If you are new to mixing and mastering or are at the beginning of your career as a mixing and mastering engineer, you would like to know how much time does it take to mix and master a song. Or, also, if you are an artist and want your song to be mixed and mastered, you probably have the same question.
You might be thinking that, maybe, if the engineer works days and weeks on one song, it could make the track somehow better or the mix will be of greater quality. How does time affect the process and the end result?
We’ll talk in this article about the estimated time it takes to complete a project, meaning to mix and master a track. We’ll also name the things that affect the time and say how long does it take us in our mixing and mastering studio to mix and master a song.
If you’re new to mixing and mastering, after reading this article you’ll hopefully get a clear and good idea about the workingprocess, what components does it have, and what reefs can appear in the way of mixing and mastering music professionally, completely, and perfectly.
How long does it take to mix a song?
Mixing one song usually lasts not less than 4 hours, and can take up to several days. The more complicated the project, the greater the time. However, for an experienced mix engineer, 1 working day should be enough to mix even a large project.
Mixing is all about creating. Perfecting the groove is like working with a perfect piece of art that is coherent, seamlessly united as one piece, where all the parts are completely intertwined and in harmony with each other.
Every painter should have one important skill, they all know where to stop, because the artwork is never complete, there is always an urge to change something, to improve some little tiny detail. The same with mixing, for knowing how much time it would take, the mix engineer should be good at sensing where to stop, and when the mix sounds right and is finished.
That is why, most of the professional mixing engineers who have created mixes for famous artists and bands, at the beginning of working on a track already have in mind the result that they want to achieve. They know how the final mix is going to sound when they are done. And when the result is reached, they understand that the work is complete.
However, on the way to this result, there can be certain obstacles and traps that could hinder the process, let’s look at them more in detail.
The components of a mixing process and how much time do they take
For understanding how much time creating a mixdown takes, it’s important to have a good idea about the steps of the mixing process. It’s not a solid process, it usually has several stages of which we may point out the following four:
Preparation. Preparation means organizing tracks in your DAW and setting up the reference tracks ready. And it is important whether we have a small project with under 20 tracks or a 100-track project. There will be needed different times for organizing the project. You’ll have to name all the tracks so that you can recognize them easily. You’ll group them and color them in your DAW in different colors, the colors you usually use to distinguish the tracks easily. You’ll also set up reference tracks for easy access. When your project is ready and organized, only then you can start mixing it.
Editing. Then comes editing the tracks. This also can be tricky because the tracks could be of high quality and don’t need much editing. The instrumental tracks can be perfect and the voices hit the perfect pitch, so you don’t need to change anything. No pitch correction, no improving instrumental tracks, or replacing stems. If you skip the editing procedure, you can save a lot of time. But if you really need editing or stem replacement, and if the project is big and there is a lot of stems, then the editing process can greatly affect the time of work.
Mixing. This is the mixing itself. The time for this, as the time for creating an artwork, totally depends on the artist – the audio engineer. But, of course, there are some obvious details like the number of tracks in the project that will affect the estimated time.
Revisions. After the mix is done, there come revisions. They usually do not take much time but still have to be considered as potential additional work. The engineer cannot predict whether the revisions will be needed, because it’s up to the client, and from the client’s point of view. Unless an engineer has created a number of different mixes for the client to choose from, then, maybe, the probability of revisions will drop, but this is not an efficient way and is even more time-consuming.
Now you see why it can be hard to estimate the time for mixing per song. But, at the same time, every audio engineer definitely has their own professional estimations on how many hours they would need to create this or that final mix. And those often are pretty accurate.
However, there is a set of absolutely certain things or properties of a project that influence the mixing process. Let’s discuss them in detail.
Things that affect the time of mixing
Let’s state the things that affect the time for mixing a track:
- Experience of the mixing engineer. It doesn’t affect the time directly, but usually, beginners need more hours to bring a mix to perfection than professionals.
- Mixing engineer’s preferred way of mixing – slow, fast, or with brakes. The process can take longer and last several days if the engineer likes to get a fresh look at the music piece the next day and make sure it sounds perfect. Other professionals like to finish a mix in one day.
- Size of the project, how many tracks are there. Is it 20 tracks or is it 100 tracks? Obviously, the bigger the project the more time it’ll take to work on.
- Editing or stem replacing. If these edits are required, the number of them will determine the delay before the actual mixing will start.
- Re-recording. The mixing engineer might ask the artist to record some tracks again. This happens if the engineer sees that the tracks are recorded poorly and can not add up into a perfect mix even with editing. It may happen that some recordings in the project have bad quality or there are some flaws in the sound that the artist hasn’t noticed. Then there will be a delay in the mixing process, and the track in question will be recorded again. This can greatly affect the time needed to complete and release the track.
- Providing extra mixes. If an artist needs more than one mixdown, and orders extra mixes, like radio edit, for example, the mixing will take longer.
- Need for revisions. Of course, revisions will increase the mixing time as well. The more revisions are requested, the more time is used.
As we see, mixing is a complicated process, and there are quite a lot of factors that may influence it. But aren’t professionals having it all under control, after all, it’s their job? Do all famous mixing engineers work with the same speed?
Do all professional audio engineers mix songs quickly?
