6 ways to improve your studio mental health
With mental-health awareness thankfully a talking point, it’s time to make sure your production pastime or professional studio career is as non-stressful as you thought it would be when you started out. Sit back, relax and make music.
One of the big topics always in the news is the state of our mental health. There’s no doubting that we live in turbulent times – everyone seems to be rushing around at 200 miles per hour trying to earn a crust – and as for politics, whatever your leaning, there is uncertainty at every corner. Which is why we love being in the studio!
At the very least, it’s a chance to chill with your own music and at most, to immerse yourself in a full-on project that takes your mind off the things happening on the other side of the DAW. Trouble is, your studio can be a place of nail-biting difficulty too, so take the following on board to keep your blood pressure low…
Get everything in good order
As they say, ‘tidy studio, tidy mind’ and this really does hold true. Think about it: any clutter in your studio – and we mean both your physical and virtual desktops, plus in your racks of gear or modular synths – is going to increase the time it takes you to do something. Keep everything tidy and you will reduce the time-related stress by getting things done quicker.
The more you get done, the more a sense of achievement you have and the less stress. So, once a week, take half an hour out to sweep, dust and order.
Don’t be in the studio
Well, it might be defeating the point of the exercise, but one of the first things you could do when feeling stressed in the studio is to get the heck out of it. Taking regular breathers in whatever line of work you do should be encouraged and, if you are a DAW user, you should be taking regular screen breaks anyway. So get out, go and eat something, get some fresh air, breathe deeply and return to whatever the problem is with fresh eyes.
Remember the reason you got into music production in the first place? Music, right? One of the common problems is that producers can lose the love of music listening. You’re making music all day, so the last thing you want to do is listen to it, right? Wrong. Taking time to listen to music fulfils the brief from point 1 (take time out) but can also be inspiring, not to mention keeping you up to date with any musical trends you may be following or trying to emulate. Music is great, right?
Play – the other kind of play, that is
One of the best studios we have ever featured MusicTech was that of MPG winner and alt-J, Marika Hackman and Rae Morris producer Charlie Andrew. Not only does he pack an incredible amount into a small space – and still have everything within reach – but he has instruments, toys, gadgets and so on for visiting musicians (and himself) to play with. Even if it’s just having Japanese robots and Tron vehicles like Howard Jones collaborator Robbie Bronnimann, try and have some kind of joyful object to hand to relieve stress. Get a punch ball, a mini arcade table, a sofa to throw yourself on – just something to turn away from that bank of gear, virtual or otherwise, that you have been staring at for half an hour. Talking of which…
It’s the regular ‘cut down options’ one!
Let’s just say this once and for all, for life in general, cutting down on options can be a good idea. As a consumer-driven society, we all believe that having loads of choice by buying loads of things is a great thing. It isn’t, in the studio at the very least. Need to produce a bassline? Open that folder, see those 1,000 bass presets staring at you. Gotta try them all, right? No, you haven’t!
Here’s an example: We recently put together a feature on freeware for this very magazine and wrote a tutorial on using two freeware synths and a drum machine to make a tune. Turns out it was the quickest tune we ever produced because our options were limited to just three plug-ins. Cutting your choice often cuts the stress, simple as that.
And to finish…
Appropriately, our final piece of advice is to finish a tune. There’s nothing worse than having half-finished ideas on your hard drive. They will constantly call you back – even years after you first tried making them into something half-decent. Dedicate a day to them, to finish them, or delete them. Having less old clutter in your Logic, Live and Cubase songs folders will release you to move on with your life and stop being held back by past loops.
At the very least, flesh those ideas out into songs with Ctrl-R, or go to MusicTech for some other ideas on how to finish tunes. The joy of working in a studio is listening to your music the next day, and it’s a process so enjoyable, you will be able to handle whatever the world throws at you!
For more essential guides, check here.