What is the difference between dry stems and wet stems?

Stems are the individual pieces that make up the recording. For example, if your demo recording contains 4 instruments or sounds (like a vocal, guitar, drums, and bass), a producer can isolate each individual sound from the recording in order to produce 4 individual files. Now, stems can be created in two different styles: dry or wet. Let’s talk about how they are different.

Dry stems don’t have any effects on them. (like reverb, EQ, etc). We are obsessed with love coffee here at the studio, so we’ll use coffee as an example to help you better understand dry stems! You can think of dry stems as a cup of black coffee. It doesn’t have any cream or sugar, it’s just what it is: coffee. Most songwriters and mix engineers like to request dry stems so they can play with adding their own effects to the stems (because some people like coffee with lots of cream and sugar, while others don’t).

Wet stems are stems that have effects on them (reverb, EQ, etc). In coffee terms, wet stems are like the cup of coffee that already has cream and sugar in it. Wet stems are nice to have if you plan on playing a lot of live shows that have a great sound guy in the booth.