This article will discuss how long it should take to mix a song.
Mixing a song is a critical step in the music production process that involves combining all the individual elements of a recording into a polished and coherent final mix. The goal of mixing is to ensure that all the elements of the song are audible, balanced, and fit together well. The mixing process typically begins by importing all the individual tracks of the recording into a mixing software or DAW.
Once all the tracks are in place, the mixer sets the levels of each track to ensure that they are all audible and balanced. This involves adjusting the volume of each track so that it sits well in the mix and doesn’t overpower other elements. The mixer also applies equalization (EQ) to each track to adjust the frequency balance and ensure each element has its own space.
Compression is then used to control the dynamic range of each track and ensure that the overall mix has a consistent volume level. Effects such as reverb, delay, and modulation are then applied to add depth and dimension to the mix. The mixer then goes through the mix to ensure that everything is cohesive and balanced, making any necessary adjustments along the way.
Once the mixer is satisfied, the final step is to export the mix as a stereo file, ready for mastering. Overall, the mixing process is a crucial step in creating a professional-sounding and polished final product. Now let’s discuss how long it should take to mix a song.
How long should mixing a song take?
If you are mixing it from scratch, it takes about 20-50 hours to mix a song. However, you can do the job in less than four hours with templates-based work. Well-produced tracks mix themselves and usually take less time. Hence, the time it takes changes with context and projects.
Gain-staging tracks, fine-tuning, polishing, and setting a tone are time-consuming. Finally, the final mix is made after several revisions and back and forths between the artist, producer, A&Rs, and sound engineer. The more people involved, the more complicated and time-consuming the process could get.
Hence, the amount of time it takes to mix a song can vary depending on several factors, such as the complexity of the arrangement, the number of tracks, the skill level of the mixer, and the overall quality of the recordings. Therefore, as a general guideline, completing a mix can take a few hours to several days, depending on the following factors:
- The complexity of the arrangement
In some cases, a mix can be completed relatively quickly if the recordings are of high quality, the arrangement is simple, and there are only a few tracks to work with. However, if the arrangement is complex, there are many tracks to mix, and the recordings need a lot of work, it may take much longer to complete the mix.
I spend 1-2 minutes on each plugin to break it down for you. Usually, the vocal track takes the most plugins. The image below shows that each vocal track has 2-3 plugins, and the articulated bus has about ten plugins. So, by that logic, it should take about 40-50 minutes to mix vocals.
Similarly, a typical mixing session usually has 20-30 plugins on each track/bus. So for a typical arrangement with five main tracks/buses: Drums, Bass, Vocals, Synths, Guitars, and Backing Vocals, it should take not more than 150 plugins, and hence not more than 300 minutes or five hours to mix the track. So that’s one way to look at it.
Lastly, the more instruments and arrangements, the more time you’ll need to process them.
- Mix Engineer’s Experience & Expertise Level
Additionally, the time it takes to mix a song depends on the mixer’s workflow and experience level. Professional mixers who have developed efficient workflows may be able to complete a mix more quickly than someone who is less experienced.
Experience is a crucial factor in the quality of a mix. A mix engineer’s experience can affect their ability to identify issues and make quick, informed decisions, their technical skills in using a mixing console or DAW, and their ability to communicate with artists, producers, and other music professionals.
An experienced mix engineer has likely worked on various projects and genres, giving them a deeper understanding of the mixing process and how to achieve different sonic goals. They may have also encountered and solved various technical and creative challenges, allowing them to work more efficiently and effectively.
In addition to technical skills and knowledge, an experienced mix engineer also knows how to communicate effectively with artists and producers to understand their vision for the final product. They may have developed a workflow that allows them to quickly and effectively communicate ideas and adjust the mix based on feedback.
- Automations & Control
Mixing music involves combining different tracks to create a balanced and pleasant sound. The process includes importing individual tracks into mixing software, adjusting their volume levels to ensure clarity, balancing the frequency of each element to make them distinct, controlling the dynamic range with compression, adding effects to enhance the mix, and adjusting the overall mix until everything is cohesive.
For example, The Glue compressor plugin by Cytomic can be used to achieve a cohesive mix by providing subtle glue and character to the tracks, while controlling the dynamics of the mix.
To use The Glue in mixing, insert it on individual tracks or the master bus and set the appropriate attack and release times to control the dynamics of the mix.
By applying the same settings to multiple tracks, The Glue can help create a cohesive sound throughout the mix. Additionally, the sidechain option can be used to prioritize certain tracks and avoid masking important elements.
Further, there are lots of automation involved. Mixing is a detailed process. For example, sometimes, vocal tuning can be done by a tuner plugin, but sometimes it can take several hours, depending on the need of the song. Several engineers/vocal producers have Melodyne as their core skill, for which they charge lots of money and spend a lot of time & effort on it.
