Whenever someone phones to enquire about booking a session, I'm always asked "How many hours will I need to book?"
Unfortunately the answer to this isn't an easy one. Many factors can influence the length of time a project will take. Here are a few of them...
Are all the members of your band going to turn up on time?
How well rehearsed are you?
Do you need to set up and soundcheck a drum kit or other acoustic instruments?
How many overdubs do you want to do?
How many songs do you want to do?
Do you have all your arrangements fully written?
Do you need any extra tracks from me such as percussion or keyboards?
Do you need any session musicians?
How detailed do you want the mix?
Are you happy for me to do all the mastering and file conversions, or do you want to take that job elsewhere?
Do you need any CD copies?
The only really certain answer is that 99% of the time it will take you longer than you think.
Gone are the days when an artist would go to a studio and record live in front of one microphone onto a mono tape machine. Even back in the days of multitrack tape, editing was a skillful time-consuming process that was kept to a minimum. A single of 2 songs for general release could usually be recorded and mixed in 2 days.
With the digital process, however, everyone has the opportunity of being that much more of a perfectionist. The most difficult thing is knowing how far to go with "fixing" glitches in the performance, most of which would give the consumer a much more lifelike impression of the artist if left untouched.
The best thing I can suggest is to allow at least 8-10 hours for a "live" demo of 3-5 songs. I.e. Minimal overdubs, Rough mix, Mastering & File conversion.
For a Master fit for release, count on 2-3 days per song to include plenty of extra tracks, detailed mix and radio-ready mastering. Solo artists with fewer tracks could complete this in much less time.
Be prepared to book extra time if necessary. Although I can work to a budget and time-limit if need be, this sometimes results in glitches being overlooked and needing to be fixed in another session. This of course wastes time and costs more in the long run.
The best thing to remember is that whereas a live performance is quickly forgotten. A recording is there to remind us forever.