what is a STEM?

edited October 2009 in The Rock Band Network
Forgive me people for sounding stupid.

But is an audio stem nothing more than an audio track of each instrument? Such as a lead guitar track, bass track, snare track, bass drum track, etc.?

Just making sure I understand the lingo here.

Comments

  • MrOwn1MrOwn1 Opening Act
    edited October 2009
    braddavisrevue;3193313 said:
    Forgive me people for sounding stupid.

    But is an audio stem nothing more than an audio track of each instrument? Such as a lead guitar track, bass track, snare track, bass drum track, etc.?

    Just making sure I understand the lingo here.
    Yes, it is.
    If you didn't know this already, you are doomed forever.
  • thirdmortalthirdmortal Opening Act
    edited October 2009
    Yes, but a stem does not necessarily contain only one instrument part. For example, a guitar stem could have rhythm guitar parts as well as lead guitar parts. Also if there are multiple rhythm guitars playing the same part that can all be included in one stem.
  • lowfatevanlowfatevan Unsigned
    edited October 2009
    Stems are a set of audio files that contain the seperate elements of a song, and when combined with no additional processing / volume changes should sound identical to the full mix.
  • edited October 2009
    Thanks for the answers. My recording experience has been strictly to tape, not too much digital work. But I am familiar with seperate tracks. I produce all my own music and play all of the tracks (instruments). My work has been created using Midisoft Studio 4.0; a combination of midi tracks and audio input of bass, rythym and lead guitar. So I would guess I have experience creating stems of individual parts. Just wanted to take out the mystery of what was being talked about.
  • MarsPhoenixMarsPhoenix Opening Act
    edited October 2009
    MrOwn1;3193330 said:
    Yes, it is.
    If you didn't know this already, you are doomed forever.
    Uhhhh.

    A LOT of bands and representatives I've talked to did NOT know what the term 'stem' referred to at first. I've had to say "I mean the separate instruments" quite a few times.

    I think our friend is going to be just fine.
  • wesjett08wesjett08 Rising Star
    edited October 2009
    Seems the term 'Master Tracks' is pretty common also...Might help to use that.
  • edited October 2009
    and I think from what I have been reading about creating RB songs, is that the drums need to be seperated by bass drum, snare and then the other toms, etc. That is so the part can drop out when the player misses the notes during gameplay. I think I've got that down since I usually create my drum parts by doing just that. There is a 4 count stick leadin, and then the bass drum is on a track, the snare is on a track, and the fills are on another track. This is done using mapped midi keys from my keyboard. The trick for me is going to record those parts as audio from the midi playback to create audio stems. It would cool to write an app that could take my midi file and generate the RB gem parts from it.
  • HMXMister_GameHMXMister_Game Harmonix Developer
    edited October 2009
    The way to think about stem vs multitrack is to consider how albums are recorded and mastered.

    The band goes into the studio, maybe it's a studio owned by the label or publisher, maybe not, and records their songs. All the data is dumped to tape or disk, every take of every track. Mostly it's recorded dry (without effects) except for reverb from the guitar amps or other effects.

    Then, the studio engineer and the producer pick the best takes, and compile a set of stems to send off to be mastered for the final CD. They pick through all the takes, assemble a vocal track from all the punch in fixes, add effects as needed, etc. There still might be three or four guitar tracks (lead, rhythm1, rhythm 2, solo) and a bunch of drum tracks (snare, kick, overhead, tom1, tom2), but it's been pruned down to the final audio that goes on the CD.

    Now those stems are sent to a Mastering Facility, usually owned and operated by the record label. The stems are mixed and processed for the final CD mix, usually with super expensive matte black audio gear with tubes and the serial numbers filed off. Then the final stereo mix is sent off to a CD duplication plant and CDs are pooped out the other end.

    So of course, these days, the pipeline isn't nearly as clear cut, as all sorts of people are making CDs on their own, in home studios, without mastering. But I suspect most of the big commercial CDs are still made this way.

    So when we call them stems we are usually referring to multitrack audio that is ready for a final mix, as opposed to the raw tracks that are recorded.

