This article will discuss how long it takes to finish an EDM song from scratch.
EDM (Electronic Dance Music) is a genre of electronic music that originated in the 1980s and has since evolved to encompass a wide range of sub-genres such as House, Techno, Trance, Dubstep, and more. It is characterized by its use of synthesizers, drum machines, and other electronic music equipment to create a high-energy, danceable sound.
The genre often features repetitive rhythms, simple chord progressions, and catchy hooks, making it a popular choice for dance clubs, music festivals, and other events where people gather to dance and enjoy electronic music. EDM has gained a huge following worldwide and has become a global phenomenon with its unique culture, fashion, and lifestyle.
EDM music production involves digital audio workstations (DAWs) and synthesizers to create and manipulate electronic sounds, rhythms, and melodies. Mixing and mastering the track to sound good on a club sound system is also a key step. Now let’s address the main question.
How long does it take to finish EDM Song?
Suppose you are an experienced producer proficient in sound design, sampling, using synthesizers, music theory, mixing-mastering, and other music production skills. In that case, it should take anywhere between a 3 days to a week to complete an EDM song.
However, the answer can change in different contexts. There also exists another take on the question. The amount of time it takes to finish an EDM song can vary widely depending on many factors, including the producer’s experience and skill level, the complexity of the track, and the producer’s creative process.
For example, the image below shows a chunk of the arrangement for the song KMTN. The song started with the vocalist who wrote the song on guitar and recorded some electric guitars on his DAW. He further transferred the guitars to the producer, who created an EDM arrangement on the topic, for which the first draft took just about 4-5 hours, which consisted of all the synths, bass lines, drums, etc.
After that, recording vocals, creating vocal chops, processing and tuning the vocals, mixing-mastering the song, taking feedback from others, and then again re-arranging and mixing-mastering the song took about 50 hours, which had spread across three months.
So some producers may be able to complete a track in hours, while others may spend days, weeks, or even months perfecting a single song. Generally, it’s common for EDM producers to spend anywhere from several days to a few weeks working on a single song, depending on the complexity of the track and the level of detail they want to achieve in the mix and master.
However, there are no set rules for how long it should take to finish a song, and some producers may choose to spend longer or shorter periods on different parts of the production process, depending on their goals and creative vision for the track. Ultimately, the goal should be to produce a high-quality track that the producer is proud of, regardless of how long it takes to finish.
For example, producers like Skrillex and DeadMau5 have expressed in interviews that it sometimes takes them a couple of days to design a sound. So it also depends on the detailing you’re going for. Many artists have also expressed ideas striking in a single impulse and about ideas not striking at all and facing creative blocks.
Anyhow, making EDM music requires a variety of skills, both technical and creative. Here are some of the key skills required to make EDM music:
- Music theory
A basic understanding of music theory is essential for creating sound and musically interesting music. This includes understanding the principles of harmony, melody, and rhythm, as well as being able to read sheet music and chord charts. A solid foundation in music theory allows producers to create catchy hooks and melodies that keep listeners engaged.
For example, to lay down melodies and chords by playing or programming them, you need basic music theory knowledge of scales, intervals, chords, etc. In addition, you also need to know the velocity, attack, and other MIDI expressive parameters. In the image below, the song starts with a basic chord progression and melody line in the scale of C-minor.
- Knowledge of synthesizers and sound design
Synthesizers are the backbone of EDM music, and understanding how to use them is essential for creating a unique sound. This includes knowledge of different types of synthesis, such as subtractive, additive, and FM synthesis, as well as understanding of signal flow and sound design. Creating your custom sounds is essential for creating tracks that stand out.
For example, 90% of my sound design is done on Serum (given in the image below), one of the most flexible and versatile synthesizers, and can cover almost every genre. I recommend learning Serum, Vital, or Massive for your sound design needs.
To learn Serum, you can start with the basics of sound design, like learning about Oscillators, Modulators, Filters, and Effects. Then you can try your hands at it.
To get started with it, I recommend initializing the plugin, playing around with the oscillators’ wavetables, and selecting the right sound waveform. You can do that by going to oscillator A (or B), clicking on the Wavetable selector, and selecting an appropriate wavetable.
