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Releasing a single is an intricate process involving multiple stages and depending on the song’s complexity, it will require your devotion and time.
Whether you are a professional, or an amateur and working alone or with other professionals, the human factor can also either speed up the process or slow you down.
So, how long does it take to write, record, and produce a song?
Some songs can take less than half an hour to write and others can take days or months. Song recording can last an hour or several days depending on the complexity of the music, and the number of instruments and vocals involved. That’s why it can take a month, or more to produce a song.
Bringing a song into this world takes a lot of work, and it can all seem overwhelming, so let’s break the process down from the conception of the idea to the birth of a single, or album, and most importantly find out if one can speed up the process.
How Long Does It Take To Write A Song?
Songwriters usually have their own unique approaches to writing a song, some of them begin with writing the music first while others will start off with writing a complete lyric.
For me, it truly depends on the moment, I love the hybrid approach, but sometimes I hear the call of paper first while other times my mind and hands are drawn to my guitar.
To better understand how long songwriting will take you let’s check its different stages.
It’s more common for songwriters to start with the music first. During this phase, the basic musical melodies are written first, this includes the melody for the verses, pre-chorus, chorus, and bridge.
Depending on the complexity, the genre, and the number of musical instruments your first draft may take you a few hours or days to craft, with or without the lyrics.
We often connect to a song not only because of its beautiful melody but because of the lyrics and the meaning behind them.
Lyrics are an essential part of a song, and it often is the most difficult aspect of this process. Despite this difficulty, plenty of artists choose to start with the lyrics and it can take them anywhere from thirty minutes to a few days to complete.
Of course, there are songs that don’t have any poetic depth but even if you don’t care about the deeper meaning you still have to fit the words around the melody and that will take some time.
You may end up spending more time on the song depending on the structure of the song and how you want the final draft to sound.
A song that has the same verse and chorus on repeat is more likely to take less time to complete, but things will get more complicated if you want to write a song with three different verses and with a repeating chorus in between.
It takes time to figure out how you want a song to be structured because you might want to come in with the chorus first or you might want to have an intro and outro in your song.
Not to mention that some songs include a bridge section. You will often find breakdowns in metal and punk songs that’s when various instruments have solo parts.
If you’re still not sure what breakdowns are then check this video out!
The process of giving the right structure to your song can take you less than an hour or more and the length of the final song is another thing that will affect the time you’ll spend writing a song.
While most mainstream songs nowadays are usually two to four minutes long, you will notice that there’s a clear difference between writing a song that is a ten-minute epic metal masterpiece and a 1-minute Lofi beat.
Professional Vs An Amateur Songwriter
One major difference I’ve seen between professional and amateur songwriters that truly affects speed and productivity is the concept of inspiration.
If you are a professional in the music field you know that you can’t simply write when inspiration hits, because you end up wasting so much of your time seeking that feeling.
Don’t get me wrong inspiration can help you write a song in ten minutes, but the song is still not going to be a guaranteed hit. Being productive is about writing constantly, and being fast is all about problem-solving.
Being a professional is about honing your skills and having the best setup, but it’s also about realizing when a song actually needs more time before it’s complete. Knowing when something is ready comes with experience.
How Long Does It Take To Record A Song?
While writing a song can happen in a few hours, recording a song is a complicated process that can take much longer, and from experience, it’s usually the most time-consuming stage of song production.
So, let’s take a look at why recording a song can take so long!
To put it very simply, bed tracks are usually just bass and percussion and they provide the harmonic and rhythmic structure to the song. In other words, bed tracks can be used as the basis onto which the new song is going to be built.
Using bed tracks can speed up things but that will also depend on the genre. You can make things go faster by using loop packs which are melodies, chords, or single sounds to build bed tracks.
When I use loop packs I make sure to keep my favorites in specific folders so I don’t waste unnecessary time sorting them out during this phase.
Instead of using ready loop packs, you might have to record the instruments that are going to build your bed tracks. Depending on the musicians’ skills and professionalism it can take a day or months to put the instruments and sounds together.
Vocals, Backing Vocals, Overdubs
How quickly you can record the main vocals will depend on the quality of your setup and also on the singer’s experience.
If a vocalist is well rehearsed then you can have a professional recording on the same day, for some it can be a matter of a few hours or less.
Of course, it’s also common to record multiple takes to get the right feel and that could add an extra hour to this process.
In some cases rap singers might complete a vocal recording much faster because there are fewer harmonies, however, there’s still room for error since an inexperienced rapper can mess up their flow and words.
As you can imagine the more vocals you have to record and the more people are involved in the singing process the longer it’s going to take.
Instruments, Extra Overdubs, Percussion
Recording a song can take anywhere from a few hours to days depending on its musical complexity. If there are many instruments involved then recording them all will most likely be time-consuming.
Recording a guide or temporary track will also take time and then you will have to spend more of it to overlay separate vocals, add harmonies and instrument takes, and let’s not forget that in certain genres like metal and rock instrument solos are a big thing.
