How Long Should It Take to Mix and Master a Song? (Crazy People Only)

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If you’re mixing and mastering your own music then it’ll take a lifetime. I’m joking but even as a professional audio engineer, I find myself going back to my songs and making tiny tweaks and re-releasing them just because I can. But do my listeners actually know or care? Nope. But for my own sanity, I do it because I either learned a new technique that could benefit that song or can fix something I didn’t catch earlier (that literally no one can hear). So I understand the level of perfection (or crazy) artists who are constantly tweaking their music go through, but honestly it’s not needed.

Anyway, back to the original question, if you’re mixing and mastering your own song and you have some experience doing it, I’d say it should only take a few hours. If you’re spending days mixing a song then something is either seriously wrong with the song or seriously wrong with you.

Let’s start of with what could be seriously wrong with the song…

The first thing is that the recording is just plain bad. You literally recorded it on a child’s pink karaoke mic in an unfinished basement during a hailstorm (actually this might be a new genre).

Secondly, there’s way too many tracks. I’ve worked on songs with well over 200 tracks and that didn’t include the vocal tracks! If your song has over 200 tracks that is just way too many and it’s why our mixing and mastering service charges based on the number of tracks. Why? Because it takes more time and effort to mix a song with more tracks!

Thirdly, the song is just bad. If your song is taking days to mix and master then it probably isn’t a strong enough song to begin with and by mixing it your hearing all the flaws over and over again and figuring out ways to cover it all up. If you’re in this camp, I’d say your song probably isn’t that bad and that if you’ve just listened to it way too much and you need to take a break from it (demo-itis anyone?). And if you’re a crazy person like me, you’re going to ignore that advice and keep working on that song until blood starts dripping out of your ears right?

Now let’s talk about what’s wrong with you…how much time do we have today?

Seriously, if you’re taking days to mix and master a song, it should be a red flag that you don’t have the experience to mix and master. Just think about this logically, if mixing music, something that’s supposed to take away stress is making you stressed out then you haven’t mixed enough songs to know how to do it.

Now you maybe saying, but how will I get experience if I don’t experience mixing my own songs? You don’t. The thing is and I talked about this at the beginning is, it’s incredibly difficult to be an unbiased observer of your own stuff and that is exactly what an audio engineer is supposed to do.

A good way to think of an audio engineer is like a book editor. So after an author writes a book, before they send it to their publisher, they send it to their book editor to proof read. And what does a proof reader do? They make sure things like the grammar is correct and the sentences make sense, they also add periods and commas where they’re supposed to go and I bet your wishing I hired a proof reader to read this right now? Right?

Okay blogs are a different story but no real author would send a book to a publisher without having it proof read by a professional book editor first, unless of course they’re selling those free Ebooks on Kindle with the terrible cover art.

But you and Russ mix your own music?

Me and Russ are also nutcases. So if you are also a nutcase like us, you’re completely ignoring this whole spiel anyway. But I will admit, mixing my own music is incredibly difficult and I actually have an insane amount of experience (over 1000 years or something like that!).

The reason I think this is, is because we hear our own voice differently. So in our head, our voice sounds one way and in the actual real world, our voice sounds the way it actually sounds.

I don’t know I’m just spitballing here as the only human qualified to answer this question.

Okay, okay, okay, a lot of jokes in here (it is that kind of silly Friday night).

BUT the way you can mix your own vocals and keep your sanity is by relaxing, taking a deep breath and listening to your vocals as if it’s a whole other person. You have to really imagine that voice is not your own so that you can be completely unbiased and emotionally non-attached to it (noticed I didn’t say detached!). In fact, don’t even imagine that it’s another person, actually believe that it is another person and they are paying you to mix and master their song.

But why does it take days to get my mixed and mastered song back?

Our mixing and mastering service gives you the song back in 3 days and the first day is pretty much a write off as it’s just organizing the session, making sure all the files were sent correctly and getting a feel for the song as well as going over the artist’s notes, the second day is when we actually work on your song and the third day is when we double check the mix with fresh ears.

I know a lot of audio engineers will skip that third day like it’s leg day but it is crucial to hear your mix with fresh ears! I also like doing this because then I can be like “damn I’m good!” or “what the hell was I thinking?”.

The point is if you are mixing your own stuff, then make sure you do it with fresh, unbiased, organic, free range, non GMO ears okay?

Now it’s your turn: Let me know in the comments how much hair you’ve pulled out mixing your own music?

Photo by Monica Silva

Andre is the head audio engineer at ADG Mastering, which he helped co-found in 2012. For the last 10 years, he has made it his mission to empower aspiring artists and musicians from around the world. You can see more of Andre's writings on our Blog.

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