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Category: Music

[M-Mu] Music Stems in Rock Band & Guitar Hero

Of everything I've collected over the past few years with regards to music, the most popular thing I have that still surprises me are the files for all Rock Band and Guitar Hero tracks. It took me a while to understand why, but I realized what makes them so unique; They aren't just songs, they're stems

I was absolutely one of those people that grew up having at least played a little bit of Guitar Hero, though not to an Expert level. It'd take rediscovering the whole subgenre of rhythm game plastic controller combo with Clone Hero for me to at least cement some of my skills, and have Expert be second nature. Custom charts were wonderful, but I wanted to play the OG songs from Guitar Hero, but on a modern program like Clone Hero

If you own a guitar controller from one of the games, and you can connect it to your PC, you can almost certainly install and run Clone Hero, and download the original tracks and charts from the games, along with a plethora of custom charts of other songs made by fans. It is a wonderful way to discover some new music that's often, though not always, more guitar solo heavy. But, what tracks authored by Harmonix and...Harmonix ? Yeah, the same developer made both major guitar-based titles, but what makes their tracks different to custom fan ones ?

Licensing, of course. One of the only upsides of having a publisher, is you can ask for a lot of money, which you can pay labels to for the rights to tracks. However, both games needed more musical info besides just, the song.

When you miss a note, obviously it'd sound strange if the song just had the guitar play a note you didn't. So, they needed to isolate the guitar from the rest of the song, which is part of where that publisher money went, asking whatever gross, blobulate conglomerate of music owned for the original masters, and stems. Rock band specifically, needed four separate stems, as you could play the guitar, bass, drums, or vocals

Now, the reason this is so important, is because the stems to a lot of popular songs either get discarded once the original master is created, or the labels simply don't want to hand out access to them to anybody ever. When Harmonix didn't get the complete stems, or they were already pre-mixed, they just had to do their best with what they were given, which is why some stems just unfortunately don't sound as clean as they could be

Side tangent about using software to "extract" stems, mister shoe rapping person or whoever released Donda at some point, but then released a sequel and a "Stem Player".

Some videos of people using it (Fantano, Dankpods Reupload), but the idea is you upload whatever music to the website associated with the stem player, and it will do it's best to separate those stems based on the frequency most commonly associated with the instrument from that song. Issues aside of what happens if the site goes down, if you have no internet, all that good stuff, it's one of the few times the general public was introduced to what a musical stem is conceptually

Back to Rock Band though, the best case scenario was, Harmonix got the original stems to a song they wanted in their game, compromise was they still got the cleanest copy they could from the label. Worst case, they just hired WaveGroup to do a "close enough" cover if it, which isn't really the same, but still offers isolated stems that have the same general note sequence (though, with the popularity of the series became a decreasing need to have them do covers)

From the entire Rock band and Guitar Hero catalog, everyone will find something different interesting. For myself ? The Strokes, there should be no surprise there. A link to isolated vocals for Under Cover of Darkness.

There's so many different details I never even considered for that song that goes into the final mix, like the improvised whistle at 2:47 that for the longest time I thought was a guitar, or the now extremely obvious harmonizing that still doesn't take away from the impact and emotions behind the vocals.

Music is beautiful, and you're wonderful for reading this far. Tune in next week, or whenever I decide to write these for more music things that rattle around in my brain, or are suggested to me that are interesting enough (though, I never get suggestions)

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