A New Kind of MP4 File Lets Anybody Mix Parts Like a DJ

By Mario Aguilar on at

Even if making digital music has never been easier for beginners, a lot of the work DJs and producers do remains relatively opaque to less experienced people. A new music format could help change this.

Popular music production hardware/software company Native Instruments has created a new music format called a "Stem file" that will mike like multi-track mixing easier than ever. The new file comes with four stems in it. NI for example, suggests you could have stems for each a drum line, bass line, harmony, and lead in one file. From there if you've got a compatible piece of hardware or software you could sit the individual levels for those stems.

The most obvious use-case is the live rig for a DJ. Imagine being able to grab a drum line from a producer's track and pull it out of the mix entirely for dramatic effect. There are a lot of possibilities, though. The amateur at home might enjoy coming up with their own mixes for stuff.

The Stem file format is built inside an MP4 container. You make the special format using NI's Stem File Creator Tool. Still because the output is still an MP4, the product isn't a cumbersome proprietary format. The music will play in iTunes and on your phone natively. Of course, you'll need-Stem file compatible software to actually mix with the files.

The Stem file is an open format mean anyone will be free to produce their songs with it and build it into their hardware or software products. Of course, the success of Stems relies on large-scale adoption. And as with any open format, it'll be worth watching what kind of applications and uses people come up with outside the obvious uses for the format.