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Written by Ramsey Brown.
When it comes to your workspace, almost nothing is more distracting than being surrounded by clutter and disorganization. Productivity and organization go hand in hand. So, if your recording studio is in disarray, it could be hindering your creativity and workflow.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of artists work best in organized chaos. Everyone’s creative process is certainly different. However, if you are starting to find yourself lacking focus and motivation while in the studio, it may be due to the overall feng shui of your work environment.
If you are constantly untangling cables, searching for session files, or staring at a pile of dirty dishes, then you are wasting valuable time that should be spent making music. These sort of distractions can easily ruin the momentum of a session, whether it be consciously or subconsciously.
Your recording studio should be a place where you can work quickly and effectively — somewhere that enhances and inspires your creativity. If you are a musician, engineer, or producer that wants to optimize your workflow, it starts by optimizing your workspace.
Which is why we’ve put together a list of 10 hacks to transform your hectic home studio into an well-organized, creativity-inspiring, music-making utopia. If you need less clutter and more creativity in your life, check out our tips below to help you get started!
Keeping your studio space clean is the first step to getting it organized — and no, clean and organized are not the same thing. Areas that you spend a lot of time in naturally get dirty and dusty quicker. Then next thing you know your studio is a complete mess.
Besides being unsanitary and unappealing to the eye, a dirty area can wreak havoc on your music gear. Which is why every one to two weeks, you should take the time to do a deep cleaning of your studio space. Give your desk, monitor, equipment, and all surface areas a good wipe down. Dust off delicate items, vacuum the floor or carpet around you, and make sure there is no sticky residue or food particles hiding out anywhere.
To that point — make sure you are not eating in your studio, period. Food and drinks are a surefire way to create a mess in your work area. A week old coffee cup on your desk is not only disgusting and distracting, but heaven forbid it accidentally gets knocked over and ruins a piece of equipment.
Clutter is undoubtedly the kryptonite of creativity and productivity. Concentration is nearly impossible when your workspace looks like an episode of Hoarders. This is why it’s important to clear up any clutter and remove all items unrelated to music out of your recording studio,
You may have old magazines, broken equipment, or miscellaneous papers laying around that are taking away necessary studio space. It may require some time and effort but dedicate a day to sort through your clutter — throw things out or store things away, not laying out to collect dust.
Better yet, sell any old equipment that you are no longer using instead of keeping it as an expensive paperweight. It can be difficult letting go of your belongings, but it will feel amazing when you do. Selling used gear will put extra money in your pocket and free up your work space, plus you’ll be helping out a fellow musician.
Relating to clearing up clutter, our next studio organization hack is to develop a practical storage system. When it comes to clearing up space and keeping a tidy work area — shelving, cases, drawers, stackable bins, rolling carts, totes, etc., are your best friend.
This is especially useful when you work in a smaller studio space. If you have a little bit of room but a lot of equipment, it helps to implement upright storage to take advantage of the vertical space you do have. Look into purchasing tiered stands or stackable drawers to maximize minimal floor space.
There are a ton of great space savers and storage solutions you can find on Amazon, or at your local home improvement store for decent prices. A good storage system will clear up your space, which will clear up your mind. Not to mention, it will also keep your studio looking organized and professional.
Once you’ve invested is some good storage containers, the next thing to do is give everything a home. Meaning, each and every piece of equipment you own should have a specific space within your studio.
For example, dedicate a single drawer for all things guitar related. This way, if you pop a string or need a certain pedal, you know exactly where it’s at. Designate a specific storage space for all other gear, tools, accessories, and more. From batteries, chargers, cords, mics — everything should have an appointed home so you can can easily find what you are looking for.
A well-ordered studio is a well-ordered work flow. More importantly, it prevents your time being wasted searching for misplaced items… and frantically tearing apart your studio hunting for something that is right under your nose.
Music studios require a lot of different cables. If you have a studio then you know it doesn’t take long for them to get out of hand, creating a tangled mess. This is why cable organization is an absolute must — for both safety and productivity purposes.
Having your cables in order will keep you from yanking on wires, spending time looking for the right cord, or having to unknot that nightmarish cable ball you’ve been dreading doing.
The first way to get your cables organized is by going through all of them and throwing out the broken ones. If you have multiples of the same cable, keep only one or two in your main work space. Then put anything that you don’t consistently use away in storage.
