How long does it take you to master?
robsilentcity
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28th February 2008
Old 28th February 2008
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How long does it take you to master?

I wouldn't regard myself as a mastering engineer but just interested on your answers to this question.


I know the first answer is; depends on the material and how well it was mixed - but there seems to be some engineers around these parts that master things surprisingly quickly - or at least it surprises me.

So, if you were given for example, 9 tracks, 50 minutes of material - let's say it's rock orientated and the mix is balanced well enough to the point where there's nothing that needs "fixing" at the mastering stage - how long would you tell the client you needed to get to the end product?


When I've played with stuff in the past, it usually takes me 3 or 4 days - but I don't have the correct equipment or experience. I'm just experimenting!

People advertising around here (Leeds, UK) seem to be saying that they can do this sort of thing in an evening?! Is that really enough time?
brethes
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28th February 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robsilentcity View Post
I wouldn't regard myself as a mastering engineer but just interested on your answers to this question.


I know the first answer is; depends on the material and how well it was mixed - but there seems to be some engineers around these parts that master things surprisingly quickly - or at least it surprises me.

So, if you were given for example, 9 tracks, 50 minutes of material - let's say it's rock orientated and the mix is balanced well enough to the point where there's nothing that needs "fixing" at the mastering stage - how long would you tell the client you needed to get to the end product?


When I've played with stuff in the past, it usually takes me 3 or 4 days - but I don't have the correct equipment or experience. I'm just experimenting!

People advertising around here (Leeds, UK) seem to be saying that they can do this sort of thing in an evening?! Is that really enough time?
Unless there are problems with the mixes, it takes 4 to 5 hours.
macc
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28th February 2008
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To follow that with the obvious question... what if there are problems with the mixes?

I know it is a bit 'how long is a piece of string', but how long would you work before saying 'RE-MIX!'?

inlinenl
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28th February 2008
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I find an average off 1 hour per track okay incl. a few 15min breaks along the way ... sometimes less .. sometimes a bit more ... all in's and out's conversions / tail & heads .... until lining-up for the complete CD ... spliting it over two days .. QC ...

thats why I feel comfortably with a fixed track/album price instead off per hour ... track/album will get all the time/attention it needs ... if you're an indy or a label .. no difference in approach ... all based on fair use policy ... a few remixes no problem ... getting a few versions to settle for a sound .. all included .. that's why 1 hour average ... sometimes on a small production (dance/electronic 2/3 tracks it takes a few versions so then 5 hours ... )
sometimes > 16 hip-hop tracks can be done in 8 hours ...



there is always something to fix ..... :-)
#5
28th February 2008
Old 28th February 2008
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I estimate on the basis of 30 minutes per track. This gives me time for a couple of runs throughs before I start tweaking and a couple more with tweaking then a final pass before I put the track down to DAW.

If I'm doing an album and it's all been mixed by the same guy with the same instruments in the same room...maybe I'll get into the groove a bit more and it'll come down to 20 mins per track. So all in all for 9 tracks, maybe 5 hours total including compiling.

Oh and re: 'how long would you work before you say 'REMIX''?

I'd know within 5 minutes if it needs to be remixed, simply because I know my room, my gear and my ears well enough by now...
inlinenl
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28th February 2008
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streaky : remix

sometimes with less exp. mix-egineers or all home based productions/ mostly electronic and hip-hop ... they find that after mastering ( first time going to a ME ) a few details have altered to much in "their" opinion ...

then if they make a remix it's for free ....
Thomas W. Bethe
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28th February 2008
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Like the original poster said "it depends"

I would say, as a normal rule of thumb, about 30 to 45 minutes per song is the average for me.

If it is taking two or three days to do the mastering then there is something seriously wrong with your approach or your monitoring setup. If you are leaning as you go then the sky is the limit. If you work on a track too long you start to double think yourself and after a while nothing sounds good and you start to tweak things that don't need to be tweaked

I too can usually tell with in the first 5-10 minutes if the song is so bad it needs to be remixed.
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28th February 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by inlinenl View Post
streaky : remix

sometimes with less exp. mix-egineers or all home based productions/ mostly electronic and hip-hop ... they find that after mastering ( first time going to a ME ) a few details have altered to much in "their" opinion ...

then if they make a remix it's for free ....
Not sure if I get the last part...but I have also experienced this - sometimes people have lived with a mix so long that when it gets changed they don't know what to think. Even if it's better.

