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How long do you need to finish a song?

Posted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 10:13 pm
by lilith
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 made the observation that it takes me 1-2 days to have a rough composition together which is very close to the final version. During this time it's very easy to get something done and I get a lot of ideas.

But to finalze it and to mix it takes me days and it's often not straight forward. It's more like 1 step forward, 2 steps backwards.

I began now to save different versions of the songs to get back if needed.

ATM I use Reaper and I start typically with a drum pattern which is looped. Then the rest is added. The whole thing is copied / pasted and then I start with muting / adding stuff to make it more interesting.

I have to check bitwig again if I may profit from the clip launch features. On the other hand Reaper also offers a lot features like sequencers, samplers ... so it should also be possible to get a more live oriented workflow.

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

Posted: Sat Aug 04, 2018 5:12 pm
by folderol
What does 'finished' mean?

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

Posted: Sat Aug 04, 2018 5:19 pm
by English Guy
When it comes to composition, I can get stuck. I am just finally finishing a song that I began twenty years ago.

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

Posted: Sat Aug 04, 2018 6:44 pm
by sysrqer
It's a pretty tricky question, I would echo Folderol's comment, I'm not sure they are ever finished.

It's hard to tell how long one song takes. I usually write something in renoise and if it comes together well/quickly I send it to my singer and he records something, then I mix/edit the vocals in reaper, then I export and mix the whole thing in renoise. This last part can be days/weeks/months depending on how many problems there and what my confidence is like.

Other times I will write an idea and then leave it for months or years, then eventually send it to my singer and then write the full track after I have the vocals. This way tends to take a long time because I have to edit/mix the vocals, then write/arrange the song, then mix it. The "finished" tends to be better this way though somehow.

I would say from start to finish it would be an average of about 40 hours work, sometimes much more. My singer sends lots of doubles and harmonies so I can have 50 tracks of just vocals to condense, edit (lower breaths and remove noises), eq, compress, add effects, level. I'm getting quicker at this with reaper but generally it's a lot of work.

Even when a track is finished I will revisit it if/when I am releasing it and then it's a rabbit hole where I can lose all perspective. I think one album I did had hundreds of hours listed in the reaper startup dialog and that was just mastering. I would master it, realise there was a problem and then go back to the mix and fix it, remaster, over and over again. I guess I'm an under skilled perfectionist who ruins the end result much of time by tweaking.

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

Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2018 7:00 pm
by magicalex
28 years and counting...

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

Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2018 9:08 pm
by folderol
The record for me is something like 50 years :shock: :roll:

This was inspired in the early 1960s by an exquisitely crafted model ship in full sail made entirely from blown and drawn glass.During the late 60s and early 70s I developed and played just the melody on a piano. By the mid 1980s I could play that insane bass line with my left hand as well. It wasn't until the early 1990s that I had the facilities to build up a multi-track version and record it, and then, in the mid naughties, I posted an improved version in various places This was a mixture of hardware and software synths. Now it's all growed up with an extra horn counter-melody and is entirely Yoshimi.

Linky here:

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

Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:05 pm
by xaccrocheur
I've been working on my next album for several years now. There are 35 song folders on the hard drive, of which probably a third should be trashed. I hate this ; I fantasize of finishing a song within a day, and an album in a month, but that simply never happened to me :?

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

Posted: Mon Aug 06, 2018 11:32 am
by CrocoDuck
When I was still playing and practicing a lot, I was also a bit methodical. It would normally take 1 week to get from what I had in mind to something satisfyingly close to it.

It has been a while since I recorded anything. Even more since I recorded anything good.

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

Posted: Mon Aug 06, 2018 7:56 pm
by lilith

thanks for the answers so far. I'll answer another time when it's colder :| We have > 30°C since days. I think this is the hottest summer since 2003.

With "finished" I mean that you feel comfortable with uploading it to soundcloud, etc.

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

Posted: Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:30 pm
by CrocoDuck
lilith wrote:With "finished" I mean that you feel comfortable with uploading it to soundcloud, etc.

