How do you create stems for live performance?

Hi guys! I'm curious how you go about creating stems for live performance.

So far, all my experience leveling has been in the realm of production. I try to have my master bus peak around -6db, before applying any mastering FX (Ozone 4) to boost and tweak the mix. For my production needs the results are satisfactory.

My issue is making stems for club play. I group my tracks (main beats, percussion, background, leads). I then create an audio track for each of the groups. The audio is routed to the tracks from the different groups post mixer. This way the separate stems will be processed with my returns and mastering pluggins. The idea is that when I drop the stems into my live set, they will be processed and give a close approximation to the mastered track in both tone and volume. 

The stems sound good, but are rather low in level. It requires either raising the level of the clips, boosting the signal with a utility pluggin, or applying another limiter on the master bus of the live set, which is sub-optimal. 

So that's where I'm at...

How do you approach this process?

6 followers

gdomusic 2 years ago | 0 comments

2 answers

  • scottiedo
    contribution
    72 answers
    76 votes received
    1 vote

    We all want our music to feel good... and making it loud helps! :)

    Here's my recommendation. Don't hard limit stems. When you recombine them at your gig they wont mix well together as they have been squashed. Having lower level audio files is fine in a DAW.

    If you're mixing stuff live I would make sure to stick a limiter on the output to protect against peaking. You never want a track's level to go red. That means digital distortion... yuk. So you limiter is a safety precaution, not a way to make everything loud.

    If you want your music louder, turn up the gain on your interface or at the board. In my opinion it's way better to do that and have dynamic range than squash everything and make it all one dynamic.

    2 years ago | 0 comments
  • jasper
    contribution
    5 answers
    5 votes received
    1 vote

    I just downloaded some stems for a remix contest made by an artist who is well known enough so I guess we can assume he knows what he's doing.
    I know if I produced these stems, I would never get anywhere close to the utter volume of each of these stems.
    The vocal stem alone (the snare stem alone, the kick stem alone, etc, etc): each one of these is just, well, again if this were coming out of my monitors It would be a "oh god" moment and I would know something was wrong.
    But it's not wrong, lol. This is how stems are when mixing for a club or performance. So much so, I dont even want to perform at a club anymore. Simply because I wouldnt know how to judge the "level that works in a club", which is apparently "put a limiter onto each track and crank the living shit out of each track's limiter to a point where it hurts your ears and the only way to EQ is to never turn your master volume above -24db for risk of ear damage"
    I wish I were being sarcastic. Im laughing with confusion and kind of hopelessness actually lol.
    So anyway, yeah: the nice "keep it near -6db and dont over do it" thing doesnt seem to be what is actually happening at all, and if you do that, everybody in the club will think something went wrong with the speaker system.
    Anybody who is bouncing out stems or mixes to be played in a club (all of your favorites and my favorites), are obviously just (more sad laughter) cranking each and every stem into a limiter higher than you would be able to tolerate in your studio. Then, rendering it! lol.
    Not even kidding, man, I dont even want to perform because I dont think I would know how to judge what works in a club because of what actually does work in a club is literally damaging in the studio.

    7 months ago | 0 comments

You need to be logged in, have a Live license, and have a username set in your account to be able to answer questions.

Answers is a new product and we'd like to hear your wishes, problems or ideas.