When storing cables, properly wrap and secure them with velcro ties so they don’t come undone. Also, labeling the different cables and/or color coordinating them will also save you time and headache when you go to look for certain one. For example, you could put a piece of red electrical tape on all of your XLR cables. Then, put all the XLRs in one specific location for easy access.
Because the entire flow of a modern studio revolves directly around the computer, it’s just as important to keep your digital space organized as it is your physical space. Having a consistent filing system is imperative to a smooth recording session without interruptions.
If you do a lot of recording, you can end up with hundreds of tracks in no time. If the tracks are not properly labeled, filed, and saved, you could also end up with a lot of wasted time having to fumble through files mid-session.
You should start by naming each track before you record it. Names like Audio1 or Audio2 will be extremely hard to find later on, so take a few seconds before your begin recording to name it something more distinct.
Next comes a logical folder hierarchy, Client —> Date —> Session is a fool proof file organization system that will be easy to look for and locate on your computer.
If you go back and tweak a mix, you should also save and label each revision that was made. Ex: SongName_rev1 or SongName_rev2. This saves confusion not only for you, but for anyone else that may be working on the track with you.
Before bouncing a session, make sure your DAW knows exactly where to send the bounced audio file. To avoid a lost or misplaced session file, you always need to have a dedicated bounce folder. Create a ‘Bounce’ or ‘Mixes’ folder and place it at the top of the session, this way you know exactly where to find your exported mixes.
We’ve touched a lot on the importance of a smooth and uninterupted workflow. Another way to ensure that you are making the most out of your session time is to have all of the equipment and gear you frequently use within easy-to-reach distance from your chair.
This may seem contradicting to hack #3 and #4 where I mentioned that equipment should be properly stored away. However, the gear that you use every single time you record is an exception to this.
If you have to walk across the room every time you want to increase your preamp’s gain, your making things more difficult than it should be. Rack-up any processors, monitor controllers, audio interface, preamps, etc., that you use often. Keep them close to your desk and ensure that everything is at a comfortable height.
There is a point in every serious musician’s life where they end up with more gear than places to put it. In my person opinion, there is nothing worse and unprofessional than walking into a home studio and seeing thousands of dollars worth of equipment laying on the floor.
Studio furniture is usually not cheap to come by, therefore many people neglect purchasing it. But to have a truly legit home studio set up, equipment stands, racks, mounts, and of course a proper desk and chair are necessities.
If you have your keyboard crammed on your desk, it’s likely time to upgrade to a keyboard stand. The same goes for studio monitors — while they may seem to fine sitting on your desk, studio monitor placement is just as important as the monitors themselves. By investing in monitor stands, it not only improves the visual aesthetic of your studio, but it helps improve the overall quality of your sound.
The overall aesthetic appeal of your home studio has potential to make or break a recording session. By implementing all of the hacks mentioned, it will certainly upgrade your studio functionally and visually. But to further enhance the aesthetic and visual appeal of your studio, there are small things you can do that will make a huge difference overall.
Starting with the messy cords under your desk and all over your floor — cable trays are great way to combat disorganized cords and to keep your studio looking tidy. Cable trays attach under your desk and allow all of your cables and cords running from your computer, monitors, etc. to be completely hidden.
Power bricks can also be used to keep those ugly messy cords out of sight. You can even find adhesive ones for cheap that can be conveniently stuck underneath your desk. Aside from just keeping cords and cables hidden, other simple aesthetic upgrades could include LED lighting, stylish decor like a rug or chair, funky artwork, and more.
Keeping your studio separate from your personal area can be tricky, especially when you aren’t fortunate enough to have an additional room solely dedicated to music. If your home studio shares a space in your bedroom or kitchen, try your best to keep your work area separated from the rest of the room.
Never allow your desk to be used as a drink table, or your mic stand to be a coat rack, or your amp as a footrest. Don’t even put your bills or personal items near your recording area. Once you place one piece of mail on your desk, or sit one knick-knack on your monitor, next thing you know your studio is gradually becoming a catchall for random items around your house.
If this sounds familiar, stop it immediately. Keep your studio as your sacred music space. Once you stop making a mess around your studio, you’ll find that you are making more music instead.
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