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Old 04-19-2008, 12:56 PM   #1
moodswinger
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Default Glossary: Stem: Need Clarification if possible ...

I took the following from my post in General Discussions - manual for Elastique, cuz there was no reply there and thought it might be more appropriate here anyways....

it's taken me a while to figure out what a "stem" is and I'm still not for sure on my interpretation/definition.
- A raw piece of "musical" info, whether it be a wav of an intrument or vocal take, or a midi passage. The item in it's original un-manipulated form.
I'm not new to recording, but I am new to computer based music and recording, and incorporating electronic elements into my music, and there are many times reading thru these forums I
feel like I don't know a thing, that's why I decided to just go thru the manual.
Maybe a sticky topic in newbieland "extended glossary"?
any suggestions, recommended reading or links welcome.

that was from the other post, and I have since looked thru the wiki more and realize "my" interpretation/definition is probably more wrong than right.

Last edited by moodswinger; 04-19-2008 at 12:57 PM. Reason: thanks BTW for any help.
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Old 04-19-2008, 01:52 PM   #2
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A stem is a mixdown of a single or group of tracks. Although you can restrict the stem render to the time selection (making the border between item render and glue blurry, not to speak of "consolidating" on the opposite side), it is making a long file containing the whole track(s).

The ethymology of "stems" is the mixdown of submixes (e.g. drums submix + all other tracks except bass + all voc tracks...) for mastering - even in the analogue days a mix was sometimes mixed down to 4 or more tracks first to give the mastering engineer more possibilities. It has become more common in the digital world and then it's good to have "consolidated" stem tracks which have all an equal start point/length and align themselves in an audio editor.
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Old 04-20-2008, 07:20 AM   #3
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So if I got this right now, it's like a preliminary mixdown. using your example, after you adjust, fix, punch, add individual track FX, etc., taking and mixing say all the drum tracks together so you have "a" drum track or "stem". Then go to the guitar and mix say the lead, fill, and rhythm tracks, that would be your guitar "stem". is this correct??
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Old 04-20-2008, 07:49 AM   #4
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Instead of "preliminary", I think "alternate" may work better. A stem could have 'variation' of the mix (ie... change in vocal volume, different processing, etc).
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Old 04-20-2008, 08:02 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moodswinger View Post
So if I got this right now, it's like a preliminary mixdown.
Let's say "partial" instead of "preliminary". Besides that, yes you got it.


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Originally Posted by moodswinger View Post
using your example, after you adjust, fix, punch, add individual track FX, etc., taking and mixing say all the drum tracks together so you have "a" drum track or "stem". Then go to the guitar and mix say the lead, fill, and rhythm tracks, that would be your guitar "stem". is this correct??
Yes. Mastering engineers want this e.g. to be able to put their favourite special gear for certain instrument groups on them or make the vocal track "ducking" all the guitars via compressor sidechain and so on.

But in a DAW/tracking (not mastering) context, rendering stems is probably more often used to free resources on single tracks. That's what the "render selected tracks to stem tracks (and mute/bypass originals)" function in Reaper is for. Since we got more functions to achieve CPU/memory load reduction now ("apply FX..." "glue"... ), we can decide to render only the needed parts (gives smaller files) in various ways and rendering stems has become a bit redundant for many scenarios.
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Old 04-20-2008, 11:31 AM   #6
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okay I think I've got it in the palm of my hand, now to get my fingers around it.
I've got the concept down, but the "alternate" and "partial" things are kinda throwin me.
we'll say in the working stages I can take a "snapshot" of tracks or a area/region of tracks not being used, and use that for playback while working on the other tracks/areas as to not have to use processing power on tracks that aren' currently the focus of what i'm working on, basically playing one "background" track, instead of multiple plus anything associated with those. If that's right, i got that.
now for the "alternate" - say I mix how i think i want it, fx and and all, render a "stem". Are you sayin basically then go back and tweak some of the levels, FX settings, whatever then render another "stem" just say for comparison purposes? If that's correct i got that now too.
If those are good, thanks for the clarifications, I'm used to using a VS1880 and I used to do that (alternate) on the v-tracks but only on a per track level, then bounce everything down to say track 16 for a prel-mix idea, but still playing 6 drum tracks, 3-4 guit trks, etc. I never thought about bouncing the 6 drums down to say trk 14, essentially creating a "stem" in that way. And I probably would've continued that way on a computer unwittingly and burned up my cpu % like there was no tomorrow.

one other unrelated thing, is there a way (change personal setting?) to not automatically get signed out of the forums, everytime I post even a small message, by the time I type it and hit "submit Reply" I have to log back in.

and Bluz - I'm in Clinton Twp. (Bet. Ster. Hgts. & Mt. Clem.) If your at all familiar with Detroit Suburbs.
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Old 04-20-2008, 12:08 PM   #7
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Bluz - I'm in Clinton Twp. (Bet. Ster. Hgts. & Mt. Clem.) If your at all familiar with Detroit Suburbs.
I grew up in Detroit (westside). I've been in Lansing since '83.

I think you've got a pretty good understanding of 'stems'. Prepare for more 'brainwork', the amount of knowledge around here is incredible.
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Old 04-20-2008, 12:25 PM   #8
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I grew up in Detroit (westside). I've been in Lansing since '83.
Cool!! Rock On!!

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I think you've got a pretty good understanding of 'stems'. Prepare for more 'brainwork', the amount of knowledge around here is incredible.
Much thanks to you and Stein, and you are so right, I never realized how big the differences where between going from "hardware" based recording, to Software based. Not just the work flow but the terminology and abilities / options. I thought you could "over-work" a song before, now holy crap!!! you just have to realize you can't/don't have to try every plug-in on every song, just to see what it sounds like if I do this. I really thought I knew quite a bit, now I'm realizing it's like a iceberg and I only know what's above water.
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Old 04-20-2008, 05:12 PM   #9
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You're welcome!

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you just have to realize you can't/don't have to try every plug-in on every song, just to see what it sounds like if I do this.
No, you don't have to but you can! That's where "per-item/take-FX" comes in: Drag and drop as many FX as you want from the FX browser on an item - it will only use CPU as long the item is playing but use up RAM. Now r-click the item and select "apply FX as new take" - that renders the FX on that item into a new take - and now bypass, offline or just delete the FX on the original take = resource consumption is near to 0 now. Or you click on the original take and change the plugin(s) and "apply FX as..." again. Rinse and repeat until you got 200 takes with every plugin in your arsenal if you want and switch through them with the mouse or use 'T' and 'Shift-T' to compare.

You can do that also on a stem (it's an item as well) and compare mixes, different master FX chains... tons of possibilites to trade disk space for CPU or vice versa...

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one other unrelated thing, is there a way (change personal setting?) to not automatically get signed out of the forums, everytime I post even a small message, by the time I type it and hit "submit Reply" I have to log back in.
There's a "remember me" checkbox somewhere on the logon screen that is supposed to do that IIRC.
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