If I'm doing unattended sessions I will always feel more comfortable telling someone something needs to be remixed - they don't get charged to reschedule the session if this is what you're getting at at the end of your post??
inlinenl
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28th February 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by streaky View Post
Not sure if I get the last part...but I have also experienced this - sometimes people have lived with a mix so long that when it gets changed they don't know what to think. Even if it's better.

If I'm doing unattended sessions I will always feel more comfortable telling someone something needs to be remixed - they don't get charged to reschedule the session if this is what you're getting at at the end of your post??

Hello Streaky, I understand you're example ... and would act the same way .... but just on a few occaisions I mastered the tracks and the artist wanted to make a few remixes after that .... it was a 20 tracks album ... so when "trying to build a client base" I don't charge for that ... I can imagine some off you arrived ME's would do the same ... I find it sometimes hard to decide if I am a businness and running a studio, or just being very enthousiastic about music ...
macc
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28th February 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
If you work on a track too long you start to double think yourself and after a while nothing sounds good and you start to tweak things that don't need to be tweaked
Man, ain't that the truth! This is the thing I find hardest when I'm doing trickier stuff. Trying too hard to get 'perfection', polish turds etc.
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28th February 2008
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oh i see what you're saying now! I do the same regularly, i don't charge extra for the first set of tweaks - after that it's into dangerous territory!

As for striking a balance between business and pleasure...I think it depends a lot on the attitude of the client - if they are happy to pay then I am happy to accept payment : )
Thomas W. Bethe
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28th February 2008
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I had a client recently that no matter what I did he did not like what I had done to his mixes. He said I had "changed the mix" which is not possible with simple mastering. I think what he was hearing was that the compression and some eq I had used made various instruments take on a different loudness than he was use to hearing. He had heard his mixes so many times that to him this was the way they were "suppose to sound" and any attempt at mastering was doing things that he did not like.

This artist also accused me of getting rid of some bass notes by mastering which was simply not the case. Again he has some old JBL speakers in the corners of his listening room and they have a lot of bass "bloom" which my speakers and my studio do not have ( it is a very neutral sounding room) so the bass sounded somewhat thinner to him than he was use to hearing.

I suggested to him that he NOT have his stuff mastered and I only did some topping and tailing and assembly and gave the project back to him.

When your "norm" becomes the benchmark for how something is "suppose to sound" then I think an artist would have serious problems ever getting anything mastered. By the simple act of mastering you will change the way things sound and if the artist is not going to let you master because of this then you really have no place to go.

FWIW and MTCW
#13
28th February 2008
Old 28th February 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brethes@mac.com View Post
Unless there are problems with the mixes, it takes 4 to 5 hours.
As Glenn Meadows says, (and I paraphrase, can't remember the exact quote) "If it takes me more than 4-5 hours, there must be something terribly wrong with me or the mixes."

BK
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28th February 2008
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I usually estimate an hour for every ten minutes of material. Rarely have records that take more than 4-5 hours. Many take much less.
inlinenl
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28th February 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob katz View Post
As Glenn Meadows says, (and I paraphrase, can't remember the exact quote) "If it takes me more than 4-5 hours, there must be something terribly wrong with me or the mixes."

