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The music we hear blasting through our speakers on a Sunday morning or through the privacy of our headphones has to go through a long journey until it reaches us.
People often forget that mixing and mastering is an important part of this journey and how much work and time goes into songs, and albums until the final product is released.
This, of course, won’t come as a surprise to a professional in the music industry who already knows that mixing and mastering is a required step but if you are new to mixing and mastering then you mightn’t have a good idea about the time you will need to complete your current work in progress.
So, how long does it take to mix and master?
The mixing time of a song can last from a few hours to several days, this depends on the size and complexity of the project. The mastering process can last half an hour to two, and it will heavily rely on the quality of the mix and the skills of the mix and audio engineer.
If you want to learn more about the process of mixing and mastering a beat, a track, or the whole album, and how you can do it faster then keep on reading!
How Long Does It Take To Mix And Master?
There’s no set time for mixing and mastering, it can take hours and days to complete the mixing of a track or a full record. The reality is that mixing usually takes much longer than mastering, but then again mastering also depends on the quality of the mixing.
Mixing and mastering are two processes that are connected, and to have a better idea of how long it will take you to complete a project you need to look at each separately before you get to a more concrete conclusion timewise.
So, let’s take a look at mixing and mastering separately.
After recording each track, the next stage is mixing and that’s when the mix engineer makes sure each track sounds good on its own as well as when they are played together.
Mixing is one of the most difficult skills to master because it’s not just about adjusting the volume levels of the vocals and individual instruments. Mixing is the process of seamlessly blending all the sounds that will go into a single song.
If you are at the beginning of your mixing career then you need to take a closer look at the steps of the mixing process before you can have an idea of a timeline for your mixing project.
No matter how small or large the project, the first stage of the mixing process is organizing all the tracks you have to mix in your digital audio workstation (DAW.)
For me, it’s like clearing out my desk before I set myself down to write songs or making sure my studio looks decent before my band and I start practicing or recording.
This is when you want to make sure each track has its own title, so you don’t end up confusing one for the other. Grouping and coloring them in different colors in your digital workstation is also crucial if you want to recognize and distinguish the tracks quickly.
You also need to set up the reference tracks, these are songs from other artists that you can use as a point of reference. You might be looking to achieve the same loudness, the vocal reverb, or the snare volume of the track you’re mixing with an existing track.
Basically, reference tracks will give you a better idea of what the track should sound like and help you establish the overall tonality of a song. In some cases, the artist you are working with will provide you with some of these references. To save yourself time remember to set up these reference tracks for easy access.
The next stage is editing and that is when your skills as an audio manipulator come forth in order to improve or change the quality of each track.
The time you will spend editing a track will heavily depend on its quality because you might end up with a record that you don’t need to change much, the instruments may not require any improvements, and the vocals won’t need any pitch correction.
You may save a lot of time if you have a high-quality track on your hands, otherwise you may end up spending your time on stem replacement. This usually happens with big projects that usually have a lot of stems.
But no matter the project you are likely to alter the length of certain tracks, the volume and speed, and spend at least some time removing mistakes and cleaning up noisy audio.
I won’t say this is the most crucial stage of mixing, because preparation and editing are going to set you up for a smoother mixing experience, but this is definitely when you get to perform your magic.
Here you’ll get to use all your skills to bring balance and emotion to each track and the album as a whole with tools like volume faders to achieve volume balance, and compressors to level out the dynamics of the instruments and shape their tone.
You will also use mixing tools like an equalizer (EQ) which will help fine-tune the sound of each instrument. By this stage, you will also need to give each instrument its own space after all balance is everything. That can be done by panning, which is moving an instrument to the left or right speaker.
You will also need to add depth with reverbs, basically adding reverberation to an instrument to create the illusion that the instrument is in a new space, like farther away from the listener.
You might also seek for something like an echo, just one repetition and that is called delay which will create space around an instrument without it sounding so far away.
You will also need to look at the track and see if there is the same volume balance throughout the song, if not then you will need to use automation to make the volume consistent.
Let’s not forget that you can also experiment with effects like delay, distortion, and chorusing which makes an instrument sound like it’s doubled.
This is the actual stage when a collection of raw tracks turns into an actual song when it becomes more consistent and exciting. As you can see this is a time-consuming stage that can take you a few hours or even days to complete.
Once the mixing is done it doesn’t mean it is fully complete and you will need to dedicate at least some portion of your time to revisions.
This can be an unpredictable stage since you can’t be sure if your client will ask for revisions. Of course, you might think that by creating multiple mixes you can get ahead of your client’s expectations, but they may still ask for revisions nonetheless so it’s not the most efficient way.
So, as you can see mixing is usually the most time-consuming process of producing a song.
Mastering is the final stage of audio production; this is the stage where all the last touches are made. That’s when you need to make sure your final track or album is polished and ready to be distributed.