Starting your recording from scratch by creating your own sounds and software instruments, recording percussion instruments like drums and hi-hats as well as sampling other records can also require additional time.
Mixing & Mastering
You might feel like recording the vocals, instruments, and all the necessary sounds will bring you closer to the finish line, but mixing and mastering is another stage that requires a lot of energy and time.
Once an experienced audio engineer starts working on your project, let’s say a single then the mixing time can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.
Plenty of things can also set the engineer back, like a low-quality recording in which case you might have to re-record an instrument or the vocals. Mixing time also depends on the size and complexity of the project but also on the genre of music.
The mastering process will also depend on the overall quality of the mix, and the skills of the audio engineer. At best mastering shouldn’t take you more than half an hour unless you meet a few obstacles along the way in which case it can take you two to four hours.
How Long Does It Take To Produce A Song?
Producing a song doesn’t happen overnight, and the whole process truly depends on the quality of the production, and the size of the project.
Creating an idea for a single from scratch takes time, during which the producer and the artist or the whole band will have to start creating and planning their next musical project.
Things need more time depending on whether you are getting a custom beat made, or you’re buying or leasing one that’s already made.
The genre of the song or album will also affect the production time because you will need to hire professional musicians and schedule their time so they can be in the recording session together. Unless of course, you have a band in which case things can go quicker, but this might not be the case if the band is inexperienced.
The process of recording the vocals, all the instruments, and sounds can take anywhere from a week to a month to organize and put together. If the recording stage is successful then the mixing and mastering stage will follow and it usually shouldn’t take too long.
For a professional audio engineer, the mixing and mastering process for a song can take one day. However, I do want to mention that mastering can take a few extra days to complete since you want to be able to play the final track on a variety of playback systems and the engineer must ensure that the song is mastered and ready for mass consumption on all platforms.
So, taking all these stages and processes into consideration, producing a complete song or a professional sounding demo can be done in one month or two. Finally let’s not forget the budget, because money will also play a major role in song production and can give you more or less time to complete a finished high-quality product.
How Long Does It Take To Release A Song?
Once the production stage is over and your song is ready to be released to the masses you still need to wait for the different music services to upload and approve your music.
If you’ve followed all the guidelines that the digital stores and the streaming services have set then it can be a matter of hours, days, or weeks.
For instance, it usually takes one day for Spotify to approve your song, but you are most likely to listen to it on this service after five business days have passed.
The same can be said for streaming services like Apple Music, however, you can release a song within a day or two on Youtube.
How To Produce A Song Faster?
Producing a song involves multiple stages and we often end up going back and forth between them in order to create a high-quality product. So, accepting that music production takes time can truly help you focus your mind on the process instead of constantly checking the clock.
That being said, you can have a system in place that can improve your time management skills as a music producer, or during the production phase.
The first thing you need to do is be consistent with your work, isntead of simply setting goals like having a track ready in one day, breaking down the process and getting yourself to work will increase your productivity far more.
I’m a very messy person, and I’m very chaotic, but when it comes to my DAW folders, computer files, libraries, and sessions I make sure they are well organized and labeled accordingly. Make sure your samples are quickly accessible, and that you have a system in place for your backups.
I might be messy but I’m all about finding the right vibe, so I also make sure that my work environment, which is my studio is clean and tidy, this way I set a productive mood for me, my band, and other artists I might be working with.
Small things, like using shortcuts, using the same color coding scheme in all your projects, and instead of setting up a new session creating custom start-up DAW templates can help you win extra time!
For me speed doesn’t always mean quality or a good result, so knowing when to hurry, or when to take your time has truly improved my time management skills and the quality of my work.
It’s also important to understand that everyone works differently, as I said I’m chaotic so that can get in the way, so I like to break down each production stage into smaller tasks on my to-do list. Otherize I end up focusing on the easy tasks and leaving the important tasks for later.
I don’t necessarily do all the tasks in order, but I will make sure there’s a logic to my flow because I also don’t want to complete a task only to end up going back and redoing it.
Producing a song doesn’t have to be a lonely job and it shouldn’t be so make sure to surround yourself with competent professionals, that can deliver on time and ultimately help you produce a song faster.
How Long Does It Take To Write, Record And Produce An Album?
When it comes to professionally producing a whole album, that has on average 9 to 12 tracks, it can take anywhere from several months to a year. You often times see artists release an album and then move on to promoting their album and touring for another year or two.
During this time they may release a few singles here and there, but they will also take some of this time to work on their next album which can also require another year to reach completion, and so on.
If you’re doing most of the production work yourself then producing an album can take much longer, especially if you’re not as experienced. Professional producers help with decision-making and can make the process more efficient.
Producing a song or a whole freaking album is no joke and it can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months!
From the moment you get the idea for a song, you step into a treacherous path. You will have to write the lyrics and the music and then step into the battlefield of recording all of the crazy ideas that have solidified in your head.
You will most likely come out of the recording stage unscathed but you won’t be the same and then you will have to put all your energy into the mixing and mastering process. But once all of that is done you will have the final version of the song in your hands and you will be able to release it into the world and let people hear your music!