BK
just curious Bob.... , does that 4 to 5 hours include upsampling / tails & head cleaning / down-sampling / line-up / track spacing / recalibrate you're brain & ears breaks .... or just the sound-creation stage ...

in todays competative mastering-market where client expectations are high ... I think IMHO if I would take 4 to 5 hours the tracks would not be on the edge on where it should or could be ...... so with not that much overhead on my bussiness I can take a bit longer .... but I'm still adapting to the new room ... so I'm carefull ....
#16
28th February 2008
Old 28th February 2008
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Originally Posted by inlinenl View Post
just curious Bob.... , does that 4 to 5 hours include upsampling / tails & head cleaning / down-sampling / line-up / track spacing / recalibrate you're brain & ears breaks .... or just the sound-creation stage ...
Just about everything assuming that detailed editing and fixing is not necessary. I have an assistant do loadin and precheck (listen for noises, retouch, cleanup etc.) and set up the basic EDL, head and tail and preliminary idea of what he thinks of spacing between tracks or to conform with a client's reference idea. That's typically about 1 hour to 1.5 hours of the total time. Then I take over and master it and do the loadout to 4424. During the process of mastering the sound I tweak heads and tails that he did if I don't like them, spaces or perform or redo fadeouts if I don't like what my assistant did. I pick the loudest or most exciting song and start by working on that for about an hour, typically, then the rest of the songs fall in line, anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes apiece thereafter IF ALL THE MIXES HAD BEEN DONE IN ONE STUDIO BY ONE ENGINEER. That's on the clock, typically 4 to 6 billable hours total. The rest (PQ coding, master preparation) is off the clock on a fixed rate and is not included in the time.

Some sessions, 3 hours... Some sessions... 8 hours. Some, much more. We're talking "average" here.

BK
inlinenl
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28th February 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bob katz View Post
Just about everything assuming that detailed editing and fixing is not necessary. I have an assistant do loadin and precheck (listen for noises, retouch, cleanup etc.) and set up the basic EDL, head and tail and preliminary idea of what he thinks of spacing between tracks or to conform with a client's reference idea. That's typically about 1 hour to 1.5 hours of the total time. Then I take over and master it and do the loadout to 4424. During the process of mastering the sound I tweak heads and tails that he did if I don't like them, spaces or perform or redo fadeouts if I don't like what my assistant did. I pick the loudest or most exciting song and start by working on that for about an hour, typically, then the rest of the songs fall in line, anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes apiece thereafter IF ALL THE MIXES HAD BEEN DONE IN ONE STUDIO BY ONE ENGINEER. That's on the clock, typically 4 to 6 billable hours total. The rest (PQ coding, master preparation) is off the clock on a fixed rate and is not included in the time.

Some sessions, 3 hours... Some sessions... 8 hours. Some, much more. We're talking "average" here.

BK
Thank's for you're reply Bob, well many ways to Rome ... some longer .. some faster .... in the end we all get there and eat great pasta and drink red wine ...
Jerry Tubb
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28th February 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robsilentcity View Post
how long would you tell the client you needed to get to the end product?
We estimate about a half hour per song, which in reality will be a little more or less depending on the mix and if it has any issues... extra editing, automation, noise reduction, micro tweaks, different studio mixes, etc.

Add an extra hour at the end to assemble, final check, and burn. Proofing adds another hour after the ref is appoved.

So 4-5 hours is a good starting figure for a 10-12 song record, but in truth it often takes longer.

I find it's best to slightly over-estimate rather than under-estimate the project and it's budget.

JT
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28th February 2008
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We tell our clients 2-3 tracks /hr. on a good mix. That's why we stress that the better the mix, the less it will cost them. If it takes me more than 1/2 hour on a track, I'll send it back.

Regards,
Bruce
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28th February 2008
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for me the first track takes the longest which is not surprising but once I've got into it, the rest don't take all that long sometimes 15 mins but mostly about 30 mins per track sometimes slightly longer depending if there is something tricky.

I do like to take regular breaks though so as not to get to bogged down and I prefer to work quickly so as I'm not thinking to much as sometimes it can really kill whats going on.
jdg
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28th February 2008
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5-8hrs.
if ppl are attending.. a bit longer since i jabber on a bit much
jayfrigo
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28th February 2008
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Estimates are based on 1/2 hour per track processing, and some extra time at the end for sequencing and assembly (perhaps an hour if it's a full length, or a half hour for an EP), plus the burning of media. Depending on lots of things, it can be far more or far less.

