How long does mixing and mastering take?
As with the recording process, mixing time depends on several factors, including: the length of the piece of audio; the number of parts involved, and; the complexity of the material. A very basic mix of a single vocal line and backing track may only take an hour or so, but a complex mix of a multi-track recording requiring many edits and automation of track levels, panning and effect parameters can easily take eight hours or more. In creating a professional mix it is not uncommon to also ‘re-visit’ the piece in a subsequent session before deciding upon the final mix to put forward for mastering. Generally, it would be recommended to reserve at least 50% of your project budget (i.e. the same amount as for the recording of tracks) to cover the costs of editing, mixing and mastering.
For mastering, the resulting mixdown is auditioned several times as overall tone shaping, dynamics and effects are addressed. Playback of test masters may be employed to ensure that the master will suit the intended end use, before a final master is decided upon and authored. As with mixing, mastering times can vary depending upon the complexity of the material to be mastered. A basic mix (such as a single vocal line with pre-recorded backing track) can be mastered in an hour or so, but mastering of more complex material (especially for mass-duplication and commercial use) may take several hours per track.