Long play: How long does it take to record a full-length album?

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You’ve finally made it. You finally feel as though you’re in a relatively successful band, playing those shady pubs and awkward open-mics was all worth it and with a substantial following and a great EP under your belt, you’re ready to take the plunge and record that debut album. Whether you’re signed to a label or going it alone, the time to record an album comes in every artist’s musical career and it can certainly be a make or break event.

Recording your first LP will leave you feeling on top of the world when it’s done right, but you can also spend a lot of unnecessary time, energy and money if you don’t plan everything correctly. In this article, the Kore Studios team will take a look at just how long it’ll take for you to record that first album, from the moment you hum that first tune or scribble down those first lyrics to actually getting it out into the audiosphere.

Planning

A good plan can go a long way in the music industry and is especially important when it comes to recording that debut album. First things first, it’s important to know exactly what you want to include on your record. It helps if you already have a bit of exposure to make the album worth recording professionally. Be sure to include any singles that your fans have particularly enjoyed to help shift those units and get those all-valuable streams. In a similar vein, at the same time now is the time to include those more ambitious tracks, your singles and EP are there to give an instant, fantastic impression, so save that 17-minute Jethro Tull-inspired prog epic for the album.

Of course, planning your album requires you to have the songs you wanted to include actually written for it. Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire way of telling you how long it’ll take to write the songs for your album: it took Black Sabbath 30 minutes to write Paranoid, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody? Six years.

Now you have your songs and you know what you’re intending to include on the record, it’s time to go studio shopping. We’ve already written a handy guide to choosing a studio that should help you speed up this process, but we’ll reiterate the most important points. You’ll want to find a location with a great engineer, top-quality equipment and all the right facilities for your band without breaking the bank.

Before you hit the studio, it’s best if you have a plan of exactly what you’ll be doing when you get there. This will help to speed up and streamline the recording process, so confirm which songs you’ll be recording, who’s doing what and consider talking to the studio staff so that they have an idea of your vision too.

Hitting the studio

Once you’ve found your studio, are running a tight ship and know exactly what tracks you’ll be laying down, it’s studio time.

The bulk of your studio time will come down to you, the musician, rather than the production stage. You’ll find that a lot of your time goes to tweaking your sound, rewriting lyrics and trying to get that perfect take, but it’s also likely that the type of music you play will affect your studio time. Jazz and classical musicians and groups tend to spend less time in the studio - in fact, Miles Davis recorded Kind of Blue in just two days. On the other hand, if you’re a rock band heavily reliant on multi-tracking, you’ll want to give yourself a little longer.

The way you choose to record will have a major impact on how long it takes you to record your album. Whether you choose to go for a more manufactured sound and record every guitar, drum, bass and vocal track separately, just aim to record one live song a day or try to smash out as many tracks as you can, there are a multitude of different ways to go about your recording process that will affect the time it takes to record your album.

In general, a broad minimum amount of time actually recording your album would be anywhere from two days to two weeks.

In the mix

How long it takes your engineer to mix the album after you’ve recorded the tracks will again depend on how you actually recorded them. If you simply played every song live in its entirety, it shouldn’t take more than a day for your engineer to have some album-worthy masterpieces. On the other hand, if you recorded each instrument track separately, you’ll have to expect a little extra time before you have a finished product.

If you choose to record an album in this brick-by-brick format, you’ll need to make sure that you have an experienced sound engineer, as bad mixing of these kinds of tracks  can really make or break an album - we’re looking at you St. Anger. If you’ve recorded multiple instrument and vocal tracks for every song, it can easily take over a week to mix and master an entire album.

So how long does it take?

From the first time you step into the studio, it’s likely to take between a week and a month before you’ll have a finished album. However, the sheer variety of factors that affect can affect your recording make this a very broad estimate. Different genres, musicians, styles of recording and sound engineers all contribute to whether or not an album will take two days or two years to finish.


The time it takes to record an album is always going to vary and, while we can estimate average minimums, you’d have to talk to a studio to get a more accurate answer. If your band are looking to release their debut, get in touch with Kore Studios today, for a quote on cost and time.