During the mastering process, you need to make sure all the copies of each track can be played back no matter what streaming services they will end up on, from Spotify, and CDs to a vinyl record.
Instead of focusing on individual instruments or making grand changes that happen during mixing, mastering is all about subtle adjustments to improve the audio.
Things like unwanted echoes, hisses, clicks, and pops can get away from even the most professional mixing engineer, but they can easily be addressed during the mastering stage.
You will also go through stereo enhancement and compression and it’s all about achieving balanced audio, with the appropriate levels of loudness.
If we’re talking about an album then arranging each track in the right order and adding periods of silence in between will help the whole album’s flow.
Let’s not forget that technical things can come up, like preserving the audio quality of the track in case the sample rate and bit depth will have to be converted.
All these factors will affect the time you will need to spend mastering and even for a professional mastering can take from fifteen minutes to several hours.
How Long Does It Take To Mix And Master A Beat?
Unlike an album or a whole song mixing and mastering a beat can be a fairly quick process. When I say quick, I mean anywhere from five to thirty minutes and that truly depends on your experience, and your methodology.
This video is a short and easy introduction to mixing and mastering your beats, but of course, it’s catered to musicians that are already familiar with the process and how a digital audio workstation actually works.
I find mixing and mastering beats a great way to experiment with your DAW and learn more about the different plugins like EQ, compression, limiting, and tape plugins and the different stages of mixing and mastering.
How Long Does It Take To Mix And Master A Song?
As the word itself suggests mixing is the process of blending all the sounds that will go into a single song in a way that everything sounds coherent and consistent. That’s why the mixing process takes the longest.
For a single song, mixing should take you a few hours, but in some cases, it can take you anywhere from an hour to a couple of days and this doesn’t simply depend on the size and complexity of the project but also on the genre of music.
Rock music or certain rock bands can be more straightforward, while genres like hip hop and pop can be a lot of work. It also depends on the vocals, melodic singing and rapping require different mixing methodologies, and if you have both of them in one track then you may need to work for longer.
Your own experience and how comfortable you are with a certain genre can also determine the time you will spend mixing a track. If you’ve been mixing hip hop tracks and then you are suddenly faced with an epic power metal record, then you may feel overwhelmed.
I also want to mention electronic music, which is a genre residing on a whole different plane. When it comes to electronic music, I’ve seen so many professional engineers mixing on the spot, trying to find the right groove and vibe of the track. And the more complex the arrangement the more time and effort they had to put in.
If you’ve done a decent job mixing a song, then mastering shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes, but if we’re talking about stem mastering or you’ve met a few hiccups along the way then it can take you two to four hours.
Song revisions during the mixing process can also set you back, or if you need to create alternative masters for different streaming services then each version could take you an extra half an hour.
So, when it comes to mixing and mastering a song, a professional sound engineer will most likely spend one day going through both processes. However, an amateur in this field may need a couple of extra days instead.
How Long Does It Take To Mix And Master An Album?
When it comes to mixing and mastering an album there are so many variables that you need to consider which makes it really difficult to determine a precise timeline.
Each track in an album can be quite different, you may need to spend one day per track for some of them whereas others might take you a week to complete, and then you have to take a step back and look at the album as a whole and make sure that all the songs mix well together.
For a professional audio engineer mixing and mastering a song can be a one-day process and if the album has on average between nine and 12 tracks then this could take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month.
If you are not as experienced, then you have to expect that mixing and mastering a whole album is going to take much longer.
You also need to understand that the relationship you have with the artist plays a major role. Knowing their material, and what results they expect can either speed up things or make you work with more precision to get an elevated result.
The budget can also impact the amount of time one will spend on mixing and mastering an album. And I also want to add that while the amount of time you spend on an album doesn’t guarantee good or bad results, there’s always a fine line between speed and quality.
I’ve had different experiences with mixing and mastering my own material and working with other audio engineers and I’ve found that one month of mixing and two weeks of mastering is an average that has given us great results, however, this doesn’t include revisions.
What Affects The Amount Of Time I Spend Mixing?
Whether you’re a professional mixing engineer or you’re just starting out, this job is time-consuming, but there are certain things that can affect the time spent on a certain project.
If you’re new to mixing then don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending all of your waking hours working on the same song or album and feeling like the job doesn’t seem to come to an end.
Beginners will need more time to bring a mix to perfection, and another issue you might face is not knowing when to stop.
Professional mixers use their skills and experience to complete a project faster, but they also know when it’s time to move on to mastering.
Whether you are a professional or not, everyone has their process. Some mixing engineers spend a meticulous amount of time on a song during the mixing stage to avoid possible revisions.
Others will spend more time during the editing phase to improve or change the quality of each track so mixing will move faster.
I found that no matter how fast I complete a mix, I have to let it sit for at least a day so I can come back to it with a fresh set of ears and see what changes it may need.
You on the other hand may consider this a waste of your time, and there’s nothing wrong with it, this is just your process and it will dictate how fast you can mix.
