Stems: The BEST Format for LIVE Sets!
Even though stems haven't been popular with the DJ community, I still think it's the best format for playing live sets.
Now that SYNC is a thing, there is little left to do on stage when playing LIVE sets... Waving your hands around is an option, twist an EQ knob endlessly is another option... but none very fulfilling and just seem like it's pretend work rather then actually changing the music live.
Why are stems the best option for live sets?
Because you can edit your track live, you can subtract parts (which is much more noticeable then adding on busy tracks), you can put FX on separate stems, you can loops parts of stems on the fly while playing other parts from other stems... etc
You can do this with Ableton, but nothing beats the flexibility of Traktor and how easy it is to prepare a set, navigate through tracks, adjust levels, be spontaneous... But with Traktor you can cycle through FX easily, you can make combination FX quickly, you can even make FX presets so that you press a button and it recalls various FX on the positions you want! It's just an incredible format.
Recently there was a BUG fix for MAC were you weren't able to analyse .stem files with traktor. That has now been fixed. I don't know about windows...
Unfortunately the stem creator tool doesn't work on my m1 Mac now, but I've managed to use it still with parallels using windows.
So... I hope NI keeps supporting this format, I hope they realise that this is such a powerful tool... it just wasn't given the proper attention and put out to the right market.
Producers wouldn't play MP3 quality files normally, it was almost 7 years for NI to fix this with Stems... Producers aren't aware that Stems can sound as good as mastered files, and sometimes even better!
Let me describe my process:
- I export a track in 4 stems: Kick n Bass, Drums, Leads, Atmos
- Then I master these stems, here is how:
- Each stem has it's own EQ, sometimes saturation, Stereo widening something, not much more
- Then in the master channel there is a Colouring compressor, some MB compression, EQ, and Limiter. I push the limiter up until there is a bit of action on the limiter (not much)
- THEN I export each stem to Wav (each stem goes through the processing on their channel + master bus)
- THEN I use MediaHuman Audio Converter to convert to ALAC (It's the only format that is lossless that Stem Creator tool accepts.
- THEN I put the stems + the stereo file in the Stem Creator Tool (all have to be the same exact length). This creates a .stem file that is around 300 to 400mb (proper lossless). I wish the stem creator tools just had an option for doing lossless instead of having to use ALAC files... NI??
- In traktor I set it up to -6db of headroom.
- THEN I use an app called Audio Hijack, in this app I run an Invisible limiter in low latency.. so when the sound comes out of traktor it goes through this limiter which is set tp +6db.
The results is I can play stems with high quality sound that sound almost identical to the masters with all the flexibility of Traktor per STEM! It's just the best...
So... I hope native instruments updates the stem creator tool (the last version is from 2015???)
I hope they fix all the bugs and support this format... the hardest part of the work is done, it works... now it's just about fixing and updating things.
Hope you found this read useful.
Here, quick video playing with stems :)
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