Stem Mastering allows extra mastering control over a mix. The ability to work on different elements separately gives next-level mastering results.
For Stem Mastering, you would first organize your DAW channels into suitable groups (“buses”) that would musically go together, then export these separate elements of the mix into different stereo files: these are the “Stems”
Example 1: for an electronica track:
Stem 1: bassline
Stem 2: kick-drum
Stem 3: Other drums
Stem 4: Delicate synths
Stem 5: Rhythmic synths
Stem 6: Reverb
Example 2: for a rock track:
Stem 1: Vocals
Stem 2: Drums
Stem 3: Bass
Stem 4: Lead guitar & guitar effects
Stem 5: Rhythm guitars
Stem 6: ReverbWhen you load up all the stems into a new project file, all starting at 0:00 the mix should sound identical to a full mix exported from your original project file.
We will mix the stems together then allowing us to tweak each stem individually (e.g. EQ the vocals separately/run the drums through analogue processors/compress & EQ the bass…) so each stem is optimized in context with the track pre-master.
This neatly helps prevent things like the bassline & kick getting muddy, & allows us to EQ things separately that are in the same broad frequency range (e.g. on a regular stereo mix if you use an EQ to tweak a specific element, then other elements will be affected too around the same frequency range, which can be problematic).
Then once that is sorted, we mix all the stems into a stereo bus & do a regular mastering job on it, but with the added luxury of being able to instantly tweak individual stems once the master is close to completion.
Stem mastering also gives you more flexibility – sometimes it’s tricky to make the vocal blend perfectly in the mix – very frustrating! So we can do a simple 2-stem job with the instrumental & the vocal stem, making everything sound sweet & balanced for only a few pounds on top – nice!
Stem mastering is charged at £7 per stem ON TOP of stereo mastering rates.
Example of stem mastering invoice for a single track:
2 x stems @ £7 each = £14
+ Stereo mastering from stems = £30 (single track rate)
Total cost = £44