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How long does it take you to mix a song?
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deft_bonz
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1st March 2012
Old 1st March 2012
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How long does it take you to mix a song?

Hi dear fellow slutz

Finally the hijack is over

I was asked to mix an album. Music style would be RnB. As I like flat prices (please no discussion about that) I tried to calculate the amount of time plus some extra of course.

Let's say all tracks are edited and arranged. So you'd need to do vol, pan, reverb, FX, automation, vocal riding etc. for the mix.

How long does it take YOU?

For my electronic music, it usually takes me around 3-5 hours, when there are no vocals. So I guessed I'd be around 8-10 hours (some extra time included) for songs with vocals and some backing vocals. And I wonder if I'm slow compared to a real pro?



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Well, I'm no real pro, but that sounds about right if you aren't going to be doing editing and the tracks were tracked well. I can move faster if all the tracks are similar sounding and from the same recording session. If there are problems with the tracks, that can slow things down considerably. It's also good to build in time to listen back at home or in the car and make tweaks accordingly.

As far as real pros, I think it varies. I've read that Bob Clearmountain can do like 3-4 mixes a day, but that's verging on superhuman. Not to take anything away from him, but the stuff he gets is probably already tracked, arranged, and produced close to perfection, too.

I've also read instances where pros redid mixes from scratch because they, the artist, or the label didn't like them.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Earwitness View Post
I mixed this in 30-45 min. Probably shows ;-)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upwIqtTJEX4
You're kidding right? Or was the track really just recorded with one mic


He said the track will be edited, but who knows what the client believes what edited means

At least I'll get some parts before the actual mixdown. Then I'll see how it looks like. Probably I'm too obsessed with details and checking different compressors for the same track, until I find the right one.

But that's also because I'm not very familiar with all my new gear. Depending on the answers here, I might lower the price and pay the extra time myself.
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I usually mix as I go. Maybe I'll do a 30 minute "after tweak" once the song is done.
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Varies on the project, and how much cleaning up is needed come mix time (which I wouldn't say is part of the mixing process/mindset). If a record is tracked all live together with bleed, there's a depth (for better or worse) within the tracks from the start of the mix, and mixing usually moves a little more quickly (maybe 4-6 hrs). For a full blown mix on a record that requires more than just pushing up the faders to create depth, I usually spend 7-10 hours, with a reprint or two in the morning. I try and make sure I get it right the first time, because recalling a mix on a console with outboard isn't quite as fun as recalling one on the computer
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my honest, truthful answer is:

anywhere from 2.5 minutes to 2.5 years

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Depends on the project. Particularly, the budget. Sometimes you get two days to mix a song. Other times, you get two days to mix a whole record. Generally, I average about three songs a day, but usually the first day takes a bit longer, as I'm getting my bearings straight. Then, once all the tunes are done, I might book one last day for tweaks. So, a ten song record would be around three days to mix, plus a possible fourth day for revisions.

If I'm producing, on the other hand, I'll often spend more time on a mix, especially when dealing with a "problem song" (seems just about every record has one of these). I'll usually pull the mix together in the time I outlined above, print stems, and work from those to fine-tune things as much as needed till I'm really happy with it.

If I find myself doing more than a couple revisions on a mix, I'll just scrap it and start from scratch. My philosophy with mixing (and indeed all music-making) is that it's about capturing a vibe. If I haven't captured that vibe after a couple tries (revisions), it's best to just try it again from zero.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deft_bonz View Post
vol, pan, reverb, FX, automation, vocal riding etc. for the mix.
If I'm fully engaged....a few hours.

But the magic.....that takes a few days.
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Mixes are never done. They are only eventually abandoned.

I have a few from 1966 that are still in limbo.
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Normal time for mixing major, or large independent records is 2 and 1/2 to 3 weeks. But almost ALWAYS depends on the budget too. Generally a day maybe a little more per song. If vocal tuning and editing is needed add a few days to that (for the whole record). It really depends. If you get a flow going, you could possibly mix a few songs per day! Always tweaks the next morning. I basically don't take on projects with a really tight budget, these situations are unfortunate, and will probably mean You'll end up working for free. It's not going to come out good if it's rushed and slopped together, and it's not worth a bad reflection on my studio. The artist should try to work within their means, or take it slow mixing a song a week. Better to wait and afford a proper mix if it means taking longer for a release the record than to release mediocre garbage.
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Usually somewhere between 4 hours and 3 weeks.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deft_bonz View Post
You're kidding right? Or was the track really just recorded with one mic


He said the track will be edited, but who knows what the client believes what edited means

At least I'll get some parts before the actual mixdown. Then I'll see how it looks like. Probably I'm too obsessed with details and checking different compressors for the same track, until I find the right one.

But that's also because I'm not very familiar with all my new gear. Depending on the answers here, I might lower the price and pay the extra time myself.
Honestly we started at 10:00a.m. the people showed up and by 11:00 p.m. I was uploading to youtube. AND I did the recording, mixing, filming, film editing and took about an hour to upload the HD video to youtube. We did record with seperate tracks but honestly since I tracked to a Protools template and mixed throug a very nice summing mixer the mix really took me 30-45 min. That is very quick though. I'm mixing Sara Lindsays new album and those are like 1-2 day mixes. Much different. :-)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thenoodle View Post
Mixes are never done. They are only eventually abandoned.

