Studio Cabin Fever

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Studio Cabin Fever

Postby calaverasgrande » Sat Jul 20, 2013 5:26 pm

I have had this issue for a while now. Basically I go pretty far out of my way to have a studio space. Usually a rental in a rehearsal complex. I fill it with gear. Put up posters, mood lighting, burn incense etc. Even when I am not in a band I like to have a place to "study" music, practice, jam and just keep my gear in a place where I can make loud sounds.
But a lot of the time when I get down to the studio I just want to get out. I end up jamming for a while then making excuses to leave. Feel like I am wasting money renting the studio!

Is there a methodology or practice to keep you productive in your studio?
Do you take regular breaks? Bring Snacks? Meditate?
I swear I almost want to pay some Feng Shui guy to shake a stick at my studio.
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby optimus prime » Sat Jul 20, 2013 6:25 pm

Invite people over to keep you company.

Try to make the space as habitable as possible. Do you have a couch there?

Make it comfortable enough to hang out and do nothing, and when inspiration strikes - hit the gear.

Don't make a big deal out of going there, i.e. don't expect to be super productive every time you're there.

Don't refrain from using the internet, I'd say the most important thing is to just relax and let your mind wander.
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby madtheory » Sat Jul 20, 2013 8:03 pm

I think you should turn your whole concept upside down. Maybe you'd work better in a non-serious space. Just set something up at home. If you're renting you'll be expecting results and beating yourself up when they don't come. Also try avoiding mood lighting. Natural light and plenty of air might be better.
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby Z » Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:51 pm

I recommend moving your gear back to your home if you can.

In the mid 90s, I bought a cheap house in a not-so-nice neighborhood (all I could afford at the time). I was afraid to keep my gear at home for fear of theft, so my boss let me keep my gear in an unused office. I had a key to the shop and had access whenever I wanted, but the few times I did use my gear after hours, it just felt weird. I eventually brought my gear home and never had any issues with theft.

Another reason to have your gear nearby is for convenience when the mood or inspiration hits.
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby calaverasgrande » Sun Jul 21, 2013 12:05 am

Well I have enough gear that I can keep some bits at home for couch jamming or working on songs. I just need a space where I can get loud. I'm not just a synth player, I've got drums, basses and guitars as well.
Sure I could use a headphone system, but that is not nearly the same thing.


Maybe I do just need a couch?
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby portland » Tue Jul 23, 2013 3:41 am

I used to often have the same thing happen to me. I identified these problems:
1. I wasn't eating enough, so I was losing track of time and then ending up hungry and tired
2. My studio choices had favored complexity and opportunity over usability and enjoyable workflow (so I got a patchbay and set up MIDI & audio templates for Logic)
3. I was spending too much time messing around on the keyboard and not enough time making choices about where I wanted my projects to go.
4. I was burning myself out. Now if I have a very enjoyable and productive few hours, I save everything and leave the studio so I don't get sick of that project.
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby calaverasgrande » Tue Jul 23, 2013 5:04 am

I think you may have hit the nail on the head there.
My studio has evolved to a point where everything is very complex and powerful. But at the same time daunting. I've been thinking of getting one of those Dsub/TT patchbays to consolidate everything into one nexus through which it must go before it hits the PA or the DAW (or both!).
Then my only excuse is having enough TT cables.

So I guess I have a shopping list;
1-couch
2-patchbay
3-patchcables
4-Lava Lamp?
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby Psy_Free » Tue Jul 23, 2013 2:15 pm

Just a few general thoughts/ideas based on what I find works for me :

1. Do you have a predetermined goal/objective for what you want to achieve during any particular stint in the studio ?

I often set myself a goal/objective, even if it's something as simple as "I aim to spend 1 hour just jamming", or "I want to create a bass patch & a pad on synth xyz for future use" or "I want to write a complete drum track for the next song I'm going to work on". This motivates me more than just going into a studio with no specific aim in mind, gives me something tangible to work towards, and ultimately, once the goal is achieved, I feel satisfied.

2. Compose & create music/sounds/ideas elsewhere.

Even though my studio is in my house, I have a 2 tier keyboard stand set up in the corner of my living room which usually has a couple of synths on it so I can compose/create patches etc, in a casual way whenever I feel like it without having to power up the studio or without feeling obliged to use the studio just because it's there. Related to the point above, I then can go into the studio with my ideas/compositions as a fairly solid starting point and immediately get to work realising them having done some of the 'creative' stuff elsewhere.

3. Ergonomics & everything else etc

If you have to spend a heap of time setting up cables etc every time you go in the studio, this will definitely cool your enthusiasm for being there. It's worth taking some time & spending some money to sort out the ergonomics & practicalities of your setup to minimise the 'housekeeping' type element of it's use.

If you have the space, then personalising your studio is a good idea, especially if it's rented & away from your residence. Putting things in it that you like to have at home, for example, or having chill-out area might help.

