Recording - September 2014 - 47
Patch bays are seen less often in the era of entirely DAW-based studios,
but if you start collecting rack or 500 Series modular gear, you'll eventually find it a lot handier than crawling around trying to move cables when
you're supposed to be making music.
2. Shelf liner is an invisible friend to every studio
that needs gear to stay put.
5. Label the cables
Do it. It's cheap, it's easy, and it will-not can,
will-save you time and headaches down the line.
You can buy pre-made color-coded tags, print up
adhesive labels on your printer, or use one of those
nifty label makers. I know-it sounds trivial, but keeping everything in your workspace organized will
make you feel more relaxed and more productive.
Every time you need to unplug or replug something,
move gear around, or add items, you'll thank yourself
for taking the time to label everything so you're not left
scratching your head and wondering whether you're
holding the main mix L/R or Aux Returns 1/2.
6. Know when and how to use a patch bay
Designed to fit into a standard audio rack, a patch
bay is a convenient way to relocate the audio connections on the rear panels of your gear to an easily
accessible central location. All your inputs and outputs
are grouped together and organized on the rear of
the patch bay, out of sight, and connections between
them are made using short patch cables connected
between patch points (clearly labeled, right?) on the
front of the bay. See Picture 3.
Most patch bays can be configured with "normalled"
or "half-normalled" connections. This allows your most
frequently used output and input signal routings to
remain connected without having to be physically
hooked up on the front panel. If you want to send a signal someplace other than its usual destination, inserting
a patch cable will create a new connection, without the
need to physically get at the rear panels of your gear.
3. This patch bay (photo courtesy Neutrik) has
paired jacks on the rear panel that correspond to
pairs on the front. It's normalled; that means that
any signal coming in on a cable plugged into the
top ("A") jack of a pair at the rear will flow out of
whatever cable is plugged into the bottom ("B")
jack. Plugging a patch cable into the front of the
bay breaks the normal connection and lets you
send the input signal to a different output.
7. Clean and condition... your power
Not all power strips are created equal. For your critical components, look
into using a power conditioner, which can minimize the noise caused by
radio-frequency (RFI) and electromagnetic (EMI) interference. Power conditioners are commonly available in audio-rack format, or in an enhanced
power strip. Surge suppression can prevent instantaneous voltage spikes
from damaging electronic components-especially volatile memory and
microprocessors. Many surge suppressors also offer data line protection.
You can purchase packs of 3" extension cords, which are the perfect solution for connecting multiple wall-wart adaptors to a single power strip.
Using a power strip or conditioner can be a convenient way to distribute
power and turn off many items with one switch-but be careful! Always individually turn on the power amp or powered speakers last, and turn them off first,
to prevent loud, damaging pops. Don't use a power strip to turn off items that
may need a voltage trickle to maintain your custom settings-the hue, contrast,
and brightness of your computer's display monitor, for example. And don't plug
your laptop into a power strip that you will be turning off, or it will never charge!
8. Eliminate power struggles
There are fewer greater disappointments than losing your work. In
addition to power strips and surge suppressors/power conditioners,
using an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) will allow you a little extra
time to save your session and power down your studio in the event of a
power outage at your home or studio. Critical data can be saved, and
your equipment can be protected. You may never need to use your UPS
system, but that one time you may need it will make it all worthwhile.
9. Let there be light
Choosing the right lighting does more than set the mood in your studio.
It can again improve your efficiency and productivity. Bright lights can be
stressful over time, and for many, the minute flickering of overhead fluorescent tubes can create fatigue.
Indirect lighting can be less obtrusive, and keeping the lighting levels
low will make it easier to read the backlit LCD and LED panels on your
instruments and equipment. Overload LEDs and other warning indicators
will be easier to see, and your computer monitor may not need to be set
so brightly, also relieving eyestrain.
Incandescent bulbs are gradually being phased out in favor of compact
fluorescent and LED-based lights, but these can have strange color balance that can accentuate eyestrain when you're trying to relax... and
even make you wish you weren't in your studio. Pick bulbs with a "warm"
color balance, and if possible, try them before you install them.
10. Know your limits
Remember, this is not a showroom. It is your creative space, and you
are here to work. As much as you may want everything to look perfect,
it has to work for you as well. Don't try to change yourself to fit your studio; allow the studio to accommodate how you work.
Do you need a cup of coffee to get the gears turning? Make sure you
have a safe, secure, and accessible place to park your mug. Keep a pad
of paper and pencil handy. Have a little desk space clear to write notes.
And when you read about items brought into professional studios to make
the artist smile (lava lamps, anyone?), remember that when you're the
artist, you deserve to have items like that to make you smile. Keep a good
luck charm or mascot where you can see it for inspiration.
These ten tips are guidelines, not rules, and no doubt you will have to
innovate to make things work for you. But improvisation is part of music,
and with these tips to get you started, you'll end up in a workspace that
makes you happy to be a recording musician.
Malcolm Doak (email@example.com) is a musician and freelance
writer for the audio industry. He's enjoying life in a secret lair high in the
Northeast Kingdom after decades of product development at Avid, M-Audio,
Kawai America, Oberheim/Gibson, Casio, and most recently at Korg USA.
RECORDING September 2014
Recording - September 2014
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