HOW TO EXPORT STEMS FOR MIXING
To export stems for mixing you have to bounce an individual WAV file for each channel in your project. Most Digital Audio Workstations have an option to export all tracks as audio files and select the output format and general settings. Label your audio channels accordingly and select a destination folder.
After the production and recording stages have concluded it is time for Mixing & Mastering. The industry standard software for mixing is Pro Tools, so if that’s what you are using all you need to do is send the project file including the audio files folder and you are ready to go.
But if you are like the rest of us, probably the beat was produced in FL Studio, Logic Pro or Reason, only to be exported in WAV format and later imported to a different software by the Recording Artist. Today we are going to show you how to export your files in a way that can be opened and mixed in any platform and any version.
The best way to send your project to mix is exporting consolidated stems. This means you need to export a separate WAV or AIFF file for each channel in your mix. These files need to start at the same point in time to ensure that they play back in proper sync. In other words they need to contain also the silent parts to preserve the arrangement. This way the mixing engineer can easily import them to his DAW and drag them all the way to the left in order for the files to reproduce correctly.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STEMS AND AUDIO CLIPS
It is important to understand the difference between stems and audio clips. In an effort to save time many people extract the clips from the audio files folder in the project file. But this folders often contain all the non-keeper takes and this files lack reference points. Sorting them out and lining up manually would take hours upon hours for an engineer to get it right, even having a reference track. And that is only to get started mixing. This is a recipe for a lazy mix. Recreating the arrangement of a song is a task that most mix engineers will decline.
STANDARD FORMAT FOR RECORDING MUSIC
The standard format for music stems is Stereo WAV 24 bit 44.1K. It is very common to see stems in AIFF format. Both have the same quality. Many people tend to record in 48K and even 96K but this is a matter of choice. Most studios will do a sample rate conversion before starting to mix to optimize processing power. One last thing to consider is that the output file of the finished production will most likely end up in Stereo WAV 16 bit 44.1K (Red Book Standard).
There is no specific headroom requirement for music stems but it is important that the files are not clipping/peaking. Digital saturation is destructive and causes a type of distortion that is not restorable. It cannot be cleaned with audio processing tools and unlink analog saturation it is unpleasant to the ear.
EFFECTS AND PLUG-INS
The general rule is to remove all dynamics and effects processing to give the mix engineer more flexibility. But there are some cases in which it can be better to leave on certain tools.
This is the case of creative effects like Delay/Echo, Automated Filters, Pitch Shifting, Panning or anything that becomes part of the production sound and it must remain that way.
Another recommendation that makes a huge difference is that you label the files. This will save the engineer time when organizing a new project file and this time can be used for mixing instead of solving a puzzle before getting started. This will ensure your mix is off to a great start and more time is dedicated to the actual.
Creating a ZIP file containing all the files, stems and rough mixes, is the best way to make sure nothing gets lost in the way. It is also common practice to find RAR files. This particular format may need a third party application like WinRAR or UnrarX in order to uncompress.
Inside the ZIP file you can also include a text file with notes and reference mixes.
HOW TO SEND FILES FOR MIXING
The best way to send your song to mix is by mailing a download link to the stems package. For this you will need to upload the files to a third party hosting service like Dropbox or WeTransfer.
You can sign up free to the basic Dropbox plan and immediately start uploading and creating share links that don’t expire. The file recipient doesn’t need to create an account.
WeTransfer does not require you to create an account for free links but they expire in 7 days and have a 2GB limit. No need to sign up to download free.
There are many other options like Google Drive, Rapidshare, Zippyshare, etc. Whatever you use its fine, just make sure the link is open/public and working.
Sending an organized project to mix will result in many benefits to your finished product. Mix engineers will definitely appreciate it and their time will be better used mixing. It is also important not to get caught up in the details. There are many format and settings combinations but the most important thing is to make progress and get the music out there.
Another thing to consider is the difference between mixing, editing and production. Very often Recording Artists need things like repeating the last chorus at the end, pitch & time correction, adding new layers of music, adding breaks, drops, etc. Discussing these things in advanced with your mix engineer is widely recommended. Both parties should be clear about what they provide and expect in return. Mixing is a creative job and choosing an engineer that understands your music genre will definitely improve the results of your finished product. Last but not least, clear communication and patience during the process is the key to a great mix.