10 tips for looking after your studio
Spent a fortune on gear? Got it all set up correctly? Now you need to look after it. You can have the best equipment in the world installed and working, but it won’t be for long if you don’t maintain it. Here are 10 tips for keeping that gear – and you, for that matter – working and working well
Dust is your enemy
Studio gear and dust are the best of friends. Or that’s what you’d think if you saw their clingy relationship from the outside and the way that they seem to be drawn to one another. In reality, of course, they are the worst of enemies and you really should try and keep the monster that is dust (aka your skin) away from your precious studio gear. Vacuum, clean, wipe, blow, do what you can to keep one from the other and your gear will not only look better but work better. (As a side note, we know someone who got their MacBook Pro properly vacuumed recently and it worked like a charm after, thus demonstrating this point!)
You have the power
Power used to be a big issue when it came to propping up studio gear and it still can be if you use a vast amount of outboard. However, these days with so much software taking up the older hardware strain, you can pretty much get away with using minimal socket extenders and multi-way plugs for your studio power. However, if you have a mountain of outboard or guitar gear, or a pile of modular, or are simply getting power-supply noise, consider a power conditioner like the Citronic CPD8C (shown) or Samson PS10 or PB10. Between £50 and £130 buys you a unit that prevents noise from light sources and dimmers and other electronic pollution that might be contaminating your AC power.
Reduce options, increase speed
A great studio is all about turning ideas into music, fast. Whether that means having everything within reach or a smaller number of plug-ins to choose presets from, do consider your alternatives and options… and cut them down. It’s wise to regularly try and purge your plug-ins. Do this simply by going back through your song library and seeing which plug-ins you are and aren’t using. We did this and discovered a vast library of instruments – which took up a vast amount of hard drive space – that we rarely touched. Delete, reduce options, speed up and get your hard-drive space back!
We always bang on about spending as much money on monitors as you can, but actually a huge area of importance that we perhaps don’t touch on enough is how and where you position them. Placing speakers on a desktop invites all sorts of rumbling issues but placing speaker-isolating rubber feet on a speaker can allow you to place it pretty much anywhere on a surface. Also, remember the old ‘equilateral’ rule when it comes to placements and your own placement. Finally, if you place speakers too close to walls, this can cause issues, although many come with DIP switches around the back to adjust for this distance.
Rack it up
Specialist racks for studio gear went out of fashion when we all went software-only but now, with the return of hardware, they are very much in vogue again and they can be brilliant for looking after your gear. 19-inch rack gear can be placed within racks and wheeled around at whim and of course, modular synths are made for good racking, so assign part of your budget to decent hardware housing. It keeps it safe, secure and easy to access.
Look after yourself
It’s not all about looking after your gear; you also have to look after number one. This can be as simple as making sure you have a decent chair so you are sitting upright and not slouching and also making sure that everything is within reach (or within rolling distance of said chair). Maximum comfort means more time concentrating on mixing and recording, so being selfish in the studio can be a very selfless priority in the long run.
Everyone needs a cuppa now and again, especially when in a long recording session, but, believe us – we are talking from experience here – a mug of something hot in the studio can cause a nightmare. From fizzing your logic board to dampening your keys, a brew – or, even more dangerous, a pint of beer – can devastate your recording sessions. Drink out of reach of your gear, even in another room if possible. This also gives you an excuse to get up and go for a break, another important item to consider on your ‘ideal recording session’ list.
Case the joint
As well as racks, consider proper carry cases when traveling with gear. Yes, you can slip a lot of bits and pieces into backpacks these days – your laptop and a controller, perhaps – but that vintage outboard really should be put in a specialist carry case (available from the likes of Studio Spares). They don’t cost as much as you might think and you might save that money in repair costs in the long run.
Increase the surface
Face it: you’ll never have enough work surfaces in your studio. Like your kitchen, whatever space you have for spare keyboards, mice, instruction manuals and controllers will be all be taken up and you will always require more. Consider draws on wheels that can be used as work surfaces (and rolled in and out of tight spaces as required) or even consider a proper studio desk from the likes of Output Sounds with retractable trays, nooks and shelves and even more surface area for you to fill.
Studio spaces are all about being creative and that also means being inspiring. So, as well as everything being neat and tidy, easy to reach and even easier to power up and get up and running, place some inspiring items around and about. We know some producers who have Japanese robots, others stormtroopers, and us, well, we have Star Wars LEGO models. Whatever it takes, raise a smile and an inspiring thought with something special.
For more studio tips and tricks, check out our essential guides page.