Mixing Time Requirements

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by ZuluFunk, May 31, 2002.

  1. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    OK, we did all of our recording. We've been working since December 2001. It's all digital.
    We've edited what we needed to. We started doing the mixing last weekend. The first session lasted 5 1/2 hours. I thought it was pretty excessive, but I figured it would save time down the road. We set the drum levels/tones, and grouped them for easy leveling. We EQ'd every track for tone and added filters, noise gates, BBE, on board plug-in effects, etc.
    The second session, the engineer tells us it will take him a minimum of 2 1/2 hours from that point on. Wow. In fact, the time we spend in the mix really depends on us, not him, I figure. I checked other studios and got the idea that I'm pretty much right for thinking this is way more time than needed. Also, other studios will make a basic level and cut you a trial cassette or CDR to take home or listen to in the car. Then you come back and tell the engineer where to up and down the levels or pan tracks, etc. Most studios told me it takes about 30 minutes to an hour per song. Any time above that would only be because the artist was picky or indecisive.

    Does anyone think 2 1/2 hours per song is too much?

    Does anyone thing it's wrong for an engineer to tell the artist that he requires any minimum time?
  2. depends if hes charging by hour or by song.
  3. Nails


    Jun 4, 2000
    Austin, Tejas
    I find 2 1/2 half a bit long to mix 1 song. However from personal experience (mixing stuff in my home project studio,) a 1/2 hour usually isn't enough, but on average I have a mix I'm happy with in under an hour. That's before taking it out of my studio and listening to it on another system, after I do that I often come back and touch up my mix. All in all, I say I spend close to an hour per mix, but never more than two.

    Regardless, you should get a rough mix on CD/cassette (your choice), and listen to it in your car, at your house, on your neighbor's boombox, anywhere you can before the mix is "complete." Take notes on what needs to come up/down in every song, panning, reverb levels, compression, effect/volume automation, everything you can hear or want to hear. Be picky, close to obsessive, it's your music make it sound the way you want. But at the same time, don't be afraid to take suggestions from outside the band, the engineer/mixer may have some great ideas.
  4. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    I think two-and-a-half hours per song is a little much, yeah. Once you have all the levels set where you want them, are they really going to have to be changed that much from song to song? It's your money -- tell that guy how you want it to be!
  5. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    $45/hour, which is a bit higher than average around here.

    Thing is, we were very picky when editing and made sure our takes were very clean. The music stands on its own merit. We don't need major processing. Just keep it clean and professional. Heck, even with compression on every track, effects, filters, eq, panning, etc, I don't see 2 1/2 hours being reasonable. Not once you've set up most of those settings in the first track you mix. Those things are stored and carry over from song to song. We're not into changing our sound fropm tune to tune that drastically.

    I guess I really have a problem with setting a minimum time requirement. It should be up to us to determine "good enough". And I would prefer to scruitinize the songs at home on my Bose.
  6. misterk73


    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    This may be obvious, but you make sure you also scrutinize the songs on some cheap-ass computer speakers or other decidedly low-fi, low-output system.

    There are few things worse in this world than being really excited about a mix that sounds phat as can be on a hi-fi system with excellent speakers and the power to back it up, only to discover later that the mix sounds like s#$t when it's played in a car or office or anywhere else that a fan or booking contact might listen to it...
  7. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    John Turner probably does. :D
  8. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    I don't mean 2 1/2 hour of playing time!!!;)
  9. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    For a professional recording, even a low-budget indie one, 2.5 hours per song is not unusually long at all. In the recordings I've been on, usually no more than 2 songs per 8- to 10-hour session would get mixed. Sometimes only one mix would be finished per day. (On the other hand, my buddy and I once mixed 9 tracks in 6 hours--but that was just for a shoestring-budget demo with a brutal time deadline.)

    But the point is, you're right--how long the mix takes is essentially up to you. It isn't as if there's some list of things that cannot physically be done in less than 2.5 hours. Physically, a mix can be done in 30 minutes, if everything is set up. It all comes down to how detail-oriented you want to be. I've heard of people taking six MONTHS to mix a record. That's excessive, or obsessive, in my book, but unless you've done this a lot, you may not realize just how many little details there are to look at. How rigorous do you want to be?

