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Question about mastering production (library) music with stems


Thomas van der Burg
Hey guys,

I've come to the mastering stage of my library album and I find it really difficult to find the method I need to use. I need to deliver stems so I can't put a limiter on my master track. I've watched the video of @Mihkel Zilmer about stem limiting and that seems like a really efficient way to do it.

The thing I'm wondering though is about reverb because I think it's kinda messy.

I've got some reverb busses with different kind of reverbs. But sometimes I'm sending vst-tracks straight to a reverb bus, sometimes a mix group (say all cello's) and sometimes the stem itself. To make it even worse, I also have some reverbs sitting straight on a vst-track, for when it needed to be very dramatic, say a black hole reverb.

Will this create problems when I'm putting limiters on my stems? I of course can easily get rit of the reverbs sitting straight on vst-tracks by putting them on busses too but will there be a difference if i send a vst-track to a reverb bus vs the stem to a reverb bus?

I'm probably making it way more complicated then it is, so if someone can help me clear it all up, that would be a serious life saver!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Beat Kaufmann

Senior Member
It is very difficult to give any advice based on your description(s). One mix group = all cellos? For me, a mix group (as an example) is "all strings". What are "Stems" for you? Why do you want to master these stems? Why do they have such high levels that they already need limiters?
Does "SEND" mean for you to use the "send function" or to route whole channels through busses or group channels?

Dear ThomasNL, of course you don't have to answer my questions. I rather have the feeling that your mixer (setup) should be checked. There is probably something "pretty special" - more than one time.

A mix can have several individual channels. It makes sense to combine instrument groups. Maybe all the cellos, all the violas, all the violins... but surely in the end all strings, all woodwinds, all brass instruments, the whole percussion, the choir, all soloists and maybe all instruments that produce the low bass (<100Hz). Now you can control the orchestra like the conductor with these 5-10 last group channels.

If the mix is OK and you want to have it mastered by a mastering studio, you can either send them the final mix or "Stems". If you decide to send Stems, you play and record each of these last buss channels separately. If the mastering studio now plays these audio tracks in parallel, it will hear just your mix. If the mastering studio now wants to make certain changes, it naturally has more possibilities with those stems than just with the final stereo mix (which would result from all "stems").

So the sum of all stems should never have to be limited already, on the contrary. If all stems are playing, there should be about 6 - 14 dB headroom left. So if you have to limit single stems, you probably mix with much too high levels in general.

Regarding reverb: Your text does not sound like you use a "reverb concept". As I said, your mixer should be looked at more closely...

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