What Are Music Stems?

By Kevin Graham

If you’re a video editor, chances are you’ve seen the term “stems” when you’ve been looking for stock music.

Stems are simply isolated audio files of the different components of a song, made available to filmmakers who need to alter a track to better fit their edit.


For example, a typical indie rock song will have stem files for guitars, drums, bass, keys, and vocals.

You would put each of these files on their own audio track, starting at the same time. Now, you can change the loudness of any of these elements, or even remove one altogether, to create your own mix on your timeline.

guitar stems

Maybe you’ve found a track that would be perfect if it didn’t have that pesky xylophone.

Or maybe the drums are too overpowering for your project.

piano stems

With stem files, you can solve these problems quickly and spend less time searching for music.

Kevin is the Music Director and Lead Composer at Filmpac.

FILMPAC Filmpac is a premium stock footage + music membership library.