    My recommendation is, let him mix one song for 2.5 hours or whatever. Watch what he does, and listen to the various changes in the mix as it evolves. Ask him to explain to you what he's doing and why. Then, when the mix is done, make your own judgment about whether the process was worth the time spent in terms of obtaining a better result. If not, either ask this guy to speed up or finish the mix somewhere else. You may find, though, that the speedier people may not give you as good a mix. I know there are few people for whom money is no object, but if this recording is what you really want to represent you, mixing is not the place to nickel-and-dime.
  10. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Darn it, you beat me to the punch! :p


    I was gonna say JT would think that 2.5 YEARS would be reasonable!!!!


    ...uh...oh, hi JT....why are you holding your doubleneck like that??? :eek:

  11. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    If he records a different track for each string, Mutt Lang would love him!!! So would our engineer.
  12. Winston TK

    Winston TK Hairpiece Adventurer

    Oct 8, 2001
    Burnaby, BC Canada
    Mixing time is the most overlooked aspect of any record, believe it or not. Especially when it comes to independent productions, namely the artist working alone on a home system.

    Mixing time is absolutely crucial. If going a bigger budget route, when booking studio time, keep in mind that mixing is going to take up alot of time, so make sure that the actual tracking process goes smoothly and, most of all, quickly!

    Mixing is as much of an art as the individual performances of the musicians. Compromising at this stage will guarantee that your finished product will be weak and will not gain the attention you think it deserves.

    We hired a producer/mixer/engineer to work with us recently, and fortunately the budget that was discussed was on a per-project basis. In this case, the project was 2 songs. Mixing and recording were both factored in. This is standard practice, however most professional producers will charge on a per-song basis.

    Quite often, you will have different people produce and mix your project. This is because mixing is a specialty. Very few can do it extremely well. (This is why even with famous bands, their CD may have been produced by one famous person, then mixed by another famous person.)

    All of this is just to say that mixing a song can (and usually does) take a very long time. Expect it if you want good results.

    Of course, everything depends on what the intentions of your project are. If you are talking a rough demo that you hope to send to clubs to possibly score bookings, then be realistic and keep your overall time under control. If, however, you are hoping to gain the interest of an entertainment lawyer, an agent, and A&R rep, or radio Music Director, chincing on the mixing in any way (budget or time) is at your own peril.

    Even if you are mixing the tracks yourself (either in a home studio, or commercial studio), allow ample time and patience to work the magic. Even with SSL, Radar, Performer, Protools, and humungous racks of tube and digital outboard gear, it is going to take awhile.

    Technology has certainly simplified the mixing process in many ways. But in the end, the ear and the art still take time.
  13. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    I agree to an extent. My main issue is an engineer determining up front a minimum time requirement. That should be up to the artist (in our case). Give me a basic level, we'll tell you what to boost and cut. Burn the track and we'll reschedule a session to make corrections. I'm not going to scrutinize the recording in studio at $45/hr. I can do that at home. In the end, that's going to happen anyway.

    The other problem is when the engineer gets pissy if you ask him to explain what he's doing. Case by case, things are different for everyone. It comes to customer satisfaction in the end. If we are happy with it, screw the engineer and his ego. If he doesn't want credit on the CD because he didn't get to spend 2 1/2 hours per song, it doesn't bother me in the least.

    It's like the used car salesman giving the buyer a hard time for not buying the Corvette that he can't afford when he came in originally looking to buy the Chevette. I can't stand these so-called "professionals" trying to dupe the customer under the auspices of some studio guild credo.

    If I'm going to push a CD to an A&R rep, he's either going to like the music or not. If he sees the potential and signs us, I bet you a dollar the label is going to front for time to re-mix/master or even re-record the CD anyway. That's regardless of how much time and money we spend in the studio.

    Maybe I'm just a rebel. Maybe I'm just a realist.
  14. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    John, it is your money, but I think you're discounting the importance of a good mix to even get you in the door. If the sound of the CD doesn't matter all that much, then why take a lot of care in doing the tracks in the first place? Mixing is of course no substitute for good songs and good performances, but it's a big part of creating the sound that grabs someone's ear, and it involves a lot more than just pushing two or three faders up and down and running the tape machine. To follow up on the automotive analogy, why build a great car and then put a $29.95 paint job on it?

