Stem Mastering Q&A with Mike Wells

I found this through, and they may limit access to it after the next few days, so check it out quick if you get the chance. I think they’re promoting it so you’ll go buy the full series (3 Part) from them.

There are some choppy issues in the video at times, annoying but I got past it.

I’m starting it at 0:15:47 for you as that’s where he really starts talking about the process. He talks about how to approach stem mastering with clients, pricing, etc. Prior to that is jabber and background about stems.

Technical video segue is 0:28:40-0:33:55, and further commentary and Q&A goes on for 2+ hours. I’m just pointing you to the interesting parts I saw that are beyond basic and the core of the conversation that I saw in my listening so far.

Hopefully this can stimulate a discussion about using stems for mastering (or even mixing), pro’s and con’s, experiences, thoughts, reservations, etc.

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too bad i don’t have the time to watch the whole thing at this point. THanks for sharing.

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Yeah I know it’s a long one, but I found 0:15:47-0:33:55 to be very insightful, if that’s (18 minutes) all anybody has time for.

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yep that is what i watched.

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Oh OK, great!

One thing I paid attention to was ~0:25:00 where he says that a Stem Master can take a half to a whole day, whereas a Stereo Master takes him 1.0-1.5 hours. So it’s definitely an extreme measure. But if the project needs it and the project is worth it, having the option can be nice.

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Kind of makes sense. Essentially in stereo mastering you’re trying to get the output maximized while retaining dynamic range, and tweaking the eq as a whole. With 4 stems you would have 4 or five times the work to finalize everything.
I made it through about forty minutes, does he start getting into specific techniques and examples at some point? I kind of get the feeling he doesn’t want to give up his tricks, other than basic reasons why stems can be useful to an engineer who hears room for improvement on a stereo mix.

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I haven’t made it through the whole thing myself yet, and I believe this is a “for sale” course through PureMix so yeah he’s not going to give all the secrets on a public YouTube video. Still, in a 2 hour interview they seem to covering a lot of stuff.

I just heard the part at 49:40 where they delve into why Mike thinks “a compressor on top of a compressor” is always a bad idea. He had stated that a bit earlier in the conversation, and I really perked up my ears at that one … then someone on their live Facebook feed asked the obvious question “why”. At 49:40 they go into this, and his concern is that the “time constants” (attack/release) of the different compressors will clash with each other and it bugs him so much he won’t do it. This is speaking about using them on the same buss or together on the master if I heard it correctly. Of course during his Stem Mastering he is using a compressor on each Stem and probably one on the Stereo Master of the stems. But they are technically not “on top of each other” at that point, is what he seems to be saying. He mentions having one slow compressor and one fast compressor, and that’s not as distasteful to him, but he still avoids it in his work. Keep in mind, this guy has been in the business for 30-40 years I think, and is now perhaps making most of his livelihood from mastering, so he’s going to be super picky is what I got from it.