How long per song

general questions, comments and ideas about recording, audio, music, etc.
Double Tones
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How long per song

Post by Double Tones » Sat Jul 26, 2003 11:21 pm

For an average 3-4 minute song with drums,a few layers of guitars, vocals, background vocals, and keyboards how long would you spend to make a high quality recording of a song with many intricate parts ?

Also how long would you then spend on mixing, then mastering ?


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Re: How long per song

Post by transmothra » Sun Jul 27, 2003 12:36 am

as long as it takes to get it to sound good! that's the best answer you're going to get. having said that...

if it takes a couple months (or even longer), then that's what it takes. if you're doing it for money, just try to work SMART, work hard, and work as fast as you can without skimping on quality. hell, whole albums have been recorded in just one day, and some of those were damn good records... it all just depends on what you're going for. if you're trying to get a Ramones kind of thing, it may well only take a few days to track and a few days to mix. but if you're going for an ultraprecise Steely Dan sort of sound, give it a couple of months at the least ;)

an awful lot of it also has to do with how well-rehearsed the band is. a band that knows exactly what they're doing will of course take less time to get it right than a band that's "not into" playing out very often or don't practise a whole lot or just get together to jam here and there.

if you want high quality, be willing to take your time, and let the band know their options in regard to this... spending a lot of time in the studio means spending a lot of the drummer's grandma's money! so it's ultimately up to them to decide how much time they want, NEED, and are willing to take. you believe that? | bandcamp | soundcloud

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Re: How long per song

Post by Bear » Sun Jul 27, 2003 12:44 am

Agreed. It depends on the song. I've done two in a night and loved them both. The one I just finished took me a month and a half. But since I record at home, time isn't really an issue unless I make it one.
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Re: How long per song

Post by djslayerissick » Sun Jul 27, 2003 2:06 am

the latest song i just finished took 1.5 months from start to finish. and i dont even really consider it "finished" b/c the situation required we use electronic drums instead of real drums. mind you, it doesnt matter too much b/c the song is already industrial metal and there are lots of techno drums sounds going on anyway. i just uploaded it to, but it'll be 2 weeks before its actually there.

on the other hand, my old band recorded a 7 song demo in 50 hours over 5 days. and before that, the same band did its first 7 song CD in 17 hours. the sound quality difference is obvious, but then again, so is the song quality. and its all been realative to the seriousness of the band members and the intended "investment" in a music career at the time.

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Re: How long per song

Post by stevemoss » Sun Jul 27, 2003 9:10 am

You can do like Led Zeppelin or The Beatles, and record your entire first album inside a day, or be like Brian Wilson and spend six months on a single song.

As has been already noted, a huge part of the final timeline comes from how much you know going into the situation: in The Beatles' and Led Zeppelin's cases, they were aiming to largely capture a live feel by playing songs that were already well rehearsed from months of stage time. If, like Brian Wilson, 'Good Vibrations' exists only in your head and you have to try to communicate that vision painstakingly to every person in the creative process anew, it's going to take a while.

For mixing, again, there are so many ways of approaching it that there's no 'right' way. Some artists prefer to mix a song progressively as they build it, like Lenny Kravitz - it's time-consuming since he's often playing most of the instruments himself, but it's easiest for him (and I find I work the same way when I'm recording myself). Nigel Godrich, who records Radiohead, prefers to have recording be a distictly different phase from mixing, and when it comes to mixing, he's said that he won't spend more than a day mixing a song because otherwise he's to familiar with it and loses objectivity.

I guess it's really just a matter of finding the process that works best for you and that coincides best with the demands your time and budget are already placing on you.
Last edited by stevemoss on Sun Jul 27, 2003 1:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Engineer Farm
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Re: How long per song

Post by Engineer Farm » Sun Jul 27, 2003 9:41 am

It really just depends on your budget and how far you wanna go. Putting a time limit on things is a good way to do it because you make your decisions based on that. A pretty typical pace for a rock record is a song or two a day for basics, another couple days for overdubbing. Mixing is typically one or two a day also, depending usually on track count. Most projects I've worked on have been a song a day, occasionally it takes 2 days, again this typical for major labels these days. Mastering gets done in a day, or even a few hours for the pro's anyway.

Keep in mind though, as soon as you set a budget, you'll always go over. I've never worked on a project that wasn't total crunch time in the end. Even if you give yourself a week a tune, you'll find some way to get tweaky with it and risk going over budget in the end. Also, how prepaired you are in the begining really makes a difference, if you're writing while you're doing it, expect thing to take longer. Also how good your engineer is makes a difference as well as how good your musicians are.

Whatever makes you happy though. Unless you're Bob Rock, who should have spent longer on St. Anger or who should have hired another producer while he was pretending to be the bass player in Metallica.

Best of Luck,



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