The Size Of The Project
Whether that’s a beat, song, or album you’re working they all require a different set of time and in most cases the bigger the project the more time you will need to spend on it.
I also want to add that working on a large project remotely can greatly affect the speed at which a record is mixed.
Similarly, if you are working on multiple projects then the time you work on one track or album can get scattered between all your other mixing responsibilities.
The Number of Edits
The editing stage and possible stem replacing can also delay the actual mixing stage. On the other hand, the process will be immensely sped up if you have to work on high-quality tracks that require minimal editing.
As I said the quality of the track can affect the time you will need to spend on mixing.
Thankfully I haven’t had mixing engineers asking me to re-record a track, but when I was mostly doing the mixing process myself in the early days I would often realize that some of our tracks were recorded poorly and no amount of editing was going to save it.
Even if you are not an experienced mixer I’m sure you can imagine how re-recordings can delay the mixing stage of a track or album.
Request for Different Mixes
You might have to spend more time on mixing if the artist you are working with requests more than one mixdown.
For example, it’s not unusual to get a request for an album version mix, album version with vocals up mix, album-oriented radio mix, TV mix, etc.
Revisions will definitely increase the overall mixing time which could be up to an hour, and more than that if more revisions will follow or if we’re talking about an album.
What Affects The Amount Of Time I Spend Mastering?
Mastering might not be as time-consuming as mixing, but there are certain things that can delay this process.
The more experienced we are at a certain task the quicker we can perform it, so if you are a beginner mastering engineer then you will spend more time creating a master record.
In retrospect, I can see how dwelling on a project was wasteful, but my problem was that I was never too sure when it was ready.
But now I know that this isn’t something you are born with and the more you master the less you dwell and the more confident you become. Nowadays mastering a track can take me anywhere from ten minutes to an hour.
The Quality Of The Mix
Mastering time is heavily dependent on the quality of the mix. If it’s done professionally then all that’s left is adding the finishing touches.
If however, you have to fix mistakes during the mastering process or you have to send the track back to the mixing engineer then the time you spend mastering this particular track will increase.
The Amount Of Masters Needed
You might need to create several master records in order to release the album or song on various streaming services and this can also require some extra time.
Do Professional Audio Engineers Mix and Master Quickly?
Professional sound engineers can use their experience and skills to produce a track quickly, but they also know when speeding things up is actually necessary and useful.
Of course, time is money but mixing and mastering is also a creative process and the goal is to create a song that people will want to listen to.
So, while a professional audio engineer may need only one working day to edit, mix and master one song it doesn’t mean they are immune to the unexpected factors that can delay this process whether that’s poor quality recording or the client’s demands for multiple revisions.
As you get more experienced you need to accept that mixing and mastering can be unpredictable but as a professional, you also have to be able to give an accurate estimation to your client.
You will also learn that professionalism is not just about time, and famous musicians can be in the mixing and mastering process with their audio engineers for months on end until they are happy with their new album. You just have to know how many months that will take.
How Can You Mix and Master Faster?
If you are worried you are very slow here are a few tips that I think can help you mix and master faster.
Use Shortcuts and Key Commands
I know this might sound like the most obvious thing on earth but I’m not too ashamed to admit that I didn’t use shortcuts on my keyboard during my first mix and mastering endeavors and if you are a beginner it’s not as easy as it may seem.
But taking your time to study your digital audio workstation the various shortcuts on your keyboard and maybe creating some of your own can save you time and unnecessary clicks.
Create A Mixing Template
Sometimes you can predict how much time mixing a track can take you during the prep work, but you can save some time by creating your own mixing templates.
Your template is going to be your starting point for mixing projects and it usually includes key plug-ins and processors, as well as preconfigured busses, effect sends, and channel routing.
You can create more than one template, I use different templates for different musical genres. Of course, every project still requires unique processing and I’ve seen my mixing templates change and evolve as I pick up new plug-ins and developed new techniques
Name And Color-code Your Tracks
Naming and color-coding your tracks can save you a ton of time and confusion. Even if you’re working on multiple tracks and projects you won’t get lost.
I’ve got a specific color palette that I use, for example, the drum tracks are blue, the guitar is green and the vocals are always purple and the list goes on.
Use Reference Tracks
I’ve already mentioned reference tracks as a part of the prep work during the mixing process but comparing your final product with a reference track when mastering can also give you a better idea if you’ll need to spend more time making changes.
Of course, the tracks you are using to compare your own work should be just that, a point of reference, they shouldn’t sound the same, but they are necessary for this line of work so you know that you’re on the right track!
You can’t always be sure how long mixing and mastering is going to take because there are so many variables to consider, like the quality of the recording, the quality of the mix, and the size of the project.
Mixing and mastering a track can take you several hours, a working day, or more. But one thing is sure, with more experience, you are going to get faster and you can get better at predicting the amount of time you need to mix and master, whether that’s a song, 100 tracks, or an album.