What is Separation Mastering? Separation Mastering (AKA Stem Mastering) is a much more versatile approach to professional audio mastering. Instead of a single stereo file, the mix is separated into a small number of audio files, usually 2-4, but still maintaining all balances and processing of the mix. These files are then used together at the mastering stage to allow a larger degree of control for the engineer. E.g. Vocals, Drums, Other. In this example equalisation on the vocal will not force resulting unwanted alterations on any other part of the recording, a trade off in traditional stereo mastering.
How is this different to mixing? Separation Mastering, as with traditional mastering, occurs once the mix has been completed. With mixing each individual channel is processed from it’s rawest form whereas separations include all of the processed channels from the completed mix channel grouped together into a small number of separation files, usually a maximum of 4.
Advantages of Separation Mastering:
– More clarity as the dynamics and musical integrity of your mix can be maintained to a much greater degree, even when very high levels are required. With traditional stereo mastering there is a greater offset between level and dynamics. Additionally, at Blue Pro, we use an ultra low noise and transparent ‘summing mixer’ to process these separations into a stereo signal, rather than using the master section of your DAW which can have a considerbale affect on results.
– Less mixing worries, as contentious issues can become additional separations, cutting studio time by eliminating the need for alternate mixes and leaving the decision to the experienced mastering engineer in an ideal acoustic environment.
– More flexibility to make refinements to the balance and presence of important elements such as drums and vocals in isolation.
How To Create Separations:
1. Create a new folder on your hard drive named according to the songname.
2. Record your 24 bit stereo mix as normal. Name this file songname.wav.
3. Mute all parts of your song except those for the current separation you are trying to create. Include all related processing to the included parts. Without altering any fader positions, automation or balances in your mix whatsoever record to disk and name the separation file accordingly with the name of the instrument of part followed by the song name. e.g. drums-songname.wav.
4. Repeat step 3 for each separation, ensuring all files are added to the correct folder and that each separation is recorded from exactly the same point in your session.
5. Once all separations have been created you may wish to verify the separations by importing all of the files you have created into a single session in your DAW (Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase etc). Play back your separations with your stereo mix on mute and then switch to solo’ing your stereo mix. Your stereo mix should be identical in both level and content to the sum of your separations.
2 Separations: 1. Vocals 2. Instumental + Original Stereo Mix
3 Separations:1. Vocals 2. Drums 3. Other Instruments + Original Stereo Mix
* Separating your overheads into an extra separation to the rest of your drums is highly recommended For Rock/Metal Bands.
VERY IMPORTANT: Please include any notes you have for the engineer, any suggestions, questions or guidance to anything unusual with your supplied audio as a text file, word document or PDF included with your session files. We recommend you name the file “yourname”-readme.txt or similar.