"Does the vocal sits well in the mix?" " What about the boom of the bass?" "The drums are buried in the instruments..." If you are unsure about the balance of your mix, stem-mastering is a means to correct it.
Stem-mixing is a means of mixing audio tracks based on creating groups of instruments or vocals and processing them separately prior to combining them into a final master mix. Stems are also sometimes referred to sub-mixes, subgroups, or buses.
This technique originated in the 1960s with the introduction of mixing boards that were equipped with abilities to assign individual inputs to sub-group faders and then manipulate each sub-group (stem mix) independently from the others. This technique is commonly used in recording studios to control, process and manipulate entire groups of instruments such as drums, strings, or backup vocals, in order to streamline and simplify the mixing process. Additionally, as each stem-bus usually has its own inserts, sends and returns, the stem-mix (sub-mix) can be processed independently through its own signal processing chain to achieve a different effect for each group of instruments. This technique is also practiced with DAW in a similar way where groups of audio tracks may be processed and manipulated digitally through a separate chain of plugins.
Stem-mastering is a technique derived from stem-mixing. Just like in stem-mixing, the individual audio tracks are grouped together to allow for independent control and signal processing of each stem and can be manipulated independently of each other. Even though this method is not commonly practiced by mastering studios it does have its proponents.
The advantages of stem-mastering:
- More control over each group of instruments.
- Ability to adjust mixes that are out of balance.
- Ability to process each stem through a separate signal chain.
We sum the tracks in the digital domain, no noise or phase problems are added!
Generally well-done mixes do not need stem-mastering. But if you are unsure about the balance of your mix, stem-mastering is the perfect solution.
How to prepare for Stem Mastering: Make subgroups of the mix, 4 - 5 stereo tracks with effects: drums without kick, bass drum, bass, main vocal, vocals+other instruments and bounce them. Take care to start all tracks at the same time point. Send the tracks to us. We can rectify the problems and create a more balanced mix. Sure you will be pleased with the result!
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