How long do you need to finish a song?

Ask general music theory or songwriting questions, get feedback!

Moderators: MattKingUSA, khz

Established Member
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Dec 22, 2019 11:12 pm
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand

Re: How long do you need to finish a song?

Post by TygerTung »

Maybe 20 hours? It takes a wee while to do all the mixing as I just do it during smoko breaks at work, and I am just usually learning how to record and work different software. I've only recorded a few songs so far. I hope to get faster as I get more experienced. I am fortunate to not be a perfectionist, so I am happy for it to be "rough enough". Mixing and editing takes the longest I think.

Established Member
Posts: 1677
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2016 12:05 am

Re: How long do you need to finish a song?

Post by jonetsu »

Define 'finish'.

At one point in time I dropped the notion of a 'finished' song. And in retrospect I find it's good for the song itself as it can be expressed in different ways. It so happens that at one point in time tracks are recorded, worked on, mixed and mastered. The intent and feeling at that time during those processes belong to a certain situation. The same song can be expressed in subtle or major different ways at some other time.

So many possibilities exists. It's almost like a fractal expression. A tiny mod here and there can have many repercussions down the line. At every moment decisions are taken that have repercussions.

I think a piece is 'finished' when its first jest was laid down. Many will not agree because at that stage a song is hardly palatable for listeners. But the rest is all about cosmetics, I find.

User avatar
Digital Larry
Established Member
Posts: 149
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2014 5:25 am

Re: How long do you need to finish a song?

Post by Digital Larry »

Here's one that started as a bass riff 30+ years ago. I fleshed it out over the past 5 months. ... on-the-bmi

Here's one that came together on a family vacation last summer. It was 80% done in 4 days. I still need to tweak the mix a bit but it's basically there. This one was recorded on an iPad.

I could keep remixing these things forever so I just stop when I'm tired of hearing it again and nothing about it bugs me too much.

Established Member
Posts: 969
Joined: Tue Feb 16, 2016 6:56 am
Location: Kangasala, Finland

Re: How long do you need to finish a song?

Post by tavasti »

lilith wrote:
Fri Aug 03, 2018 10:13 pm
I wonder how long do you typically need to finish a song and how your workflow looks like. And do you work on several pieces in parallel?
I never have possibility for full time working with music. In max I have 8 hours / week for working with music, and most of that time is late in the evening when I am not at my smartest. And most weeks, that is something like 3 hours/week, in smaller than 1 hour shreds.

I am still pretty novice, so my earlier stuff has been simpler, and they have been done faster. Most of the tracks have been something like 1-2 weeks to snoop around how the track would go, and then recording has been one live play, with video recording at same time. Then edit video, and it is there.

Now working on my first real mixed track. It started something about 9 months ago. Basic layout of guitar was done in one play. Then got volunteered vocalist for it, and it took maybe 1 month for lyrics, then 3-4 months he got suitable vocals recorded. And then there was waiting before I got back to work with it. Now on that limited few hours/week pace, I have been working it 1.5 months, and it is getting near releasing. Sure, as first real mixed track there has been much learning time. Learn to edit audio, make drum track better, try to mix, etc. Now it is in shape it could be released, but having some hints for improvment, so I might still do some polishing for it.
Linux veteran & Novice musician

Hear my music at

Established Member
Posts: 998
Joined: Mon Sep 28, 2015 8:06 pm
Location: Here, of course!

Re: How long do you need to finish a song?

Post by folderol »

I think the fact that after two and a half years, this thread isn't 'finished' rather makes the point :lol:

User avatar
Established Member
Posts: 36
Joined: Sun Oct 19, 2014 6:16 pm
Location: Western Massachusetts

Re: How long do you need to finish a song?

Post by thumbknuckle »

I am an obsessive reviser. It's pretty ridiculous really. I have given up on the notion of any of my compositions ever being 'finished'. My scores live in an SVN repository with more branches than a small forest.

When it comes to recordings of things I am pretty much the opposite. If it isn't finished in one session it's probably going to be discarded. Once in a blue moon I will open up an old session and fiddle with the mix but that's pretty rare.
Faster than a laser bullet.
Louder than an atom bomb.

Established Member
Posts: 115
Joined: Mon May 21, 2012 4:42 pm

Re: How long do you need to finish a song?

Post by tripomatic »

Finishing a song, it depends.(it's finished for me when i've made a pre-master).

This weekend i did one in 2 days (on headphones), fatest ever for me :), but i first have to check it again the studio to make sure everything is good. Never mixed on headphones.. But busy with studio works like accoustics etc. On other tracks it can take also weeks or months. Depends all of the creative flow. If i got stuck i just leave it, and sometime i pickup it up half year later and could be that i can finish it, but sometimes the magic doesn't happen :).

Established Member
Posts: 170
Joined: Sun Oct 11, 2015 1:43 pm

Re: How long do you need to finish a song?

Post by Death »

Short answer: Months.

Long answer: I usually get the core sort of 'hook' of a song going in the first couple of days. Usually within the first few days, I'll have something that starts to resemble a basic song with a structure, although this can take longer if I'm making synth patches from scratch. Then it starts to get hard because I struggle to take this idea and pack it out with interesting things that take it to the next level. I usually make a little progress here and then get stuck so I decide I'll just start mixing the song instead. Mixing takes ages because I'm very specific about things and I always want stuff to sound as good as I can make it. Once the mix is working well, I'll go back to trying musical ideas again because even though it's pretty well mixed, it's still a bit basic as a song. By this point, I'm gonna be around 30 hours into it and the remaining 20+ hours or whatever will just be me going through hell trying to figure out what to do with the song. I do this until I'm absolutely sick of it and can't handle it anymore, then I come back and do it all over again. If the song is at least OK, I'll release it, otherwise it'll sit in a folder somewhere waiting for me to work it out someday.

So in the space of a year, if I work a lot, I can make about 5 good songs with a few abandoned things on the side. So yeh, I'm a pretty slow worker I suppose. This is the joy of being a perfectionist.... :cry: Oh, and by the way, "finished"!? Nothing's ever finished really, it's just a case of letting it go....

Post Reply