Next, you can select a waveform using the WaveTable Position knob, as shown in the image below. Further, you can add unison voices, change their pitch, and set the tone by using the parameters of the Oscillator.
Similarly, you can make a similar sound selection/design on Oscillator B. Once you have that, you can add an appropriate filter to your sounds.
Lastly, you can modulate the filters using the envelopes and LFOs in the synthesizer and create interesting movements. You can drag and drop the LFO/envelope into your filter. Similarly, you can modulate any parameter.
Lastly, you can add effects like distortion, delay, phaser, etc., by going to the FX tab and selecting and editing the effects. You can also modulate these effects and their parameters.
- Production skills
Producing EDM music requires a wide range of technical skills, including knowledge of digital audio workstations (DAWs), mixing and mastering, and MIDI programming. A producer must know how to arrange tracks, use EQ, compression, and other effects to create a polished mix and master the final track to sound great on club sound systems.
Learning and mastering a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is also essential for making EDM music. A DAW is a software application used to record, edit, and produce music, and there are many different DAWs available, each with its unique features and workflow. Some popular DAWs for electronic music production include Ableton Live, FL Studio, Logic Pro X, and Cubase.
For example, FL Studio (image below) has four main components in its interface: the Playlist window (where you lay down arrangement), the Channel Rack (where you select the samples and synths), the Piano roll (where you program MIDI data on the synths and samplers you select), and the Mixer window (where you add effects).
EDM music is all about creativity and experimentation. A producer must be able to come up with new and interesting ideas, experiment with different sounds and textures, and take risks to create a track that stands out from the rest. Thinking outside the box and being open to new ideas are essential for creating fresh and interesting music.
Collaboration is a crucial skill for EDM producers. Working with other producers and musicians can help expand your knowledge and skills and provide new inspiration for your music. Being able to communicate and work well with others is essential for creating music that is both technically and creatively strong.
- Marketing and promotion
Making great music is only part of the equation in the modern music industry. Producers must also know how to market and promote their music effectively, using social media, streaming platforms, and other online communities to build a fan base and grow their audience.
The song isn’t finished until it’s out. For releasing the song, you can distribute the song via services like Distrokid, Tunecore, CD Baby, Believe, OK Listen, etc., and they will deliver your song to all streaming sites and stores. A 48 kHz, 24-bit audio file is suitable for all streaming platforms, including Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, etc.
Apart from the content creation part, you must also learn to study analytics, get access to your Spotify for Artists (image below), engage with fans, etc. All of this is important, especially if you are an independent artist.
You can also pitch your song to the playlist editors on Spotify for Artists at least one week before the song’s release. Lastly, it’s also important to post about it on Social Media, do marketing campaigns around it, etc.
- Mixing and mastering
Mixing and mastering are crucial steps in the production process of an EDM track. Mixing involves combining all the elements of a track, such as drums, bass, synths, and vocals, into a cohesive whole. That involves balancing the levels of each element, using EQ and other effects to shape the sound, and panning elements in the stereo field to create a sense of space.
Mastering, however, involves processing the final mix of a track to ensure that it sounds good on various playback systems, such as club sound systems, home stereos, and headphones. This involves using EQ, compression, and other mastering techniques to balance the frequency spectrum, control dynamics, and enhance the track’s overall loudness.
The image below shows the mixing effects added to a vocal chops track, including plugins like Fruity delay, OVox by Wave, RC-20, Pro-C2, etc.
I spend about 1-2 minutes on setting each plugin and every track takes about 5-10 plugins each. By that logic, mixing-mastering a track of 100 elements should not take more than 30 hours, excluding breaks and rest time.
- Sound design
Sound design creates and manipulates electronic sounds using synthesizers, samplers, and other tools. In EDM, sound design is crucial to creating a unique and distinctive sound.
A producer must have a deep understanding of different types of synthesis, such as subtractive, additive, and FM synthesis, and how to use them to create sounds that fit the mood and style of the track. This involves adjusting parameters such as oscillator waveforms, envelopes, and filters to create original and engaging sounds.
Sampling involves taking small audio pieces, such as drum hits or vocal phrases, and incorporating them into a track. Sampling can be a powerful tool for creating unique sounds and adding a human element to electronic music. A producer must have an ear for interesting and unique samples and know how to manipulate them to fit the track.
