How Long To Write A Cue?


A thread was started over on the Jingle Punks thread about how long it took to write a cue. Good topic to warrant it’s own post. So here ya go.

24 Replies to “How Long To Write A Cue?”

  1. All of the above is fine and dandy, if you’re writing for non-exclusive libraries and you call the shots about what you submit.
    The situation is very different with exclsuives, especially when your working to a brief, or when the publisher comes back at you with a mountain of changes what you’ve submitted, requires for them to take it on.

    Then, it’s as long as it takes to make them happy 😉

  2. I’ve done 2-3 minutes of music from start to finish with A/B sections
    Including recording guitars in 3-4 hours.
    Library cues under a minute can take 1 hour.

  3. It depends on the length of the finished product. Most clients seem to want one minute or less and aren’t really looking for a true stand-alone melody, so I’ll typically create a short basic temp track that reflects a theme, and then go from there.

    This temp track will end up getting looped over a chunk of a window dub, and then it’s either “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” from the editor. (I typically put up tests on YouTube as unadvertised links so that the client can see the work right away – very handy!)

    If the temp track is accepted, then we haggle over voicings, counterpoint, and what the client is willing to pay for expansion and sweetening. The whole process usually averages out to a few days.


  4. It takes me an hour at the most. But I only write 30 and 60 second cues. Most music use from libraries only uses a few seconds of music. I see no point in writing full songs when they will not be used.

  5. Its a similar question to “how long is a piece of string” there are just so many factors involved which dictate how long it should or does take.
    I’ve written songs in 3-4 days which have a certain kind of freshness to them because they weren’t overworked but on the other hand they aren’t very complicated songs either.

    I’ve also crafted songs over longer periods of time and returned to them months later and heard things in the tune which I didnt originally hear and been able to remaster or tweak them until I have a piece of music that I’m completely happy with.

    I personally couldn’t write to deadlines all the time.

  6. Actually the intent of this thread was how long does it take you to write a cue. Sorry for the confusion but length of cue is another great topic. I’ll change the title of this post:)

  7. I think the appropriate length of a library track depends on the type of usage.

    Some libraries like bumpers, :30, and :60 in addition to full length versions, because their clients are mostly in advertising. It should be said that a lot of ad agencies prefer to use music that isn’t pre-edited, especially as you get up into bigger budgets. For this reason, if you’re making edits, it’s smart to do a strict :30 edit as well as a :30 + reverb tail.

    Others just want the tracks to be over a minute – these are usually companies targeting TV shows. These types of libraries often want stems of your tracks too.

    The major libraries I’ve worked with always seem to want tracks between 2:00 – 2:30. Never had to make edits for them.

    1. Adding to this, I’m writing for a trailer library and they’re after tracks in the range of 0:45-2:00.

        1. Trailer music is a bit specialised. Have a listen to stuff from Immediate/Globus, Audiomachine, PP Music, Alex Pfeffer etc. That’s the bar for competition. If you can write like that, start hitting up the libraries that specialise in music for trailers. Which ones are accessible? Dunno. Cold call them. That’s what I did, plus FMN occasionally have listings from trailer companies.

    1. LOL I had a backlog of tracks to upload. I sent them another 30 today 🙂

      In direct answer to your question I tend to write about 4 to 6 tracks a week depending upon the level of orchestration involved and how many (if any) ‘Real instruments’ I need or want.

      1. I used to labor over one instrumental for a month and that didn’t get me anywhere at all. Now I’m using the fact that I was laid off as a spring board to try over the next 3 to 5 years to eek out some sort of living writing everyday. Now I seem to be able to write 1 piece a week which is still too slow for me. Working on getting better. Constant editing and second guessing myself instead of writing and moving on is the habit I’m slowly starting to break. This time next year I hope to have some decent numbers.

        1. Depends on the track with me Pat. I can do a piano solo (from composing to recording) the same day, Electronic track 1-2 days, and a full orchestra track 3-5 days.

          However, when a library emails me with an immediate request, I can cut corners to meet the deadline.

          1. Seems simple and pretty basic rock guitar pieces are the easiest and quickest for me taking maybe a day and a half or two to put together but I enjoy doing the electronic stuff a bit more and the sound quality is better but does take me longer. I know absolutely nothing about orchestration. Electronic music takes me longer since I wave far more choices to make plus I can’t play a lick on a keyboard.
            I’m hoping that getting my first license will give me a glimpse into what could be a niche for me so I can narrow my focus at least for the time being.

            1. In answer to you op, for a full album I usually allow 2 to 3 months. But thats at least 15 tracks plus edits and underscores and that also assumes the publisher doesn’t want a lot of changes made. But I have turned around an album in 3 weeks to make a deadline, which was a killer.

              In the past I’ve laboured over tracks for weeks until I think they’re perfect, only to find the get rejected or never get any sync 😉

              A lot also depends on the track itself, it’s much faster to work on all electronic music, bring in live instruments and it takes longer, bring in session people and it’s even longer. But for an electronic track, i’d like to spend 2 or 3 days on the main track and edits.

              1. “In the past I’ve laboured over tracks for weeks until I think they’re perfect, only to find the get rejected or never get any sync ;)”
                Bingo! darkstar. That’d be me. Now I’m trying to just get better and faster since so many say this is a numbers game.
                Completing a piece in 3 days is the ultimate for me. I’m slowly getting to where I can do that.

                1. Sometimes I think Quality is better than Quantity. But, if a deadline is in the works, I chain myself to my G-5 & I just write & write. Cues & 2:00-4:00 pieces. Works 4 me.

                2. @Jason… just checked out your web site… why would you ever leave BMI for ASCAP when you do music for TV and FILM???

    2. 1.5 to 4+ days per track, depending upon the level of orchestration and number of edits.

      That said I have done two tracks per day, when I had a deadline.

      1. That’s about my average time frame also. Although, under pressure, I have written and produced an album of sixteen 2 1/2 to 3 minute tracks in 3 weeks. But that was all solo piano……..and not much sleep!

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