During any particular session in the studio, take breaks, preferably predetermined. Go to your chill-out area, get outside, go for a walk, lie in a field (if one is available), for 10-20 minutes. Try to take your mind off what you have been doing, relax.
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby Hybrid88 » Tue Jul 23, 2013 2:34 pm

Yeah, it has to be close to where you spend most of your time. That way it doesn't feel like a chore and you can come and go as you feel like it. And keep it casual, have a TV in the background, take regular breaks, also a couch/beanbag is a much have for chilling out. Make it comfortable, and you will enjoy being there, and if you're still not feeling it, take a break and come back to it when inspiration strikes 8-)
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby calaverasgrande » Tue Jul 23, 2013 5:30 pm

I guess it doesn't help that my studio is in an industrial area near the worst part of East Oakland.
And there is nothing to eat near there. (well there is a self proclaimed "Nacho place" but their idea of nachos involves canned cheese).
Seriously though...as far as goals, I have a set list that I rundown every visit. It's just 4 songs right now. I guess I am kind of feeling pressured to convert more of my recorded stuff into giggable songs so I have a longer set list.
I also suppose I kind of miss the energy of being in a 4 piece band with guitars and drums and stuff. My last few bands would basically practice until we ran out of beer, then buy more beer and practice more. When you are jammin by yourself the drum machine doesn't drink beer.
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby _dan » Wed Jul 24, 2013 12:39 am

+1 on having some or all of your stuff in the space you find yourself in most and most comfortable, goal setting, ergonomics, and reduced setup time.

I had my gear setup in a spare room (at home) that was previously used for storage. It was a room that was kind of out of the way, but after a year I realized that the "energy" in there was no good for me. It just felt drained, and I always found myself not wanting to be in there for very long. Wasn't an acoustic treatment issue cause I typically use headphones. So I moved my "studio" into the living room (where those in my home spend the most time) and problem solved. Better energy. Environment definitely effects the psyche.

The bonus of keeping the studio at home is comfort. You can take breaks to get fresh ears/perspective. Hit a stopping point, throw a load of laundry, grab a coffee/sandwich, sit back down and continue grooving. Just try to keep your breaks less then 45 minutes long. The bad thing is that playing "residential" has obvious volume limitations (no cranking to 11 at 3am, etc).

Like you, I've had the opposite experience when jamming with others. In that scenario being at home is too much of a distraction. Having others to jam with makes the 'away game' more fun.

Space is not the only thing to consider. There is also Time. When are you most capable of creating? For me it is a window between 3 and 8 hours after being awake. I kept finding these bursts of ideas occurring at at regular times in the day, and being so annoyed that I was at my job while it happened. Naturally I'd feel drained and useless after getting out of work. It was a very unproductive cycle. I switched my sleep cycle to accommodate, totally worth it!! Good luck!!
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby calaverasgrande » Wed Jul 24, 2013 1:24 am

_dan wrote:...but after a year I realized that the "energy" in there was no good for me. It just felt drained, and I always found myself not wanting to be in there for very long. Wasn't an acoustic treatment issue cause I typically use headphones. So I moved my "studio" into the living room (where those in my home spend the most time) and problem solved. Better energy. Environment definitely effects the psyche.

That is pretty much it. Glad I am not the only person who had this problem?
I am now thinking of getting some storage bins so I can put all the clutter in big containers that are all the same color. thinking that if I cut down on the visual noise I may be better able to "get in the mood" and stay in the mood.
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby tallowwaters » Thu Jul 25, 2013 6:05 pm

I too have my studio set up in a separate space. In my case, it's a barn/woodshop. Even though it's just a minute walk from the house, I have a hard time committing my time to sitting and making music in there, especially since my friends and I seldom do any jamming/rehearsal/anything outside of copious drinking these days.

For a while I was beating myself up, as making music had always been part of my routine, but I realized not long ago that taking a good year off from music was really just the best for me. I'm gearing up to moving the gear to the house after some renovations, and I'm fairly excited to have instant access to my gear when the mood hits.
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby calaverasgrande » Thu Jul 25, 2013 8:37 pm

tallowwaters wrote:I too have my studio set up in a separate space. In my case, it's a barn/woodshop. Even though it's just a minute walk from the house, I have a hard time committing my time to sitting and making music in there, especially since my friends and I seldom do any jamming/rehearsal/anything outside of copious drinking these days.

For a while I was beating myself up, as making music had always been part of my routine, but I realized not long ago that taking a good year off from music was really just the best for me. I'm gearing up to moving the gear to the house after some renovations, and I'm fairly excited to have instant access to my gear when the mood hits.


I had kind of the opposite. I've had my music set up in my bedroom or an extra room most of my life. I got to the point where I'd get home from work and just kind of glare at my pile of noisemakers with its happily blinking LEDs. "Oh I suppose you want to be played."
Having a separate space for my gear was partially about neighbor/noise concerns, but also about just kind of having a real grown up apartment without the milk crate furniture and living-room-as-bedroom-becuase-my-bedroom-is-my-studio.
I think sometimes we lose sight as musicians with what made music enjoyable for us. I know I have gotten into a rut with some bands where I dreaded going to rehearsal. Sometimes it was the drunk guitarist, or the insecure drummer that caused the dread. But often it was just that it had become a routine.
I've done the "quit music" thing before. I sold all my gear and kept one bass guitar under my bed and didn't touch it for a year(I'm primarily a bassist).
But that was after a band I'd been with for 8 years broke up badly.
Moving forward I am going to try an "re-decorate" my current studio to make it less of a mess visually and more ergonomic to get around in. If I am still crawling up the walls when I am in there I may look into moving to a different studio.

I am curious about one other silly thing. Do you all think it is more comfortable to have a symmetrically laid out studio where everything is essentially mirrored on the left right axis? Or does that kind of invoke a harsh atmosphere from being too geometrically precise? I can see both approaches as equally valid.
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Re: Studio Cabin Fever

Postby _dan » Thu Jul 25, 2013 10:31 pm

Visual appeal is nice, but for me its always played second fiddle to ergonomics. We have two hands, two feet, and a finite space in which they can be useful. Discomfort is a distraction and can make it difficult to feel the music. Whatever you go with make sure it doesn't lead to discomfort.
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