Media burning is done off the clock, but pricing is indeed based on the time it takes to create, thus a master costs more than a ref because the initial DDP image creation is included with the first disc, but no additional image is needed for an additional reference copy. In fact, it's not truly a reference it it doesn't come from the same master. Full QC listening passes also take quite a bit of time (the full length of the program plus a few minutes to either side to load it up and check the IDs). The billing is separated into EQ time plus parts because many labels consider EQ/process time to be creative, thus recoupable from the artist, while parts orders are part of replication, and thus the responsibility of the label.
Riccardo
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28th February 2008
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Same here, on average 4/5 hours on the clock plus assembly, burning, QC at a fixed rate.

The biggest problem is telling clients a remix is needed. Good engineers seldom need to remix and when it is needed they understand straight away but you'd be surprised at how many times a client walks in assuring me their mix is very good and when it turns out to be not so good refuse to remix. I guess it goes with the times we are living in.......

I have (rarely, thank God) had sessions running 8/10 hours where the client hearing the flaws in his mix demanded fixes for everything, where a remix should have been in order........in the end it is the client we are trying to serve......
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29th February 2008
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It sometimes takes me up to an hour for the first track to work out the signal flow and 'sound'. I like to have a good listen to the album as well to get a feel for it. After that generally no more than 30mins per track, and then another hour to edit, level match, fade, do some plug-in processing if required, and bounce the project.

I always listen to the master from beginning to end before the client walks out the door, sometimes I do this at home if I am awaiting approval. Did 8 tracks yesterday in 4 hours which is average, once did a double remix CD (22 tracks) in 9 hours due to a deadline!

The worst sessions are really fussy clients with bad songs/mixes, thinking that mastering is going to save them.
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29th February 2008
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3.5 to 5 hrs if the artist behaves themselves. A little more if the source is analog.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bob katz View Post
As Glenn Meadows says, (and I paraphrase, can't remember the exact quote) "If it takes me more than 4-5 hours, there must be something terribly wrong with me or the mixes."

BK
Last year I did a record that lasted for 6 days at an average of 15 hrs a day of billable time [and ate up closer to 20 to 22 hrs a day including downtime and various bullshit].
Needless to say it was a giant clusterf*ck.

There is indeed something terribly wrong with that.
robsilentcity
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29th February 2008
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cheers for the replies guys!

I really didn't think it would be that quick! Just goes to show what experience does for you!


Like I said above, it only takes me a few days for mastering because; I'm not a mastering engineer, don't have any analog mastering equipment, have no experience.

It's more of a learning thing for me at the moment - I'm perfectly happy with my mixes and can get them done really quickly now, but my ears aren't trained to the subtlety of mastering... which is why I don't do it!

Thanks again!

Rob
Old 1st March 2008
  #27
Personally all in all 9 tracks 50 minutes, nothing needing fixed, then not very long.
Maybe up to 2-3 hours.
About 1 and a half hours to master the 9 tracks, and another 50 minutes to check over them.

Eck
StephenMarsh
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1st March 2008
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I average out to 3.5 to 4.5 hours on an average length record if the sources are good, digital and everything is well labeled.

There are always exceptions: analog tape, stems, multiple versions needing mastering, clients that want to spend 3 hours doing gaps and fades, 'hey, can I have 25 refs?', "oh yeah, we've got an interlude/skit for each track too", etc etc etc.

YMMV--Steph
#29
2nd March 2008
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Very rarely I spend more than 30 minutes on a single track - if it takes any longer usually there is something terribly wrong with the mix... Also if I do spend longer I tend to loose (musical) perspective and get overly analytical/technical - which might help the sound, but usually does not help the music. If a remix is not possible i tend to redo those tracks later...
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2nd March 2008
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With good material, 4-5 hours. First track usually takes a bit more 'till I get in the flow of the specific project. Mediocre or inconsistent material is anything from 6-9 hours, and this stuff often needs some revisiting the next day.

When thinking of the time spent, you've got to remember that the analog guys (like me) also have the added capture time - 50 minutes as in this case.
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