These days, new forms of technology and software seem to be saturating the dance music market on a weekly basis. From Tomorrowworld‘s use of wearable tech wristbands and 360 degree live streaming to the iPad-compatible MixFader, DJ/producers and fans get to reap the benefits of the current revolution. When completely new additions are made to commonly used pieces of equipment and proceed to become the norm, it’s often difficult to remember what it was like beforehand. We never truly realize the potential of new technology until we can compare it to its previous absence in the market. This week, Native Instruments may have just catalyzed the next big step for DJs everywhere.
This week, the company put out a new music format file type that they’ve dubbed a “Stem File.” Inside the file, producers are able to include up to four stems. The song’s components can be divided up in any way, giving the artist the capability for endless creative leniency. For instance, after making a complete track, the drums, lead synths, vocals, and harmonies can all be sectioned into different stems. Then, using NI’s Traktor or any other Stem-compatible mixing tools, the DJ will be able to strip away and mangle multiple tracks together like never before. Imagine the percussion from one track, completely devoid of any muddy crossover from the other instruments, solo’d against the crisp vocals of another song. Until now, acapellas and instrumentals have been the only true way to get a perfectly clean mashup, unless you have the official stems. Now, with the Stem file, the world of mixing is our oyster.
To make these files, users can access Native Instrument’s Stem File Creator Tool. The files output in MP4, and can be played without difficulty in iTunes and on devices. The file type is open to public use, and can therefore be used by other technology companies to be included in their products for free. This is important, as NI is encouraging its spread and unrestricted use outside of their own line.
For this exciting and potentially game-changing file type to succeed, however, its acceptance and application must be wide. Until a large number of tracks are converted to Stem files, users will have very few to choose from in their sets. If the community embraces these new methods, it may lead to some of the most creative and exhilarating live sets and mixes.