Melodyne can take up to 2 hours to process pitch-perfect vocals, which are perfectly timed and tuned. Hence, it depends on your workflow. If you want to get in-depth into certain parts of your mix, that may take time.
To do vocal correction on Melodyne, start by transferring the vocals in it, by pressing the “Transfer” button and clicking on the play button, as shown in the image.
Next, select the scale of the song by right-clicking on the note and selecting its scale, as shown in the image below.
After you have transferred the audio to Melodyne, simply select the right algorithm. For vocals and other monophonic instruments, select the Melodic algorithm. Similarly, select the Percussive algorithm for drums and the Polyphonic algorithm for chords and polyphonic instruments.
Lastly, go to Edit > Quantization Macros and click on Correct Pitch for pitch correction.
Next, if you have recorded live instruments or drums, at least five hours of work will go into comping and setting the right tone. Live tracks take more time to mix than electronically produced tracks, as live playing has to be flexed and tuned and needs more effects. You can flex and time those instruments by using Melodyne, using the “Quantize Time” Edit feature.
Next, revisions are an important part of the mixing process. They allow the artist or client to provide feedback on the initial mix and make any necessary changes or adjustments. Typically, a mix engineer will provide a first mix to the artist or client, who will listen to it and provide feedback.
Based on this feedback, the engineer will revise the mix and provide a second version. This process can continue until the artist or client is completely satisfied with the final mix. It’s important to note that the number of revisions included in the mixing process will often depend on the specific agreement between the mix engineer and the artist or client.
- Plugins & gears
If you have more advanced plugins that can perform the same functions in lesser steps, it may take you less time. You can mix more efficiently with better gear, systems, and software. For example, a PC with better specs can handle larger chunks of files and data.
On the other hand, if your CPU starts to load up too fast, you may have to spend time in creating a new session, committing files, consolidating tracks, etc. Hence, the amount it takes to mix is also determined by what gear and software you use and, more importantly, how you use it.
Some mixing engineers may include a certain number of revisions in their pricing, while others may charge an additional fee for revisions beyond a certain point. It’s also worth mentioning that revisions should be constructive and specific to help the mix engineer understand the changes that need to be made. Lastly, using third-party plugins from Waves, Fab Filter, UAD, Izotope, etc., also helps.
For example, the Ozone bundle by Izotope offers a great suite of high-quality plugins for mixing songs and consists of various types of equalizers, compressors, exciters, stereo imagers, etc.
For example, if the artist or client wants the vocals to be louder in the mix, they should communicate this clearly to the mix engineer. By providing specific feedback, the mix engineer can make the necessary changes to create a final mix that meets the artist’s or client’s vision for the project.
Some genres have lighter arrangements and are faster to mix than others with more complexities. For example, hip-hop is one of the simplest genres to mix, as it has a simpler arrangement. However, mind you, that doesn’t mean easy.
On the other hand, EDM songs have denser arrangements with heavy layering and sound design. So that will take significantly more time. Further, genres like classic Rock and Jazz involving live instruments take longer.
Each recording has to be comped, flexed and processed separately. Acoustic recordings don’t capture the same thump and energy needed in modern production. So you’ll need to process those files more, layer them with samples, etc., which is time-consuming. Lastly, genres like Bollywood and K-Pop may take longer, as they blend multiple genres, and the engineer must have good taste and background.
Finally, the mixer exports the final product as a stereo file ready for mastering. A good engineer must possess technical skills, creativity, and attention to detail to create a polished and appealing final product. Ensure to export the file as a Wav file with 16/24/32 bit depth, 44.1+ kHz sample rate, and 32 or above Resampling Quality. I recommend exporting at 48 kHz sample, 24-bit depth, and 512 Resampling quality.
Ultimately, the most important factor is to take the necessary time to ensure that the mix is of high quality and meets the expectations of the artist and producer. Rushing the mixing process can result in a subpar mix that does not do justice to the song, so it is important to take the time needed to achieve the desired result.
How long does it take to mix a beat?
Mixing a beat can be relatively simple compared to an entire song with varying vocal arrangements and should take 1-10 hours. For experienced engineers and for producers/engineers who have a template set for the elements in the beat, it could take even less than that.
Further, mixing a simple beat with a few tracks may only take a few hours. However, mixing a more complex beat with many tracks and intricate arrangements may take several days.
To conclude, mixing is a critical step in music production that combines individual recordings into a polished final mix. It takes 20-50 hours to mix a song from scratch, depending on several factors, such as the complexity of the arrangement, the number of tracks, the skill level of the mixer, and the quality of the recordings.
The time it takes depends on the mixer’s experience and workflow. Professional mixers are better equipped to identify issues and make quick, informed decisions. Furthermore, revisions are essential to the mixing process, allowing artists and clients to provide feedback and make any necessary changes.
Therefore, the mixing process is detailed and time-consuming, but it is crucial to creating a professional-sounding and polished final product. 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.