A tidy space is a creative space.
Or so I kept getting told by fellow musician’s when they saw my not so organized studio space. Wires were all over the floor, guitar pedals were scattered about. At one point I actually had a beer brewing in the corner, but that’s another story.
To be honest, I hated it. I would like to say it was organized chaos, but it really wasn’t. It was just chaos. And probably a health hazard.
Something had to change and one day I decided, no more of this! I had one of those manic cleaning sessions and before I knew it I was starting to get my shit together, literally.
And it worked. I genuinely feel calmer and better when I enter the studio now. Not only that, but it saves me so much time untangling cables and sorting through random boxes for adaptors and plugs.
Time that can now be spent actually making music.
It also greatly helped with my workflow. Workflow is a term you will hear many musician’s use. It describes the general ease of getting around your workspace. So too much ‘stuff’ in the way will ruin your workflow. Likewise, if you have to rummage through a box to find a cable that also ruins your workflow.
So I come to you today to share the top tips that I have picked up for home studio organization. These little tips may only save you a matter of seconds in some cases. But all together and over time this all adds up.
I hope that these will help you on your way to a more creative, clutter-free space.
1) Label your cables
This is a handy tip I picked up which has saved me so much time.
The idea is that you buy a few different colors of electrical tape. Or use masking tape which you can color in. Then place a small loop of the tape on one end of your cable (XLR or guitar lead etc) and the same color tape at the other end of the cable.
This means that if you want to quickly find two ends of a very long cable. Or the cables are tangled up. You won’t have to do that annoying wiggle thing to find out where the end is.
2) Velcro ties for cables
Carrying on the tidy cable theme. It is common to have some cables that will be much too long for your needs. Most manufacturers of musical equipment will make the supplied cables lengthy to allow for people who have a long distance from equipment to plug. But this won’t be the situation a lot of the time and will leave you with lots of leftover cable forming a trip hazard in the studio.
Velcro ties are a great, cheap addition. You can pick up a pack of 100 for under $10.
Simply bunch any un-used length of cable together and wrap one of these around it to keep it nice and tidy.
3) Keep cables tidy when they are in use – cable tray
Now you have cables taped and velcroed. One final step will ensure the cable nightmare is tamed once and for all.
A cable tray attaches to the bottom of your desk and allows all your cables that are running from your monitor speakers, computer screens etc to be neatly kept off the ground and out of site. I like to use something like this.
Having the cables up off the ground for as long as possible, not only looks much neater, it also reduces the risk that you accidentally kick one and knock an expensive speaker onto the floor (which has definitely never happened to me……).
4) Attach power bricks to the desk using velcro at the back of the desk
The thing about a home studio is that virtually everything you use requires electricity and therefore must be plugged in. Unless you live in some bizarre house with 10 or so wall sockets. Chances are you will be using power bricks to plug in multiple devices.
Another good tip is to also keep this off the ground by attaching the power brick to the underside of the desk.
For this I personally use velcro. Placing a piece on the underside of the desk and some on the power brick. This means I can take it down easily if it breaks or I need to change a fuse for example.
It may seem obvious, but keep this at the rear of the desk to keep everything as neat as possible and to avoid accidentally knocking it with your knees.
5) Write voltage and amperage on each plug
As well as the colored tape trick. I will also write with a white marker pen the voltage and amperage on every plug. If I can fit it on I will also add the name of the corresponding piece of gear. If you are planning on selling gear at a later date and want to keep it shiny and without marker pen on, simply use masking tape and write onto that instead.
This becomes particularly handy when you have lots of equipment and synths. Especially if many are made by the same manufacturer. For example, I own at least 3 different Korg synths and the plugs all look quite similar. So by quickly writing the name of the equipment on the plug, this saves lots of time with trial and error.
True story, I once had a plug and couldn’t for the life of me figure out which synth or keyboard it was for. It was driving me crazy. Turns out after about 2 hours of confusion I realized it was actually the plug for an alarm clock! I’m not saying label every plug in your house, just make sure you do all the music related ones.
Draws in the home studio have been a revelation for me. I just bought some simple plastic sets of draws like these from Amazon. Then labeled each draw accordingly, depending on what it contains.
I have one draw from XLR leads (short), one for XLR leads (long), one for guitar cables. Well, you get the idea. You can divide the cables and other bits into as many separate categories as you feel the need for.
Before this, things were either kept in a big pile in the corner or in shoe boxes etc. These sets of draws look nice and tidy in your studio and just keep everything in it’s correct place.
7) Keep everything in a logical order
This applies to the draws but also applies to the general order of things throughout the studio.
