Dry Stems – A Brief Overview
When I submit stems (files, or tracks, see my post here about those) to clients, I usually submit them dry. I record everything into my DAW. Each track is then individually edited and exported. Clients have two options for how they receive the files: Dry or Wet. Sometimes, clients will ask me to send them wet, but for the most part they get dry stems. What are dry stems, you ask? Let’s talk about them!
What are Dry Stems?
Dry files/stems are files without any added effects. This means they might be quieter (no compression), have more background noise (no gate), and won’t sound as big (no reverb). This is totally fine if you plan to have a mixer add effects to them or you are doing it yourself.
Can I just use dry stems in my final mix?
No. I would never ever put dry tracks straight onto a song and be done with it. Even a raw acoustic recording should have a light mix put on to enhance the sound.
Okay, fine. Can I add my own effects myself?
Adding your own effects is risky if you don’t have a mixing background. Most mixers have expensive equipment which allows them to hear the mix more accurately, and they also have a great deal of experience/talent. If you aren’t confident in your abilities, it never hurts to seek outside help. I can give you wet stems myself or you can hire an outside mixer for the project.
If you decide to request wet stems, please know that you can’t undo any effects. So if you think I put too much reverb on it or something, I will have to go back and redo it. It may save you time to just ask for dry files unless you are having me mix the whole song. You can ask for edits, but please make sure you work out how many free edits you will receive prior to even starting the project! A lot of people run into trouble here because they get a file back and ask for 5 or 6 edits, but the producer only gives 3 free edits or something. Negotiate prior to going in, it will save you all a lot of headache!
In short: Dry stems are easier if you have strong preferences and/or are hiring a separate mixer. Wet stems are easier if you want the tracks to be ready to go immediately upon placing them into the song (you will still need to mix the rest of the track around the wet stems).
For more music information and studio tips, please see my book here!
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