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How long does it take to master a track?
Old 12th December 2017
  #1
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
How long does it take to master a track?

May I ask this question?

I'm looking at some well-know commercial mastering services for their rate.

One of them told me it takes one hour to master each track.

Is this normal for top engineers or does it indicate that the service wants to cut corners?

My sincere thanks for your kind advice.
Old 12th December 2017
  #2
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heraldo_jones's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Depending on the track. Sometimes if you want to master an album of the same style, the first trak takes more time and the later ones less. Think the song needs to be listened 3-5 times before doing anything.
Old 12th December 2017
  #3
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teebaum's Avatar
 
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30-45 minutes average
Old 12th December 2017
  #4
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Hippocratic Mastering's Avatar
 
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It will vary based upon many factors, but one hour per track certainly doesn't indicate that anyone is trying to cut corners.
Old 12th December 2017
  #5
Deleted e461f65
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1 hour seems reasonable if not plenty... Your me is not trying to cut corners
Old 12th December 2017
  #6
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da goose's Avatar
 
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Most of the times somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the mix and whet needs to be done.
For mastering you want the listening to be objectively. If it takes longer (too lang), you will lose most of that objective listening.
That is also the reason why in a proper mastering-studio you see monitors and acoustics to make that objective listening (and discission making) possible.
Old 12th December 2017
  #7
Deleted 49af092
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An hour for the first track is comfortable. If the rest of the songs have a similar mix and instrumentation, they can take about half that time (or less) once the first song is dialed in. If the songs are all very different, it can take more thane 30 minutes per additional song, but not always.

Other factors would be if analog gear is used, each song has to be printed in real-time once the settings are dialed in so the song length can have a factor too.

Some things that also factor into the time are downloading files, file management, uploading files, any RX repair work to clean up noise, clicks, pops that are more apparent after mastering, tailoring heads and tails of each song, sequencing the project, entering CD-Text/metadata, as well as any quality control listening that may be done.
Old 12th December 2017
  #8
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Greg Reierson's Avatar
 
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It always depends. How good is the mix? How much "fixing" does it need. How easily does it hit the sweet spot. How may target formats?

A song could take an hour. Or you could find the perfect balance in five minutes. If the album is very consistent the whole thing could be a breeze. If not it could be like starting over for each song. Listening through takes time but processing decisions are completely song/mix dependent.

I think that's one of the reasons a lot of people are now charing per song rather than per hour.
Old 12th December 2017
  #9
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Shawn Hatfield's Avatar
 
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Good points from all above. An hour per song is normal.

I've personally found the best decisions for a song are made swiftly, as long exposure to a mix will often cause a loss in objectivity. I'm sure many of us have experimented with different techniques and tools to a point where we no longer feel we're improving, but only altering. In cases like that, we'll come back to it hours/days later to hear it fresh again.
Old 12th December 2017
  #10
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the3030club's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I work quick. 20-25 minutes or so for a tune if i'm feeling good about it. Sometimes MUCH longer of course if the track has something super problematic, or my ears are out of whack that day.

EDIT: I should mention, that figure includes only the actual mastering time. Session prep, DDP, etc are additional.
Old 12th December 2017
  #11
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Chris Bauer's Avatar
 
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I concur with my learned brethren. Anything from half an hour to an hour is reasonable.
Old 13th December 2017 | Show parent
  #12
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teebaum's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn Hatfield ➡️
Good points from all above. An hour per song is normal.

I've personally found the best decisions for a song are made swiftly, as long exposure to a mix will often cause a loss in objectivity. I'm sure many of us have experimented with different techniques and tools to a point where we no longer feel we're improving, but only altering. In cases like that, we'll come back to it hours/days later to hear it fresh again.
I also like to work in several steps

in a first one I create the project, write everything nicely, set levels, maybe do some notching. I like to do this on the day before, so that I can contact the client if there are any problems with a file or other questions.

in a further step I do the sound editing with analog and digital tools, individually per song, but the limiting is not calculated yet.

in another step, which I like to do with a time interval of a few hours or days, I make post-analog adjustments (of the songs to each other), the final limiting and playing out for the different media, ddp etc.
Old 13th December 2017
  #13
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JLaPointe's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
30 seconds to determine what a track needs, 20-30 minutes to hone in on the best way to achieve that result.
Old 13th December 2017 | Show parent
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teebaum ➡️
I also like to work in several steps

in a first one I create the project, write everything nicely, set levels, maybe do some notching. I like to do this on the day before, so that I can contact the client if there are any problems with a file or other questions.