    Make sense?
  • edited October 2009
    Thanks HMXMister_Game, it's all clear now. I'm ready to piece together my first attempt for the RBN. I've got a single song in mind. I recorded this using some crude equipment, and put it on youTube. It's not a great piece of song writing, but it's got some strong guitar, bass and drum lines that I think would work well in RB. It's my tribute to the late Evel Knievel. I wrote this when I was 16 in 1974. I wanted to create something with a Chuck Berry kind of feel, and an Elvishness to it too. I authored a midi arrangement and made a video in 2006 on youTube and it has had nearly 400,000 views. Anyone care to listen, here it is:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7IUKyDkDig

    Keep in mind, the audio/video was simply captured using a video camera. So it's not going have the sound quality that it will in the final mix for RB.
  • davidshekdavidshek Community Playtester
    edited October 2009
    braddavisrevue;3194853 said:
    and I think from what I have been reading about creating RB songs, is that the drums need to be seperated by bass drum, snare and then the other toms, etc.
    That's preferable, yep, but not required. You can author songs that only have 1 mixed drum track. Or 1 kick/1 snare/1 kit tracks, or 1 kick/1 kit, etc. Any combination of those 3.
  • MrOwn1MrOwn1 Opening Act
    edited October 2009
    MarsPhoenix;3194486 said:
    Uhhhh.

    A LOT of bands and representatives I've talked to did NOT know what the term 'stem' referred to at first. I've had to say "I mean the separate instruments" quite a few times.

    I think our friend is going to be just fine.
    Well, I'm pretty sure that he read the website first, and it says AUDIO STEMS in quite a few places. Either he didn't really pay attention to what the site actually said, or....
  • edited October 2009
    I get it people. But why use STEM? when TRACK is more commonly used in the industry. 'STEM' led me to believe there was so more to it then it actually is. So, no problem.
  • davidshekdavidshek Community Playtester
    edited October 2009
    braddavisrevue;3195971 said:
    I get it people. But why use STEM? when TRACK is more commonly used in the industry. 'STEM' led me to believe there was so more to it then it actually is. So, no problem.
    "Stems" and "master tracks" are pretty much both used interchangeably in the music industry. Any studio/producer/engineer in the world is going to know what you mean if you say either one of them.
  • edited October 2009
    well..I'm not a studio producer or engineer...I'm a musician.
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Opening Act
    edited October 2009
    This might give you some insight:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stem_mixing_and_mastering

    I would definitely not use "stem" and "master track" interchangeably (if we're voting)
  • davidshekdavidshek Community Playtester
    edited October 2009
    ethicalpaul;3199599 said:
    This might give you some insight:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stem_mixing_and_mastering

    I would definitely not use "stem" and "master track" interchangeably (if we're voting)
    We're not voting, and that Wiki article is pretty useless anyway. I've never once heard a studio use the term "stem" to refer to a subgroup on the board.
  • edited October 2009
    davidshek;3199708 said:
    We're not voting, and that Wiki article is pretty useless anyway. I've never once heard a studio use the term "stem" to refer to a subgroup on the board.
    Now, I have heard the term 'subs' in my experiences. I do thank everyone for the feedback and helping to get me up to speed. I'm an old school player used to 4-track SOS reel-to-reel recording.

    -{:-)
  • ethicalpaulethicalpaul Opening Act
    edited October 2009
    davidshek;3199708 said:
    We're not voting, and that Wiki article is pretty useless anyway. I've never once heard a studio use the term "stem" to refer to a subgroup on the board.
    Well excuse me. I found its description of the _idea_ of stems to be valuable. Obviously YMMV.
  • HMXMister_GameHMXMister_Game Harmonix Developer
    edited October 2009
    From talking to our audio department, plus label representatives via MTV, pretty much everyone knows what stems are. Just so you don't think it's a Harmonix only thing.
  • edited October 2009
    Nah, I have no doubts about Harmonix, you guys are the best. I'm the one whose been out of the loop for a few years. :-)
  • MarklefordMarkleford Opening Act
    edited October 2009
    I'd always presumed it was a Protools term.

    In my experience they've traditionally been called a "sub" or a "bus".

    (It is only coincidence that these are palindromes of each other and modes of transport. :) )

    - m
  • lowfatevanlowfatevan Unsigned
    edited October 2009
    davidshek;3199708 said:
    We're not voting, and that Wiki article is pretty useless anyway. I've never once heard a studio use the term "stem" to refer to a subgroup on the board.
    Personally, I think the article pretty well describes mixing with stems. A subgroup or a bus can certainly contain a stem mix, but doesn't necessarily constitute one.
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