So regarding draws, I will have all things related to microphones and vocal recording in one set of drawers. Then I will have another set of drawers for everything guitar related, so spare pedals or replacement strings etc. I then have a final set of draws for things related to the computer.
As far as keeping the studio in logical order. What I mean is having your synths in one area, guitar amps in another area etc. This helps your general workflow and avoids confusion as you move between instruments.
8) Keyboard stands
Keyboard stands can be handy if you have any particularly large MIDI keyboards or synthesizers.
One of the most annoying things I used to find was when I had about 4 synths and a MIDI keyboard on my main desk. That was as well as the computer monitors, keyboard, and mouse. Buying keyboard stands helped massively with this. It allows you to free up space on the desk and just makes your studio look a lot more professional.
A nice little space saver is to get a tiered stand (such as this) so you can take up minimal floor space. This will allow you to have up to three keyboards or synthesizers in a fairly small space. Efficient!
9) Only have equipment out that you plan on using frequently
This one may not be a concern for the beginner for quite some time. But once you start collecting more equipment it will become more of a big deal.
My top tip (and I have only just started doing this myself) is to sell/ bin anything that you haven’t used for a while! This can be really painful for many people and I was definitely (and still am to some extent) a hoarder of gear.
“I can’t sell that old delay pedal! I know it is kinda broken and sounds like an alien having a stroke, but I may need it in some experimental piece I might write in the future”.
Is something I would probably say to myself as I’m contemplating throwing something away.
But getting rid of clutter is amazing, trust me. Not only do you potentially get some cash and help out a fellow musician. But you clear some much-needed space. Whether that be on the floor, in a draw or just in a corner of the room.
If you absolutely can’t bear to part with something for sentimental reasons or whatever, but you hardly ever use it. Then store it neatly out of the way. There is no point in having your studio space crowded by equipment that is just gathering dust.
10) Use guitar stands
Similar to the keyboard one I mentioned earlier. Guitar stands are another way of just making your studio feel and look nicer.
I used to just lean guitars on my amp or against a desk. Sometimes I would just lay them on the floor. Just a couple of simple, cheap guitar stands like this one will help you out.
If you are feeling particularly adventurous. You might consider even hanging your guitars on a wall (with something like this). Which looks awesome! And also gives you a little more floor space.
11) Use a pedal board for effects pedals
I have collected a lot of effects pedals over the years. Most of which I have purchased after being in a band that plays live regularly. For that reason I previously kept them spread out all across the floor, cables everywhere.
Then after going to a gig, I was watching the guitarist who had about 20 pedals of all shapes and sizes. He had them all neatly arranged on a nice pedal board. This makes perfect sense for a gigging guitarist as they need to be able to set up and pack up quickly without having to individually unplug and sort each pedal. Well, it also makes sense to have one in the studio.
For the number of pedals, I have currently. This pedal board is the one I am using and it’s great.
The case can be easily packed up and stored away out of site in the supplied case. So if you don’t plan on using any effects pedals for a while they can be stored away for a bit nice and neatly.
To save on plug and cable madness I would then recommend using a power supply block such as this one. It has mainly 9V outputs which is the standard for most pedals but it also has a 12V and 18V out for some of the slightly larger pedals you may have.
12) Have a regular clean up scheduled in
It can be easy to lose track of hours, days or even weeks in the studio. And when you are writing good music and in the flow, tidying up can be the last thing on your mind. Particularly if you have fellow musicians coming round, eating pizza or McDonalds and leaving boxes and wrappers on your amps.
But even if you don’t have that, things get dusty and dirty quickly and before you know it your studio is a mess.
I find I have to be strict with myself on this one and schedule in a deep clean every couple of weeks. Which involves dusting everything down and having a good vacuum around.
It’s a pain, but worth the effort.
13) Try and keep your music studio just for music (if possible)
I apologize to those of you who aren’t lucky enough to have a dedicated room for your music studio. This point can’t really apply to you. But if you do have the luxury dedicated room then make sure you keep it as a dedicated room if you can.
I know it can be especially tricky if you live with someone who thinks that the logical place to store old handbags, shoes or antiques is in the corner of your studio. It is a constant battle I face.
It can happen gradually. One day you will notice a small box of old photos or a box of old wine glasses appear as if from nowhere.
Stop this immediately if you can.
Keep this as your sacred music space. I guarantee that most of the crap that finds its way in should probably just go straight in the trash anyway.
If you don’t have a dedicated studio room. Then try and keep the music studio area separate from the rest of the room and don’t allow the desk to be used as a drinks table or your amps to be used as footrests.
So there are some (hopefully handy and useful) tips to help you keep a tidier and more organized home studio.
I was skeptical at first and many of you may still be. But it does actually work. A clear space is a creative space and you will feel much happier because of it.