Reducing the distance between idea and output

The purpose of a studio is to create or record music. Hence, it should foster creativity. Certainly, a lot of creative work happens in the studio.

A lot of non-creative work also happens in the studio. Some of it happens ‘out of session’ – upgrading equipment, cleaning the ashtrays, backing up files, getting to know new gear, etc. Some of it also happens ‘in session’ – routing signals, setting up microphones, tuning up, auditioning sounds, etc.

Creativity is an enjoyable – and sometimes fleeting – state of working. In order to get the most of it, you should try to reduce the barriers to creativity. That means taking a good hard look at the non-creative work that happens ‘in session’, and moving as much as you can ‘out of session’. Technology works best when it stays out of the way.

The options available to you depends on your studio setup and your style of working. Try to reflect on what sort of non-creative things you have to do in order to be creative. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Physical Arrangement

  • Keep instruments such as guitars, keyboards, percussion, etc on hand. Within reach, if possible.  You don’t want to have an idea for a part and have to get a keyboard out of storage in order to realise it.
  • Have front-ends ready for instruments – preamps, channel strips, even cables. Set up your studio so you can plug in a single cable to your instrument and be ready to go. Of course, you can adjust things if you want, but at least have something ready to capture that idea! Ideally, have instruments always plugged in and switched on – that way if you have an idea you can simply arm a track and start playing.
  • Remove obstacles that you have to step over or walk around. You’re less likely to grab that mic or patch that effects processor if you have to wade through piles of junk in order to get to it.
  • Make sure your studio is a dedicated space. Having to share a space can make it difficult to get working when inspiration strikes.

Software Arrangement

  • Set up a custom template for your DAW software, so when you start up a new project you already have your favourite synths loaded up (if you use soft synths) and you have channels already available for recording from external sources.
  • If you use presets, make sure they’re organised by sound category. This is especially important for samplers, which often have a tendency to group sounds by library instead of sound type. That means if you’re looking for a piano sound, you might have to look in many different places to find the right one for the song. It’s faster and easier to work if all your pianos are together, all your basses are together, all your synth leads are together, etc.
  • In the same vein, make sure your plugins are organised by category as well. If you’ve got several compressors from different companies, you’ll find it easier to work if they’re all together.
  • Reduce your choices. You’ll work faster if you only have a few filter plugins instead of a few dozen. You’ll choose a sound and get on with making music if you have one or two main synths and one main sampler instead of ten or twenty synths and half a dozen samplers with their own libraries.
  • Keep your projects organised on your hard drive and move the finished projects to a separate folder. It’s easier to find the project you need if you don’t have to wade through a bunch of irrelevant files to get there. This is especially important if you’ve got multiple projects active at any one time.


  1. April 7th, 2011
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