One may assume that the more professional you get the least time it takes for you to master a record but it’s only partially true. Of course, when you have just started learning to mix, it could take you even a month to mix a song. And you can get lost not knowing what to do and how to get the sound you are working on even close to the reference tracks. But with experience, you understand what tools you need to use, and when. You’ll get used to more plugins and have your favorite magic plugins, that will help you shape the sound of any music however you want.
Of course, with time engineers learn how to do mixes quicker but if you listen to mixing engineers that do mixes for celebrities and famous bands, you’ll understand that time for mixing one track for them differs as well. It may take them from 6 hours or 8 hours to a day or even a week sometimes to create a record. And it’s not because they don’t know what to do, it’s not because they’re not professional and mixing is such a complicated process. Every mixing engineer has their own process and preferences. Some of them like to take time and experiment, play with the mix. Some prefer to come back to the mix the next day and maybe a couple of days later to take a fresh look at it. And some of them just like to take time and create several variants of the mix to see which one will be chosen by the artist.
So we see that mixing is like art. It’s not predictable and can take longer if you can afford it. But at the same time, every professional can certainly tell you their estimations regarding the time, which usually are pretty accurate. So, how do we do it at our studio? How much time does mixing a song take us?
How long does it take us to create a professional mix?
It depends on the song. Before mixing we organize our project, we put the tracks together, unite them in groups, assign colors for convenience. Here the speed depends on the size of the project. If the project consists of 10-20 tracks then it will take about 10-20 minutes to organize. If it has 20-60 stems, the preparation will take 20-30 minutes. And 60-90 stems will take 30-40 minutes to get ready for mixing.
Then, the important element is whether the edits are needed. A project with 10-20 tracks can be edited within 60 minutes. A large multitrack – 60-90 tracks with a lot of need for editing, such as correcting music, tuning the vocals, and so on, might need even 24 hours of editing. But average editing of an average project usually takes 2-3 hours.
Then comes mixing itself. If the project is prepared for mixing, is neatly placed in the DAW and all the edits have been done, then the time depends more on the engineer’s skills than on the size of the project. Obviously, the bigger the project the more work it will require. But the time completely depends on how the engineer will be able to complete the task – from 1 hour to 1 day. But on average less than 20 stems take us 1h-1,5h to mix. 20-40 tracks – 2h-2,5h. And a big project of 60-90 tracks will take 4h-5h if everything goes right.
Then there can be revisions. The client checks how the mix sounds and wants to change something, this will also add to the time. Regardless of the size of the project, one revision normally takes about 1 hour.
How long does it take to master a song?
Mastering time depends greatly on the quality of the mix. Usually, it takes a professional audio engineer 30-90 minutes for an average track. However, the time can vary from 10 minutes for a perfect mix to several hours in case of stem mastering.
Mastering is different from mixing because for mastering you have normally just one track with left and right channels, so it’s much easier to estimate the time. Especially if you have a mastering procedure, the sequence of plugins that you usually use for mastering. Obviously, mastering has its own obstacles that could hinder the process and make the time for mustering unpredictable, as well as with mixing. Let’s go deeper and see what nuances or details can affect the time of this procedure, and what is the estimated time for mastering in our mixing and mastering studio.
Things that affect the mastering time
Again, the time depends on professionalism and the skills of the mastering engineer. However, there are certain things that can slow down or speed up the process, the same as with mixing.
Things that affect mastering time:
Skills of the mastering engineer. As always, an experienced engineer will probably create a better master record in a shorter time.
The quality of the mix. This can be a huge advantage or disadvantage for mastering. If the mix is done professionally and perfectly then there’s not much left to do for mastering. The engineer will just prepare the track for release according to the requirements of streaming platforms.
However, if the mix is done poorly, it can substantially slow down the mastering process. There could be mistakes in the mixdown that can not be corrected with the right mastering. Then the mastering engineer will be contacting the mixing engineer asking him to make some changes in the mix. The time needed for mastering will increase.
Creating several masters. There can be a need for creating different master records to release the track on different streaming services. This can slightly increase the mastering time as well.
How long does it take us to create a master record?
The mastering time depends on the skills of the mastering engineer and the quality of the mix. The better the track, the easier it is to master, and we’ll master it quickly on the industry level.
We may say that if the mix is bad, the mastering can take around 3-4 hours if the engineer is willing to help quickly. This time includes the revisions as well.
But for a great mix, our mastering can take no more than an hour. More likely around 30 minutes.
If it’s stem mastering, it can take us 2h – 3h.
Alternative masters may be needed like Apple Digital Master, a master record for Spotify, or others. The additional versions will take around 30 minutes each.
In conclusion, we can say that for a professional sound engineer 1 working day should be enough to edit, mix and master one song.
Major Mixing mixing and mastering
Thanks to our 10-year experience and the thousands of songs that we have mixed, we know many nuances in this job. We can quickly create an industry-level mix with the quality that all popular hits have. Each member of our team has experience working on big production projects. Each of us can mix the song to the perfect, beautiful sound.
The listeners may not understand anything in mixing and mastering, but they intuitively can tell if the song is not as good as their favorite hits. That is why you have to always do recording, mixing, and mastering on the highest professional level if you want your fans to love and share your music.
Make your songs with us to be absolutely satisfied with the quality and boost your career as an artist. Feel free to ask us any questions, we are interested in your success.