E13 - Stemming Large Format Parts

 

Something the Beatles did was bouncing multiple tracks down to stereo files. In the 60s they were limited by track counts, so would regularly mix down what they had been working on to save on space. This is a technique that is still in use today, some 60 years later. Most mixes get bounced down to stems at some point, be they for remixes, TV tracks or whatever. But in this expample we are using it to provide a more streamlined way of working inside of a session.

 

Recording Choral Parts

When it came time to recording the choir parts, I used the techniques demonstrated in the last video. The only adjustment was the pre gain needed to be far higher due to the soft nature of the vocal. I had double tracked each of the parts, leading to 20 tracks. I think it would have been slightly better had I quad tracked but I was a little pushed for time! Something to consider here though is if you have the space to set up a set of stereo mics and have a nice room, try recording each part in a different position in the room. That way when all 40 are played together they will sound like a real choir...of clones.

 

Edit

The next step was to edit the parts themselves. This involved cutting them to remove all breath, stretching the ends of the phrases to last until near the end of the bar. These were then tuned loosely as tuning them too tightly would result in phase issues, and reduce the stereo spread. This is something that can happen easily if you aren't careful. As no person ever sings perfectly in tune, the natural variances in pitch and timbre help you to avoid big mono.

 

Mix

The next step is to get a mix going where the low end is tamed where necessary, and there is some gentle compression on each of the individual channels. It can be hard to mix something when you aren't sure what the bigger picture is, but in this kind of situation its a bit of trial and error. My approach was to pick the root notes to be the main aspect of the mix, and make sure every other note could be heard clearly without drowning out the root notes.

 my approach

Bounce

The next step is to choose how many groups you would like to separate your stems into, and bounce them down. Instead of having 40+ parts to mix, you are left with a handful of stereo stems that can be mixed in with ease! I find I use this technique whenever I have any large format parts to mix, and if you should ver need to adjust anything, its as simple as opening up the original session.