Serato Stems: what DJs are doing with real-time stem separation added to Serato DJ

Last week in a beta update to Serato DJ, we finally saw the future of DJ mixing arrive – real-time stem separation. This is pretty huge as it marks a large population of open format DJs getting access to a technology that works incredibly well in top 40 / club mixing situations. Mashing up acapellas and instrumentals has been a core part of club DJing for decades, and now to be able to create those on the fly from fully-finished tracks will be huge for the Serato DJ user base.

Here’s how the Serato team introduced Serato Stems:

If you haven’t already downloaded and tried out Serato Stems yourself, here’s the basics:

  • Serato Stems splits any fully-mixed track into four parts (Vocal, Melody, Bass, Drums)
  • Each part can be toggled on or off by the DJ (and yes, those parts are MIDI-mappable)
  • There’s also a set of FX that line up nicely with bringing in and out each of the parts:

Stems is available to be used as a performance pad mode on all types of supported Serato DJ hardware, which means you can tap right into the mode and quickly get mixing on, say, a DDJ-SX3. We’ve also seen some carefully-laid hypetrain leaks from Rane, which indicate that there’s probably a Rane Two coming:

What about the other platforms that have Stem mixing?

Yes, Neural Mix has been a feature in Algoriddim djay Pro for two years now – and we’ve heard a lot of DJs wax poetic about using that real-time separation in combination with djay’s industry-exclusive Spotify streaming library. Around the same time, Virtual DJ released their own real-time stem separation mixing mode in their software.

Each software appears to use a slightly different twist on a very similar Spleeter/Deezer library that anyone can check out here, and creates slightly different results.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning a comment I spotted on one discussion board that decried “Traktor has has Stems in it for years and it never took off!” The history here is fascinating – because Native Instruments has been helping fund stem separation algorithms for years, but only integrated stem mixing (with pre-separated mixdown files, not real-time), not separation into the software platform. When the most recent version of Traktor Pro 3.6 launched in August, NI did indicate that iZotope-powered Stem Separation is “Upcoming” on the feature list for the software.

DJs actually using Serato Stems

Serato Stems is just in beta, so we’re waiting for more examples to come out over the next few weeks of DJs actually using it to mix. The DJTT mapping team is also working up a few new Midi Fighter mappings – it seems like Serato Stems could be an ideal use for any of our button-based units.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of what DJs are up to with the tool:

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