Mixing songs has always been an interest of mine; I remember when I first started learning to mix it was as if a whole new world opened right in front of me. Since then, I often debate with other producers how long you should mix a song for, I decided to investigate the matter, and this is what I discovered.
You should mix a song between four and sixteen hours, this is for songs that have up to 80 tracks and considering the fact that all tracks are final. The style of the song, as well as the number of recorded tracks, do contribute to the length of the project.
Below we will discuss in detail what influences the length of a project, including the experience of the mixing engineer, the genre and more, also I will share tips on how to improve your mixes!
What Influences the Length of a Mixing Session?
The following factors will influence the duration of a mixing session.
1) Elements That Influence the Length of a Mix: the Genre
As you may have guessed certain genres are more likely to take longer to mix, as an example compare reggae music which a session may be up to just 20 tracks vs modern pop music which can easily surpass the 100 tracks mark.
Having that many tracks this is not strange at all. Most modern productions are created inside a DAW; this offers enormous benefits in terms of workflow but also a couple of drawbacks.
Back in the day when everything was still analog, you would rarely see a song with more than 50 tracks, consider that many of the Beatles recordings were created on a four tape recorder(!). Music, (such as everything is around us), is also evolving.
Do you know how many studio monitors do you need to create perfect mixes??
Click the video to find out 👆
2) Elements That Influence the Length of a Mix: the Complexity of the Arrangement
It’s true that today’s audiences demand certain sonic characteristics which is especially true in popular music where layers upon layers are being used to accomplish that “Poppy” sound.
But even more underground genres such as Bass House or Dubstep often require a large number of tracks.
This Is What Influences a Mix: the experience of the mixing engineer
As with everything in life experience matters. An engineer that has completed five sessions will likely be slower than an engineer with tens of sessions under his belt.
However longer is not always better. If mixing engineer “John” has completed a total of 5000 mixing hours he is not necessarily better than “Bob” who is also a mixing engineer but has completed just a 1000 hours.
The explanation of this phenomenon lies in the way of practice and not in the overall duration.
Bob is likely to deliver better overall mixes if at the end of each session knows what to improve and does so consistently. This is true even if he has just 1/5th of experience compared to John, who does not systematically improve his skills. Therefore ask for previous works of the mixing engineer so that you can adequately judge his skills.
3) Elements That Influence the Length of a Mix: the Quality of Recorded Material
In this case, we are talking about the overall quality of the instruments and microphones, the player’s dynamic, the player’s technique, and if everything is in tune and in time.
I have experienced cases where the included vocals or instruments were not in tune, when this happens there is extra time added to the project, this is necessary to bring everything in order.
Be aware that the mixing engineer may (and should) ask for additional payment for completing this task.
it’s hard to pinpoint the extra time needed for tuning vocals, this depends upon the amount of Chewning and the number of backing vocals and harmonies that are included. Remember mixing engineer can’t perform miracles if the recording is too bad to work with there won’t be much that he can do.
Also if the performance of a band member is not good enough example if the drummer doesn’t play the drums with a consistent tempo and the dynamics the mixing process will take longer to complete.
4) Elements That Influence the Length of a Mix: If the Recorded Tracks Are Clean
Without noise and unwanted sounds such as someone cuffing or letting their instrument buzz. Having unwanted noises in a recording is more frequent in live session but even when I’m mixing electronic music sometimes encounter a “forgotten sample” that was hiding somewhere in the mix if I can take it out great, if not I’m obliged to ask the artist to send me a new session.
5) Elements That Influence the Length of a Mix: If There Is a Clear Vision How the Finished Song Should Sound
Have you ever considered how the mixing of the song can contribute to its success? It is vital to have a clear vision for the completed song; this might be hard to put into words that’s why I will let the music do the talking by showing you the following example:
Smells like teen Spirit is a song recorded by the iconic band Nirvana, one of the reasons they rose to success is because of their awesome sound that was fresh back in the 90s, but another important contributing factor was the style of the mixing engineer.
You can listen to the original version of Smells like teen Spirit here as Andy Wallace mixed it and compare it to the unreleased version mixed by Butch Vig; you can find the second version right here.
When you compare the two, tune in in the 1:40 minute mark, you will discover that the drums in the alternate version sound more “spacey” with more “room” added to them, with an overall more washed out sound compared to the original version.
The version we all grew to love, distinguishes more the vocals from the rest of the instruments and has a more commercial sound to it. I may create an in-depth comparison of Wallace and Vig’s versions in the future, if you’re interested, let me know through this link.
6) Elements That Influence the Length of a Mix: the Amount of Feedback Needed from the Artist
Some artists require the mixing engineer to constantly update them with the overall progress of the mix. I have to say I find this unnecessary.
