It’s easy to dismiss considerations surrounding your environment, but musicians can clock up serious hours in one room, and it goes without saying that those surroundings will affect your actual output…
1. Clean air
Electronic equipment can have a negative effect on the air in a studio, so try to bring some purifying plants into your space. Firstly they help with the quality of air, keeping you more focused and productive. But they also help with mood too.
Don’t worry about getting anything hard to care for, as there are some wonderful species that give all of the benefits while pretty much surviving with just the odd watering now and then. Aloe vera and mother in law’s tongue are both easy to keep and do a great job in the studio.
2. Keep it close but not crowded
It’s a good idea to keep your main tools at the ready and close enough to use. If you end up with things stashed away it’s far less likely you will actually use them. If you need to start fetching things, finding space, then plugging them in, the idea may be gone by the time you are ready to get going.
The flip side of this is to make sure you have breathing room. A stifling studio, that can be just as detrimental to your creativity. If you have limited space make the most of the height in the room by using a multiple tiered stand.
3. Stay digitally organised
When setting up a studio, think about your digital workflow as much as your physical one. Decide on a file structure, not just for your musical output but your assets too. This could mean keeping plugins in one location, or it could mean building yourself an asset library for samples.
Knowing where everything is and where to add new assets is a lifesaver, especially when you open a Logic project and get faced with the missing audio dialogue. This makes it easy to find and/or replace saving some serious headaches.
4. It's all about you
Correct monitor heights (both speakers and computer) are really important. The top of your screen should ideally be around or just above eye level, if you are sitting straight. Monitor speakers can be angled using wedge-shaped isolation pads. These two alone will help your health as well as your musical endeavours.
Good positioning helps you stay consistent as well as ensuring you get an accurate representation of your stereo fields. It’s like finding the best driving position in your car. Once it’s sorted you can forget about it and reap the rewards of a much more enjoyable and long lasting interaction.
5. Connected world
This is linked to tip 2 in that it helps you stay creative, rather than digging through the inevitable box(es) of cables and connectors we all have stashed away. Try to keep your gear connected and accessible all the time. If your computer and interface allow, then hook up your synths, drum machines and so on, enabling you to capture the mood of the minute.
If this isn’t an easy option then hubs and patchbays are the way to go. A powered SUB hub may do the job for some devices but a patch bay is a fantastic tool for keeping everything connected, as well as the clear benefit of being able to hook things up in different orders, like running your vintage Jupiter through a modern reverb pedal in just a few seconds. Just be sure to keep some patch cables close to hand, to really make the most of it.
6. Treat your sound
This is a vast topic but investigate sound treatments for your room. This, in partnership with decent monitors, will have the biggest impact. You can get away with some simple diffusion and bass traps to improve some key issues, or you might need more.
This is wholly dependent on the space and position of your setup. Some simple dampening behind your monitors can be a good place to start, especially if placed near to a wall. Remember, this is soundproofing not vibration-proofing, so thumping techno at 3am will still probably trigger a visit from irate neighbours.
7. Get good support gear
There are areas where you can spend more to get more but a key area is your support equipment. The difference in quality vs price isn’t too prohibitive but it’s so important. Stable mic and keyboard stands could prevent a very costly accident. You don’t have to spend the earth but avoid hobby-level budget stands for precious gear.
Similarly, get a good storage option for cables and learn to care for them. Too much stress on jacks and solder joints can quickly introduce unwanted noise and then failure, something you could do without as you nail that keyboard run on the 30th take.
8. Light it up
Use appropriate lighting for the task at hand. If you are recording a video, or need something moody for some promo images, there is nothing wrong with going darker and having coloured lights; in fact that might be encouraged. However, that isn’t great for your health, so try to have some good natural light in your workspace.
This helps you stay alert for much longer and your eyes will thank you as much as the lack of headaches will. It’s likely you’ll ease any muscle strain too, as poor lighting can take its toll on both your vision and posture. Daylight lamps are fantastic for when the nights draw in, or you don’t have good sized windows in your studio.