Chris Ziegler, reporting for The Verge:
The format, Stems, can store up to four individual tracks within a single mixed file, which means that different components of a song (the drums and vocals, for instance) could be made available as isolated audio.
1. Learning How To Play A Song
I am often tasked with learning how to play a new song. Ideally, I would prefer to hear the bass track all by itself, and use that in conjunction with looping the difficult phrases of the complete song in order get it down pat. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Isolating individual instruments in a track has always been cumbersome. There have been some rather novel attempts at cracking this long-standing problem. Still, when it comes to learning how to play a particular instrument’s part in a song, there is simply no replacement for doing so with said instrument isolated. Stem makes that possible.
2. Listening While Working
On the latest Upgrade, Jason Snell and Myke Hurley discussed listening to audio content while working. They felt there were certain types of audio content that lent itself better to getting things done.
For them, podcasts are out of the question because listening to podcasts requires using the same ‘side’ of the brain that gets used to read and write. That is obviously problematic.
What about music? Like podcasts, both of them felt that listening to music with lyrics—new music especially—made it hard to focus on their work. They found themselves focusing on the lyrics of the song instead of what it was they were trying to get done.
I have noticed that despite my best intentions, I fail to get things done when listening to new music as well. Like Snell, I find it hard to focus on my work when listening to something that I haven’t listened to many times before.
So what kind of music do I listen to while working? In the past few weeks, I have been listening to some of Taylor Swift’s newest efforts, as well as some stuff by The Script. Because I have listened to so much of these artists recently, their music almost becomes background noise. That’s when I can get through a lot of reading, or write at a pretty decent pace. I call that type of listening passive listening.
The most productive way for me to focus is to listen to instrumental music. Without lyrics, it is almost passive listening by default. Stems might allow me to take any track on iTunes and then convert it to an instrumental track by stripping the vocals away.
Experience old music in new ways? Sounds good to me.