After "the week" I was used to leave it for 1 week, and do nothing. Then master it in few days (or a full week) and upload it, maybe after some more "rested listening" first.

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

Posted: Wed Aug 08, 2018 5:26 pm
by chaocrator
1.5 to 2 eternities.
that was the main reason for me to play improvisations and record multitrack live sessions.

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

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 1:19 am
by jonetsu
Things more or less happen. I might be learning/exploring s synth, an audio processor and then things 'happen'. Above all the habit I have taken is to record. as soon as something 'has something' in it I record. Otherwise I know it will simply go away. It happened so many times. Countless times. It's not bad by itself to let it go, but then, there are other objectives like developing into a piece, to 'make something' out of a jest.

The time it takes to finish a song ? Well, a song IMHO is never finished unless is a consumable product, a well-defined object with it's well-defined aspect being the end of it, forever.

This said, I cumulate sketches, happenings, at more or less complex stages. Like the one below I quickly mixed as an example. That's jam315. I'm now up to jam398, closing on the 400th since 2.5 years when I started doing that. I make about 100, 150 of such 'jams' per year. I forget about them, then I listen back and out of the blue one gets my attention and then a 2nd creative process gets underway in which the initial jam is refined. Things are added, modified, moved, instruments are added, removed. Some audio processing at this stage might go on, to give an idea. But the final porcessing will be at the mix stage unless a sound relies on it for its expression.

This means that I do not 'get stuck' on one piece. It flows. I do not drag a piece for a long time. Why ? Because I found that what touches other people is spontaneity. It's something that's accessible to anyone, no matter what musical studies you have made. That well-felt, deeply-felt spontaneity can be easily crushed by too much hard work. So I adopt a work 'flow' literally. It flows as much as possible. And things get eventually done.

Wait there. While I'm writing this I'm listening to jam398. Let me put out a quick rough mix to demonstrate the extent to which a jam can spontaneously happen. This jam398 is interesting with its rough mix clocking at 5 minutes. How can you refine this ? There are numerous ways. Will you preserve the flow, or chop in with some drastic chord changes ?

As for the DAW, all creation is done in Bitwig. All mixes are done in Mixbus32C. Obviously, not much of a mix in Mixbus32C for these two jams.



Or then it can be the catch of a spontaneous moment that will need great care and attention to unfold without ruining it. This is not only a slow piece, but one that is low in volume, so please raise your volume level. This one has a piano improv at the end. Really, the more I listen to this one, the more it is like a delicate flower. I cannot believe I made this.


Do you have examples of your 'work in progress' to share ? How much do get from spontaneous improvisations ?


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

Posted: Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:47 pm
by gimmeapill
15 years, more or less. Need some time to compile and test experimental stuff, + the bug reports, etc...

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

Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2019 2:58 pm
by Dominique
I play mostly acoustical songs, by acoustical I mean the voice and anything that can produce a sound, with or without an amplifier.

To finish a song, the faster I can do is to record it when playing guitar. The earlier in the process, the better. I use 4 tracks, 2 are from a stereo mic that give me a predominance of the voice, 1 is the direct sound from the guitar and the last track is an ambiance rubber microphone. I press record, play and sing the song and press stop. The time it takes to have a good take depend on the song. Some are very simple and it will go fast (a few hours or less). Other will takes weeks because I make modifications over modifications until I am happy with the song. That's for the start, because with time I will experiment different ways to play it, which imply it is a never ending process.

With some songs, as example the Alabama song, I made my own arrangement. In that case, I really prefer the harmony of the lyrics of the original piece, with a succession of C and C# in the bass and a lot of dissonances, over the Doors version. The other versions are not suitable for me because they are for complete bands (like the Bowie version, which I like a lot) or for piano. I made my own arrangement from the original Kurzweil/Brecht piano partition. It took me some time because most of the chords of that lyrics part are chords made of 6 or 7 notes, which make them impossible to play at the guitar. You must not only find suitable guitar chords that will give you the harmony you want, but also find a practical way to play them both rhythmically and harmonically. It was definitely worth the effort, because I learned a lot and when done, I could play the song without looking at the partition.