I have a few from 1966 that are still in limbo.
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That's why we have fixed rates for mixing. You could guess an approximate time by listening to the raw tracks. Time equals quality for the most part. My time ranges -anything from as little 30mins (for basic demos, well performed vocals + stereo stem of backing track) - 30 days (hi-end mixes/productions), and around 30-40 hrs on average.

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I usually get samples. The artist I work with pay me for my sound so unfortunately I have to learn their song and re-record it...then edit, then mix, sleep and mix again. (then some more if they want things wider, smaller, bigger etc etc). Id say about a week a song to let it really mature.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unclenny View Post
If I'm fully engaged....a few hours.

But the magic.....that takes a few days.
What he said

I feel that it really makes all the difference once you intimately know the song you are mixing. You can't get that in one day. That's not to say great mixes can't be done in a day, but for me I can't imagine how it's done like that.
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if Its a typical Instrument mix (drums, guitars, vox, backing vox, bass, some synths)....and assuming there is no Track splicing/re-arranging/time aligning.....

A total song track count of about 20-30 instrument tracks.....ill dive in and start adjusting faders to balance, add EQ and Compression, start toying with effects (filter vox, delays, verbs, etc), and tidying up things

One song ill have my first initial mix done in about 5 hours.

Ill then export it out and load it on my iphone and listen to it in the car the next day to determine if i need to go back in and make final adjustments.

If all goes well, my final answer is "5 hours for ONE song"
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kraku View Post
I usually mix as I go. Maybe I'll do a 30 minute "after tweak" once the song is done.
This. What you're recording should be tonally mixed before you even hit record. Then its moving some faders and making small adjustments. I've had tracks done in 5 minutes after the last bit is recorded. Others take hours of editing and protools magic/wizardry. If the arrangement is the same for each track that makes things even easier as you can copy and paste settings. I.e, for a lot of punk bands the arrangement, style, sound, etc doesnt change between songs. Only thing you'd be worrying about then is getting gates, delays, reverbs, etc, timed properly for the tempo. Continuity is important.
Hip hop is a different story. Get a good description of what the client wants up front. So if track 3 needs TA MAKE THEM BOOTIES BOUNCE, he needs to tell you up front so you can make it happen the first time. Gl hf!
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It really depends on how much I'm reusing the sounds and submixes from track to track. If it's the same drum sounds, same vocals, bass, etc, then I spend lots of time on the first track. After that it goes much quicker.

If the sonics of the album from track to track are all over the place, then much longer.

On average across 8 or ten songs, I'd say 4-6 hours for first draught, then maybe another hour or two per after I've listened for a few days.

If you are flat-pricing, then mix to the price. Don't spend ten if you are really charging for six. It's bad for you and creates a false economy.
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I think the times and points people have been making are quite valid. If the client is on a budget just try to work within that and do the best job you can. If you are used to mixing RnB like myself you might be able to get some pretty hot mixes in only a few hours but others might take longer. If the client wants you to start swapping out beats and laying down production it is going to take longer and if the original recording isn't that great, the mix might take longer again. Keep in mind that RnB typically only has a few sounds going on so it shouldn't take too long to mix if you're used to it compared to other genres.

Also keep in mind that people tend to sing faster in a lot of RnB and more notes means more vocal tuning. More harmonies and more vocal layers also means more tuning. If you need to tune the vocals it's going to take quite a while and you'll need to add that time on. Also most RnB these days is tuned so much to perfection so even if they think they don't want tuning, chances are they may change their mind later even if it's not until after they have left the studio.

It's important to work within your clients budget so if you are not used to mixing RnB then ask the client for a reference track or let him/her select a reference track from a selection of your own RnB tracks. A typical RnB mix can have a lot more bass and less top end than a dance track or rock song so a reference track is even more important than usual for that genre I would say. Working to a reference can help you get a hot mix in much less time.

So my suggestion for mixing RnB for a client on a budget would be to get a hot mix to a reference track as quick as you can then spend a bit of time on production and vocal tuning make the overall song sound the best you can and keep the client as happy as possible

All builders in my city quote fixed prices as 'worse case scenario' to make sure they get paid for their time. If found a lot of studios in my area seem to quote as 'best price scenario'. Just make sure if you are doing a 'best price scenario' quote that you specify a few thinks like, 'if no vocal tuning is required' or 'if no production is required' and in your case 'just mixing' etc... It's tricky because you really deserve to be paid for your time so you might wanna quote an 'average time' you think it will take YOU.
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Thank you all very much so far. Very good inputs and experiences here. I see that I wasn't that bad with my assumption.

