems that are more than one track - rhythm section, strings, lead vocal, all other vocals, etc.

Thanks Craig! It has been a while.
Love your new music. The tradition mixes are great!

Edited by Audioicon

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As Craig said, the concept of "stems" or "stem files" most often means submixes, for example a vocal stem would be multiple vocal tracks submixed in a single WAV file. No magic, nothing special.

Although I've seen in some interviews with (younger) mix engineers in Sound On Sound using the word "stems" when referring to individual audio tracks. I don't see the point in that - if you need the individual audio files for a project, ask for the individual audio files! If you need stems, ask for stems. :D

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4 minutes ago, Deckard said:

As Craig said, the concept of "stems" or "stem files" most often means submixes, for example a vocal stem would be multiple vocal tracks submixed in a single WAV file. No magic, nothing special.

Although I've seen in some interviews with (younger) mix engineers in Sound On Sound using the word "stems" when referring to individual audio tracks. I don't see the point in that - if you need the individual audio files for a project, ask for the individual audio files! If you need stems, ask for stems. :D

Yeah, I have to agree with your there. Although I'm an old-timer when it comes to recording (and most other things!) I felt that I wanted to make sure I kept up on the industry jargon and had to learn what stems meant too. I think there's an overlap of meaning with stems and tracks, but it's good to know when someone uses the term "stems" you know what they're referring to--especially if they're a client!

Edited by razor7music
typo

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Stems are audio tracks with all effects, automations, etc. printed into them. They're used so a mix can be re-created easily, but not a re-mix.  They can be individual tracks or sub-mixes of more than one track.

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40 minutes ago, Deckard said:

As Craig said, the concept of "stems" or "stem files" most often means submixes, for example a vocal stem would be multiple vocal tracks submixed in a single WAV file. No magic, nothing special.

Pretty much this. I figured it out but it took some time, lol.

40 minutes ago, Deckard said:

lthough I've seen in some interviews with (younger) mix engineers in Sound On Sound using the word "stems" when referring to individual audio tracks. I don't see the point in that - if you need the individual audio files for a project, ask for the individual audio files! If you need stems, ask for stems. :D

It's bogging me same way as clips vs regions. Some youngsters call them regions without even understanding what are clips. Makes me feel I'm getting old :D.

Edited by chris.r

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49 minutes ago, razor7music said:

Yeah, I have to agree with your there. Although I'm an old-timer when it comes to recording (and most other things!) I felt that I wanted to make sure I kept up on the industry jargon and had to learn what stems meant too. I think there's an overlap of meaning with stems and tracks, but it's good to know when someone uses the term "stems" you know what they're referring to--especially if they're a client!

Heh, yeah it can be VERY confusing when there are multiple meanings attributed to the same word! :) And it's kind of annoying, as it's making language less precise...

If it's a client, one should probably double-check... "Do you know what you're asking for, or do you only think you know what you're asking for?" ;)

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19 minutes ago, chris.r said:

Pretty much this. I figured it out but it took some time, lol.

It's bogging me same way as clips vs regions. Some youngsters call them regions without even understanding what are clips. Makes me feel I'm getting old :D.

Hm, could the clips vs. regions thing be a DAW-caused difference in semantics? Clips are called regions in another DAW?

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OT: Ok, don't get me started on lame names. How many of you hated when 'songs' or 'tunes' were replaced with the name 'tracks'?

 

"I have a new track I want you to listen to" Aaah! (stopping there--deep breath. All is good again) :-x

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6 hours ago, Deckard said:

Hm, could the clips vs. regions thing be a DAW-caused difference in semantics? Clips are called regions in another DAW?

Digital Performer has some weird terminology that I have difficulty with. The routing matrix for audio & midi ins & outs is called the Bundles Window. The sequencing matrix is called the Chunks Window.

Clips/regions are called soundbites. That one actually makes sense.

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12 minutes ago, Kev said:

Digital Performer has some weird terminology that I have difficulty with. The routing matrix for audio & midi ins & outs is called the Bundles Window. The sequencing matrix is called the Chunks Window.

Clips/regions are called soundbites. That one actually makes sense.

Bleh! I'm glad I don't have to deal with that kind of cognitive dissonance.

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Okay everyone, thanks for the responses, I think the fog has lifted. :)

Edited by Audioicon
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To me stems are groups of tracks not single tracks.  There is no need for the term if all it means is the same as tracks. My understanding is it comes from the movie industry where FX  which are sounds to give a better notion of the scene. Foot steps or putting in the sound of a gun shot. Real guns have a sharp sound not the sound you hear in movies. Then there is dialog and background music.  Often these sounds are made of various tracks for each individual sound. Combining like sounds together makes a stem.  We in audio think in terms of buses.  Not so much about stems.  I think it could be because some don't think in terms of grouping tracks to buses.  Many times people just output their tracks to the main outs directly. If there is a bus it for a send.

I've noticed a trend toward using this term instead of buses.  It confuses the issues  for me.  

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Stems can refer to individual tracks (with or without effects applied) or Sub mixes of tracks.  

People started using the term and there was no standarization.

The only thing that is really agreed upon is the idea that someone is giving you more than one track to put in another DAW.  With each track being the lengh of the entire song (or at least all starting at the start time), so that it can be put in any DAW without the need for offsets in start times between tracks.

Always confirm what someone wants when dealing with this stuff.  

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So if it can mean anything that would mean it means nothing.  I can't believe that. 

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