For the love of god people, please let’s print some stems, OK?

For any of you new to this newfangled studio lingo, printing stems means taking a multi-track session and rendering an individual audio file for each track or submixes of tracks (i.e. Drums, Vocals, Guitars, etc.). Uses for stems are myriad: remixing, mixing in a different sequencer, archiving, simplifying a set that’s gotten too complicated. First we’ll sort out the How, then revisit the Why.

Live makes printing stems so easy, there’s no excuse not to do it. In the Export Audio/Video window, select All Tracks:


Next, you’ll see a window like this:


Shorten this name down to a few characters unless you want all of the resulting files to have really long names. You’ll be getting one file for each track and it will be named using the name in the Save dialog plus the name of the track. For some uses of stems, this makes life really annoying. So shorten it. Trust me.

Now take a break and make some coffee, or as Access (of the Virus synth line) suggests, do some ironing. When you come back, you’ll see something like this on your hard drive:


As you can see, I shortened the name to BR_914. Here’s a few important things to know about the files that get generated:

  • See that first one called BR_914.wav? That’s the Master track – a stereo mix of the whole song.
  • See the one called Claps? That’s the output of a Group track which is a submix of all the clap tracks.
  • See the other clap tracks? Those are the individual parts that were mixed together to make Claps. Live renders both.
  • If your song has any return tracks, those get rendered too, so you’ll end up with tracks with just reverb, delay and the like.

So, a couple of things to know here:

  1. If you judiciously use Group tracks to group all of your drums tracks together, vocal tracks together, etc. you can hand off a song to a remixer with almost no additional work whatsoever. Just render out All Tracks and send your remixer the output of all of the groups. If you want to make your life really easy, use a naming convention (such as “G_ Drums”, “G_Vocals”) for your groups so the files are easy to find on your hard drive, even a year or two later.
  2. Sometimes this method doesn’t cut it and you need to get all custom and old school on that shit. More on this tomorrow.