in a further step I do the sound editing with analog and digital tools, individually per song, but the limiting is not calculated yet.

in another step, which I like to do with a time interval of a few hours or days, I make post-analog adjustments (of the songs to each other), the final limiting and playing out for the different media, ddp etc.
I have developed a very similar workflow. As soon as I receive the project files and info I get my initial play/capture session prepped in REAPER. This way I can catch missing songs (it happens), or identify any other immediate issues that need to be resolved before I start.

Then in a few days I do the main processing through plugins and analog gear but without any digital limiting. When all the songs are printed I listen closely on headphones for any glitches, clicks, ticks, pops, thumps, or other anomalies that need to be cleaned up with RX6 which is set as REAPER's main external editor. Then I export each song which is now trimmed and cleaned up as a new WAV.

Once this is done I load those WAV files into WaveLab for final assembly, limiting/dither, and create a DDP for approval. Once the DDP is approved I create all the alternate formats and wrap it url. The only time I don't send an initial DDP is for single song projects unless of course the client plans to press a single song CD which is rare but happens.

I really like the non-linear workflow. I can usually get an initial album master within a week of receiving the files and info, and singles within a couple days.
Old 13th December 2017
  #15
Deleted e461f65
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wow in a way it is so much differet than my workflow...my limiter settings are the very first thing to be dialed in and it stays contantly on for the rest of the session while I EQ and compress .

but yeah...roughly a minute to decide what is needed and 1 hour max to dial it in
Old 13th December 2017 | Show parent
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Odeon-Mastering ➡️
wow in a way it is so much differet than my workflow...my limiter settings are the very first thing to be dialed in and it stays contantly on for the rest of the session while I EQ and compress .

but yeah...roughly a minute to decide what is needed and 1 hour max to dial it in
I always listen with limiter, from the beginning - but I do my outboard recordings without limiter and any post-analog edits - which I then save with the respective song.
at the very end it can also happen that I change the limiter again or limit it differently for other formats like tv or vinyl.
Old 13th December 2017 | Show parent
  #17
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lowland's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JLaPointe ➡️
30 seconds to determine what a track needs, 20-30 minutes to hone in on the best way to achieve that result.
Also, sometimes the better the mix, the longer it takes: when you're pushing an open door and only making small moves (or none), you want them to be the *right* small moves (or none!). It's surprising how active doing nothing can be.

When a mix isn't to that standard, quite often 'it is what it is' and the processing required tends to be more obvious, to me anyway.
Old 13th December 2017 | Show parent
  #18
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teebaum's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lowland ➡️
Also, sometimes the better the mix, the longer it takes: when you're pushing an open door and only making small moves (or none), you want them to be the *right* small moves (or none!). It's surprising how active doing nothing can be.

When a mix isn't to that standard, quite often 'it is what it is' and the processing required tends to be more obvious, to me anyway.
which is also very exciting - how different mixes "grip".
the higher the quality of the recordings, the more analogous the mix and the less the mix is processed, the better the mixes usually react to interventions.
Old 13th December 2017
  #19
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Jerry Tubb's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by troiontroi ➡️
How long does it take to master a track?
I do like to take a full hour to master a single, just to make sure it's getting everything it deserves before sending it back to the client for approval.

But that's not all EQ'ing, some of that is also logistics.

if it's an EP or Full Length, then each song might take a little less time, down to about 15-20 minutes per song.

That's assuming that they've all been recorded and mixed with consistency, and not a mixture of tunes from various studios, instruments and etc.

so for a 10-12 song record, it usually takes me about 6 hours to complete, perhaps more if there are lots of details and repairs to make.

and we have a 6-hour block rate to make it easier for clients to have a target number for their budget.

best, jt
Old 13th December 2017
  #20
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X-Pand Sound Mastering's Avatar
 
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As my fellow colleagues said In any case 1 hour isn't "long", depending on what needs to be done, how you can do that, if it is the first song of an entire album, a single... etc etc.