    I take your point about listening to the music itself being the most important thing. Here's just a friendly suggestion, though: in recording [EDIT: in recording a *demo*, at least], it's always made the most sense to me *either* to go fast-and-dirty (as when you record a live performance, or bang through first takes of all your stuff in one day in the studio), *or* go slow-and-meticulous (where you try to get everything as good as you reasonably can. Mixing the two approaches IME isn't productive. If you've spent a lot of time on the tracks, don't blow off the mix; spend an appropriate amount of time to match the care you took recording them. Conversely, if you just record a live show to show what you can do, don't kill yourself in the mix trying to fix and tweak things obsessively; that can just kill the vibe and lead to frustration. But if you're going for a full-scale pro production that you want to sell, as opposed to a demo, IMO you should always get the best mix that time and $$ will allow (without going insane).

    As far as the minimum requirement thing, that sounds to me like somebody saying on the basis of his professional experience that this is at least how long it would take to do a good job. That doesn't seem unreasonable. It's a professional estimate, that's all. Plumbers do it, writers do it, guitar techs do it. And it really is not an excessive amount of time as these things go. It just isn't. If you don't want to let him do what he thinks is necessary to get the job done at least minimally well, why even hire him? You can book a studio somewhere without an engineer for less money and mix it yourself. Or you can take it to the cheapest, least experienced engineer you can find and just say, spend no more than 1 hour per song. I don't know that either is the best idea, unless you really just don't have the money.

    If it's money, believe me, I understand about $$ issues. I've never had much money and never will. And if the guy were saying--as someone said to me once--that for mixing he needed one day per song at $1000/day, I'd be saying to get your behind out of that place in a hurry. But IME what he's saying just isn't that exorbitant, and if you have the funds, IMO it simply doesn't make sense to shortchange yourself on the mix.

    One final comment: if the engineer is good, he can make a real difference to the quality of your recorded music. If he can't make a noticeable difference, then maybe you should be using someone else.
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    2 1/2 hours seems entirely reasonable to me. I spend that much time mixing duo stuff...the proof is in the pudding, and pudding takes time to set.

    I do agree with the point made that you should be checking out your mixes on all sorts of stereo gear, from hi-fi to complete crap. Most people listen on stuff that leans more towards the crap end. This is especially apparent when you listen to the bass on a crap system: crap systems push the bass way too much, and if it isn't tight enough on the mix, it'll sound like pure Mississippi mud on a less-than-stellar system.
  16. submelodic


    Feb 7, 2002
    Seattle, WA
    I don't think that's an unreasonable amount of time, however, you are the customer and the engineer should accommodate your needs as best as possible. It sounds like he's concerned a short mix project wont be representative of his skills. Understandable, but it's your $.

    If you plan on mastering the project, I would recommend having someone other that the engineer who mixed the tracks do the mastering.
  17. Winston TK

    Winston TK Hairpiece Adventurer

    Oct 8, 2001
    Burnaby, BC Canada
    Some excellent points being raised here by all.

    But, again, I must stress the importance of determining the intended use for this recording in question.

    If it is to make an impression on any kind of "industry type", the quality of the sound is as important as the quality of the material. Sad, but true. But think about it...The overall quality that you project speaks volumes to your sense of professionalism. This will by picked up on by anyone who may be able to help you in opening doors. Besides, long gone are the days when record companies will throw all kinds of cash your way to produce an extravagant album. The closer to finished-product quality, the better for them.

    Submelodic's point about mastering is a very wise one. If you plan on mastering your recordings (and, this is highly recommended!), go with someone who only specialized in this. And try to track down someone with a decent track record. This, of course, should also hold true in the selection process for a producer and engineer.

    As you can see, a considerable investment is pretty much inescapable. But, with the right amount of research, it need not be bank-breaking.

    As has already been mentioned, an engineer telling you up front that a minimum time requirement will be needed for mixing is pretty much standard business practice. It's a professional estimate. They are merely preparing you for the harsh realities of mixing a song, not trying to bilk you out of hard earned cash. If, however, this person has not been thoroughly researched in advance (which should include references from artists who have worked with this person), and has no real track record and is potentially one of the many "wanna-bees" out there in the biz, GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN. In such a case, you will DEFINITELY be wasting your time and money.

    Buyer Beware..........