That can involve adjusting the pitch, applying effects, and layering multiple samples together to create a cohesive whole. Some great sampler plugins can save you a lot of time and effort and ease your workflow. For example, Slicex in FL Studio is a great plugin for chopping and re-arranging samples. Similarly, the Serato sampler and Battery by Native Instruments are great sampling plugins.
In Battery, you can select samples, classify them into different categories, assign them to different notes, edit each sample individually, add modulations to the samples, and do a lot more. The following images show the editing and modulation window of the plugin.
As you can see here, you can adjust the ADSR, add LFOS, and fine-tune your samples to your taste and arrangement.
How long does a sound design take to create an EDM song?
Sound designing is an important aspect of creating an EDM song, as it helps to create unique and original sounds that can set the song apart from others in the genre. The amount of time it takes to complete sound designing for an EDM song can vary depending on several factors, including:
- The complexity of the sound design
Some sounds are more complex, and creating them can take longer. For example, a simple lead synth sound may only take a few minutes to create, while a tough bass patch with multiple layers could take several hours.
For example, the image below shows a Synth lead preset I created on Serum. It involved using two complex waveshapes and a Noise oscillator with a loaded sample. It also involves plenty of complex modulations on filters and effects, using envelopes and filters. It took me 20-25 minutes to create this patch.
- The skill level of the sound designer
Experienced sound designers may be able to create sounds more quickly than someone who is just starting. They may better understand the tools and techniques required to create specific sounds, which can speed up the process.
- The creative vision for the song
Sound design can be more efficient if the producer knows the sounds they want to use in their track. However, it can take longer to complete if they are still experimenting and trying to find the right sound.
- The tools and resources available
Access to high-quality sound design tools and resources, such as sample packs or synthesizers, can speed up the sound design process. However, if the producer has limited resources, they may need more time creating their sounds from scratch.
- The number of sounds required for the track
An EDM song can have many sounds, including synths, basses, drums, and effects. The more sounds required, the longer the sound design process will take.
How long does it take to mix-master an EDM song?
On average, completing an EDM song’s mixing and mastering process can take several hours to several days. This process typically involves several stages: editing, balancing, equalization, compression, reverb, and other effects processing.
Mixing involves combining and adjusting the different audio elements in a track to create a cohesive and balanced final product. This typically involves editing, equalization, compression, and other effects processing to ensure each sound sits well in the mix and contributes to the track’s overall sound.
On the other hand, mastering involves taking the final mix and making small adjustments to enhance its overall sound and prepare it for distribution. This might include equalization, compression, and limiting to ensure the track sounds good on various playback systems. The time it takes to mix and master an EDM song can vary depending on several factors.
- The complexity of arrangement/production
One of the most significant factors is the complexity of the production. A track with many layers of sound and intricate arrangements typically takes longer to mix and master than a simpler track with fewer elements.
The complexity further depends on the number of tracks in the mix, the number of sends/buses, the kind of processing needed, if there are any tempo or key automation or any other kinds of automation, etc.
- Producer skill-level
The skill level of the producer also plays a significant role in the time it takes to mix and master an EDM song. More experienced producers may be able to complete the process more quickly and efficiently, while less experienced producers may need more time to get the sound they are looking for.
- Hardware & software
The equipment and software used can also impact the time it takes to mix and master an EDM song. High-quality equipment and software can help producers achieve the desired sound more quickly and with less effort, while less sophisticated tools may require more time and effort to get the desired results.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that the mixing and mastering process is not always linear, and it may require going back and forth between different stages to achieve the desired sound.
In summary, making EDM music requires various skills, including technical production skills, knowledge of music theory and synthesis, creativity, collaboration, and marketing and promotion skills. With dedication and hard work, producers can develop these skills and create technically and artistically strong music, building a career in the thriving world of EDM.
These skills may take years to learn and master. In that journey, you may discover your workflow and how long it would take to create a track. EDM songs are generally dense and complex in terms of arrangement & sound design and require great attention to detail.
Some artists take weeks, some take days, and some take hours to create a song from scratch, which works for them. So I recommend you find what works best for you and optimize that, rather than having a general one-fit-all answer. I hope the article was of help. Thank you for reading.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.