Speaking of albums, usually "european" mixes seems to be way more similar from song to song, than "us made" mixes, in my experience. This changes everything when you master an album. Sometimes I'll need to reset everything and start from "zero" on the analog gear and plugins, just with the first mastered track as a main reference. And sometimes the whole analog console will stay almost the same, with small adjustment, for the entire album, but then with fully automated processing within the box. You need to look at an album as a whole, so the time you spend on each songs will be various. Sometimes just the right move takes 2 minutes
Old 13th December 2017
  #21
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I.R.Baboon's Avatar
 
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An experienced pro will do better in 30 seconds then a beginner will achieve in an hour.
Old 13th December 2017
  #22
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scraggs's Avatar
 
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agreed, but that's true of any profession.
Old 13th December 2017 | Show parent
  #23
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I.R.Baboon's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scraggs ➡️
agreed, but that's true of any profession.
Not really, think about it some more.
Old 14th December 2017
  #24
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Wonderful answers. I would like to thank you all.

So one hour is normal for mastering a track. I understand it now.

Regards,
Old 14th December 2017 | Show parent
  #25
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scraggs's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I.R.Baboon ➡️
Not really, think about it some more.
hahahahaha i think this is the first time i've ever agreed with someone and had them disagree with me.

it takes me X amount of time to:

wire an outlet
tape and mud drywall
hang a door
solder a cable
intonate a guitar
etc

in all cases, an experienced pro would do a better job than i do in a fraction of the time.

what am i missing?
Old 17th December 2017
  #26
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mastermat's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by troiontroi ➡️
May I ask this question?
.
you are very welcome actually there´s only one correct answer, which might not be the one that you are actually looking for (you got plenty of reasonable answers already to that here anyway) but it comes straight to the point:

so how long does it takes to master a track (properly)?

as long as it takes to make it sound right, which is of course totally track dependant!

but jokes aside, in regards to actual numbers, I can only speak for myself and in my case the mastering of one track can take everything between 30 min and a wole work day. the latter is fortunately only true for the rare and most of the time annoying cases and it´s also not a work day in one row, but the hours you might spend on one track altogether including making different versions or in some cases revisions and the obligatory quality control for every take.
another factor that comes to my mind and that I am not taking into account here is the time that is needed for comunication with client, office work like writing invoices etc.
Old 27th April 2019 | Show parent
  #27
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zinzin's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by X-Pand Sound Mastering ➡️

Speaking of albums, usually "european" mixes seems to be way more similar from song to song, than "us made" mixes, in my experience. This changes everything when you master an album:
reall? thats interesting to me. i always thought it was the other way around. that the US mixers used more compression and samples and are more detailled and in doing so they had more homogenic and solid mixes.
what kind of music style do you mean?
Old 29th April 2019 | Show parent
  #28
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X-Pand Sound Mastering's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zinzin ➡️
reall? thats interesting to me. i always thought it was the other way around. that the US mixers used more compression and samples and are more detailled and in doing so they had more homogenic and solid mixes.
what kind of music style do you mean?
Hey that's an old one

Well I wasn't speaking about the mix, as any engineer in the world can do a precise job. No what I meant is that usually what I'm beeing sent to Master as an "Album" from the US, can have the drum recorded to one place, guitars in another, and the vocals again in another place, because "that" place has some special mics or a special room that fits the band's "vision" of sound. It's rarely the case in europe imo, when a band goes to a studio to do their recording, they do all in one place. At least 95% of europeen album I'm doing mastering for are done this way.
Old 29th April 2019 | Show parent
  #29
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zinzin's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by X-Pand Sound Mastering ➡️
Hey that's an old one

Well I wasn't speaking about the mix, as any engineer in the world can do a precise job. No what I meant is that usually what I'm beeing sent to Master as an "Album" from the US, can have the drum recorded to one place, guitars in another, and the vocals again in another place, because "that" place has some special mics or a special room that fits the band's "vision" of sound. It's rarely the case in europe imo, when a band goes to a studio to do their recording, they do all in one place. At least 95% of europeen album I'm doing mastering for are done this way.
ah yeah, true.
Old 2nd May 2019
  #30
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BIG BUDDHA's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by troiontroi ➡️

One of them told me it takes one hour to master each track.

Is this normal for top engineers or does it indicate that the service wants to cut corners?

thats about right.

a ten song album takes about a day.

Buddha
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