Definitely I'll charge that, what I'm going to spend. No way I'm going to spend 5 days per song, but charging only 8 hours. Of course I'll give it 10-15% more, because RnB and a full album mixdown is new to me, so I'd like to spend a little more from my time and money and have a first nice reference project and probably a client that will tell other bands/musicians about me. I still work 5 days a week in an office

I'll rediscuss with him the flat vs. price per hour. He told me, that he wants the best quality, but of course the budget is not unlimited (sadly for me ).

I can imagine, that with similar songs, it'll be easier and faster to get a first draw. And probably even the signal chains for the main instruments can be left the same (depending on the budget).
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I usually take 3 hours on an R&B track recording, edit, mixing and mastering, vocals only though, most the time i'm given a stereo mp3 for a beat and i do a quick eq on it to create space for the vocals...
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Depends on the number of tracks, how long it is, if there are problems that need correcting etc. Lately on average, with the music I'm currently mixing - drums, guitar, bass, voice, keys maybe 2-3 hours. Then maybe a few listens and minor corrections if I've missed anything. Problem at the moment is the tracking wasn't that great, so there are some big corrections to be done.

Some stuff I've worked on have had very high track counts and they are a bastard to get right especially if the arrangements are bad.
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You can never accurately guess how long it will take. You just have to assume in the long run it will average out When it comes to mixing, don't charge for your time, charge for your sound! One thing you can never fully anticipate is how much housekeeping needs to be done before you can mix - it can be a lot of work for r&b songs with 50-100 tracks of just vocals... which can scare the crap out of guys who aren't used to high vocal track counts, but it's par for the course in this genre.

The client's expectations are the biggest factor. Big difference between the unsigned artist who has no budget and doesn't know good from bad and just wants it listenable and an artist who expects to be able to compete on the Billboard Hot 100.

For an indie artist who wants to compete with major label acts, your 8-10 hours sounds fairly reasonable, or at least minimum. I pretty much count on a little longer than that for my mixes in the r&b and pop genres, including time for revisions and the time it takes for real-time printing and proofing all the different passes. The reality is you can get 95% of the way there in just a few hours mixing, but is that what the client expects? That last 5% takes a long time and the last 1% takes freakin' forever.

BTW - those guys who are mixing a few songs per day, they have assistants who do much of the heavy lifting - you gotta count the total man hours, not just the hours of the big dog.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris carter View Post
When it comes to mixing, don't charge for your time, charge for your sound!

Like this idea
He is into sound and quality. This means I have to persuade him with my demo mix and be better than my competition

Then we'll discuss the price or the workflow depending on his budget. But not lower than my minimum. I think the workflow can be dependent on his budget.
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1st day... Usually clean up och re-labeling tracks -> Rough mix -> Lunch -> 4-6 hours later I'll probably have good sounding mix. 2nd day... Final adjustments and a lot of automations -> Bounce. I will then listen to it in my car and on my iPhone. 3d day... I will probably get an email from the band saying... "I want my snare louder" and "I can't hear the lead guitar on the chorus" or even better "the mix isn't as loud as Daughtry, Metallica or whatever band..." Again some adjustments. Hopefully final bounce, one mix with and without the finalizer. Band gets happy and mastering guy gets happy.

I could probably do it in a day, but I prefer 2-3 days. But it all depends... How it was recorded, how organized, how many tracks and so on... I have done mixes in 5 hours and some imo that isn't even finished yet, but we all have deadlines.
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usually 2 songs/day. so 4 or 5 hours per song.

if it's 80 audio tracks, it might take longer.

if it's the first song of a full record and i'm getting my bearings on the whole project, it might take longer.

if i need to edit, autotune, re-arrange, etc, it might take longer.

i do a lot of things to speed up workflow. i have an FX returns template session that i import into every mix. so each return is always on the same bus (easier to find). i have presets saved for kick and snare samples that i usually like. i have 2 or 3 settings on my 2-bus chain that i choose between. i haven't moved the attack/release/ratio on my MC77 (for the lead vocal) in 2 years.
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Does editing out tom crap count? Does pitch correction count? Counting each of these adds quite a bit of time. If you just mean the actual balancing, not the removal of the crap you don't need, or the boarding up of the windows before the storm, then it doesn't take long at all and that's actually the fun part. Sculpting and giving the band something bigger than life that they didn't expect is always fun to achieve!
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There is no correct answer. How long does it take to write a hit song? I have done mixes in 3 minutes that lots of people liked and mixes that took a couple years that nobody liked. At this point I like to normally take 3 days. First day, edits and discussion with the artist about mix direction (2-3 hours). 2nd day all by myself for 3-6 hours getting the song to a good spot. Then I'll have the artist in for a couple hours to work on specific things that they would like to improve. Then 3rd day 1-3 hours by myself and 2-4 hours with the band to do the actual mix. I mix analog when I work at my studio and like to get the band involved in the actual moving of faders, panning, etc. I'll bounce from there and then not change the console for a couple days to make sure they are happy with the results. This is my ideal way of working but I will adjust a little quicker when there are specific release deadlines. I realize this takes a month to mix a record and I usually work far too many hours for what I get paid but I despise mixes that are compromised, even though much of the tracking these days is suspect at best. Most recordings seem to be of the fix it in the mix variety.
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