Preparing Stems 101: A Guide For Our Novice Clients - Gearspace.com
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Preparing Stems 101: A Guide For Our Novice Clients
Old 3rd January 2010
Gear Maniac
Preme Diesel's Avatar
5 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Preparing Stems 101: A Guide For Our Novice Clients

Just working on putting together a PDF addressing all the basic points involved in preparing multitrack files for a mixdown.

I work with producers or clients who may not always have an engineer around to do this for them, and figure after years of explaining the process over and over again, i should just put a good set of notes together.

I am also a Nuendo user, so I am at a bit of a disadvantage explaining the process to Pro Tools users.

Hoping you guys can fill in any thoughts I am missing, especially for the Protools users out there:


  • The most important thing is to ensure that all files have the same start point. This means that no matter what environment they are loaded into, they will all sync up if placed at the start of the sequencer.

  • The start point should be at the start of a musical bar, so when the BPM is set in another environment, the song will automatically be “in the grid”.

  • Make sure to include the Tempo of the project somewhere. Yes, the engineer can figure it out, but if its something strange like 87.487bpm, it might take him 10 minutes!

  • Keep the files in their native formats. This means if the files are at 24bit, 44.1KHz, do not bother converting to 32bit, or vice versa.

  • Label your files intuitively. For example, all your layers could be prefixed like so:
DRUMS_Hihat.wav SFX_Transition1.wav
DRUMS_Snare.wav SYNTH_Moog.wav
DRUMS_Kick.wav SYNTH_Lead.wav
VOX_Lead.wav BASS_SVX4.wav
VOX_BG.wav BASS_DI.wav
VOX_Harmony1.wav FX_Tapedelay.wav
This not only helps the engineer gain his bearings quickly, it also provides you with a good inventory of your tracks, and prevents you from omitting files by mistake.

  • Remember to remove all effects and processing on your master buss, if you are exporting layers using the “Bounce” technique. Any sort of limiting, EQ or compression on the master is unneeded at this point.

  • If you have FX such as reverb on delay on the vocals, please remove them. If you are especially attached to the FX you have created, feel free to include a “Wet” as well as a “Dry” version. At this point, it’s just good to keep your options open.

  • Bounce stereo files as Interleaved stereo. Bounce mono files as mono.

  • If you are bouncing layers one by one, to commit to edits, FX or insert processing, do not feel obliged to save them with levels as close to 0dB as possible. Leaving some headroom is optimal. Again, please remember to take ALL INSERTS off your MASTER BUSS.
  • Don’t forget to bounce the output from any VST Instruments to an audio.

  • Remove any fade ins or fade outs on the master buss.
  • Before sending your files, load them into a blank project and make sure everything is there, and properly aligned.
  • Provide a Reference Mix to the engineer, to provide a general ideal for direction, and also to illustrate/reference any specific FX/Automation/etc you want.

Additional Notes For Pro Tools Users:

  • Please do not send me “Split Stereo” (L/R) files. I use Interleaved Stereo.
  • Please do not send me your whole project folder, or Audio Files folder. Only send the relevant, consolidated tracks. Anything else will just confuse and slow down the process.
  • Wav or Aif formats only.


Anything else you guys thing I should include is appreciated. Of course feel free to use these notes for your own use, if you feel they are suitable.
Old 3rd January 2010
Lives for gear
mixerguy's Avatar
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
what you are talking about is preparing the MULTITRACK for a mixing engineer.

(not 'stems')

use the correct term.

Old 3rd January 2010 | Show parent
Gear Maniac
Preme Diesel's Avatar
5 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Originally Posted by mixerguy ➡️
what you are talking about is preparing the MULTITRACK for a mixing engineer.

(not 'stems')

use the correct term.

My apologies on the misnomer, but you get my point
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