It’s a lot harder to procrastinate your to-do list when it’s staring you in the face every day. When you wake up, there it is; when you change your clothes, there it is; when you go to sleep, there it is. These boards make it easy to write out lists or draw things to help plan projects or visualize techniques or concepts. Sometimes words are confusing, and it’s easier to draw a picture. Dry erase markers make it easy to add and change things as you go, and the scented ones smell good. I like to use whiteboards to track the progress of projects. It usually will take multiple sessions to complete projects. Adding a list of things I’ve done and things I still need to do makes it easy to stay productive and complete tasks.
No cable shall be left untied! That is the vow I make every single day I step foot into the studio. It is my duty as a qualified, experienced audio engineer to wrap my cables properly and make sure they are tied!
But seriously, make sure your cables are tied! Velcro cable ties help you organize and manage cables, which make things look cleaner. Manging your cable clutter keeps your studio looking a little less messy. I’m not a massive fan of having an immaculate studio, but I emphasize cable management, as I’m a firm believer in a poorly run cable is an unhappy cable. Look up ways to neatly organize and manage your cables in your studio, so you don’t have to look at a big rats nest on the ground all the time; you’ll thank me later.
Wrap your cables and velcro them together for optimal storage and transportation. No more tangled wires!
You get a label! And you get a label! Everything gets a label! I’m the Oprah Winfrey of labeling things. I love knowing exactly what is in a box when I look at it. You’d be surprised how much time it saves when you’re looking at something and can tell what it is right away. Labeling can save seconds or even minutes, and those can add up. I also like to label any switches or buttons. For instance, I have a passive speaker switcher from Coleman Audio, so I label each button with the corresponding speaker. Now anyone that comes into my studio knows what button engages which pair of speakers. Labeling everything is especially necessary if other engineers or producers are going to be using your studio.
Another beneficial way of using the label maker is to label ends of cables. Labeling both ends allows you to know where each cable goes quickly regardless of which side you look at. This is extremely useful when making long runs where it can get confusing fast.
You might think this looks like regular old masking tape but go and try and use masking tape to label your gear. Good labeling tape is thick enough to write on with a sharpie and isn’t completely translucent; it also doesn’t leave a residue when you take it off.
I use labeling tape for the obvious uses, such as temporarily labeling a mixing console, switches, cables, and other gear. I also use it to write passive-aggressive notes around the studio such as “HANDS OFF” or “DID YOU PUT IT BACK WHERE YOU FOUND IT?”
I don’t know what I did before I found gaffer tape. If you’ve worked in Live Sound, Theatre or Film, you’re likely already familiar with the magic that is gaffer tape. I literally will use the stuff for everything. If anything needs holding in place, I grab the gaff tape. Gaff tape is like duct tape, except it’s way better. The main difference is gaff tape is made with cloth instead of vinyl, and the adhesive comes off easier and leaves little to no residue. One of the most common uses of gaff tape is to adhere cables to the floor, so they’re not tripping hazards. I recently had some blinds on my bedroom window that didn’t want to close all the way– a little gaffer tape and that problem was solved quickly and easily, albeit maybe not the most attractively.
Because you can never have enough sharpies! Sure, you can label things with your new label maker, but you’ll also need to mark things on the fly that are temporary. After applying some artist tape to the console, I use sharpies to label each channel. I also use Sharpies to label the end of cables. You can see I like to label things. Labeling helps you stay organized, and being organized saves you time and helps you work more efficiently.
Control rooms and recording studios can get weird. You never know when you might have twelve percussion instruments, a vintage tape delay, and three laptops that you need to put somewhere. Foldable tables and chairs of all sizes are life savers when it comes to times like these. It also prevents accidents when someone decides to put something expensive on a window ledge, and it falls as soon as the drummer hits the kick drum.
Because everyone needs light! I like to keep my studio somewhat dark and vibey, and clip-on lights allow me to easily grant my clients the ability to illuminate whatever they want at the drop of a hat. Throw one on a music stand, your desk, pedalboard, amp, or synth. Whatever needs illuminating, one of these babies has got you covered!
We’ve all been there– you have two pieces of gear that need power and only one outlet. Do you play the ol’ ‘let me unplug the one I don’t use as often now and then when I need it I’ll figure it out’ game? Just kick the problem down the road to the future you? No! No, you don’t!
With one of these 1 to 4 outlet power splitters, you can turn a single outlet into 4. It also helps when you have a couple of fat wall warts (fat wall wart shaming is allowed) that need some extra space that your surge protector, power conditioner, or UPS doesn’t have. They also make these 1 to 2 or 1 to 1. I like to have a few of these lying around, so I never have to worry about fat wall warts spoiling the party.
Turn anything on or off from your smartphone using an app. You can control these devices when you’re not at home or put them on a schedule or timer.
I’ve found a lot of uses for these. I have one connected to a fan in the live room, and now when someone forgets to turn it off, I can do it from my phone. Instead of asking one of my clients or an intern to go into the live room to turn it off before we start recording, I can open an app on my phone and tap a button. It’s incredibly convenient, and I’ve found other one-off uses for these as well that have made them a handy tool to have around the studio.
I don’t think many people know this, but indoor security cameras are incredibly cheap and work pretty damn well. If you have people at your studio, especially if your studio is in your house, it’s not a bad idea to get a few of these so you can monitor what’s going on remotely. This one even has a motion detector so you can set to start recording when it detects movement, and it will then immediately upload it up to a cloud storage service. I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t dealt with many thieves or dishonest clients. Still, it’s always good to plan for the worst, and a camera is an excellent way to ensure your studio and possessions’ safety if anything does happen.
Maybe it’s the cable? I’ve probably heard that a million times in my career. Spoiler alert! It’s usually not the cable, but at least a cable tester will give you a quick and easy way to find out if it is. These are also especially vital if you make your own cables and check to make sure everything is wired correctly. I’ve wired a few XLR cables backward in my day. The cool part about this tester is it does 12 different types of connections commonly found around a recording studio. This device can test for other types of connections: USB, RCA, Speakon, Banana plugs, DIN, RJ45, and more.
Microphones can be heavy. I like to have sandbags around to help weigh down any stands that may seem a little less stable than I’d like. A few sandbags on the bottom of a stand will help ensure your stands stay where you want them, so you don’t go slamming the original Neumann U47 on the floor of your studio.
Backup your files, back up those files, and then back up those files. I used to be really careless when it came to storing old projects and files. It turns out those files meant a lot to me, and having them in just one place wasn’t a good idea. There is nothing worse than losing a project or session. You’ll never get it back.
It would be best if you always had everything important backed up at least three times, with one of those backups being in a different location than the other two. If any of your data is only in one place, you’re at risk of losing it. It’s essential to have not only local backups of your files but also off-site or cloud backups. If there is ever a fire or natural disaster and the location where your drives are stored is damaged, you won’t be able to retrieve your files no matter how many copies you have. This is why having a cloud storage service like Backblaze is so crucial if you’re serious about keeping your data forever.
Backblaze is a cloud backup service that automatically backups every one of your drives for only $5 a month. If you ever lose a hard drive or a file, you can download it or have them send you a hard drive with the same files on it. I’ve lost some of my old music that I wish I still had. I will never make that mistake again. With Backblaze, I’m guaranteed to have my files no matter what happens.