This Article is About
human ears
pieces of the puzzle
perfect harmony
rhythm section
exact place
kick drum
drum kit
Why Choose Stem Mastering?
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Why Choose Stem Mastering?

What is it all about? The idea of stem mastering comes from group mixing. It is significantly easier to handle with groups on an analog mixer than individual chanels. We can sum the drum tracks into one stereo sub bus making it possible to set the volume of the whole drum kit with one fader. How does it work with stem mastering?

Imagine a 100-piece puzzle divided up 5 main sections. The pieces of the puzzle groups belong to identifiable parts of the big picture. Joyning them together properly we get it as a whole. All groups have their own place combined in perfect harmony. Lets have some examples:

Bass range is commonly one of the most critical parts of the song e.g. Cheap speakers in a poor sounding room or average headphones are not capable of translating the real bass and sub bass range. Booming bass or lack of warmth is the outcome in many cases when mixing with such monitors. Sometimes the kick drum vanishes buried into the bass guitar making the rhythm section dull. In other cases the bass guitar does not let to breath the other instruments oppressing them. Here comes the benefit of stem mastering. A qualified mastering engineer dialed in ears working with high grade monitors can solve these issues quickly without changing the basic caracter of the instruments. He mixes the bass stems applying some tricks to gain warm and dynamic bass sound.

The other problem brought on frequently is the exact place of lead vocal in the mix. How could we hear every single word of the lyrics without boosting the vocal too much? Human ears are most sensitive /and also irritable/ at the hi-mid range / about 2000 Hz- 5000 Hz/. That is why mothers wake up in a moment at night suffering not the crying babies. Speakers or headphones with too much hi-mid range or poor bass translation cheat any mixing engineer easily. Finally listening to the mix on full range monitors ends in annoying experience: vocal is not really understandable in the song. Instead of painful hours it is much better sending the stems to an experienced mastering engineer who can find the best place of vocal parts. He works with flat response monitors and they are like last in the hands of an old cobbler.

Stem mastering is a powerful method for correcting frequency balance problems in a mix preserving the original effects and caracters of the instruments. Divide your mix up to 5 sub groups: 1. kick drum, 2. drums without the kick, 3. bass, 4. lead vocal, 5. other instruments with backing vocals. Bounce them to stereo tracks with all of your favorite effects and send them to a mastering engineer who offers stem mastering.


Street Talk

Brandon8  

This is great and all, but where do I learn how to do this? It's been something I have been wanting to learn for a while now

Reply
  about 5 years ago
  

Hi, You can learn a lot from books /Bob Katz e.g./ and try things yourself. Attend a mastering house if you can afford it. A pro mastering guy has an eye for proportion. It takes years of critical listening to music to develope it.

Reply
  about 5 years ago
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