When I first started as an electronic music producer, I found that my biggest struggle was deciding how much time I should spend on a track. If I didn’t spend enough time on it, it would sound unfinished and amateur, and if I took too long, I would lose the plot and make a mess of it.
After a few years of practice, I settled upon a time frame that allows me to put in the work needed to make an awesome track without losing sight of what it’s about.
So how long does it take to write an EDM song? It should take 20-30 hours to write an EDM tune that will set the dance floor on fire. This time estimation includes creating the track, mixing & mastering.
There are a number of variables that decide whether it should be closer to 20 hours or 30, or maybe even more, and we will take a look at them in this article.
Don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers.Andrew Card
Many professional electronic music producers have been asked this question in interviews and the answers have ranged from “I spent the last three years on this single” to “I wrote this album in a month.”
Both answers are tempting to emulate, for different reasons, but may not be accurate to the reality of these producers’ workflows. Remember, an interview is a marketing tool more than an educational one.
4 Factors that affect the amount of time it takes to produce a track
The 20-30 hour range I mentioned earlier depends on a few factors:
Style of Music
This is probably the biggest factor in deciding how much time you need to spend on a track. For example, a hip hop beat or a house track might take less time since simplicity is the key to these genres’ success. On the other hand, styles like dubstep or psychedelic trance will probably require more time because of the complexity involved in these styles.
This is by no means an exact formula – there are variations of these styles that go against the popular opinion such as glitch hop, which is a more complex style that came out of hip hop, and minimal techno, which is a bare-bones version of techno music that uses simplicity to get its point across.
Sound Design vs. Sampling
The amount of sound design vs. sampling is somewhat tied into the previous point about genre choice but there is more to it than that.
Most producers tend to use samples for styles like hip hop, while dubstep producers take pride in designing their sounds from scratch.
These philosophies are counter-productive because they influence younger artists to simply follow the pack and produce new versions of the same old sound.
For instance, if you use a dubstep sample pack, you don’t have to worry about the initial sound design, freeing up more of your energy for some creative editing that could lead to a completely new sub-genre of dubstep.
Number of Distinct Sections in the Song
Most EDM tunes (in any style) have a pretty standard arrangement of intro, drop, breakdown, drop, and outro. This does work but it’s been done so many times that it’s becoming harder and harder to stay original with this arrangement. A good way to overcome this is to make one or two sections that are completely different from the first drop. This does require lots of practice to get it right with seamless transitions between the sections but when done right, the finished track is full of surprises for an audience that is supersaturated with the “same old same old”. If you do decide to take this route, it will significantly add to the amount of time you’ll need to work on your track.
Your Level of Experience or Comfort with your DAW and Plugins
Your level of experience plays a big role in the amount of time you will spend on a track.
When you are just starting out, you will not be too comfortable with your DAW and plugins and you will often need to check the manual to remind yourself of how to accomplish something. The only way around this is to keep practicing working faster by keeping your fingers ready to tap important keys on your keyboard.
However, even with years of experience, you will find yourself testing a new plugin and this will slow you down again. At the end of the day, you should be enjoying the process of writing music whether you are fast or slow.
How many days should it take to create an EDM track?
The answer to this depends on your day to day life. If you are doing this full time, 6-8 hours a day should be enough, making it about a week long. However, if you are working or going to school, it will probably take you 2-3 weeks.
Two important things to remember are:
- You need to give your ears a break very often through this process – because they tend to get desensitized after several hours of work and that makes it hard to make the right creative choices.
- Be regular in working on your track – if you take too long a break, you might lose sight of what you were doing in the first place. This is the reason why so many WIPs never see the light of day.
What if Need to Use a Recording Studio?
If your track has vocals or an instrument, you will need to hire a session musician and a studio. In this case, your time frame will be somewhat dependent on them since they will have their own schedules to think about. This is not a big problem for EDM producers as there are lots of things to do in your home studio while you wait to get your recordings done.
How much time does it take to mix and master an EDM track?
There are two schools of thought on this –
On the one hand, people insist that you should get your tracks mixed and mastered by a professional studio. And on the other hand, some say that you can do it yourself with reference tracks.
Whichever way you decide to go, mixing and mastering an EDM track does not take that much time when compared to mixing and mastering a rock band, for instance, and should take around 5 hours.
A lot of the mixing choices are subconsciously made during sample selection and sound design but that’s a topic for another article.
How long should EDM songs be?
The answer varies from track to track but generally speaking, the average length for an EDM track is around 5 minutes. House tracks usually last 3-4 minutes while Trance and Techno tracks last around 6-7 minutes.
In short, you should be spending 20-30 hours on your track, spread out over however many days you need. Any less than this, and your tune might sound to the listener like it’s obviously incomplete, and any more than this and you might overdo it and make an overcomplicated mess of things.
Of course, this is a very general consensus and you might be comfortable with spending more or less time than our recommended range, but you should learn what’s best for you over the next few tracks you produce.