If you are the artist and you want a great result, you should not micromanage the mixing progress. Instead, you should provide the engineer with your vision at the start of the process and trust him to do the rest. That said there should be the necessary back-and-forth if significant changes are about to be made.
7) Elements That Influence the Length of a Mix: the Artistic Freedom of the Mixing Engineer
as touched upon above some artists allow their mixing engineer to have all the artistic freedom necessary and others don’t. If you’re not sure what to do I’d suggest that you listen to previews works of the engineer and based on that allow them to pull the song towards a certain style. if you are confident in your current vision and wish not to experiment ask the engineer to follow your guidelines precisely.
8) Elements That Influence the Length of a Mix: the Number of Revisions Necessary
The number of revisions can play an essential role in the overall timeframe. If you don’t like the initial result, the mixing progress may be extended by a couple of days, this depends on the number of changes you’ll request, and the impact they have on the song.
Again to avoid these types of misunderstandings, all the information must be communicated before the start of the project. The mixing engineer must know what they should do, and you should know what you can expect from them.
9) Elements That Influence the Length of a Mix: the Response Rate of the Client & Mixing Engineer
This one is partly in your power since you can only control your own response rate and not of the person you’re working with. keep in mind that the busy professional may take longer to respond but generally speaking it shouldn’t take more than 24 hours to get an answer.
However, it’s essential to step away from the song for at least 2 to 3 days if you’re mixing your song by yourself or if the mixing engineer is also the recording engineer. This is because the mixing engineer needs to approach the song with a fresh perspective and a new set of ears, something that is not possible right after the recording of the song.
Beware because I’ve heard that some studios will record and provide you with a final mix within the same day. You should only accept this if a different person is mixing your song and if there is enough time for them to complete the task successfully.
Mix Better Today Using These 4 Tips!
1) Understand How Your Room & Monitors Work
let me share with you something I’ve learned the hard way:
Knowing your mixing environment is more important than owning expensive equipment.
A great set of speakers is not going to make you a great mixing engineer; the same is true for guitarists that think if they purchase the same guitar as let’s say BB. King or Dimebag that they also will suddenly play as good as them. Skills come with practice; if you know what you’re doing, you can achieve a great result even with relatively cheap equipment!
2) Listen to the Mix Through a Second and Third Sound System.
After you have a clear understanding of your mixing environment, you should always A-B test your mixes on different sound systems. Some sound cards have the option of adding a second pair of monitors if you don’t have an audio interface that allows this already I strongly suggest you upgrade to one that does.
This Is the Best Audio-Interface
I use the Audient iD22 (click on the link to visit amazon) which is a GREAT option considering you can add a second pair of monitors it also has one of the best preamps on the market. You can read my review of the Audient right here by visiting my recommended gear page.
What Is the Best Monitor Controller?
However, you may be not planning to upgrade your audio interface just yet in that case I would suggest acquiring one of these babies:
1) The Mackie Big Knob Studio (click on the link to visit Amazon) this is an excellent option and the product I recommend to you!
2) But if you have a lower budget I’d go with the Behringer Monitor2USB (click on the link to visit Amazon).
3) If you want to spend the minimum amount as possible but still want to get the job done buy the TC Electronic Level Pilot (click on the link to visit Amazon).
If I were you (and did not own an Audient iD22) I would go with the Mackie Big Knob due to its supreme build quality its build as a TANK; I guarantee it will last you for a lifetime!
Two Great Studio-Monitor Options for Achieving Awesome Mixes
In addition, listen to your mix in the car, and through your phone, small speakers are very important since most people listen to music through their TV set and phone! If you need a second pair of speakers to beta-test, your mixes consider acquiring a set of Avatone Active MIxCubes . These are great for checking for mixing for smaller speakers.
If for some reason you don’t enjoy the Avatrones consider a set of the Yamaha HS5 Studio monitors (click on the link to visit amazon).Because the HS5s have an EQ selection on the back, you can emulate how small speakers sound and mix in that environment. Also, if the settings are left untouched, they are great for music production, of course, accurate mixing and general music listening.
The Yamahas are the monitors I currently use, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world!
3) Use Mixing Presets Don’t Let Them Use You
As a mixing engineer, you should know what you’re doing, it’s okay to trust your gut, but you should understand what every knob is accomplishing. Of course, you can use presets as a starting point but that’s all they are “just starting points”; there are quite a few famous mixing engineers that use presets but they always further tweak the VST to accomplish the desired result.
4) When Mixing Leave Enough Headroom
You should always watch the master Fader and leave enough headroom so that the track can be mastered properly. Ensure that nothing is peaking in the red and that on the master buss the loudest part of the song between -3db and -9db, which will translate between +3db and +9db of headroom. Trust me do this and you will see one happy mastering engineer. 🙂
Becoming good at mixing requires practice, but once you develop a basic workflow and understand the tools you are using you will make leaps forward!
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